‘CODA’s’ potential clean sweep would be unlike any in modern Oscar history

CODA” is one of two Best Picture Oscar nominees with just three nominations, the other being “Licorice Pizza,” and a month ago, you would’ve said its chances of winning all three were close to nil. How the turntables. After bagging two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two BAFTAs, the Producers Guild of America Award and the Writers Guild of America Award in the past three weeks, “CODA” is well positioned to win all three of its categories — Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor — which would make it the seventh Best Picture champ to win every category for which it was nominated.

The first six are “Wings” (1927/28, two for two), “Grand Hotel” (1931/32, one for one), “It Happened One Night” (1934, five for five), “Gigi” (1958, nine for nine), “The Last Emperor” (1987, nine for nine) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003, 11 for 11). Yes, “Grand Hotel” was only nominated for Best Picture and won, something that likely will never happen again. The early days of the Oscars were wild. There are many non-Best Picture nominees that have swept all of their nominations, usually dominating below the line (like 1999’s “The Matrix” going four for four) or they’re an animated flick that takes Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (like 2013’s “Frozen” and 2017’s “Coco” in recent years).

“CODA’s” small-scale nature, low nomination total and lack of directing and below-the-line nominations make it seem unlikely to take the top prize on paper. It’s definitely not a coincidence that the last three clean sweeps — “Gigi,” “The Last Emperor” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” — were giant productions with flashy crafts, which “CODA” is not. It would be the first Best Picture champ without a directing or below-the-line nominations since “Grand Hotel,” and the all-important editing category wasn’t established until two years after that, when “It Happened One Night” triumphed without an editing nomination. “CODA’s” best chance at an Oscar victory had long been thought to be in supporting actor for Troy Kotsur, but the Apple TV+ film has surged in momentum (and filled out its trophy case) since Kotsur and the cast prevailed at the SAG Awards. Kotsur solidified his frontrunner status with a win at the BAFTAs, where “CODA” shocked in Best Adapted Screenplay for writer/director Sian Heder.

SEE ‘CODA’ wins PGA and is coming for that Oscar

On Saturday, the feel-good film upset Best Picture favorite “The Power of the Dog” at PGA, the only awards show that uses a preferential ballot like the Oscars. The PGA Awards and the Oscars have disagreed 10 times since the former was established 32 years ago and just three times in the preferential era; PGA picked “The Big Short,” “La La Land” and 1917,” while the Oscars crowned “Spotlight,” “Moonlight” and “Parasite,” respectively (bad luck for “The Power of the Dog” and the other eight nominees that they don’t rhyme with “ight/ite”?). On Sunday, “CODA” expectedly prevailed at the WGA Awards, where it only faced one Oscar nominee, “Dune,” due to “Drive My Car,” “The Lost Daughter” and “The Power of the Dog” being ineligible, but “CODA” has already beaten its other Oscar screenplay rivals at BAFTA. It now has the two major industry awards, so the adapted screenplay Oscar may just have Heder’s name on it.

SAG, PGA and WGA is a potent combo for Best Picture, especially when you remember Heder’s directing snubs at the Directors Guild of America Awards and the Oscars. “CODA” is the first film to win PGA without a corresponding DGA nomination since the very first PGA champ, “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar without a directing bid for Bruce Beresford as well. The Sundance hit has the same combo as its frequent point of comparison, “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), which lost Best Picture to “The Departed,” but that was back in a field of five. “The Departed” also headed into the Oscars with more guild wins under its belt (DGA, ACE and WGA adapted screenplay) than “The Power of the Dog” will have, as it’s only claimed DGA so far with the Casting Society of America set to announce on Wednesday.

So “CODA” is looking good to pull off an ostensibly improbable Oscar sweep. Still, you can’t entirely count out “The Power of the Dog” yet. It basically maxed out with 12 nominations — four times as many as “CODA” — and could have more support from below-the-line branches. “CODA” is, obviously, not a crafts-heavy movie, so it was never going to score 12 nominations, but a supporting bid for Marlee Matlin, the Oscar-winning face of the film (at least in its initial press cycle), and in Best Original Song felt feasible. But there’s no denying that more and more voters are checking out “CODA” now than ever before and are responding to it, teeing it up to go three for three and defy nearly a century of stats.

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