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Best bets for the 2020 Oscars

We take a look at the odds and pick some upsets for Hollywood’s biggest night: the 92nd Academy Awards

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Laura Dern, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson pose the Netflix BAFTA after party at Chiltern Firehouse on February 2, 2020 in London, England. Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix

The Academy Awards have never felt as pre-determined as they do this year.

The thing about the Oscars is that the process of selecting and processing the winners is fundamentally secure, so the leaks you see online are often false moves

Having said that: it seems this year that the odds in the six major categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress) have skewed harder towards the favorites than any year in the past.

But as we learned last year, sometimes the Oscars betting markets are imperfect. The rumor of ‘The Favourite’ director Yorgos Lanthimos shockingly winning Best Director moved him from a 50-1 shot to just +250 in just a day or two. Of course those rumors were unfounded and he lost, which means some bettors found value fading the Twitterazzi.

Right now if you parlay the favorites all six categories below it pays -109, and that might be the play here if you feel like the insiders have solved Oscars voting. But it would just take one to knock you off course here, and we’ll try and find the ones that would do so.

Let’s take a look at the big categories, with all odds provided by DraftKings Sports Book.

Best Picture

Best Picture

Title Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Title Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
1917 +200 -200 -250 -200
Parasite +450 +300 +350 +300
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood +160 +500 +800 +800
Joker +800 +1200 +1200 +1000
The Irishman +1600 +3300 +5000 +5000
Jojo Rabbit +5000 +8000 +6600 +6600
Marriage Story +3300 +6600 +10000 +10000
Little Women +5000 +10000 +10000 +10000
Ford vs. Ferrari +10000 +20000 +25000 +25000

Sam Mendes’ WWII epic is probably the winner here. It’s won all the previous indicating awards, is critically-acclaimed but still has nice buzz from the public, and still has enough proletariat popularity where it won’t feel like an elitist pick.

But no one loves a good navel-gaze like our friends in The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood checks all the boxes: self-reverential about show business and LA (Birdman, Argo, Crash, Chicago just this century), an all-star ensemble filled with A-listers that haven’t been recognized before (Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, Quentin Tarantino as a director), and plenty of critical and popular acclaim ($375 million box office).

You’re probably not cashing here, but 8-1 is too good a price for this much wattage in an excellent film.

Best Actor

Best Actor

Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) -1666 -3335 -5000 -5000
Adam Driver (Marriage Story) +700 +1000 +1000 +1000
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time...) +2500 +3300 +3300 +3300
Antonio Banderas (Pain & Glory) +3300 +3300 +5000 +5000
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) +5000 +5000 +6600 +6600

Look, Joaquin Phoenix is winning because he’s won everything before. He’s probably the biggest lock on the board. But if you had to make a case, it would be for Adam Driver for his beautiful, somewhat haunting turn as a tortured, divorcing playwright and director in Marriage Story.

He’s a young up-and-comer actor with hall-of-fame talent, and Phoenix’s affiliation with some previous bad behavior — again, this is a real long shot here — might have some Screen Actors Guild members holding it against him. It’s not like he’s easy to work with either.

But honestly, ignore everything above. Just put this category in a parlay or ignore it all together.

Best Actress

Best Actress

Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Renee Zellweger (Judy) -1000 -2500 -3335 -3335
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) +700 +1000 +1100 +1100
Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) +2500 +2500 +2500 +2500
Charlize Theron (Bombshell) +3300 +3300 +3300 +3300
Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) +2800 +3300 +3300 +2500

Same principle applies here, as Zellweger is filling bookshelves at her home in Texas this awards season. But if you’re going down the board, Laura Dern is going to win for that incredible lawyer’s office scene in Marriage Story and Scarlett Johansson isn’t??

Catching 11-1 on a popular starlet with a tremendous body of work in a movie all Academy voters have been able to stream on Netflix sounds like a nice price to me. She tries to play less glamorous than her natural state of being in the film, but her radiance just shines through and it shows why she’s an elite talent. It’s an empathetic performance that’s tremendous.

There’s too much value here at +1100 to let it slip by the wayside.

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actor

Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time...) -1000 -2500 -3335 -3335
Joe Pesci (The Irishman) +800 +1000 +1200 +1200
Al Pacino (The Irishman) +1700 +2000 +2800 +2800
Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day...) +2000 +2500 +3300 +3300
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes) +3300 +3300 +5000 +5000

Brad Pitt playing Maximum Brad Pitt in a Tarantino film. There’s a reason why he’s the chalk here. He fills the screen just as he did in True Romance, his first Tarantino flick 28 years ago. And the role of aging stuntman Cliff Booth provides a perfect vehicle for him to just be him.

But let’s make an argument for Joe Pesci at +800. What’s working against him is he was basically in retirement before being coaxed back to the big screen by Martin Scorsese, and he’s not a fixture in Hollywood social circle as he lives on the Jersey Shore.

But he steals the screen in every scene, despite this being a totally different character than we’re used to seeing from him in a mob movie. He did win for Goodfellas in 1991 so there’s less chance of a lifetime achievement award here, but on performance he often outshines both Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in a mob movie — and that’s really hard to do.

We don’t love it, but +800 here isn’t terrible.

Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actress

Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Laura Dern (Marriage Story) -1000 -2500 -3335 -3335
Margot Robbie (Bombshell) +800 +1000 +1200 +1200
Florench Pugh (Little Women) +900 +1200 +1400 +1400
Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit) +1700 +2500 +2500 +2500
Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) +3300 +5000 +5000 +5000

Behind Phoenix, this is the lock of the Oscars. Playing the exact same character she crushes as Renata in Big Little Lies the divorce attorney of ScarJo’s Nicole, Laura Dern’s got presence, moxie, and you’re rooting for her even when maybe you shouldn’t be.

Margot Robbie plays former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in Bombshell, and the resemblance is almost eerie. She even got the voice down perfect, which is more amazing for the Aussie-born actress. But Dern received her first Oscar nomination in 1992 for Rambling Rose. In an industry that often isn’t kind to women aging, she’s put out fantastic work for three decades. She’s winning the trophy.

We’re not even making an opposing case here. Parlay or stay away, Dern is winning this award.

Best Director

Best Director

Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Name Opening Jan 23 Feb 3 Feb 5
Sam Mendes (1917) -133 -230 -1250 -670
Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite) +225 +200 +500 +375
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time...) +800 +1000 +1400 +1700
Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) +1000 +2000 +4000 +5000
Todd Phillips (Joker) +2500 +3300 +5000 +5000

65 of the 91 films that have won Best Picture have also won Best Director, and Mendes also won for American Beauty in 2000 (which, well let’s just say the #metoo movement makes that one a tough re-watch). He’s a well-regarded filmmaker, but him laying -670 when his feature is just -200 makes little sense.

Bong Joon-Ho is receiving widespread acclaim for his Korean import Parasite, the story of one family infiltrating another. Foreign films can win this award, (Alfonso Cuaron last year, Roberto Benigni), and the unique plot and style of the film might be good enough to get it.

Of course if you think Once Upon A Time in Hollywood can pull the upset for Best Picture, why wouldn’t you find even more value on a filmmaking legend getting 17-1?? Tarantino has won twice for Best Screenplay, but never as a director. It wouldn’t be the worst film to reward his efforts with the ultimate credit of the greats he’s admired his entire life.

This is clearly the major category with the best value. If Joon-Ho sneaks over 5-1 again, ride the lightning and hope enough Producers Guild of America members saw the flick. And definitely drop some action on Tarantino at 17-1, because the hometown kid should be rewarded with a statue more than 7% of the time.

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