Part of the fun of the Oscars are when the winner of the award is not the odds on favorite that had been predicted. Olivia Colman winning over Glenn Close, Parasite taking Picture and Director from 1917, and Anthony Hopkins over Chadwick Boseman all added a sense of surprise and shock to each of their ceremonies. With the uprise of precursor award shows, internet communities dedicated to predicting the awards, and even gambling sites taking odds and providing bets the outcome of the awards tend to be more predictable. Last night’s awards were no exception, with Everything Everywhere All at Once winning 7 of its 11 nominations as pretty much predicted from the outset even though sweeps hadn’t yet happened in the Best Picture era. But was everything as predictable as it seems? Were there any moments of surprise and shock? The answer is tricky.
While some of the categories seemed set in stone (Supporting Actor, Animated Film, Visual Effects) there were others with uncertain outcomes…
A few categories had a healthy sense of competition wherein there was the favorite but a strong dark horse (Best Actor, Best Actress, and the two screenplay awards) that had people trying to hedge their bets by going the other way (I am referring to myself at the very least.)
There were three categories though where the winner was a total tossup: Best Score, with no clear favorite outside of maybe Babylon; Best Production Design, which seemed like a chance for past winner Catherine Martin to repeat for Elvis; and Best Supporting Actress, which had a different award winner at almost every major ceremony. These categories definitely offered suspense during the ceremony, but still the winners would hardly qualify as a surprise. Cate Blanchett, Austin Butler, and screenplay wins for Banshees and All Quiet, failed to overthrow the new frontrunners though perhaps the voting was close. In these categories with no clear frontrunner, the Oscars went with the two most popular films overall and ended up giving eleven awards to just two movies. This season fortune favored those predicting sweeps.
When factoring in previous Oscar trends, this year’s other award ceremonies, and the calculated odds the closest to a true upset only came in one category: Best Live Action Short Film. Le pupille, had the highest pedigree in the category. Written and directed by Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Rohrwacher has won two awards for her work before. Le pupille also had backing from Disney, which hosted the film on Disney+ making it readily available, and was produced by four time Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuaron. All these factors on top of a broadly appealing film made Le pupille seem like an obvious choice… until the envelope opened.
An Irish Goodbye, the sweet story about two brothers reuniting to finish their mother’s bucket list, took home the statue. That certainly didn’t seem likely in a category where most voters opt for the most prominent nominee (the documentary short was a Netflix production and the animated short was produced by JJ Abrams and Bad Robot.)
As Oscar-watching goes, the joy mostly comes from seeing a personal favorite win the award, but there is some joy to an upset, too; when awards get too predictable they risk being boring. The initial excitement for a winner can get stale if they win all the time through each awards show. So, do there need to be less awards? Do the Oscars need to be held earlier so the winner doesn’t seem so obvious? Or should the Oscars try a new system to really shake up the possibilities (like BAFTA’s nominating juries)? Regardless, it was exciting to see at least one genuine upset in a ceremony of favorites taking home the gold. I guess with 11 Oscar nominations, Ireland had to take home something!