Nomadland a Heavy Favorite at 93rd Annual Academy Awards

The odds to win best picture at the 93rd edition of the Academy Awards (April 25th, 8:00 pm ET) have swung wildly over the past six months, but less than a week from the ceremony, they leave little to the imagination. 

inside pulse acadamy awards has been tracking the odds for the Academy Awards which indicates that  Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and David Fincher’s Mank were the favorites in November 2020. However, in the ensuring months, both fell out of the top-four favorites as Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland became the clear frontrunner. 

Nomadland has seen its odds shorten from +1758 late last year to -475 today. According to Sascha Paruk from SBD, Nomadland’s chances of winning (based on the odds) have improved from about 5% to about 80%. 

Nomadland started to gain traction after picking up best-picture awards in Toronto and Venice. Then it got a big boost with a Best Picture – Drama win at the Golden Globes on Feb. 28th. Its Oscars odds were -130 heading into the Globes and -250 after. 

A Best Film win at the BAFTAs gave Nomadland’s snowball even more momentum, going from -353 to where it sits now at -475.

The biggest challenger, according to the odds, is The Trial of the Chicago 7, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball, Molly’s Game). Calling it a “challenger” is disingenuous, with its odds sitting at a distant +625. Still, its odds are much shorter than the next films on the board: Minari (+1200) and Promising Young Woman (+1300).

However, there may yet bet drama in the Best Picture category, says Paruk. 

The past two years, the odds-on favorite heading into the ceremony did not actually end up winning. Last year, 1917 was a -230 favorite (roughly 70% chance to win) but South Korean masterpiece Parasite took home the Oscar. The year before, Roma’s odds were almost as short as Nomadland’s are now (-380). But Green Book was honored at the ceremony in a controversial decision. 

This year, though, Nomadland looks like a tough horse to outpace, for a few reasons. 

First, Zhao is a preposterously short favorite to win Best Director (-1000). There is a strong correlation between winning Best Director and Best Picture. Going back to 2006, nine of the 15 Best Director winners also saw their films honored as Best Picture. 

The table below lists the Best Picture winners and the Best Director winners over the past 15 years. Directors in green directed the Best Picture winner. 

2020ParasiteBong Joon-ho
2019Green BookAlfonso Cuaron
2018The Shape of WaterGuillermo del Toro
2017MoonlightDamien Chazelle
2016SpotlightAlejandro González Iñárritu
2015BirdmanAlejandro González Iñárritu
201412 Years a SlaveAlfonso Cuaron
2013ArgoAng Lee
2012The ArtistMichel Hazanavicius
2011The King’s SpeechTom Hooper
2010The Hurt LockerKathryn Bigelow
2009Slumdog MillionaireDanny Boyle
2008No Country for Old MenJoel and Ethan Coen
2007The DepartedMartin Scorsese
2006CrashAng Lee

In addition to the Best Picture/Best Director trend, the Academy Awards are starting to, ever so slightly, veer away from their long history of white-male dominance. Only one film directed by a woman has ever captured Best Picture (Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker in 2009) and no woman of Asian descent has directed an Oscar-winning film or won Best Director.

If Nomadland earns this year’s award, it would be a small step towards eradicating decades of racial and gender inequality in Hollywood. 

Last year’s ceremony already moved the needle, incrementally, in this direction. Surprise winner Parasite was a Korean-language film written and directed by Bong Joon-ho. He became the first person of Asian descent to win Best Director and Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. The overall tenor of the 2020 ceremony signaled an open-mindedness from the voting body not evidenced at prior shows. 

In all likelihood, that is something oddsmakers are factoring in. Nomadland is not only a sublime film with a litany of accolades already on its resume, its secondary characteristics also fit the zeitgeist of 2021.