Is ‘Jojo Rabbit’ the tortoise in the Oscar race on Sunday?

This award season, “Jojo Rabbit” has been more like the tortoise than the hare, never being the front-runner but reliably picking up key nominations and wins along the way. As we approach the finish line to the season on Sunday, there is a very real prospect that “Jojo” might stumble and leave the Oscars empty-handed. But a last minute surge in a key Oscar branch, shows it may have hit its stride at just the right time.

Along with “Parasite,” it was the only film this year to get a SAG Awards ensemble nomination along with being recognized by the guilds for writers, producers and directors, all for Taika Waititi. It won with the WGA, plus with the costume designers and sound editors, along with BAFTA for screenplay. It scored a solid six Oscar nominations; including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Editing.

According to current Gold Derby odds, of “Jojo’s” six categories it’s behind in five. To win Best Picture the preferential ballot would need to wreak havoc, with front-runners “Parasite” and “1917” splitting the vote. Scarlett Johansson is sitting in second place for Best Supporting Actress with 39/10 combined odds. She also has the benefit of being a dual nominee this year. But Laura Dern is out in front for Johansson’s other movie, “Marriage Story,” with 31/10 odds. If “Jojo Rabbit” is going to win an Oscar, it will likely have to do so in the screenplay race.

It is currently the Gold Derby front-runner with 10/3 combined odds, just edging out “Little Women” which has 37/20 odds. I’ve been predicting “Jojo” to prevail there all season long, but the film has only become the favorite this month through the WGA and BAFTA victories.

The writing contest is really the sweet spot for this Oscar contender, with voters less reticent to award comedies. Adapted Screenplay is where “Sideways” (2004) and “The Big Short” (2015) won their sole Oscars. “Jojo” tells the story of a boy in WW2 Germany who had Hitler as an imaginary friend. It provides opportunities for absurd dark comedy and profound moments. These vacillations of tone allow for the quirky charm and deft touch of screenwriter Waititi (who also directs and plays the imagined Hitler in the film) to be on full display.

In our exclusive interview last month, Waititi revealed, “I like films that use comedy to help deliver an important message. Tonally when you look at the content and the feeling of the film, it was always going to be difficult to get right. Part of that was in the screenplay. We were never going to do something that’s super dramatic or felt like the other World War II films that had gone before it.”

Ultimately the writer touches on what I feel is the screenplay’s biggest weapon: it’s an adapted screenplay that feels original. That is the major factor that may allow this tortoise to beat the rabbits, crossing the finish line with an Oscar. But it will be a photo finish.

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Be sure to make your Oscar winner predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the ceremony on February 9. And join in the thrilling debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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