We are three months away from the announcement of the ten movies that will up for the Best Picture Award at the 92nd Academy Awards, and most of the leading contenders have been released.
Long-time front runner The Irishman (7/2) is top of the market, but there isn’t much to choose between Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster thriller and unexpected rival Marriage Story (4/1) staring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, which made a big hit at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals.
But while those two front-runners remain strong in the market, confidence is beginning to ebb in another leading contender, Joker.
By general agreement, Joaquin Phoenix has pulled off an impressive feat by bringing a new angle to the comic book villain who has already been so memorably portrayed by Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto and the late Heath Ledger. It is a performance that has met with near universal praise and has propelled Phoenix to the top of the betting for the Best Actor Award. He is the big favourite in that category, rated as a 1/2 shot, with Adam Driver (4/1) and Robert de Niro (15/2) some way behind.
Yet while its lead star gathers praise, the film itself is beginning to drift in the Best Picture market. Before its release in the US on October 4, Joker had been shortening and the initial positive reaction saw some bookmakers cutting its Best Picture odds to 3/1 and even 5/2 in some places.
But punters who took the plunge at that price may now be kicking themselves as the market has slowly turned against the movie. By the end of last week, it was out to 4/1 with some betting companies, and at the time of writing is generally 5/1 with one bookmaker pricing it at 6/1.
That drift may be partially down to market correction. This year’s Best Picture race looks wide open, so odds of 5/2 were unlikely to be sustainable.
But the film has also suffered a certain amount of critical revisionism and there has been unease in some quarters about its portrayal of mental health issues, and the link it appears to create between social deprivation and anti-social violence. None of this means it can’t go on to win the Best Picture, of course, but may lead Oscars punters to think twice about backing it at short odds.