With the final round of Oscar voting currently underway, now is the perfect time for a refresher on how the winner of the big prize, the Academy Award for Best Picture, will be chosen.
Unlike the other 23 categories, which are decided by popular vote, the winner of Best Picture is determined using a preferential ballot.
So, before you line up your Oscar betting plans, let’s take a closer look at how the Best Picture award is decided.
How is the Best Picture Oscar winner chosen?
Voters are asked to rank the eight nominees in order of their preference.
When the accounts at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) sort the ballots, they place them in stacks based on first-place votes. Then, they eliminate the movie with the fewest first-place votes, giving those votes to each ballot’s second-ranked film.
The process continues until one movie has more than 50 percent of the vote. That movie will be the Best Picture winner at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 24.
The preferential ballot and the most-liked film
More often than not, the Best Picture winner is the one that placed second or third on most ballots.
It’s more about the movie that’s most generally liked — or least disliked — than the absolute best movie of the year.
For example, at the 2017 Academy Awards, more voters ranked Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight higher than Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, but the romantic musical may have had more first-place votes for Best Picture.
Unfortunately, PwC doesn’t release these numbers to the public, so there’s no way of knowing how the voting shakes out at the end.
The race for this year’s Best Picture winner
While there are eight nominees, this year’s Best Picture scene is a two-horse race: Peter Farrelly’s Green Book versus Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.
It’s the Producers Guild and Golden Globe winner against the Directors Guild and BAFTA winner.
Roma, a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón’s upbringing in Mexico City, is the current frontrunner at NJ sports betting sites, but Green Book — a biopic about the friendship between Italian-American bouncer Tony “Lip” Vallelonga and African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley — is close behind.
A deeper look into Best Picture Oscar betting
For its Best Theatrical Motion Picture award, the Producers Guild of America expanded the field of nominees and adopted preferential balloting in 2010.
The first six PGA winners repeated at the Oscars. Recently, however, there have been a couple of shake-ups.
In 2016, the PGA went with The Big Short while the Academy awarded Spotlight. The following year, the PGA recognized La La Land with the Academy choosing Moonlight.
Still, with Green Book’s PGA win, the math could work in the film’s favor if it lands at the No, 2 or No. 3 spot on the majority of Oscar ballots.
Keep in mind that, while many voters will see Roma as the superior film (and a lock for Best Director and Best Foreign Film), Green Book could benefit from being the most generally liked, which is what the Best Picture race is all about.
Currently, GoldDerby experts have Roma as a 4/1 favorite over Green Book, which is trending upward at 6/1. After winning Best Film, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director at the BAFTA Awards, Roma has gained considerable momentum in the midst of Oscar balloting.
As of Feb. 19, DraftKings Sportsbook has Roma at -335 while Green Book is at +450. The other Best Picture nominees range from a longshot (The Favourite at +1200) to no chance in hell (Vice at +8000).
A dark horse is in the mix, too
One of the nominees, Black Panther (+2500), could pull off a huge surprise, however. Co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station, Creed), Black Panther became the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time with more than $1.35 billion worldwide.
It’s easily the most popular film among the nominations, and it’s the first superhero film ever to receive such recognition. In total, the film racked up seven nominations at the Academy Awards, three nominations at the Golden Globes and two wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
We should also mention that there’s a lot of bad juju on Green Book. Dr. Shirley’s relatives condemned the film for its historical inaccuracies; co-star Viggo Mortensen used a racist slur during a promotional panel discussion; co-writer Nick Vallelonga’s anti-Muslim tweets resurfaced. All of that could turn off Oscar voters.
If Academy voters choose to recognize Black Panther by placing it in the second-place or third-place spot over the controversial Green Book, we might have an upset on our hands.
And that’s the unpredictable nature of the preferential ballot.