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Is COVID-19 Our New Oscars Dark Horse?

Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Film-awards season is all about peaking at the right time. And now, less than a week out from the Oscars, all eyes are on COVID-19 after a surprise showing at the March 13 BAFTAs. The virus hadn’t been much of a presence earlier on the awards circuit, despite high hopes from last year’s Cannes. But now, it seems to be picking up at the right time. COVID got at least four nods from the BAFTAs, with Belfast director Kenneth Branagh and star Ciarán Hinds, and The Mitchells vs. the Machines producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller all testing positive for the virus in the days after the London show.

With the news coming out in the days after the awards — Belfast’s Jude Hill confirmed Branagh and Hinds’s diagnoses on March 19, while The Hollywood Reporter confirmed Lord and Miller — industry insiders now seem to be scrambling. “People are going to show an abundance of caution,” one said of a pre-Oscars reluctance to give COVID any more room to take the lead. Per Variety, the Academy announced on March 25 that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 five or less days before the Oscars will not be allowed to attend. Those who test positive in a six to 10-day window will be allowed to attend only if they provide proof of two negative test results taken on separate days.

But as odds-watchers also know, things can play differently across the pond than they do in Hollywood. London’s current COVID numbers look to be exponentially worse than Los Angeles’, which could’ve given way to the virus’s good BAFTAs showing. Never mind that the Oscars will have even stricter pandemic protocols than the BAFTAs in place, requiring not one but two negative tests for entry, per THR. Even though COVID-19 may be outpacing Belfast at the moment, if the virus wants an Oscars sweep, it’ll have to go through season-long front-runner Power of the Dog and fellow late challenger CODA as well. And unlike usual Oscars Night upsets, this surprise won’t come ’til days after the ceremony.

This post has been updated throughout.

Is COVID-19 Our New Oscars Dark Horse?