As every year, but especially this year — with the insane amount of couch time logged across the country and the world on various lockdowns — the Oscar pools take the fore. Will the Academy again embrace the universally beloved Frances McDormand, or will they turn to current front runner Carey Mulligan, pictured above at last year’s nominee luncheon, or her close rival, Viola Day?
Arguably, we’ve had the shot at studying the nominees from the couch perhaps more than is actually good for us, but a fun side effect is that the home Oscar totes will burgeon, and that will sharpen at-home debates of the nominees. Nothing livens up the Oscar betting more than a year of government-enforced lockdowns. Would that it had not happened that way.
As ever, at any global athletic, political or cultural event — defined as anything from a smoking-hot Kentucky Derby to the name of Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s new baby — London’s gimlet-eyed bookmakers are there to help you slay your Oscar pool. Because: London bookies take absolutely no prisoners, which is to say, they bear no pro- or anti-Hollywood freight. It’s all about the money.
The British are judging American and international film from the outside, and they’ve had the benefit of their own British Academy of Film and Television Awards (the “Baftas”) earlier in the month. What we can call the “London Approach To Nuking Your Best Friends And Loved Ones In Your Oscars Pool” is a very helpful handicapping perspective, especially when it comes to something as seemingly obvious as Nomadland’s chances at best picture, (currently 1/4, or an implied probability of 80% of winning on the London tote), or as smart a sleeper as Judas and the Black Messiah’s chances at best cinematography (currently 22/1, or an implied probability of 4.3% in London), which could be a great buy, depending upon how we think the Academy is gonna flop.
Keep in mind: British bookmakers’ odds are, like odds everywhere, defensively priced. That means they reflect what the British bettors are doing with their money, plus a small extra cut in price that the bookies add to protect themselves at payout time. With that in mind, here, what selected London bookmakers are doing this weekend in the five major categories, Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography.
(Nota bene: All nominees are listed here in order of ascending odds, or, put another way, in decreasing order of implied probability of winning, which means: the nominees are in descending order of British hivemind favorites. All odds in bold face below, from the credited bookmakers, are current as of 4/23 and will be updated on Sunday, 4/25.)
1) Best Actress: The amazing thing in this hard-fought, leading category is not that Carey Mulligan is at 11/8 at both William Hill and Paddy Power, or even that Viola Davis is hard on her heels at 7/4 and 15/8, respectively, at those same two touts. The amazing thing about this category is that, for all the noise around Nomadland and its buzzy, apt-to-the-zeitgeist gig-economy narrative, the brilliant Frances McDormand is the third-favorite, at a relatively high, lackluster 7/2 at those same two bookmakers. The fourth-favorite in the British hivemind is Andra Day, at 5/1 at Paddy Power, and 6/1 at William Hill. In that order, both Paddy Power and William Hill give Vanessa Kirby a flat 16/1, or a relatively low implied probability of 5.9% to win.
2) Best Actor: A salute to the many forever-noble performances, both on screen and off, by Chadwick Boseman. He currently leads the London tote by a wide margin, at a monumentally low 1/16 at William Hill, ranging to 1/14 at Betvictor and 1/7 at Betfair. To give you the flavor, that 1/16 implies a forbidding probability of 94.1%. Riding a distant second in London is the estimable Sir Anthony Hopkins, at 11/2 at Paddy Power and at 7/1 at William Hill; followed in third by Riz Ahmed, who’s at 20/1 at Paddy Power, and 14/1 at William Hill. What the bookies are telling us is that Gary Oldman’s star turn — laying fourth at 33/1 at Paddy Power — and Steven Yeun’s great performance as a recent immigrant to the promised land of Arkansas — bringing up the rear at 50/1 at Boyle Sports — are not likely to take home the statuette.
3) Best Director: In the British hivemind, this category is nothing if not about choice of narrative, and the Brits are sticking with the very fine Nomadland and its helmswoman, the very fine Chloe Zhao, ranging as low as 1/20 at William Hill. It’s a long way up in the odds from Ms. Zhao to the second-favorite, veteran David Fincher at 15/2 at Paddy Power and a flat 7/1 at William Hill. Rocking in third is Lee Isaac Chung, at 16/1 at William Hill, and in fourth is Emerald Fennell at 20/1 at Bet365. In fifth lies the estimable Thomas Vinterberg, at 40/1.
4) Best Cinematography: This is often the category whose awards honor those engaged in actually making the movies, which is a polite way of saying, the cinematographers can do a lot with the dispensation and operation of their enormous machines to cover for and/or enhance the Oscar chances of the directors and producers metaphorically standing over them, as well as those of the actors and actresses they capture on film. As we might think, the British money is on Nomadland’s talented Joshua James Richard, who leads the low odds at Betfair at 4/9, or with a probability of 69.2%. The Brits’ second favorite is Mank’s Eric Messerschmidt, who is clocking in at 1/1, or even money, at the very same book, Betfair. Down a ways in the third-favorite slot, News of the World’s Darius Wolski sits at 10/1, behind whom is Judas and the Black Messiah’s Sean Bobbit, at 22/1 at Bet365, followed by Phedon Papamichael, who shot the excellently dramatic Trial of the Chicago 7, at 28/1 at the same house. What the Brits are saying of the Academy is, hey, we know that gig economy, so your Sunday evening will be a Nomadland sweep.
5) Best Picture: Given the clear probabilities in the Cinematography and Director categories, this one seems a lock to the British hivemind. Nomadland leads the pack way down at 1/6 at William Hill, or at a probability of 85.7% to win. Not an absolute lock, but it’s better than a kick in the head. Best Picture is, also, a crowded category, but it’s not a huge surprise to see The Trial of the Chicago 7 hitting the second-favorite slot with odds of 6/1 being assigned by the William Hill oddsmakers. The British have provided us a rather large surprise in the third-favorite slot with Minari, at 14/1 at Bet365, with Promising Young Woman in fourth at 20/1 at Bet365, while Mank languishes as the fifth favorite, at 25/1 at William Hill. Laying unimpressively to the Brits in sixth place is Judas and the Black Messiah, pushed down in probability of winning by a couple of 40/1 sets of odds at Bet365 and VBet. In the unwished-for seventh- and eighth-favorite positions in the British hivemind are The Sound of Metal, at 50/1 at William Hill, and surprisingly, given the strength of his run for best actor, Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins’ The Father, at 66/1 at the same bookmaker.
In a word: Sir Anthony’s fate is paradigmatic of British thinking. When it comes to Best Picture in Los Angeles on Sunday night, there is zero loyalty to one of their honored knights from the British bookmakers, or from the British players.
Like we say, they take no prisoners in London. And that’s a wrap.