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Cinema Chat: Oscar Odds, 'Dragon Slayer,' 'Together Together,' And More

Michigan Theater
The Michigan Theater

This year's Oscars will be handed out in just a few days, and we've got the movies to go with them.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair and the Michigan Theater Foundation executive director, Russ Collins, discuss Sunday's Academy Awards and the rest of the movie news from Hollywood and in our area. 


Oscar Odds – Best Picture

Nomadland       -600

The Trial of the Chicago 7            +600

Minari  +1400

Promising Young Woman            +1600

Mank    +3000

Judas and the Black Messiah      +3300

Sound of Metal +10000

The Father         +10000


After winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama as a -180 favorite, Nomadland has vaulted up the oddsboard to become a -600 favorite in Oscar odds to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  The film stars Frances McDormand as a widow who travels across the United States after losing her job and meets people in similar struggling circumstances.  The movie has been universally acclaimed by film critics and seems like a runaway train to take the golden statue.


The competition in the Best Picture category for 2020 doesn’t seem as overwhelming as in years past with the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering a lot of new productions.  Nearly all of the films nominated for Best Picture were shot prior to the pandemic, which may partially explain why Nomadland is such an odds-on favorite for arguably the most coveted award in the film industry.


Would films like “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Mank” or “The Father” be nominated in a conventional year?  It’s hard to tell but it’s clear that one movie stands above the rest in Best Picture Oscar odds.


Oscar Odds – Best Director

Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)            -2500

David Fincher (Mank)     +1000

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)        +1600

Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)             +1600

Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)      +2800


Much like Best Picture, the Best Director category for the Academy Awards has an odds-on favorite for Nomadland, with Chloe Zhao set as a -2500 favorite.  I don’t know what’s crazier – that Zhao is such a big favorite or that she is only the third female nominee for this category since 2009.  Greta Gerwig was nominated back in 2017 for “Ladybird” and Emerald Fennell joins Zhao in 2020 for “Promising Young Woman.”  Zhao seems all but a lock to win this award, and 2009 is notable because it was the first and only time a female director won the Best Director award, with Kathryn Bigelow taking it for “The Hurt Locker.”  If Zhao doesn’t win it, consider Fennell as a worthy backup bet based on the odds (+1600) and increasingly relevant subject matter for her film “Promising Young Woman.”


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) -1600

Anthony Hopkins (The Father)    +700

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)       +1400

Steven Yeun (Minari)     +2500

Gary Oldman (Mank)     +2800


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Actress

Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)          +135

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)  +185

Frances McDormand (Nomadland)          +350

Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday)   +600

Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)         +1400


As I said in my Golden Globes piece, Chadwick Boseman is the biggest lock of all time to win his first Academy Award posthumously for his electric role as Levee Green in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”  Boseman is currently one of the largest favorites among nominees for any category in Oscar odds at -1600 and also was awarded the Best Actor Golden Globe for Drama for the role.


Best Actress might be the most competitive category in Oscar odds because five candidates did outstanding work to get nominated and each has a legit case to win. Carey Mulligan is the +135 favorite for “Promising Young Woman,” which focuses on the victimization of women and how one woman took matters into her own hands for retribution after the passing of her best friend.


Viola Davis opened at +1200 and has shot up to +185 for her role as “Ma Rainey” opposite Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The physical transformation of Davis to play the part while showcasing her acting chops could make her a popular choice for this betting prop.


Mulligan certainly warrants being the favorite in this spot but other nominees like Frances McDormand (+350) and Andra Day (+600) could win this award. Day may be the value play here at +600 for her portrayal of Billie Holiday as she won the Best Actress Golden Globe for Drama for this role and the buzz is building for her chances as we enter SAG and BAFTA award season.


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)     -1400

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)   +900

Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night In Miami)      +1400

Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)          +1400

LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) +2500


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Supporting Actress

Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) -300

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)    +275

Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)         +1100

Olivia Coleman (The Father)        +1600

Amanda Seyfried (Mank)             +2000


Anyone who saw “Judas and the Black Messiah” knew Daniel Kaluuya was going to be a heavy favorite (-1400) for Best Supporting Actor, regardless of competition.  Kaluuya portrays Fred Hampton, who was the chairman of the Black Panther Party in Illinois back in the late 1960s and combats racial injustice before being brought down by an informant played by LaKeith Stanfield (+2500), who was also nominated for this category.


While it’s Kaluuya’s award to lose, a special shout-out goes to Leslie Odom Jr. for his role as the legendary Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami,” which allowed Odom to show his acting and singing range as the great vocalist.


For Best Supporting Actress, newcomer Maria Bakalova for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” opened as the fave in Oscar odds at EVEN but has since dropped to +275.  That’s because Yuh-Jung Youn for the film “Minari” has jumped in as the new fave at -300 after opening at +320.  Youn plays “Soon-ja,” a Korean grandmother who relocates to Arkansas to help her son’s produce farm and watch her grandchildren.


As for Bakalova, the 24-year-old Bulgarian had arguably the most memorable performance by any actor in 2020 with her hilarious turn as Borat’s daughter “Tutar” and stole nearly every scene she was in for the prank comedy.


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Original Screenplay

Promising Young Woman            -250

The Trial of the Chicago 7            +175

Minari  +1400

Judas and the Black Messiah      +3300

Sound of Metal +3300


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Adapted Screenplay

Nomadland       -350

The Father         +450

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm      +550

One Night In Miami        +1600

The White Tiger +3000


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Animated Film

Soul       -900

Wolfwalkers      +450

Onward +1400

Over the Moon +2800

Shaun The Sheep: Farmageddon              +4000


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Cinematography

Nomadland       -210

Mank    +190

News of the World         +1200

Judas and the Black Messiah      +1600

The Trial of the Chicago 7            +2000


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Costume Design

Film       Odds

Emma   +120

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom           +120

Mank    +350

Pinocchio           +2200

Mulan   +2800


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Documentary Feature

Time     -110

My Octopus Teacher      +175

Collective           +400

Crip Champ        +1200

The Mole Agent +2200


Oscar Odds – Best Film Editing

The Trial of the Chicago 7            -130

The Sound of Metal        +160

Nomadland       +600

Promising Young Woman            +1400

The Father         +2200


2020 Oscar Odds – Best International Feature

Another Round -700

Quo Vadis Aida +500

Collective           +1200

Better Days        +2000

The Man Who Sold His Skin         +3000


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Makeup

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom           -250

Hillbilly Elegy     +550

Mank    +650

Pinocchio           +650

Emma   +1400


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Original Score

Soul       -800

Mank    +500

Minari  +1200

News of the World         +2500

Da 5 Bloods       +2800


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Sound

Sound of Metal -900

Mank    +850

Soul       +850

News of the World         +1800

Greyhound        +2200

Odds as of April 14 at Bovada


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Visual Effects

Tenet    -450

The Midnight Sky            +285

Mulan   +1500

Love and Monsters         +2800

The One and Only Ivan  +3000


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Short Film (Animated)

If Anything Happens, I Love You -240

Opera   +450

Burrow +600

Genius Loci        +700

Yes-People         +1800


2020 Oscar Odds –  Best Documentary (Short Subject)

A Love Song for Latasha -300

A Concerto Is A Conversation     +500

Colette +500

Hunger Ward    +1100

Do Not Split       +2500


2020 Oscar Odds – Best Live-Action Short Film

The Letter Room             -275

Two Distant Strangers    +200

Feeling Through              +1800

The Present       +1800

White Eye          +2500



Before you tune into the ceremony on Sunday, join our special virtual Oscars Preshow with MTF Executive Director Russ Collins and a special guest as they discuss their predictions and lots more.  The fun starts at 7:00PM, so sign up in advance on the Michigan Theater website.




Gather your trivia team and play a special Academy Awards edition of Virtual Movie Trivia this Friday! Join us via Zoom starting at 7PM for a chance to win movie tickets, merch, and more. @michtheater.org




After his family was brutally murdered and his sister turned into a demon, Tanjiro Kamado's journey as a demon slayer began. Tanjiro and his comrades embark on a new mission aboard the Mugen Train, on track to despair.

"Together Together" -- OPENS FRIDAY, APRIL 23 AT THE STATE

When young loner Anna (Patti Harrison) is hired as the gestational surrogate for Matt (Ed Helms), a single man in his 40s who wants a child, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.


"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" -- PLAYS SUNDAY, APRIL 25 AT THE MICHIGAN

The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy ends with this film, winner of 11 Academy Awards!  Followed by an onscreen conversation with Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen,Andy Serkis, and moderated by Stephen ColbertTrivia note: "The Return of the King" won the Best Picture Oscar!!




If you liked the indie hit “The Farewell” (starring Awkwafina), you will like this film.  A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, the film follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream.  The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother.  Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really builds a home and family.  Starring Steven Yeun ("Burning") and Yeri Han ("Champion").


Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.  The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, this film features real nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts -- PLAYING FRIDAY, APRIL 23 AT THE STATE

Each year, we're thrilled to present the Academy Award-nominated shorts programming featuring the year's most spectacular short films.  From 96 total qualifying films, these five received nominations in the Animated Short Film category at the 93rd Academy Awards. 

  • "Burrow" – Madeline Sharafian and Michael Capbarat (USA, 6 min.)
  • "Genius Loci" – Adrien Mérigeau and Amaury Ovise (France, 16 min.)
  • "Opera" – Erick Oh (USA, 9 min.)
  • "If Anything Happens, I Love You" – Will McCormack and Michael Govier (USA, 12 min.)
  • "Yes-People" – Gísli Darri Halldórsson and Arnar Gunnarsson (Iceland, 8 min.)

Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts -- PLAYING SATURDAY, APRIL 24 AT THE STATE

  • “Feeling Through”: A broke teen looks for shelter on a cold night.  His random encounter with a middle-aged, deaf-blind man changes his course, possibly in more ways than one.  Writer-director Doug Roland gets strong work from both performers: Robert Tarango actually is deaf and blind; Steven Prescod is convincing as a desperate kid who turns out to be a genuinely good person.
  • “The Letter Room”Oscar Isaac plays a corrections officer who takes over the job of scanning prisoner mail and gets involved in the lives revealed therein.  It’s a well-acted, low-key drama that could be ready for expansion.
  • “The Present”: A goodhearted Palestinian man takes his young daughter to pick up a gift for his wife; to do so, they must pass through an Israeli checkpoint.  The stresses and humiliations complicating what should be a simple errand pile up, pushing him toward a potentially tragic outcome.
  • “Two Distant Strangers”: Takes a familiar fantasy trope and applies it to a deadly serious subject: police mistreatment of Black Americans.  To its credit, its denouement makes that gamble pay off.  It evolves into something thoughtful, eventually becoming a startlingly dark commentary.
  • “White Eye”: An examination of unintended consequences in modern-day Tel Aviv.  When a young man seems to have solved the mystery of his stolen bicycle, his single-minded quest to reclaim it takes a turn that forces him to see with greater perspective.  Shot in one continuous take, Tomer Shushan’s film puts its audience in a tense situation with steely focus until its deeper meaning becomes clear.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

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