In recent years, a particular topic of conversation has been finding its way into the mainstream as the Academy Awards draw nearer. It is a conversation that goes beyond simply wondering who will win each specific category, instead asking us to take an honest and intimate look at the nomination pool. The Oscars have been criticized for a stark lack of diversity in the films and actors it chooses to celebrate. Critics of the awards are quick to point out that the Academy tends to nominate, and award, the same type of film, year after year. To say it plainly, they tend to reward the following: biopics, historical dramas, and films that demand their actors physically transform for a role. And while there are many deserving films that fill this criterion, the question remains: What about the rest?
Well, if the past two years tell us anything, perhaps it’s that the winds of change are starting to blow, again. Yes, again. On the surface it may seem that the Academy hasn’t changed much in, well, forever. But, as this LA Times article explains, The Oscars’ best-picture winners tend to come in waves, sometimes in keeping with the culture but certainly in tune with trends in the movie industry…The early 1970s saw “The French Connection”, “The Sting” and two “Godfather” movies win over a four-year period … Then there was the upscale commercialism – call it art-house-lite – of the late 1990s and early 2000s … A similarly distinct chapter seems to be upon us now.
The two most recent Best Picture winners – Spotlight (2016) and Moonlight (2017) – are evidence that the Academy’s opinion is once again on the move; the Oscar tides are carrying us all into a new era where gritty dramas with a personal story are celebrated. Smaller, grittier films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird find themselves not only nominated in 2018, but truly contesting more obvious Oscar selections, like Dunkirk and Darkest Hour.
In fact, Trevor Dueck from Sports Betting Dime advises that your safest bets this season are The Shape of Water first, with Three Billboards second. Finding either of these films in the Best Picture category even just a decade ago would have been noteworthy, let alone finding them as the top two contenders. In addition to their notes on the frontrunners, this site also has a list of sportsbooks that currently have Academy Awards props available as they can be tricky to find online.
However, as slow as change is, it is inevitable, and this year it should be taking no one by surprise anymore. When Spotlight beat out The Revenant in 2016, it was an upset but also a catalyst; the shift towards a rawer, humanity-exposing story had begun. When Moonlight was named Best Picture last year, rather than La La Land, the trend was set. The vulnerable, quiet choice was the favored one, beating out the more obvious Oscar fodder and paving the way for the rawness of Three Billboards or the bizarre world Guillermo del Toro created in The Shape of Water to rise to the top.
On March 4th when the envelope is opened and the name called, do not be shocked by the result. It is a stacked category, with heavy-hitters all around, but we can expect that these “smaller” nominees are going to make their presence known and clear the way for even broader, more diverse winners in the near future.