Using statistics to predict this year’s Oscars

OscarsThere’s a lot to be said about the precursors to the Academy Awards. The Golden Globes are fun with a lot of glitz and glamour, but often don’t tip off who would get the Oscar a month later all too well. The Screen Actors Guild and, to a certain extent, the Producers Guild of America Awards tend to be a good indicator of the acting categories and even Best Picture award at the Oscars.

So, let’s take a look at what this weekend’s wins statistically tell us. First, the Oscar nominees for Best Picture and all four acting categories.

Best Picture

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

Best Actor

  • Steve Carell – Foxcatcher as John Eleuthère du Pont
  • Bradley Cooper – American Sniper as Chris Kyle
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game as Alan Turing
  • Michael Keaton – Birdman as Riggan Thomson
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything as Stephen Hawking

Best Actress

  • Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night as Sandra Bya
  • Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything as Jane Wilde Hawking
  • Julianne Moore – Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland
  • Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne
  • Reese Witherspoon – Wild as Cheryl Strayed

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall – The Judge as Judge Joseph Palmer
  • Ethan Hawke – Boyhood as Mason Evans, Sr.
  • Edward Norton – Birdman as Mike Shiner
  • Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher as Dave Schultz
  • J. K. Simmons – Whiplash as Terence Fletcher

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette – Boyhood as Olivia Evans
  • Laura Dern – Wild as Barbara “Bobbi” Grey
  • Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game as Joan Clarke
  • Emma Stone – Birdman as Sam Thomson
  • Meryl Streep – Into the Woods as The Witch

Let’s tackle Best Picture first. In the 25 years of the PGA Awards have preceded the Oscars, the winner at the PGAs has also won the Academy Award. This trend hasn’t missed since Little Miss Sunshine won in 2006. It’s worth noting that last year was a tie between 12 Years a Slave (the eventual Oscar winner) and Gravity.

The 64% correlation rate makes it seem like this year’s 26th winner, Birdman, would most likely win the Oscar.

Only 9 of the past 20 winners of the Best Ensemble at the SAGs went on to win Best Picture, but that seems to be less of a reliable predictor. However, 4 of the past 5 winners to win both the PGA and SAG have wine Best Picture; the anomaly is again Little Miss Sunshine.

Since 1990, the the Oscar for Best Picture has gone to 16 winners of of the Golden Globe for for Best Picture Drama, Musical, or Comedy. There has been a recent stretch in the 2000s of the eventual Oscar winner not winning a Globe, and in 2005 Crash, the Academy’s eventual Best Picture was infamously absent from the Globe’s ballot.

While there are still two more major guild awards coming up – the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America – it is safe to say that Best Picture is now a three horse race.

It’ll definitely either be Boyhood (Best Drama – Golden Globe), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Best Musical or Comedy – Golden Globe), and Birdman (top PGA award and SAG Best Ensemble).

While there is an exciting race unfolding in the Best Picture category, the acting categories are all basically sure things, save one coin flip.

First up is Best Actor.

The Oscars usually goes to the Best Drama Actor from the Globes save a few occurrences. From 2000 to 2002 the eventual winner was overlooked at the Globes. So Redmayne should feel good about his chances. 

Only two Musical or Comedy Actor winners won the Academy Award since the new millennium (Jamie Foxx in 2004 and Jane Dujardin in 2011). This may not look good for Michael Keaton, who won this year’s award in that category, and there is another stat that goes against him. The year Foxx and Dujardin won the Oscar and the Golden Globe, they also won the SAG.

However, Eddie Redmayne also took that award home, which is basically cinches an Oscar win for him. In the entire history of the SAG Awards since its inception in 1994, the Guild has picked the eventual Oscar winner nearly each time. There was a rebellious stretch from 2000 to 2003. So it’s safe to say this year’s winner, Eddie Redmayne might take home the award.

Best Actress is basically a sure thing. Statistically, the Golden Globes is a decent predictor. Every year except 2001 (Halle Berry didn’t win the Globe, but won the Oscar) and 2008 (Kate Winslet won Drama Globe for Revolutionary Road while her Oscar-winning role in The Reader wasn’t nominated for a Globe) the Oscar winner did take home a Globe.

The SAGs also give a decent prediction: 14 of 20 winners won the Oscar as well. It’s safe to say that things look good for Julianne Moore.

In the Supporting Actor Category, the SAGs have been a shaky predictor with 12 out of 20 winners going onto win the Oscar. However, 12 Golden Globe winners since 2000 have won the Oscar, which is a little bit of a better predictor. While there historically statistic way to pick this category, this year seems to favor JK Simmons, who took home both the SAG and the Globe so far.

Similarly, 13 of 20 SAG Supporting Actress winners went on to win the Oscar. Not a terribly good predictor. Again, the Golden Globes don’t add any solid foundation with only 8 winners since 2000 going on to win the Academy Award. There is no statistically safe way to pick an Oscar winner this year, but like the Suppoting Actor, the Supporting Actress is all but a lock. Patricia Arquette took home both the SAG and Globe, and expert predictors have her as a guarantee at this year’s Oscars.

To recap the most likely winners at this year’s Oscars based on history:

Best Picture
Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Actor
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor
JK Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

1 Comment

  1. Chris says:

    Adam, love the analysis, but still want Mike, the Pennsylvanian, to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

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