‘CODA’ would break this 87-year Oscars curse if it wins Best Picture

“Grand Hotel” (1932) holds a special place in Oscar pundits’ hearts. To date, it’s the only film to win Best Picture without receiving any other nominations. (Oh, the shame!) Because of that unique stat, “Grand Hotel” is often cited as an example when trying to make the case for a movie winning Best Picture without having a corresponding such-and-such nomination. How is that relevant to this year’s Academy Awards? Let me introduce you to “CODA.”

The Apple Original Films drama about a predominantly Deaf family of fishing industry workers notably missed out on the two key Oscar bids a film usually needs in order to win the top category: Best Director and Best Film Editing. Put another way, every Best Picture winner since the creation of the film editing category in 1934 has been nominated in either directing or editing (often both). That means “CODA” would break an 87-year Oscars curse if it ends up prevailing on March 27.

SEE 2022 Oscar nominations: Full list of nominees in all 23 categories at the 94th Academy Awards

In the 94-year history of the Academy Awards, only “Grand Hotel” plus four other films — “Wing” (1927/28), “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), “Argo” (2012) and “Green Book” (2018) — managed to take home the Best Picture statue without a corresponding Best Director nom.

“Grand Hotel” and “Wings” were not eligible to compete in the film editing race since they were released before 1934. However, there are 10 Best Picture winners that were eligible for Best Film Editing but snubbed there anyway: “It Happened One Night” (1934), “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937), “Hamlet” (1948), “Marty” (1955), “Tom Jones” (1963), “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “The Godfather, Part II” (1974), “Annie Hall” (1977), “Ordinary People” (1980) and “Birdman” (2014). Note that “Birdman” is the only movie to overcome its editing deficit over the past 41 years.

“CODA” contends in just three Academy Awards categories: Best PictureBest Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Sian Heder). The complete lack of below-the-line support is troubling, but not game-ending. After all, “Grand Hotel” and four other movies — “The Broadway Melody” (1928/29), “It Happened One Night” (1934), “Annie Hall” (1977) and “Ordinary People” (1980) — all claimed the top trophy without a single craft nomination.

“CODA” tells the story of the tight knit Rossi family who all work in the fishing industry in Massachusetts. Mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin), father Frank (Kotsur) and son Leo (Daniel Durant) were all born Deaf; only daughter Ruby (Emilia Jones) has the ability to hear. When Ruby decides she wants to go to college to study music, it causes conflict with her blue collar family.

Heder directed the film and penned the screenplay, which is based on the French motion picture “La Famille Bélier” written by Victoria BedosThomas BidegainStanislas Carré de Malberg and Éric Lartigau. In addition to her Oscar nom for Best Adapted Screenplay, Heder has also been recognized at the Critics Choice Awards, Writers Guild Awards and BAFTA Awards.

“CODA” received a major Oscar boost recently when it won SAG Awards for its ensemble cast and for supporting actor Kotsur. That indicates strong support for the family drama from actors, which make up the biggest branch of the film academy. In addition, many awards pundits are singling out “CODA” for its huggable appeal, theorizing it could be ranked high on the majority of voters’ ballots. Even if someone doesn’t rank “CODA” at #1, might they still rank it at #2 or #3? Remember, that sort of broad consensus choice is how a movie triumphs in this preferential voting era.

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