‘CODA’ needs to buck 6 Oscar trends to win Best Picture

Oscar history and statistics have long proven to be a pundit’s greatest asset in predicting the awards race each year. There’s no way to prove whether statistics are causative, but there’s definitely some that are highly correlative.But with “CODA”, it’s difficult to resist just putting the numbers to one side and follow the passion. As we saw with “Parasite” in 2020, that is the ultimate equaliser at the Oscars.

If “CODA” win Best Picture this Sunday, it would be one of the most statistically unprecedented wins in the history of the Academy Awards.

No below-the-line nominations
Not since “Grand Hotel” back in 1932 has a film won Best Picture without at least one nomination below-the-line. Some may argue that the craft elements aren’t the strong point of “CODA”, but a below-the-line bid was far from an impossibility for the indie family drama. Indeed, Nick Baxter, Sian Heder, Marius De Vries and Matt Dahan were in heavy contention in the Best Original Song category (“Beyond the Shore”). Best Picture frontrunners that faltered from a lack of below-the-line support include other indie darlings “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Lost in Translation”.

No Best Film Editing nomination
With the exception of “Birdman” (which fell victim to the editing branch’s bias against “one-take” films), you have to go all the way back to “Ordinary People” in 1980 to find a Best Picture winner snubbed by the cutters. Best Picture frontrunners that ended up losing without a film editing nomination include “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood”, “Roma” and “Brokeback Mountain”.

No DGA nomination
Another stat working against “CODA” is the fact Heder didn’t contend with the DGA. Not since “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989 has a film won Best Picture without its helmer being nominated by the guild. From 1990 to 2021, all the various Best Picture frontrunners had at least a DGA nomination. Even films that missed the Best Director nomination at Oscar like “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”, “Green Book” and “Argo” still vied in the DGA race.

No BAFTA Best Picture nomination
Since the BAFTAs became an Oscar precursor in 2001 (the BAFTAs used to take place after the Oscars ceremony), no film (with the exception of Clint Eastwood’s late-breaking “Million Dollar Baby”) has won the Best Picture Oscar without first contending in the same race across the pond.

No fall festivals run
Not since Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” in 2006 has a film won without screenings at the likes of the Telluride, Venice, Toronto and New York film festivals. Recent Best Picture frontrunners that faltered from no fall festival run include “Trial of the Chicago 7”, “1917”, “The Revenant” and “The Big Short.” “The Departed” made up for this with boffo box office. “CODA” doesn’t have that kind of popular support. The majority of its momentum has come through word-of-mouth and recognition from awards bodies. It would be the ultimate underdog story for “CODA” to pull off a win in Best Picture without the help of a fall festival run.

Early release date
Studios usually release their awards hopeful films in the period from early October to late December. “CODA” premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and was then released onto Apple TV + in August. It has had to stay in the awards conversation far longer than any film this season. And yet, somehow it has managed to peak at the perfect moment, during final Oscar voting. “CODA” would be the earliest-releasing best picture winner in over a decade; “The Hurt Locker” won in 2010 with a June release date. Best Picture frontrunners that ended up suffering from an early release date include “Boyhood” (July), “Dunkirk” (July) and “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood” (May).

“CODA” has a lot of stats working against it. But, if there’s anything we’ve learned about the Oscars over the years, it’s that people don’t vote with their minds, but with their hearts. And if there’s one trait “CODA” has in spades, it’s a beating heart at its core.

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