Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Oscar Predictions You Can Bet On!

Mr. Statistics, Nate Silver, goes for the gold.

ShareThis

After spending most of 2008 predicting the success of political actorsalso called politiciansit’s only natural that Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight.com) would turn his attention to the genuine article: the nominees in the major categories for the 81st Annual Academy Awards (Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC). Formally speaking, this required the use of statistical software and a process called logistic regression. Informally, it involved building a huge database of the past 30 years of Oscar history. Categories included genre, MPAA classification, the release date, opening-weekend box office (adjusted for inflation), and whether the film won any other awards. We also looked at whether being nominated in one category predicts success in another. For example, is someone more likely to win Best Actress if her film has also been nominated for Best Picture? (Yes!) But the greatest predictor (80 percent of what you need to know) is other awards earned that year, particularly from peers (the Directors Guild Awards, for instance, reliably foretells Best Picture). Genre matters a lot (the Academy has an aversion to comedy); MPAA and release date don’t at all. A film’s average user rating on IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) is sometimes a predictor of success; box grosses rarely are. And, as in Washington, politics matter, in ways foreseeable and not. Below, Silver’s results, including one upset we never would have anticipated.


Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger...........................85.8%
Josh Brolin.................................5.0%
Philip Seymour Hoffman........4.4%
Michael Shannon......................3.6%
Robert Downey Jr. .....................1.2%

Last year, Javier Bardem’s sadistic killer in No Country for Old Men swept all the awards. This year, it’s The Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger. Usually we’d need to account for a small chance of an upset; the Academy does lean toward the lighthearted in this category (think Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine). But given Ledger’s untimely death, he’s a lock.



Supporting Actress
Taraji P. Henson.......................51.0%
Penélope Cruz..........................24.6%
Viola Davis................................11.6%
Amy Adams...............................11.6%
Marisa Tomei.............................1.2%

Most of the major awards in the Supporting Actress category have been won by Kate Winslet for The Readera role the Academy misguidedly considers a lead. That’s nice for Winslet, not so nice for our computer. Penélope Cruz, who won the BAFTA for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, would seem the logical default. But computer sez: Benjamin Button’s Taraji P. Henson! Button, which looks like a shutout everywhere else, is the only Best Picture nominee with a Supporting Actress nod, and Best Pic nominees tend to have an edge in the other categories.



Lead Actor
Mickey Rourke.........................71.1%
Sean Penn.................................19.0%
Brad Pitt.....................................5.9%
Frank Langella..........................3.4%
Richard Jenkins........................0.5%

Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke have split the two awards that traditionally predict success in this category, with Penn winning Screen Actors Guild and Rourke the Golden Globe. But Rourke has an additional advantage: If an actor, like Penn, has been nominated several times without nabbing a statue, his odds of winning increase. Once he does win, odds go way down. Penn won Best Actor five years ago for Mystic River.



Lead Actress
Kate Winslet.............................67.6%
Meryl Streep.............................32.4%
Anne Hathaway........................0.0%
Melissa Leo................................0.0%
Angelina Jolie ...........................0.0%

While Streep has won both the sag Award and the Critics’ Choice for Doubt, Winslet has amassed even more hardware for The Reader (albeit as Supporting ActressSilver resolved this dilemma by giving Winslet half-credit for awards she won as a Supporting Actress). Equally important: Winslet is due. She’s sitting on her sixth nod without a win, while Streep has won both Best Actress (Sophie’s Choice) and Best Supporting Actress (Kramer vs. Kramer). One thing’s for sure: Anne Hathaway’s going home empty-handed.



Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.................................99.7%
Gus Van Sant, Milk...................0.1%
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button..................0.1%
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon......0.0%
Stephen Daldry, The Reader..0.0%

When the Academy wants to rebel, it does so with Best Directorthis is where edgy films are rewarded when it can’t muster the courage to do so for Best Picture (Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain, Steven Soderbergh for Traffic). That means Danny Boylewho has won all the top awards for Slumdog Millionaireis a shoo-in.



Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire..............99.0%
Milk................................................1.0%

Frost/Nixon...................................0.0%
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.......................0.0%
The Reader..................................0.0%

Slumdog Millionaire won all three awards associated with Oscar success: the Directors Guild Award, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA. It’s also a serious film, which the Academy favors. If there’s an upset (which would be a shocker), it will be Milk; guilt over Prop 8 and the Brokeback snub of ’06 could split the vote, with Boyle getting Director and Milk getting Picture.

Complete Oscars Coverage


Related:

Advertising
Current Issue
Subscribe to New York
Subscribe

Give a Gift

Advertising