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The Best Picture Case for ‘CODA’ and ‘The Power of the Dog’

This is it, folks. We’re in the final week of awards season. The Academy Awards are on Sunday night, and in quite the twist, the race for Best Picture is truly now a tossup. The Oscars always have a mix of slam dunk sure things and pick-em situations, with this year proving no different. While categories like Best Actress have fluctuated throughout the season, it felt for months like the Best Picture Oscar was The Power of the Dog‘s to lose. Especially once Belfast fell by the wayside, it was very much in the driver’s seat. However, the last few weeks or so, and especially once voting began, has seen CODA come on very strong, threatening to pull an historic upset. With that in mind, we’re going to look at the Best Picture race and break down exactly what’s happening, here in the final 48 hours of Oscar voting.

Today, I want to talk about what’s working in the favors of both CODA and The Power of the Dog, as well as what they’re up against. For the purposes of this piece, I’m excluding the Belfast upset. Truly, this is down to a two horse race, barring a shock. For a nicely researched piece on a similar topic, Scott Feinberg recently wrote about this here. I’ll be using some of the same information, but mostly, this is just a primer to set you all up for final predictions.

Netflix

First up, let us talk about The Power of the Dog. What does it have in its favor? Well, it sure has all of the traditional markers for the Academy to go for it. It has across the board support, a Best Director win in the bag for Jane Campion, competition throughout the below the line categories, and an air of class that never hurts. It feels big and cinematic, yet also auteur driven. Throw in how much it resembles the recent choices of the Academy, like Nomadland and Parasite, and you have a formula that certainly looks good. In February, and even early March, it seemed like close to a sure thing. So, if you’ve had it at the top of your predictions, you certainly have reason to keep it there.

Working against the flick is, to some degree, the Netflix factor. You can mitigate that somewhat by its competition being from Apple, but it still lingers at least a tad. Plus, there’s a chance that it comes up empty handed or close to it below the line, particularly when up against Dune. These are definite factors. The bigger deal is its PGA miss. The Producers Guild operates on a preferential ballot, like Oscar. A win there would have wrapped things up. The loss, up against CODA in a one on one battle, could be telling. Especially with final voting going on, losing momentum might be huge.

Apple TV+

Now, CODA. The clearest thing going in its favor, aside from a SAG Ensemble and PGA win (plus WGA last night), is momentum. The film has done its best while Academy members were preparing to, and then while, they’re casting ballots. In any race, be it entertainment of politics, those moments are key. Plus, this flick is going to benefit from preferential balloting. We already saw it with the Producers Guild of America. While Film Twitter has suddenly decided it’s somehow a misfire, the general consensus is that if you don’t love it, you at least like it. The way Oscar votes? That’s a winning formula in some years. Seven months ago, I wrote here that we shouldn’t underestimate CODA. The path hasn’t been exactly like I laid out, but the underdog clearly has a shot to pull off the win here in the eleventh hour.

On the flip-side, perhaps the lack of nominations truly does mean that it wasn’t as beloved by the Academy as by others? If so, the movie may struggle to gin up support from all elements of the organization. Nothing has won with this kind of nomination tally in almost a century. Throw in the streamer situation (which The Power of the Dog also has), as well as the sense that it’s not quite as cinematic as its competition, and there are elements at play here to give you pause before predicting the upset.

What this all adds up to is basically a flip of the coin for Best Picture. Or, a choice about whether you put more weight into gut feelings or statistics. Either way, a streaming service is about to win the top Oscar. Moreover, the Academy Award for Best Picture is going to a movie helmed by a female filmmaker. Whether CODA or The Power of the Dog comes out on top…we as cinephiles win.

Personally, I won’t be finalizing my predictions for a few days now, but if you look at my picks here now, just know that they’re subject to change. By Thursday, you’ll hear what I’m thinking on the new episode of the Awards Radar Podcast. Then, Friday brings my official final Oscar predictions. Stay tuned…

Let us know if you think CODA or The Power of the Dog has the better case for Best Picture!

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Richard Green
Richard Green
6 months ago

Hi Joey, obviously to win Picture Coda needs to win Adapted Screenplay too which I would say it looks like doing anyway, under normal circumstances I would still predict The Power of the Dog because of its big below the line support which Coda doesn’t have and that it’s a far superior piece of cinema in my opinion but I’m just wondering that because these are such dark and uncertain times, the Academy will vote for Coda as best film because it’s the most hopeful and uplifting.

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[…] course, the big question is Best Picture. I recently wrote about the race (here) and it’s arguably our closest competition in recent memory. Everything I wrote there remains […]

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Written by Joey Magidson

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