Sunday, April 14, 2024

Why Using Statistics Alone Won’t Help Your Oscar Predictions

With the 96th Academy Awards being held tomorrow, many are second-guessing their Oscar predictions looking for any sign of help they can find to help them make the right call. Many turn to statistics in times such as this. But let’s examine statistics and the probability of Oscar glory in this year’s Academy Awards’ more open craft category races: Best Production Design, Costume Design, Sound, and Visual Effects.

These statistics cover the past thirteen years (since the introduction of the Oscars’ preferential voting system) and include only industry awards: Oscars, BAFTAs, and guild awards. Because that’s all that’s relevant, right? Critics aren’t part of the Academy, so to accurately estimate how the near-10,000 person voting body will behave, we should look at industry awards only and not the Critics Choice and/or Golden Globes.

Best Production Design

Oscar Statistics
Picture Nomination/Production Design Win – 11/13 85%
Director Nomination/Production Design Win – 9/13 69%
Acting (any) Nomination/Production Design Win – 6/13 46%
Writing (any) Nomination/Production Design Win – 7/13 54%
Cinematography Nomination/Production Design Win – 10/13 77%
Editing Nomination/Production Design Win – 8/13 62%
Costume Design Nomination/Production Design Win – 12/13 92%
VFX Nomination/Production Design Win – 5/13 38%

BAFTA Statistics
BAFTA Production Design Win/Oscar Production Design Win – 7/13 62%
BAFTA Production Design Nomination/Oscar Production Design Win – 12/13 92%

Art Directors Guild Statistics
ADG Period+Fantasy+Contemporary Win/Oscar Production Design Win – 10/13 77%
ADG Period+Fantasy+Contemporary Nomination/Oscar Production Design Win – 13/13 100%

Plugging in all those numbers results in a score out of ten (the higher the score, the better the chances for a win).

Best Production Design Rankings
1. “Poor Things” – 7.3
2. “Oppenheimer” – 7.1
3. “Killers of the Flower Moon” – 6.6
4. “Barbie” – 5.7
5. “Napoleon” – 4.2

Best Costume Design

Oscar Statistics
Picture Nomination/Costume Design Win – 6/13 46%
Director Nomination/Costume Design Win – 4/13 31%
Acting (any) Nomination/Costume Design Win – 5/13 38%
Writing (any) Nomination/Costume Design Win – 3/13 23%
Cinematography Nomination/Costume Design Win – 4/13 31%
Editing Nomination/Costume Design Win – 3/13 23%
Production Design Nomination/Costume  Win – 10/13 77%
Makeup Nomination/Costume Win – 5/13 38%

BAFTA Statistics
BAFTA Costume Win/Oscar Costume Win – 10/13 77%
BAFTA Costume Nomination/Oscar Costume Win – 11/13 85%

Costume Designers Guild Statistics
CDG Contemporary+Period+Fantasy Win/Oscar Costume Win – 7/13 54%
CDG Contemporary+Period+Fantasy Nomination/ Oscar Costume Win – 12/13 92%

Costume Design Rankings
1. “Napoleon” – 6.6
2. “Barbie” – 6.0
3. “Killers of the Flower Moon” – 5.3
4. “Poor Things” – 5.1
5. “Oppenheimer” – 4.6

Best Sound

Oscar Statistics
Picture Nomination/Sound Win – 13/13 100%
Director Nomination/Sound Win – 7/13 54%
Cinematography Nomination/Sound Win – 10/13 77%
Editing Nomination/Sound Win – 12/13 92%
VFX Nomination/Sound Win – 6/13 46%

BAFTA Statistics
BAFTA Sound Win/Oscar Sound Win – 11/13 85%
BAFTA Sound Nomination/Oscar Sound Win – 13/13 100%

Cinema Audio Society
CAS Win (either category)/Oscar Sound Win – 9/13 69% 
CAS Nomination (either category)/Oscar Sound Win – 13/13 100%

Motion Picture Sound Editors
MPSE Win (SFX & Foley)/Oscar Sound Win – 9/13 69%
MPSE Nomination (SFX & Foley)/Oscar Sound Win – 11/13 85%

Best Sound Rankings
1. “Oppenheimer” – 7.4
2. “Maestro” – 5.3
3. “The Zone of Interest” – 4.6
4. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” – 2.9
5. “The Creator” – 2.0

Best Visual Effects

Oscar Statistics
Picure Nomination/VFX Win – 7/13 54%
Sound Nomination/VFX Win – 10/13 77%
Cinematography Nomination/VFX Win – 8/13 62%
Editing Nomination/VFX Win – 5/13 38%
Production Design Nomination/VFX Win – 11/13 85%

BAFTA Statistics
BAFTA VFX Win/Oscar VFX Win – 10/13 77%
BAFTA VFX Nomination/Oscar VFX Win – 13/13 100%

Visual Effects Society
VES (Photoreal or Supporting Photoreal) Win/Oscar VFX Win – 8/13 62% 
VES (Photoreal or Supporting Photoreal) Nomination/Oscar VFX Win – 12/13 92%

Best Visual Effects Rankings
1. “The Creator” – 5.6
2. “Napoleon” – 4.7
3. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” – 4.7
4. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” – 4.5
5. “Godzilla Minus One” – 2.6

If we compare our results to current sports booking odds, we’re likely looking at two wins (Best Production Design & Sound) and two losses (Best Costume Design & Visual Effects). This is a fair result, though not exactly the clear insight we’re looking for. But why do the industry numbers point to “Napoleon” winning Costume? Why is “Godzilla Minus One” in last place in VFX? Why is “The Zone of Interest” not a second favorite in Sound? Why is “Barbie” second to last for Best Production Design?

This is why championing statistics alone and ignoring the signs within the industry is dangerous when casting Oscar predictions. The Academy Awards don’t exist in a mathematical vacuum; they’re not won purely based on history. So many statistical locks have been broken over the past five years alone: consider the Oscar wins for “Parasite,” “CODA,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and Brendan Fraser’s win last year in Best Actor for “The Whale.”

The ultimate lesson here is that statistics can be a helpful starting point, but they simply can’t account for the three most important factors in winning an Oscar: passion, momentum, and timing. Until someone accurately calculates that algorithm, everyone should read the room more than they scan the spreadsheets looking for some magic trick which will tell them everything they need to know.

Which categories do you think are the hardest to predict for the 96th Academy Awards? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Also, please check out their latest Oscar winner predictions here and the 2023 precursor awards tally here.

You can follow Tony and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @LCWTAction

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