Here is Part 7 in our "Make The Case" series leading up to the Oscars! All week we will be expostulating how and why each of the ten Best Picture nominees have a chance at winning the top prize at the 94th Academy Awards -- no matter how likely or unlikely their chances may be. Stay tuned for our Oscars Preview next week as we gear up for the ceremony on Sunday, March 27th. As always, be aware that there will be spoilers aplenty.
CODA tells a heartwarming story about the only hearing child of a deaf family and their struggle to stay together amidst various struggles. The daughter, Ruby (Emilia Jones), has a passion for singing but her family, brother Leo (Daniel Rossi), mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and father Frank (Troy Kotsur) operate a fishing vessel in New England and need her help to keep the family business running. Now what really makes this movie stand out is not only the endearing message of family and the inclusivity of casting deaf actors to play deaf characters, but its the sheer amount of wit and comedy that Siân Heder throws into the mix!
Seriously, this movie is hilarious. But not a normal comedy or a roasting/burning other people comedy. It's funny through wit and humor born from the closeness of the family and their attempts to stay together through the struggles of Ruby trying to carve out her own path in life.
Of course if you want to read more about the premise and what makes CODA so amazing feel free to brief yourself with my previous praise.
Now, onto the big picture here, or... the Best Picture (nice). Before we get there, what else has CODA got up its sleeves in terms of nominations:
This is certainly not numerically the amount of nominations my previously talked about films have got themselves, but the impact of the film is no lesser felt. CODA presents just as much of a strong case for the Best Picture award as any other film, and in my humble opinion, maybe even more so.
First and foremost, CODA has what some of the other films don't have, which is insane amounts of momentum from the awards circuits leading up to the Academy Awards. Not only has Troy Kotsur been (deservedly) cleaning house but Emilia Jones has snagged a couple of breakthrough performance awards, Heder has won a few adapted screenplay awards, and the film as a whole has been on an unreal Oscar hype tour. There is real chatter out there about how CODA can become an underdog winner, and this isn't "just because."
CODA is the type of film that deserves a Best Picture win. Sure its not as artsy and indie style as some of the others, and it doesn't boast top tier direction but in story and acting it is almost unparalleled.
Now back to the momentum bit. The key to CODA winning lies in one big award in these circuits. The SAG award for Best Ensemble.
Never heard of it? Well you should keep an eye on it! Big Best Picture underdogs have commonly been preceded by winning this award, take a look at which underdog winners also won this SAG award:
2019: Best Picture Favorite - 1917, Winner - Parasite 2015: Best Picture Favorite - The Revenant, Winner - Spotlight 2014: Best Picture Favorite - Boyhood, Winner - Birdman 2005: Best Picture Favorite - Brokeback Mountain, Winner - Crash
This of course is a very, very very small sample and can't really be taken with that much influence but its a trend nonetheless. The gaps in these years can also be explained by which films won the SAG award in the first place, with a lot of them ranging from the actual heavy favorite, to films that weren't even nominated for Best Picture. Of course sometimes, the heavy favorite also doesn't have an "ensemble" to even qualify for the category. Look no further than The Trial of the Chicago 7 taking home the SAG but Nomadland winning the top prize and not even qualifying for an "ensemble" film. Things like that make you wanna take this with a grain of salt but some of these upsets are quite notable.
Additionally there's the notion that Academy voters like to vote for their second favorite choice when they believe their first choice is supposedly "in the bag."
For this look no further than last year's Best Actor! In what was hailed as Chadwick Boseman's award for the whole season, Anthony Hopkins walked away with the Oscar. Now this isn't to diminish Hopkins' work by any means, he was brilliant in The Father, but to highlight the fact that Academy voters get a little cocky. They feel comfortable voting for someone else to show a little respect, raise their numbers, if they feel their top choice simply won't lose.
Therefore if voters are overly confident that the heavy front-runner The Power of the Dog is gonna win, they could throw a vote or two behind CODA. If this happens then I would be on the lookout for this wonderful wonderful film to take home that sweet sweet gold!