It's Oscars Week '22! Here is Part 5 of our preview.
Hopster: We're in the home stretch! After a year of waiting, countless months of viewing, and weeks of recapping, we are just days away from the biggest night in movies. Well, at least it used to be. The Academy Awards used to draw in upwards of 40 million people to watch the telecast -- last year, about 10 million people tuned in. In a time when streaming has cemented its stronghold in the distribution and consumption practices of the film industry as we know it, the Oscars are likely on the brink of a seismic occurrence. The two frontrunners for Best Picture on Sunday, The Power of the Dog and CODA, were both (predominantly) streaming movies (on Netflix and Apple TV+, respectively). In the past few years, streamers have picked up serious recognition from the Academy, but this could be the year where they completely take over. Eight of the ten nominees competing for Best Picture either debuted or showed up on a streaming service for an extended period of time, which is clearly a serious change from years past at the Oscars. Has this increased accessibility been beneficial for the contending films? It's hard to say, but my bet is that it hasn't hurt. As of today, here are the odds and probabilities for each Best Picture nominee:[^1]
|The Power of the Dog||(-140)||58.3%|
|West Side Story||(+3500)||2.8%|
|Don't Look Up||(+6500)||1.5%|
|Drive My Car||(+6500)||1.5%|
Unlike last year when Nomadland was the overall heavy favorite and winner at the Oscars, this year's race is a coin toss at this point. Both The Power of the Dog and CODA have been cleaning up this awards season -- here are just a few of the most presitigous awards each film has received:
The Power of the Dog
After weeks of The Power of the Dog running the cleaning up at every show, CODA gradually picked up steam with every victory claimed by Troy Kotsur for his performance in the film. At the SAG Awards Kotsur won again, except this time, the ensemble cast won the top prize at the end of the ceremony, which was a bit of a surprise. Since then, CODA won big at both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards (though The Power of the Dog was not competing at the former); notably, the winning at the PGAs has served a predictor for which film will win Best Picture at the Oscars in 11 out of the last 14 years. So, why the late surge for CODA? Well first off, it's only extremely well written, directed, and acted -- it is absolutely deserving of the praise and recognition its garnered. Additionally, Apple has done a great job of promoting the movie and has capitalized on the momentum that every major victory its received on the Oscar campaign trail. As the buzz and word of mouth has spread, CODA's chance of winning have steadily increased. And maybe most important of all is that the movie is uplifting, mainstream entertainment; it's a total crowd-pleaser built around family, and it makes active strides to connect with a population of people that have often been absent from the Academy Awards -- the Deaf community. People who call this an "elevated Hallmark movie" are completely discrediting the active greatness and magic that Heder and company have created in CODA. I wouldn't be shocked if Oscar voters gravitate towards a film with a feel-good ending as opposed to the alternative, which is the dark, psychologically-warped ending found in The Power of the Dog. While I do think Campion's film leaves a lot of moral wiggle room for in-depth interpretation, the ending does not leave audiences with what I would describe as a "feel-good aftertaste." How close this race is begs the following question: What should Best Picture try and encapsulate? Five years from now when we're looking back, are we going to think of CODA as anything more than a "mid-level, feel-good flick?" Are we going to think about The Power of the Dog as something less than "auterist cinema meets streaming service?" These are hard to answer questions in the moment, and what should be coronated with the Best Picture is a complicated conundrum.
Here's what I do know: Campion is a stone-cold lock for Best Director, but only 12 of the last 21 Best Directors have also won Best Picture (attributable to vote spreading and vote splitting), so we might not be able to predict much from her winning that category. Like I mentioned Wednesday, the announcement for Best Adapted Screenplay might be the most instructive for predicting the Best Picture winner, and that race is just as close as Best Picture right now. Needless to say, I think either of these films would be a good choice for Best Picture and as someone who follows the Oscars and the awards circuit, I'm just glad that there is a level of uncertainity to what the outcome will be -- it makes for a much more exciting show! If I'm forced to pick a winner, I think The Power of the Dog takes the top prize on Sunday night, but I've been wrong (more often than not) in the past.
Isaac: Oh boy it's hard to write all my stuff after that, I should've gone first!
A lot of what Hop said is absolutely spot on, and it's really reflected in the microchosm of the film space, the proverbial "Film Wwitter." There's a large contingency of people that watch and review movies, not necessarily full blown critics but hobbyists like ourselves, clamoring for The Power of the Dog to beat CODA here. I believe some are referencing a possible CODA win as a Green Book level catastrophe. To this I would say, wtf is wrong with you? CODA is exactly what Hop called it, well directed, written, and acted, it's a fantastic film! Not to mention it brought us our first ever deaf actor nominated for an Oscar in Troy Kotsur, and most likely our first deaf actor to win an Oscar! It would be absolutely pleasant for CODA to take home the big prize here.
But where I'm trying to bring some attention to, is what the goal of the Oscars really is, and they finally took a step towards achieving this goal. That is recognizing small-market movies, especially ones in foreign markets, that are fantastic and worthy of such praise. I'm talking of course about the phenomenal Japanese film Drive My Car. Opening originally at Cannes and competing for the Palme d'Or, Drive My Car then proceeded to open in Japan exclusively. Eventually it made its rounds in the United States and Canada (and various territories) to about $944k in the box office as of February 8th. Then after the Oscar nomination this increased by about 122% worldwide as more people were 1 exposed to the film and 2 actually learned about it. With indie films and production companies running theatrical releases in foreign countries, it's difficult for American viewers such as myself to know about these films and actually see them. Now this isn't me saying only American viewership dictates Oscar nominations but the American film industry is a massive market that can propel films to the Academy Awards. However, that wasn't the case with Drive My Car, and that's why its so fucking cool. The general public had never heard of or seen this film but the Academy did their job (for once) and paid attention to little known films across the world! Now Ryusuke Hamaguchi has not only the Best International Film Oscar nomination, but also the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture!!!! And now more people are watching the movie! It actually just hit HBO Max for streaming! This is the beauty of the Academy Awards and recognizing fantastic films such as Drive My Car, and while I think it has a massive uphill battle to win it all, a win here would be groundbreaking.
All that being said, I'm thinking that CODA actually pulls off the upset and bothers all of Film Twitter and makes me relatively happy.
Hopster: Cheers to a great year in movies -- and to all the great nominees being recognized at this year's Academy Awards! Best of luck to all involved. Yo Isaac -- we betting a beer on who got more of their predictions, right?
Isaac: Oh we definitely are!