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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Should Gravity Be The Favorite To Win Best Picture?

With the Academy Awards just a few days away, it seems that the winner of the major categories are already set. All of the the pre-award shows like the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and BAFTAs have already taken place, and all of the Guilds like the Screen Actors Guild and the Director's Guild of America have all cast their ballots. Based upon all of the build up and hype, 12 Years A Slave is predicted to win Best Picture and Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Gravity, is predicted to win Best Director.  You can check out all the odds at

However, in the history of the Academy Awards, it is extremely unlikely that the Best Picture and Best Director are not from the same movie. Since 1983 (the past 30 years), the director of the Best Picture winner has not won Best Director six times. Here are the examples:

2012: Argo won Best Picture, Ang Lee (Life of Pi) won Best Director
2005: Crash won Best Picture, Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) won Best Director
2002: Chicago won Best Picture, Roman Polanski (The Pianist) won Best Director
2000: Gladiator won Best Picture, Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) won Best Director
1998: Shakespeare In Love won Best Picture, Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) won Best Director
1989: Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture, Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July) won Best Director

That means that about 73% of the time in the past 30 years, the film that wins Best Picture wins Best Director. In this 30 year span, we also have 2 of the 3 examples in the entire history of the Oscars where a film won Best Picture, yet didn't have its director get a nomination (2012 and 1989). Plus, there's some weird Ang Lee thing that goes on where he can win Best Director but his film can't win Best Picture (but that's completely anecdotal and not relevant...)

Between 1950 and 1982, only 6 other instances has occurred where a Best Picture and Best Director vote was split between two flicks. That means out of the past 63 years, only 12 years had this split vote. Having a film win both Best Picture and Best Director occurred 81% since 1950.

One of the pre-Academy awards that tends to be a great predictor of Best Picture Oscar win is the Producer's Guild of America Award. Since its inception in 1989, the winner of the PGA went on to win the Best Picture Academy Award 73% of the time. The PGA also had six instances where its winner did not win the Academy. While 12 Years A Slave did win the PGA this year, Gravity also won the award as well- marking 2013 as the first ever PGA tie.

Now one can look at this data in one of two ways. I choose to look at it as Gravity is a legitimate contender to win Best Picture. You can choose to believe that since 12 Years A Slave is going to win Best Picture, Steve McQueen is going to win Best Director. However, there is no directors award that Alfonso Cuaron has not won. Cuaron won the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, BAFTA, and DGA award for Best Director. Steve McQueen has not won any major award for directing in 2013. While Slave dominated the pre-Academy circuit, it didn't win everything. Mainly, 12 Years A Slave tied Gravity for Best Picture at the PGAs and American Hustle beat out Slave for Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the SAG awards.

With all of that being said, 12 Years A Slave is still my prediction to win Best Picture on Sunday, and Alfonso Cuaron is still my prediction to win Best Director, but I just don't think the Best Picture race is even close to being a lock.

Do you think Gravity will win Best Picture on March 2nd?

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