Best Picture – Let The Race Begin!

After all the excitement with the nominations yesterday, we thought we’d just take today off and nap. It is a Friday after all.  Wait, our social media consultants said we had to blog today to keep up our SEO rankings. UGH! Well, we are a data science firm, so that sounds like a challenge to us.

Today, and most of next week, we plan on taking each category and dissecting it for you.  We will tell you about the nominees, the analysis within that category, and a little about the variables that matter the most.

Today we take on the Best Picture analysis. As of today, January 11, 2013, the chance of winning best picture is the following.

Currently, Lincoln is the undisputed leader for Best Picture. The film has 42.8% odds of winning, around 10% above Silver Linings Playbook.  Lincoln has garnered 12 nominations.  The only major nomination Lincoln didn’t get was Best Actress.  As mentioned previously, our model (and conventional wisdom) indicate that a movie with a best picture nominee is also likely to get a best director nod.  Steven Spielberg, Lincoln’s director, is also leading his race.

Silver Linings Playbook
The Weinstein Company is known as an Oscar campaign powerhouse. And this year exemplifies their award marketing prowess. For the first time in 31 years, a film earned nominations for all four actor categories – truely rare.  And, even more unique is that all of this was accomplished by a dark romantic comedy, which is generally not the most celebrated genre for the Academy. “SLP” is currently at 30.6%.

One of the dark-horse candidates, scoring both a Best Picture, Best Director and Best Foreign Film nomination is Amour.  However, only nine foreign language films and three partly foreign language films have been nominated for the Best Picture. And notably, no foreign language film has ever won the Oscar, although The Artist, a silent film from France, won last year.  It would be a surprise to see Amour pick up the trophy for Best Picture, although pundits assume it will win the Foreign Language category. Amour is currently at a 7.8% chance of winning.

Life of Pi
It is a technical masterpiece as the Academy’s nominations indicate.  In fact, Life of Pi is only the fourth film to receive nominations in all seven technical categories. And to be sure, Ang Lee is an Academy favorite, although perhaps not as much as Spielberg.  But, all of these strengths are not likely enough to carry Life of Pi to Best Picture victory.  It currently sits in fourth place at 6.2%.

Beasts of Southern Wild
Does anyone else feel slightly inadequate that a 30-year director of his first feature film is nominated for an Oscar? Just me?  It also nabbed a Best Director nomination as well as Best Actress nomination for 9 year old Quvenzhané Wallis – the youngest to ever be nominated. But, all that, and the pundit’s assertion that the film has a strong loyal supporter base, is not likely going to be enough to beat the odds and score the Best Picture.  But with a $1.8 million budget, the producers are certainly ecstatic.  Beasts is currently at 5.9%.

Zero Dark Thirty
As pundits and fans slowly adjust to the reality that Director Kathryn Bigalow was not nominated for Best Director, our model adapts and spits out the numbers. And, the reality is that without that nomination, this film will have an uphill battle ahead.  Maybe the studio should hire away the marketing team doing Silver Linings Playbook’s awards campaign, if they expect to have a chance?  Currently, the film sits at 2.2% chance of winning.

This year, there are two CIA plot lines up for Best Picture. And, in what can only be described as a conspiracy, neither were able to get a Best Director nomination (apparently the Critics and the Academy disagree as evidenced by Affleck’s scoring the Critics Choice hardware for Best Director).  Ben Affleck will be fine. But, we suspect that Argo won’t walk away unscathed.  Without nominations in any other category, the movie doesn’t stand much of a chance of escaping the cheap seats for refuge on stage.  Argo is at a 2.3% chance today.

Les Miserables
Tom Hooper is dreaming a dream of days gone by, when he had hopes of a nomination for Best Director.  Like Affleck, Bigalow and Tarantino (who is not known for being all buddy-buddy with the Academy), Hooper was skipped over for Best Director.  Alas, this could be the fat lady singing for the film’s shot at Best Picture.  And, musicals are not a favored genre of the Academy; in fact this is the genre’s first nomination in a decade  The last to win (and the last to be nominated) was Chicago in 2002, which had 13 nominations, including Best Director (Rob Marshall).  With Eight total nominations, of which Best Director is not one, Les Miserables is not a likely winner this year.  It’s at 1.6%.

Django Unchained
Django is just barely registering a pulse in our analysis.  The lack of nomination for Tarantino, as well as no nominations for Actor, Actress do not bode well for the film. In fact it received only five total nominations, and the betting markets have all but written off this film for Best Picture. At 0.7% chance of winning today we would agree.  Keep in mind, this could partially be a strategic move on the part of the brilliant campaigners – Bob and Harvey Weinstein.  If they have thrown their studio’s weight behind Silver Lining Playbook, Django could be lacking in resources to campaign.

Best Picture Model Behavior
The predictive model for Best Picture is complex and it involves various data inputs.  But, there are some relationships which can be helpful and informative, particularly in our initial forecast.

Total Nominations
One of the strongest indicators for Best Picture is success in nominations across all categories. It turns out that winning films get more nominations than just Best Picture – probably why all the members of the Academy vote on this crown jewel of film.  This year, Lincoln leads this criteria, with 12.  Life of Pi is a close second with 11, although none in some key areas – like Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

 AmourArgoBeastsDjangoLes MisLife PiLincolnSilver L.P.Zero Dark
Supporting Actorplusplusplusplus
Supporting Actressplusplusplus
Costume Designplusplusplus
Film Editingplusplusplusplusplus
Foreign Language Filmplus
Makeup plus
Original Scoreplusplusplusplus
Original Songplusplus
Production Designplusplusplusplus
Sound Editingplusplusplus
Sound Mixingplusplusplusplus
Visual Effectsplus
Adapted Screenplayplusplusplusplusplus
Original Screenplayplusplus

Best Director / Best Picture Correlation
One specific nomination correlation is the strong relationship between Best Director and Best Picture. Only two directors have won a Best Director Oscar without a nomination for Best Picture.  And, only three films have one Best Picture without also receiving a Best Director nomination. This, previously mentioned, is dragging down the probability for a few otherwise top contenders, including Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, as well as Django Unchained.

We posted recently about Intrade and the strong relationship between the online market and Best Picture. These markets provided good guidance leading up to nomination day, but now that the markets have the noise eliminated, we are operating in a much smarter market.  Historically, at 30 days out, InTrade has been incredibly accurate in predicting the Best Picture winner. While we are still 42 days out and with ample time for a momentum candidate to overtake the leader, can Silver Lining Playbook pull it off? Stay tuned…

Like the plans for the climactic raid in Zero Dark Thirty, our predictions, and what impacts them, changes as the on-the-ground intelligence changes.  As we get closer to Oscar night, more data is available. Not only is there more data, but better data as well. The Producers Guild of America Awards are a stronger indicator than the Critics Choice Awards. Once we know the PGA winner for best film, this will replace Critics Choice in the Best Picture Model. As we approach Oscar Night our Best Picture Model will also be keeping an eye on the Writer’s Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.  Stay tuned for model updates after these come out.