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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Using Oscarmetrics To Win Your Oscar Pool

I'm a huge proponent of using numbers to analyze sports data in football and baseball, and that carries over into how I predict Academy Award winners. I use numbers to analyze data in order to seek the truth. You can claim emotional reactions, but at the end of the day, numbers never lie. That's why these numbers are going to help you predict the winners of the 2015 Academy Awards.


BEST PICTURE: Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, John Lesher, & James W. Skotchdopole)
BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: Whether you want to claim that the Director's Guild of America (DGA) awards (12 out of the past 15 years correct) or the Producer's Guild of America (PGA) awards (11 out of the past 15 years correct) is the best predictor on who will win Best Director and Best Picture, Birdman won both major guild awards this year. Further, a film winning both the Best Director and Best Picture Academy Award is extremely common- 62 out of the 86 previous award shows had that happen. This makes sense because the reason a film is good is because of the director and the way you know a director is good is because of how amazing the film is,


BEST ACTOR: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: All four of these actors not only are the favorite to win their respected category (which always helps), but these people have won BOTH a Golden Globe and a SAG award for their work. The percentage of the people who have won both awards since 1994 (the first year the SAG wards existed) that also went on to win an Oscar is just incredible. Listen to this: 100% (14 out of 14) of the Best Actor nominees, 85% (11 out of 13) of the Best Actress nominees, 90% (9 out of 10) of the Best Supporting Actor nominees [1], and 92% (11 out of 12) of the Best Supporting Actress nominees [2] who won both a Golden Globe and a SAG award also went on to win an Academy Award. It's extremely rare that a person wins both a Golden Globe and a SAG award yet doesn't take home the gold. Bet on the boring.

[1] Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) won the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe and Oscar, but won the Best Actor SAG award
[2] Kate Winslet (The Reader) won the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe and SAG award, but won the Best Leading Actress Oscar.


BEST ANIMATED PICTURE: How To Train Your Dragon 2

WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: The Academy Awards have had a Best Animated Picture category since 2001, and the PGA (2005) and Golden Globes (2006) soon followed. Out of the past 9 years, the PGA and Oscar winners have lined up on 7 of those years. It's guaranteed to be 7 of 10 as the PGA's winner The Lego Movie is not an Oscar nominee. Out of the 8 times the Oscars and Golden Globes have lined up, the winner of the Golden Globe went on to the win the Oscar in 6 of those times. The two times the film award winners didn't match was in 2006, the first year of the Golden Globe category (in which Cars won the Golden Globe but Happy Feet won the Oscar) and the other time was in 2011 when The Adventures of Tintin won the Golden Globe (and the PGA) yet failed to win the Oscar because The Academy refused to nominate the film claiming it involved too much human involvement. Since How To Train Your Dragon 2 won the Golden Globe (in an 'upset" over The Lego Movie) and The Lego Movie is not nominated for an Oscar, the Dreamworks picture should win.

Normally I'd point out Pixar's dominance in the category, but since no Pixar films came out in 2014, there's no point in even bringing it up.


WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: The Producers Guild of America (PGA) has been nominating Best Documentaries of the year since 2007, and not only does it have a horrible record with even matching up with Oscar nominees, winning the PGA Best Documentary award doesn't even guarantee you an Oscar nomination- which is insane that a major guild can have such a poor record with the Academy. Out of the previous 7 PGA winners, only 3 have gone on to win the Oscar. This year's PGA winner- Life Itself- wasn't even nominated.

The better trend in this category is to look at what the Oscar voters like. They love to feel good (Man on Wire, March of the Penguins, Undefeated), they love music, but only feel good underdog stories (Searching for Sugarman, 20 Feet From Stardom), they hate war docs (Restrepo, Dirty Wars, The Act of Killing), and they really, really, really enjoy shining a light on American political social issues (Bowling for Columbime, An Inconvenient Truth, The Fog of War, Inside Job). 

Finding Vivian Maier and The Salt of the Earth are about photographers, and The Academy doesn't really care about non-musical artists (Exit Through The Gift Shop). The Last Days of Vietnam is a war movie so that's also an immediate "no". Virunga is a film about saving gorillas in the Congo which does fit in line with a previous winner The Cove; however, Citizenfour fits rights into the Oscar wheelhouse. It's a film about recent American politics that's anti-government and the left-leaning Academy eats that stuff for breakfast.


WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: For the past four years, the Golden Globe winner went on to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. However, for the five years prior, the Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film came up short at the Oscars. Basically, the Golden Globes are useless.

However, the BAFTAs are even worse as only 2 of their Best Foreign Language Film winners go on to to win the Oscar since 2002, even their winner even gets an Oscar nomination at all.

Leviathani won the Golden Globe for this category and Ida won the BAFTA. Since the Golden Globes have a slightly better track record, I'm going to predict Leviathan to win, but the numbers aren't great here.



WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: Since 1995, here is how the winners break down: 7 are "British" films [3] that take place between 1500-1900 (which is basically the same era thematically), 4 are American films that take place during the 1920’s / The Golden Age of Hollywood, 3 are big budget films that also won Best Picture, 2 are foreign films that take place during WWII, 3 are historical musicals and one is Alice in Wonderland.

Out of the 5 nominees, Inherent Vice is automatically out. It’s an American film that takes place during the 1970’s. These type of films rarely get nominated nevertheless win. Into The Woods is a musical, but it’s not a historical musical. From a costume design perspective, it fits more in line with Maleficient. These films are modern day fairy tales / fantasy films. Not only will these films probably cancel each other out, but the only precedent for either film to win is Alice in Wonderland- which is an outlier. Therefore, Into The Woods and Maleficient are out. The Grand Budapest Hotel mainly takes place in Europe during the 1930’s- which is sort of in The Academy’s wheelhouse, but Mr. Turner is a British film that takes place in the late 18th century, early 19th century. This is Oscar-bait for this category, and my pick to win based upon previous winners.

[3] Marie Antoinette is a "French" film, but it thematically falls along the lines with other British films

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Johan Johannsson (The Theory of Everything)

WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: Since 2007, the Golden Globe winner of this category has won the Oscar 6 out of the past 7 times. However, between 1999 (when The Academy decided against its Drama vs. Comedy/Musical split) and 2006, the winner of the Golden Globe only won the Oscar 2 out of 8 times.

The BAFTA’s are not a great predictor as they have only lined up with the Golden Globe winner 6 out of the past 15 years, good for a 40% match.

Neither the Golden Globes or the BAFTA's are an excellent predictor, but since Johan Johannsson won the Golden Globe for this category, and lost at the BAFTAs, he's the pick the numbers seems to suggest will win. 


WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: Since 1999, the winner of this BAFTA category has gone on to win the Oscar 12 out of the past 15 times. Interstellar won the BAFTA so it should be the Academy frontrunner. Further, the Oscars have a bias against superhero films. Despite their constant nominations, the only superhero film to win this category since 1980 is Spider-Man II. The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Marvel's The Avengers, and Spider-Man have all been nominated in this category and lost. That doesn't bode well for Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, et al)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)

WHAT DO THE OSCARMETRICS SAY: I wanted to do this category last because there's a lot of numbers and a lot of things to say about Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay.

There are multiple ways of looking at these categories. The first method looked at how the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) Award winner fared at the Oscars. In the Best Original Screenplay category, the winner of the WGA went on to win the Oscar 11 out of the past 15 years (73%). In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, the winner of the WGA also went on to win the Oscar 11 out of the past 15 years (73%).

I next looked at the BAFTAs because they also make the distinction between original and adapted screenplay wince 1999. The winner of the Best Original Screenplay BAFTA went on to the Oscar 9 out of the past 15 years (60%). The winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay BAFTA only went on to win the Oscar 6 out of the past 15 years (40%).

The Golden Globes do not make a distinction between original and adapted screenplay so their winners were not analyzed.

The last way I looked at these categories in the Best Picture approach. Since 1999, the film that has won Best Picture also won their respected screenplay category 11 out of the past 15 times (73%). This shouldn't be a surprise considering if a film is truly the best of the year, it's in large part to its script. Since the DGA is a great predictor of the Best Picture winner, I looked at how the winner of the DGA went on to predict its appropriate screenplay category. I then looked at the WGA winner to determine the winner of the other screenplay category. For example, Ben Affleck won the DGA for Best Director for his work in Argo in 2012. Chris Terrio, the writer of Argo, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. You then look to how the WGA voted on the Best Original Screenplay. In this case, Mark Boal won the WGA for his work on Zero Dark Thirty yet Quentin Tarantino won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for writing Django Unchained. Therefore, in 2012, the DGA was a great predictor of an Oscar winner but the WGA was not a good predictor of its Oscar winner. Got it? Good.

Since 1999, the winner of the DGA had his or her film's writer went on to win an Academy Award 10 out of the past 15 years (67%) while in the other writing category in which the DGA winner's film wasn't eligible, the WGA winner went on to win their respected Oscar in 11 out of the past 15 years (73%).

This year, The Grand Budapest Hotel won the WGA for Best Original Screenplay; however, Birdman was not nominated because one or all writers of the script are not WGA members. That's why I'm putting my money on Birdman. The film and its director won the DGA and PGA respectively and since I think Birdman will win Best Picture and Best Director, the numbers look good to say it will win Best Original Screenplay as well. Another wrinkle in this mess is that Whiplash was nominated in the Best Original Screenplay WGA category yet it's absurdly nominated as a Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. I'm still predicting DGA winner The Imitation Game to win the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar considering it was already considered the Best Script of the year once before, but don't be surprised by a Whiplash upset.

  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Song
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Make Up and Hairstyling 
  • Best Animated Short
  • Best Live Action Short
  • Best Documentary Short



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