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Oscars 2022 Odds: A look at the markets for this year's six major categories

Chloe Zhao claimed last year's Best Picture and Best Director awards for her film Nomadland
Chloe Zhao claimed last year's Best Picture and Best Director awards for her film Nomadland

The pandemic-muted awards season has begun! After last year's Oscars ceremony suffered a major Covid-related overhaul, the 2022 event promises to return to form in the typical cringe-inducing telecast that the Academy knows best.

Tuesday saw the 94th Academy Award nominations announced, including many high-profile omissions, some familiar faces and a number of first-time nominees

This year's competition feels unusually stacked and difficult to predict in a number of categories. Between a diminished, non-televised Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards being pushed back to March, no televised awards show has had the opportunity to dominate the run-up to these selections, which may leave Oscar voters gravitating towards some surprising picks as a result.

We've delved into the six major categories - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor & Best Supporting Actress - to provide you with some insight into the field of contenders, as well as highlighting the market favourite and finally giving our prediction for who we think will take home each prize on March 27th.

Best Picture

- The Power of the Dog (4/7)

- Belfast (5/2)

- West Side Story (15/2)

- Dune (9/1)

- Licorice Pizza (16/1)

- Drive My Car (18/1)

- King Richard (20/1)

- Don't Look Up (25/1)

- CODA (40/1)

- Nightmare Alley (50/1)

Jane Campion's revisionist western leads the way among this year's hopefuls with 12 nods, including its status as frontrunner for the Academy's most prestigious award. All bookmakers have her Netflix-released take on toxic masculinity against the backdrop of early 1920s Montana as the odds-on favourite.

The film is a particularly unique case, standing as only the third example of a Best Picture nominee that was solely written, directed and produced by women - placing itself alongside Debra Granik's Winter's Bone (2010) and Greta Gerwig's Little Women (2019).

2022 is only the third time in the Academy's history to have nominated 10 films since the best-picture lineup was expanded to this new maximum capacity back in 2009.

It's quite a shock to see The Power of the Dog so heavily favoured here, because although the Academy appears to have finally accepted the streaming platform as worthy of taking Best Picture, this isn't traditional Oscar entertainment. 

Kenneth Branagh's autobiographical, black and white piece paints a city's troubles in the 1960s, and is the contender most likely to pip the market dominator. However, given the wider net being cast for the top prize this time around, a surprise could well be on the cards. And this the curveball I'm willing to wager on.

Belfast ticks a lot of the boxes that tend to influence Academy voters when filling out their ballots - deeply personal, emotionally-charged and set during a particularly conflicting period of history. Further changes to the voting process over a decade ago may also lean in its favour.

What was once a straight popular vote was switched to a more complex 'preferential' voting system, designed to achieve true consensus, that can sometimes cause a paradoxical effect of favouring films whose support is broad but not deep. This film appears to fit that mould.

Prediction: Belfast (Best Price 3/1 @ SBK)

Best Director

- Jane Campion - The Power of the Dog (1/8)

- Kenneth Branagh - Belfast (9/1)

- Paul Thomas Anderson - Licorice Pizza (9/1)

- Steven Spielberg - West Side Story (9/1)

- Ryusuke Hamaguchi - Drive My Car (16/1)

There was one difference between the Director's Guild of America (DGA) and Academy Award nominees for Best Director this year, with Dune's Denis Villeneueve getting the nod for the former but missing out to Japan's Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car here.

The latter fits with a recent trend of nominating international filmmakers such as Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) and Thomas Vinteberg (Another Round). But unlike those two, Hamaguchi's film managed to crack the Best Picture lineup, adding to its citations for Adapted Screenplay and International Feature Film.

Don't expect it to cause quite the same stir that Boon Jong-ho's Parasite did a couple of years back though, as these cases not only prove to be the exceptions to the rule, but also that awarding the South Korean picture for a number of top prizes that year was made much easier for not-so conscious voters by the lack of standout nominees.

Campion who became only the second woman ever to be nominated for Best Director in 1993 for The Piano and makes history again as the only woman to receive two nominations in this major category, heads the betting, and practically has her name etched onto the award already.

Relating this back to the previous point about the Academy's Best Picture expansion, 67 of the 94 films awarded that coveted trophy have also won Best Director - Chloe Zhao for Nomadland being the most recent last year.

However, a quarter of these have separated the winners across two different selections. Since 2013, the two major prizes have been split on five occasions, while being awarded to the same film three times. Jane Campion will earn herself a historic win for The Power of the Dog, making her the second consecutive female Best Director winner.

Prediction: Jane Campion (Best Price 1/7 @ Bet365)

Oscar Odds

Best Actor

- Will Smith - King Richard (8/15)

- Benedict Cumberbatch - The Power of the Dog (3/1)

- Andrew Garfield - tick, tick... BOOM! (6/1)

- Javier Bardem - Being the Ricardos (20/1)

- Denzel Washington - The Tragedy of Macbeth (33/1)

Odds-on favourite Will Smith is understandably leading the pack. Smith received his first Academy Award nomination for 15 years - since 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness - which came six years later from his first recognition in the Michael Mann's boxing biopic Ali.

Similar to his 2002 nod, Smith is playing a real person from a sporting background. It's an incredibly performance-driven film, as was Michael Mann's exploration of Muhammad Ali over 20 years ago, and gives the possibility of awarding a Hollywood heavyweight with the award after two prior losses.

Surprisingly, there aren't any overly flashy nominees this time around, which is another reason to make a case for the leader here.

Prediction: Will Smith (Best Price 8/15 @ Paddy Power)

Best Actress

- Nicole Kidman - Being the Ricardos (EVS)

- Kristen Stewart - Spencer (7/4)

- Olivia Colman - The Lost Daughter (5/1)

- Jessica Chastain - The Eyes of Tammy Faye (5/1)

- Penelope Cruz - Parallel Mothers (16/1)

Kristen Stewart became a first-time nominee for her portrayal of Princess Diana. Many believed after Stewart was snagged for Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA nominations that she might miss out elsewhere on the circuit but the American has hustled hard in press junkets to make it happen.

It's usually the type of role that voters flock to crown for such a transformative performance, so it's wise not to discount her chances. Lady Gaga was arguably the most surprising omission in this category for many of the same reasons.

That being said, Nicole Kidman gives a memorable performance as Lucille Ball, and would see her score a second Oscar just under 20 years later - another narrative that fits into the Academy's thinking.

Best Actress has three possible winners to choose from, but allow me to state my case for Penelope Cruz. Winning at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics for her turn as a late-in-life mother who makes a shocking discovery about this child and must deal with the consequences, Cruz just so happens to boast a previous win for Supporting Actress in Vicky Cristina Barcelona as well as two other nominations.

The continued expansion of a more diverse body of nominees helps her case too, as she could prove popular with the European sector.

More than anything, Sony Pictures Classics' late Oscar campaign is especially vital. While the film didn't play strong in the metric of industry precursors, it may have been the last film many Oscar voters watched before submitting their choices. It's exactly what happened for another SPC title last year, The Father, which pulled off two major upsets, including Anthony Hopkins as Best Actor.

Prediction: Penelope Cruz (Best Price 16/1 @ Paddy Power)

Best Supporting Actor

- Kodi Smit-McPhee - The Power of the Dog (1/3)

- Troy Kotsur - CODA (10/3)

- Ciaran Hinds - Belfast (5/1)

- Jesse Plemons - The Power of the Dog (16/1)

- J.K. Simmons - Being the Ricardos (20/1)

Best Supporting Actor is seemingly a lock for Kodi Smit-McPhee. The Australian is at the centrefold of Campion's Western where he emerges as the movie's stealth protagonist by the end. It's the perfect amount of vulnerability and understated aptitude that voters love to credit.

Troy Kotsur becomes only the second ever deaf nominee, but there hasn't been enough buzz generated around his own performance or the film itself to mount a serious challenge.

A Belfast nomination in this category was a toss up between Ciaran Hinds and Jamie Dornan, with the former receiving the nod, but this uncertainty does seem to rule out any chances of a potential winner here.

As for Plemons and Simmons, both came as surprises when the nominees were announced. Simmons now being on the radar of Academy voters since his win for Whiplash, while many believed Plemons would find himself lost among the other more dominant performances in Campion's film.

Prediction: Kodi Smit-McPhee (Best Price 1/3 @ Paddy Power/Betfair)

Best Supporting Actress

- Ariana DeBose - West Side Story (1/3)

- Kirsten Dunst - The Power of the Dog (5/2)

- Aunjanue Ellis - King Richard (7/1)

- Judi Dench - Belfast (16/1)

- Jessie Buckley - The Lost Daughter (25/1)

Just like the other Supporting Actor category, Supporting Actress has an obvious choice, but poses a race that is far from conclusive. First-time nominee Ariana DeBose sung, dance and cried her way to an Academy Award nomination and was arguably the standout from a number of newcomers in Spielberg's West Side Story remake.

She'll be a tough nut to crack, with Kirsten Dunst the next closest to her in the market at 5/2. It's safe to say that surprise nominee Jessie Buckley at 25s will pose no threat, as most, if not all, believed she would be shunned, just like Judi Dench, who is a coattail nominee, being the last face we see in Belfast which clearly left an impression on voters.

Aunjanue Ellis makes this a two-horse race in my opinion, with her receiving a real bump since King Richard impressed critics back in September. Her portrayal of Richard's then-wife Brandy, fits into the "long suffering wife" category of performance, which is rich for a strong emotional showcase.

Despite the fact that it illustrates how often women's stories are subordinate to men's, this sidelining is hard-wired into the character's journey, with Elli's performance being described by some as "the movie's secret weapon" and proving that it has transcended the familiar trope.

Prediction: Aunjanue Ellis - King Richard (Best Price 7/1 @ Paddy Power)

Oscars Odds

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Poll: Which Academy Award nominated film will produce the most wins?
The Power of the Dog (12 nominations)
Dune (10 nominations)
Belfast (7 nominations)
West Side Story (7 nominations)
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