The COVID-19 pandemic may have shuttered cinemas and theaters around the world, but if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that the show must go on. The 93rd Academy Awards will take place Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET, and here are the best bets for the event. Odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, a visually compelling portrait of life in the Great Recession, is the clear-cut favorite to win Best Picture. It won the same award at the British Academy Film Awards, or BAFTAs, earlier this month, and that show has been quite predictive of past Oscar winners.
Ben Zauzmer, who wrote “Oscarmetrics: The Math Behind the Biggest Night in Hollywood,” has built a model to make data-based predictions for the Oscars, and he also favors Nomadland. The film earns a 67.8% chance to win in his model, much less than its implied odds (85.7%). As a result, Nomadland is the smart pick for Oscar pools, but it’s not one to target for betting purposes.
If you’re looking for a higher-value betting pick, Promising Young Woman offers slight value. Zauzmer’s model gives it a 7.4% chance to win, which slightly exceeds its implied odds (6.67%). Still, I would avoid the Best Picture betting market unless you’re more confident in Nomadland than Zauzmer.
Zhao is also the heavy favorite to win Best Director for her work on Nomadland. However, As with her film, Zhao’s implied odds to win (94.12%) don’t offer much value. You’d need to bet $16 just to make a $1 profit.
Zauzmer’s model gives Zhao just a 71.9% chance to win the award. So while she is a heavy favorite on both the betting market and in Zauzmer’s eyes, the difference between the two points to even less value than what you’ll find on the Best Picture market. Again, Zhao is a great pick for Oscar pools, but she isn’t a great betting option.
If you’re looking for an underdog bet, I like David Fincher. The Academy tends to view previously-snubbed nominees favorably. This is Fincher’s third nomination for Best Director — he was also nominated for The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy ends up giving him the nod.
That said, Fincher isn’t the best value pick according to the math. In fact, his implied odds (10%) exceed what Zauzmer’s model gives him (6.6%). If you want to make a purely math-based play, the two longshots are your best options. Lee Isaac Chung has the second-best odds to win, per Zauzmer’s model (8.5%), and Emerald Fennell is close behind in third (8.2%). They both have implied odds of just 4.8%.
The only marquee market without a nominee from Nomadland, the Best Actor category has a clear favorite anyway. Chadwick Boseman, who tragically passed away from cancer this past year, is expected to win the award posthumously. The Academy has given out 16 posthumous Oscars to date. The most recent went to Gil Friesen for 20 Feet From Stardom in 2013. Only two Oscars have gone to actors who died before the awards show — Peter Finch won Best Actor for Network, and Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight.
Still, Boseman should handily take this award. He is also the frontrunner in Zauzmer’s model at 69.6%, although that’s still a much better figure than his implied odds (92.3%). He is the correct pick for Oscar pools, but you’ll find more betting value elsewhere as with the prior two markets.
Anthony Hopkins’ implied odds (14.3%) are actually worse than what Zauzmer gives him (15.2%), so you’ll find a bit of betting value there. Hopkins even won the BAFTA in this category, and he’s my favorite underdog bet for Sunday’s show.
The only featured betting market without a clear favorite, Best Actress looks like a tossup heading into Sunday’s show. The sportsbooks currently favor Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman — although Viola Davis isn’t far behind.
However, Mulligan and Davis’ implied odds (44.4% and 36.4%, respectively) exceed their odds in Zauzmer’s model (30.7% and 22.3%, respectively). In fact, Davis comes in third in the model, as she trails Frances McDormand. McDormand’s implied odds (22.2%) point to considerable betting value relative to her odds in Zauzmer’s model (27.4%).
Previous award shows explain why this market is so muddied. Mulligan took the Critics Choice Award, Davis got the SAG Award, but Mulligan won the BAFTA. Ultimately, McDormand’s longshot odds and BAFTA win combine to make her the highest-value bet — although those in Oscar pools may be better off with Mulligan.
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