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The 2021 Oscars are moved back to April, giving underdogs a better chance than ever

With temporary new rules, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences pushes back Hollywood’s biggest night until after the NCAA Tournament and Masters

Bong Joon Ho poses with his Award for Best Director, Best Picture (‘Parasite’) inside The Press Room of the 92nd Annual Academy Awards held at Hollywood and Highland on February 9, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

There’s a certain rhythm to the film awards season in Hollywood. The Golden Globes kicks off awards season with a biting monologue before most people have seen all the nominees, then we all wake up early in the morning to hear who is nominated for an Oscar. From there the individual crafts of filmmaking, from the directors to the actors to the “scientific” folks, each have their own ceremony.

All the big award nominees then go across the pond for the BAFTA’s, then everyone gets drunk in a tent on the beach at the Independent Spirit Awards on a Saturday, and finally we have the Oscars on the Sunday night after the Super Bowl. There’s a rhythm to it that’s comforting and well-established for cinephiles across the globe.

But in 2020 even Tinseltown can’t have the show go on in the same way. Which means this year the Oscars have been moved back until April 25th. Films will have an extra two months to be released to qualify for statuettes (until February 28th instead of the traditional December 31st cutoff), the rule requiring at least one week of theatrical release in New York City or Los Angeles has been temporarily waived, and nominations won’t be announced until March 15th.

These changes could be a big factor in how to wager on Hollywood’s biggest night this coming year. Under the assumption most films will still be released mostly on the same schedule by the end of the year (to exploit people home for the holidays for maximum box office), the extra two months for voting should allow more Academy voters to see more films. And last year, as Parasite showed in its upset win over 1917 for Best Picture, late momentum was huge in who ended up immortalized by AMPAS.

There’s already Oscar buzz around films such as Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods, a Spike Lee Joint, Ron Howard’s adaptation of the best-seller Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch memorializing journalism in 20th Century Paris. But the additional time could give an unknown the chance to build and audience and some buzz, and possibly without a high-priced studio campaign as well.

There aren’t any shops offering futures on 2021 nominees yet, but when keeping an eye on what comes out of the revised Cannes Film Festival this year, remember an underdog will never have more time to close than this year.