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Why 1917 Might Have the Edge Over Once Upon A Time In Hollywood in Best Picture Race

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  • The contest to win Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars is shaping up to be a two-horse race. According to sportsbettingdime.com, the odds to win Best Picture strongly favor either Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood or Sam Mendes’ 1917 taking home the honor.

    SBD’s lead oddsmaker, Sascha Paruk, notes that Once Upon A Time has +138 odds on average at online sportsbooks, giving it roughly at 42% chance to win. The odds for 1917 are +248, which corresponds to a 29% chance. Only one other film – South Korean hit Parasite – is over 20%.

    It’s no coincidence that 1917 and Once Upon A Time lead the pack. Already early Oscar contenders heading into the New Year, the two films won the Best Drama award and the Best Comedy/Musical award, respectively, at the 2020 Golden Globes in early January. There is a fairly strong track record of Golden Globe-winners going onto claim Best Picture at the Oscars.

    Over the last 26 years, 16 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards also won a Golden Globe for either Best Drama or Best Musical/Comedy. That’s a 62% hit rate and it includes five of the last eight and two of the last three (Moonlight in 2017 and Green Book in 2019).

    That said, it is somewhat surprising that Once Upon a Time is the outright favorite. The trend mentioned above is not evenly split between comedies/musicals and dramas. There is a much stronger correlation between winning Best Drama at the Globes and Best Picture at the Oscars. Of the aforementioned 16 films, 12 were Best Drama winners and only four were Best Musical/Comedy winners.

    Year Best Picture Winner Golden Globe Category
    2019 Green Book Comedy/Musical
    2017 Moonlight Drama
    2014 12 Years a Slave Drama
    2013 Argo Drama
    2012 The Artist Comedy/Musical
    2009 Slumdog Millionaire Drama
    2004 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Drama
    2003 Chicago Comedy/Musical
    2002 A Beautiful Mind Drama
    2001 Gladiator Drama
    2000 American Beauty Drama
    1999 Shakespeare in Love Comedy/Musical
    1998 Titanic Drama
    1997 The English Patient Drama
    1995 Forrest Gump Drama
    1994 Schindler’s List Drama


    That trend would suggest 1917 should have a leg up on Once Upon a Time, and Mendes’ instant WWI classic has some other notable factors weighing in its favor.

    First, Mendes took home Best Director at the Globes. Dating back to 1991, there have been 15 best-picture winners at the Globes whose directors also won Best Director at that year’s ceremony. Of those 15, eight went onto win the Oscar for Best Picture (53%), suggesting Mendes has better than a 50/50 shot of winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

    On top of that, the subject matter of 1917 – World War I – puts it in good standing for an Oscar win. As Marcus Dixon recently wrote, 16 Best Picture-winners in the 91-year history of the Academy Awards have been war movies.

    Lastly, 1917 was released at a better time of year (December) than Once Upon a Time (July), at least as far as awards-voting is concerned. It’s been nearly a decade since a Best Picture-winner was released earlier than September. The last summer release to win the award was The Hurt Locker back in 2010.

    Will the trends play out at the 2020 Academy Awards and land Mendes his second career Best Picture award (having previously won for American Beauty)? Tune into the telecast on Sunday, Feb. 9th, on ABC starting at 8:00 PM ET.