Oscar By The Numbers 2011: Re-Geeking the Best Picture Pick

Last week, I did a little statistical analysis of the 30 most recent Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards, and how their other nominations might have telegraphed their success (or lack thereof) in the Big Prize. Based on that quick and dirty analysis, I had forecast that “The Social Network” would win Best Picture this year, with regrets, since I really don’t think it’s a particularly good or important movie.

Within hours of posting that piece, though, I was feeling guilty about the shabbiness and incompleteness of my analysis, both in terms of not going deeply enough (30 years out of 82 isn’t enough), nor going broadly enough (I picked the “major” awards, but there are more “minor” ones out there, and what if the real meaningful correlations took place there?) I’m a researcher, dammit, and putting half-assed work out in the public domain was not acceptable. I apologize for doing so.

To rectify this situation, I created the complete database of all Best Picture winners back to the dawn of the Academy Awards, and what other nominations they received in all of the current award categories. I then crunched numbers to develop a formula for calculating the likelihood of a Best Picture win based on what other nominations each film receives. There were, indeed, some additional trends that emerged by taking a longer view: Film Editing became almost as important as Cinematography in predicted Best Picture success, for example, while having a Best Song or Best Visual Effects nomination became even more kisses of death for wannabe Best Pictures.

I calculated that “From Here to Eternity” (1953) was the most obvious Best Picture winner in history, given the spectrum of other awards for which it was nominated. I then plugged in this year’s ten nominees, ran the numbers, and now make a revised pick for Best Picture of 2010.

“The King’s Speech” finished first of this year’s contenders for the big prize, and it did it by a good margin, with “True Grit” and “The Social Network” finishing second and third. If “The King’s Speech” wins this year, it would be the 11th “most obvious” winner, based on its other nominations, in Oscar history, putting it in good company, indeed.

Here is the complete list of all Best Picture winners from “most obvious” to “least obvious,” with this year’s ten nominees interspersed for perspective (they are in bold). The titles of the films have been abbreviated, but you can go look up the years to figure them out if they’re not obvious. Geek out, movie nerds!

Best Pic Rating Of Performance vs 100% Ideal Perfect Film
1953 Here Eternity 95.5%
1950 All Eve 92.0%
1954 Waterfront 89.8%
1939 Gone W Wind 85.5%
1972 Godfather 84.5%
1996 English P 82.7%
1959 Ben-Hur 82.8%
1942 Mrs Miniver 82.4%
1968 Oliver 81.6%
2010 Nom Kings Speech 81.1%
1974 Godfather II 81.1%
1964 Fair Lady 77.9%
1962 Lawrence 77.8%
1990 D W Wolves 77.4%
1961 West Side 77.2%
2002 Chicago 75.7%
2003 LOTR: Return 75.1%
1941 How Green Vall 73.5%
1993 Schindler’s 72.3%
1975 Cuckoos Nest 71.4%
1960 The Apt 70.5%
1944 Going My Way 71.2%
1979 Kramer 70.9%
1963 Tom Jones 70.1%
1997 Titanic 67.2%
1973 Sting 66.9%
1935 Mutiny/Bounty 67.7%
1957 River Kwai 66.6%
1943 Casablanca 66.6%
1971 French Conex 65.8%
1978 Deer Hunter 65.4%
1976 Rocky 65.8%
1940 Rebecca 65.1%
1970 Patton 64.4%
2010 Nom True Grit 64.0%
1984 Amadeus 64.0%
1965 Sound Music 63.4%
1985 Out Africa 64.0%
2010 Nom Social Network 63.1%
1987 Last Emp 63.0%
1946 Best Years/Life 62.8%
1955 Marty 62.4%
1998 Shakespeare 61.9%
1994 Gump 61.6%
1966 Man/Seasons 60.5%
1986 Platoon 59.4%
1937 Emile Zola 59.6%
1945 Lost W/E 57.7%
1958 Gigi 57.5%
1956 World/80 Days 57.5%
1947 Gent’s Agreem 57.5%
1969 Mid Cowboy 57.1%
2000 Gladiator 56.1%
1949 All King’s Men 56.4%
1982 Gandhi 55.2%
2008 Slumdog 54.7%
1992 Unforgiven 54.6%
2009 Hurt Locker 52.4%
1938 Can’t Take It W/ 52.5%
1951 American/Paris 51.8%
1983 Terms Endear 51.0%
1967 Heat of Night 48.9%
1931 Cimarron 47.2%
2010 Nom The Fighter 46.4%
2004 Million Dollar 46.9%
1980 Ord People 46.2%
1948 Hamlet 44.7%
1999 Am Beauty 41.5%
2007 No Country 41.8%
2006 Departed 41.5%
2001 Beau Mind 38.5%
1991 Silence Lambs 38.0%
1934 Hap One Night 38.0%
2010 Nom Black Swan 36.9%
1988 Rain Man 36.7%
1981 Chariots 36.9%
2005 Crash 35.8%
2010 Nom 127 Hours 35.8%
2010 Nom Inception 33.1%
1936 G Ziegfield 33.4%
1989 Miss Daisy 33.7%
1930 Western Front 32.8%
1977 Annie Hall 32.3%
1995 Braveheart 29.1%
1952 G. Show Earth 26.7%
2010 Nom Winters Bone 23.3%
1933 Cavalcade 19.7%
1929 Bway Melody 18.7%
2010 Nom Kids All Right 17.6%
2010 Nom Toy Story 3 12.2%
1932 Grand Hotel 0.0%
1928 Wings 0.0%

4 thoughts on “Oscar By The Numbers 2011: Re-Geeking the Best Picture Pick

    • Spreadsheets are like wine . . . they make EVERYTHING better . . .

      I think that I shall never see
      a program grand as 1-2-3
      (from Lotus), on a floppy disc,
      ‘fore Excel was ubiquitous.
      On DOS it ran, upon a screen
      of eyeball-burning black and green,
      its simple set of slash commands
      accommodated my demands.
      It did its job, and did it well,
      with half the features of Excel,
      though all those things I now can do,
      I never find a reason to.
      So happy, yes, I’d truly be
      if my PC ran 1-2-3.

  1. Pingback: Oscar Night « INDIE ALBANY

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