A month ago, one film looked likely to dominate the awards season. Bettors and critics agreed that a political drama, which examines a pivotal moment in American history, and asks searching questions about how the superpower sees itself, would win every gong going. The markets still say that's the case but where once Steve Spielberg's Lincoln blazed a trail, the mantle has now been assumed by Argo.
At the Golden Globes, Ben Affleck's film about the Iranian crisis of 1979 proved more adept at stealing the big prizes than the CIA were at nabbing American hostages. Argo won Best Drama Picture and Affleck claimed Best Drama Director, a bet recommended here. There are firm favourites in most markets for Sunday's BAFTAs but below are some attempts to find value.
Lincoln has traded as low as [1.75] but, post-Globes, it's out to [8.4], with Argo an unbackable [1.28]. Spielberg's epic hasn't got any worse in the intervening weeks, Schindler's List won in 1994 and, at [15.0], Lincoln must still be worth small stakes. We saw an upset at the Globes, we could see a reverse one here. Also, don't rule out a British winner: Tom Hooper, who began his career on Eastenders, directed The King's Speech which won this prize two years ago. In fact, four of the last six Best Film awards have gone to movies made by British directors, so there's a precedent for the homegrown. Hooper's Les Miserables can be backed at [5.6].
Does this award always go to the director of the Best Film? Usually, but there are exceptions: the Coens won in the same year as Atonement took Best Film and, when the Queen's Speech prevailed, David Fincher claimed Best Director for the Social Network. Affleck won the Directors Guild Award this week but he's absent from the Oscars directing nominations, so his momentum isn't quite as strong as odds of [1.26] suggest. Zero Dark Thirty is superb and has received a better reception in the UK than in the US. Kathryn Bigelow, who pulled off a Best Director/Best Film double with The Hurt Locker three years ago, when James Cameron's Avatar was fancied by almost everybody, is an appealing [6.8].
Form is temporary but class is permanent, or something. Affleck's stranded on a mean [85.0] and Daniel Day-Lewis, whose Lincoln was hailed by one critic as, "the great performance of our time," looks unstoppable at [1.04]. He's going to win and not even Hugh Jackman [15.5] has a chance.
The strongest contenders come from films that have divided opinion for different reasons. A New Yorker article described Jessica Chastain as "the warmest actress of her generation." I know what they mean because when I look at her I smile. She's magnificent as CIA agent Maya in ZDT. It would be brilliant if Emmanelle Riva [4.3] was rewarded for her quietly devastating display in Amour and she certainly has a chance. Jennifer Lawrence [1.71], who plays a recovering sex addict in the impressive Silver Linings Playbook, won at the Globes, but I'm backing Chastain [3.75].
Best Supporting Actor
As an affable German hitman, Christopher Waltz [2.75] is the best thing about Django Unchained and this one is likely to be between him and Tommy Lee Jones [2.3] who's nominated for his performance as Thaddeus Stevens, the famously fierce Radical Republican opponent of slavery, in Lincoln. Good to see Philip Seymour-Hoffman's [3.35] nuanced display in The Master acknowledged but Jones has to be the bet.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams is terrifying as Peggy Dodd in the Master. It'd take a brave bettor to back her at [46.0], especially with Anne Hathaway [1.1] for her role in Les Mis. Can you imagine actually having an opinion on Anne Hathaway? Not even Judi Dench [10.5], nominated for her turn as M in Skyfall, can snatch this one from the clutches of inoffensiveness. This market should be avoided.
Back Lincoln @ [15.0] for Best Film
Back Kathryn Bigelow at [6.8] for Best Director
Back Jessica Chastain @ [3.8] for Best Actress
Back Tommy Lee Jones @ [2.32] for Best Supporting Actor