We may be more than 170 days away from the Oscars, but that hasn’t stopped DraftKings and bet365 from posting odds for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor and Actress in the states — currently New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Michigan — where betting on the outcomes of the 96th Academy Awards ceremony is legal.
If it isn’t too early to post those odds, then it isn’t too early to dive in and see who the favorites are and, perhaps more importantly, who the underdogs are that can make a run for the gold.
“Oppenheimer at this moment is the front-runner,” said Christopher Rosen, the digital Director for Gold Derby, a news site that specializes in predicting Hollywood races. “It was a huge box office win and everyone liked it. On a preferential ballot, you’re ranking your picks, and it’s going to have a lot of people liking it the most or second most. It will remain a top contender, as I don’t think a lot of people disliked it.”
The most bettor-friendly odds for Oppenheimer to win are at bet365, at +125.
Rosen thinks the second and third favorites — Killers of the Flower Moon (+300 at both sites) and Poor Things (+600 at DraftKings) — will garner Best Picture noms, but Rosen believes that of the two, Poor Things has a better chance to win.
Further down the odds board, Rosen suggests it’s possible Barbie — yes, Barbie — gets a late-season boost.
“I know it’s ridiculous, but I do think it has a shot to win at +1600,” Rosen said. “Barbie the movie isn’t ridiculous, but if you had told people before the movie came out that it would be a serious Best Picture contender they would’ve thought you were ridiculous.”
One of Rosen’s true dark horses is The Holdovers, which is at +1800 at DraftKings.
“It’s Alexander Payne’s new movie with Paul Giamatti, and it finished runner-up for the Audience Award at Toronto,” Rosen said. “Movies that win or place there usually get nominated for Best Picture, and this is a movie that people will have emotion and enthusiasm about. It’s a sweet story, a throwback story.”
As for the movie that won at Toronto? Well, neither site has that one listed — yet. It’s called American Fiction, and it’s a satire about a black author who writes a novel on race relations. Rosen said people were “literally cheering” during the film.
On the directing side, Christopher Nolan is the heavy favorite right now, with the best return at -138 at bet365.
“Even if Oppenheimer doesn’t win Best Picture, Nolan would still be very well positioned to win Best Director,” Rosen said. “It’s a crowning achievement, he’s never won an Oscar, he’s one of the greatest living directors, it was a huge box office hit. Plus he bet on himself in decamping for Universal, and he won big.”
Rosen thinks Martin Scorsese at +200 at bet365 will garner plenty of interest for Killers of the Flower Moon. He expects the same for Jonathan Glazer for Zone of Interest, a story about the Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Hess, and his attempt to make a nice life for himself and his wife next door to the concentration camp. He’s at +550 at bet365.
One of the biggest pricing discrepancies between the two sites lies with Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of Poor Things. He’s +1600 at DraftKings and just +400 at bet365.
“I would bet him over Scorsese,” Rosen said. “It’s a really good value at that price. The movie is really funny, and takes a huge swing on the premise, and it connects. I could see Oppenheimer taking Best Picture and Lanthimos taking Best Director.”
Rosen is also not sleeping on Greta Gerwig for Barbie at +1000 at DraftKings.
For Best Actor, the current favorite is Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy, who’s at -120 at both sites.
“Murphy is not a lock, but — rightly or wrongly — if it was the same exact movie and the same exact performance, and it’s Daniel Day-Lewis, it’s a slam dunk,” Rosen said. “But because it’s Cillian Murphy, and he doesn’t have the stature of a Day-Lewis or a Leonardo DiCaprio, he’s not as much of a lock. There is room for him to lose.”
Rosen’s favorite underdog to consider betting on? Giamatti for his role in The Holdovers.
“He’s never won, he got snubbed for Sideways, there’s enthusiasm for him,” Rosen said. “I think he’ll get in, and if the movie takes off, he can win.”
Giamatti is at +1100 at bet365.
One other performer Rosen likes is Jeffrey Wright — again for American Fiction and, like the movie itself, someone whose name is not yet listed on the odds boards.
On the Best Actress front, Emma Stone has zoomed to the top of the list for her performance in Poor Things.
“She’s producer, which helps, she’s a past winner, the movie has gotten great reviews,” Rosen said. “But this is a tight category, with the odds really bunched up.”
Stone is at +150 at DraftKings.
Looking further down the odds board, Rosen likes Annette Bening for her role in Nyad (+300 on both sites), noting it would be her fifth nomination, that she’s playing a real life person in Diana Nyad, that she took on a physically demanding role, and that it will resonate with older voters.
But Rosen’s true longshot is Sandra Huller for her role in Anatomy of a Fall, the movie that won Cannes Palme d’Or this year.
“I could see her sneaking a win,” Rosen said of the +600 actress.
The Oscars are scheduled to take place March 10, 2024, and nominations will be announced on Jan. 23.
Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images