Will the Real Nate Silver Please Stand Up?

DataVis1This year’s Oscar race has brought out the Nate Silver in everyone it seems.  The newest of these is the Social Oscars where you can click on a category and see what the percentages are.  Then there is Farsite Forecast which does the same thing.  We have our own Nate Silver in Marshall Flores who is a math whiz and has been following the Oscars for over a decade – he knows what I know and that’s the math don’t cut it. Why you only need look at the Best Actress race to figure that out.

Also, this year is an unprecedented year all the way around.  It was the first year that the Oscar ballots were sent in before the guilds announced.  We’ll find out if the guilds really do boss the Oscars around since the best director category left off the current Nate Silver favorite, Ben Affleck and Argo.  True Oscar stats would note the history and the precedent for Argo winning Best Picture with only seven nominations (fifth in line) + no director nomination.  If it happens it will be the first time ever in DGA/Academy history that their winner won Best Picture without a director nomination. It’s never happened. Never.  Yet we all know it’s about to. That defies the stats. Of course, these guys aren’t using historical record – they’re using precursors – which seem to back up mob mentality and groupthink. And there they are probably right.

Then there is Gold Derby, which tracks the odds based on what their pundits are thinking. I have removed myself from Gold Derby as a pundit because I don’t consider myself an expert on what will win. I am, however, an expert on what should.  [crooked smiley]. Predicting the Oscars is, to me, the least interesting part of the Oscars. It’s sort of like predicting whether it will rain on Saturday or whether the little mouse will pick door #1 or door #2.  What interests me more is the why, not the what.  I could say the same thing about the political elections. I don’t care what people are going to pick. I care who’s running for office.

The Vegas odds will tell you exactly what the Gold Derby odds are telling you. There is no difference because they are all drawing from the thought pool. The way things are going now, though, I wonder if there will ever be any surprises again.  I don’t think a movie like The Godfather I or II could run the gauntlet today and win. It couldn’t overcome the giant guilds picking what they facebook-liked over a masterpiece.  Nor nastiness we saw in this year’s race. Can you imagine?

You got a predictions site of a statistics site for Oscars enter it in the comments below.

 

 

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31 Comments

  1. Zach
    February 14, 2013

    That’s a lot of brouhaha that tells me very little. Like, how is Tommy Lee Jones the critics’ least favorite? Pi is winning Screenplay, but Lincoln takes Editing over Argo? Pi wins three but not Score?

    Is this the future of Oscar predicting — seeing how many people tweeted about JLaw?

  2. KT
    February 14, 2013

    “What interests me more is the why, not the what.”

    I COMPLETELY agree with this line. I too am intrigued by why certain films or certain people win, and wish the Academy revealed more about voting totals. And I completely agree with the line about the Godfather films not being able to “run the gauntlet” and win the preferential ballot. Spielberg himself said it best with: “Everybody loves winner, but nobody loves a WINNER.” Onward we march to mediocrity!

  3. February 14, 2013

    “If it happens it will be the first time ever in DGA/Academy history that their winner won Best Picture without a director nomination.”

    Sasha, Daisy defied GREATER odds. It did not even get nominated for DGA. Argo got nominated for DGA and won. If Argo wins BP, that means Daisy made the bigger leap with less arsenal.

    Daisy was the movie that won BP without even a DGA nod. Argo got the nod and win. The jump one has to make to BP is much SHORTER than with Daisy.

  4. Sasha Stone
    February 14, 2013

    Sasha, Daisy defied GREATER odds. It did not even get nominated for DGA. Argo got nominated for DGA and won. If Argo wins BP, that means Daisy made the bigger leap with less arsenal.

    You can look at it like that if you want but Daisy had the highest box office and the most nominations. Moreover, Beresford wasn’t nominated for a Globe or a DGA so it wasn’t a snub scenario. He also wasn’t a famous Hollywood movie star. Big difference there. The narrative of this year’s race is the perceived snub and that’s only happened twice so far: Spielberg and Howard.

  5. February 14, 2013

    True, Sasha, but Golden Globes and BFCA had already turned in their ballots before the perceived snub was revealed. The only win Spielberg and Howard got for directing in those respective years was from the Kansas City Film Critics.

  6. rufussondheim
    February 14, 2013

    I don’t see how a preferential ballot leads to mediocrity. Can someone please explain this to me?

    Last year, if I’m not mistaken, was the first year of this and The Artist won. Outside of The Tree of Life (which would not have won under any system) The Artist was the best reviewed film of the year. I’m not a huge fan of it, but it was probably the best objective choice once The Tree of Life was removed from consideration.

    After Zero Dark Thirty took a fall and then Argo won the majority of the critics awards. So, again, I don’t see how it can be considered mediocre, objectively considered.

    I can’t imagine a film like The Godfather not winning Best Pic on the preferential ballot. Heck, maybe it would have lost to Cabaret, I don’t know. But it’s a great film, and I can’t imagine 51% of the voters not putting it highly on their ballots.

  7. Christophe
    February 14, 2013

    In other news, Les Mis flops in France. It opened yesterday at #3 far behind Hotel Transylvania and Flight. Hotel grossed twice as much as Les Mis.

    Les Mis is also doing even worse with critics than in the USA, it is currently sitting at 40% on the French equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes.

    Like I said a few weeks back, the French are pissed that the film looks and sounds like a travesty of one of their greatest literary masterpieces.

  8. Zach
    February 14, 2013

    I may be in the minority, but I think critics have stopped being the best indicator of a film’s quality. And I’m not just talking the BFCA but the critics’ prizes and the reviews of top critics in general. The Oscars are no better, and definitely worse on many occasions where politics trump merit. But there has been a bandwagon effect among the critics’ associations for years now that makes their choices no more credible than many of the Academy’s.

  9. Mr-Cinema
    February 14, 2013

    Anyone know when the politics started to really affect the Oscar season? I was just curious what was the last year when the voters truly voted for the best films without no outside influences.

    Is there any way to have surprises again at the Oscars? With so many pre-Oscar awards, it’s relatively easy to at least narrow down the 1 or 2 movies/actors, etc in each race. Due to the Affleck snub, Director this year is actually a complete toss-up. But other than that, I can’t think of a category in the past 10+ years where I had absolutely no idea who to pick. I could always cross off 3 of the nominees. I guess the last time I had real trouble was the Supporting Actress race at the 2008 show. Swinton, Dee, Blanchett, and Ryan were all given a decent shot at winning.

  10. PaulH
    February 14, 2013

    No go on Farsite Forecast. Keeps timing out.

    Will Social Oscars have a formula to allow co-leaders? Right now Chastain and Lawrence are at 27% in the critics actress poll. Riva at 8% in their fan voting. Just about right :D

    What will help Oscars nearly right away? have their nominations after the BAFTA nominees are posted, but BEFORE the BAFTA awards themselves. That way the UK can’t influence our vote, as has been the case all too often.

  11. Tim
    February 14, 2013

    All the people deriding Les Miserables’ bad reviews seem to be forgetting that when the stage musical first came out, in 1985, its reviews were even worse. The Broadway show has stood the test of time despite negative reviews; the jury is still out on the movie.

  12. Josh
    February 14, 2013

    Wrong. The movie is a pile of shit.

  13. February 14, 2013

    I’m sorry, but neither Argo nor Lincoln are masterpieces. Neither of them. They’re both very good movies for different reasons, but in both cases their directors have turned in better work, and in both cases I walked away properly satisfied, though not blown away. There are only a handful of masterpieces in contention this year, but they aint the frontrunners, that’s for sure.

    In unrelated news, this year sucks so far for movies. I’ve only seen one good movie, Side Effects, and even that was just OK. Its just been one shitty action shoot em up after another, with a boring comedy or two thrown in there. Even the art house and independent titles have been lukewarm, like Roman Coppolla’s Charlie Sheen crap and John Dies At The End. Its a bummer considering where we were at by now in 2012. We had already seen The Grey, Chronicle, Miss Bala, Haywire, Chico & Rita, Kill List and The Secret World Of Arrietty by this weekend. I’ve heard good things about NO and Lore, hopefully they help to turn things around, but I’m not liking the start of 2013 so far.

  14. steve50
    February 14, 2013

    “I don’t see how a preferential ballot leads to mediocrity. Can someone please explain this to me?”

    I’ll make a stab in the dark at this. Truly great films – revolutionary works that have something special to say or a unique way of saying it – are not ever embraced by the majority at the outset. What they might have is a cluster of passionate supporters who can maybe get them nominated.

    When it comes down the the preferential voting system, these same supporters may have enjoyed more conventional (aka vanilla) films enough to put them in second or third position.

    In the meantime, their own favorites may be polarizing enough so that other voting clusters (who may prefer convention) will push those films to the bottom of their ballots.

    What you end up with is the vanillas with a fair size number of position 1′s an 2′s from primary supporters, but also a substantial number to 2′s and 3′s from the more visionary admirers who simply enjoyed the films for what they were.

    Bingo – “Likeable” inevitably wins the vote and gets designated “best”, which it is not, necessarily.

    With a straight first thru the gate” vote, the polarizing work has a slightly better chance (Midnight Cowboy, for example).

  15. February 14, 2013

    I don’t see how a preferential ballot leads to mediocrity. Can someone please explain this to me?

    To win Best Picture, a film needs over 50% of the total vote. On first count, if no film has this, then the film in last place is eliminated, and all of its votes go to the film in second place on those ballots. This process is repeated until, as the number of films gets ever smaller and the percentages get ever higher, one film tops 50% and, thus, wins.

    This will probably take the race down to the final two, unless there’s one undeniable, far and away favourite (not even Argo is in that strong a position this year). Let’s say that this final two will be Argo and Lincoln. All those films need to do is never be in last place in each round of counting. The film in ninth will be eliminated, then the film in eighth, then seventh etc. Argo and Lincoln could be in second-last and third-last place in every round and make it through to the final two.

    Then, it’d be about which of those two films more voters placed higher on their ballots. It doesn’t matter if that’s Argo in 1st and Lincoln in 2nd or Argo in 8th and Lincoln in 9th – either way, it’s the same result: that vote would go to Argo. In the end, the winner will be which of those two voters preferred, regardless of how many initially ranked it in first place on their ballots.

    A divisive film might be in first place on exactly 49% of ballots and in last place on exactly 51% of ballots. This film could not win, as those other 51% of ballots would have eight films above it, one of which will end up in the final two, and which will claim those 51% of votes.

    I hope this explains it.

  16. rufussondheim
    February 14, 2013

    Steve, I understand that concept. Maybe I am in confusion as to how the winner was selected before – was it straight #1 votes? Or was it a weighted ballot where, say, #1 got 5 points, #2 got 4 points and so forth.

    I can see a straight vote for #1 might allow for a more polarizing (and therefore great) movie to win, especially if more traditional fare “splits the vote”

    But if it was a weighted ballot, then polarizing films would have been disadvantaged as all of the last place rankings it would have received would have worked against it.

    If you look at it logically, the preferential ballot is a compromise between the two.

  17. Mr-Cinema
    February 14, 2013

    I’d also love to see another BP nominee not released September through December. We’re so used to it these days, but it’s still crazy to think that Silence of the Lambs was a February release and it took home the top 4 awards. Saving Private Ryan was a June release, and won for Director. Braveheart was a May release and won Picture and Director.

  18. steve50
    February 14, 2013

    Just for fun, here’s an executive summary of what the ’72 Oscar Race would have looked like if the internet and its predators had been around – the imaginary gauntlet through which The Godfather would have to pass.

    BTW – this in NOT how I feel about these films, all of which I admire.

    Deliverance: Unlikeable in that it doesn’t make you feel good. Sodomizing hillbillies and that dislocated arm – really? Burt Reynolds looks better than he did in that nude spread and the unzipping of (young) Jon Voight overalls was cool, but nomination for best picture – highly unlikely.

    Sounder: Black poverty porn directed by a white man. Might get a nomination, but would be put through the almighty wringer by all sides.

    The Emigrants: Subtitled, strike one; it’s thoughtfulness (strike 2)/great cinematography (strike 3) combo leads to “screensaver” accusations – banished to FLF

    Cabaret: Kinda fun toe-tapper, but the female lead is REALLY going for that Oscar. The abortion, bisex-tango and revelations that everybody is screwing Max costs the Curtis/Borgnine vote. Unhappy ending, too. Nom’d but won’t win.

    The Godfather: Over-budget, inexperienced director. Italian-Americans claim slander, as do Sinatra’s progeny. Everybody tries to figure out which producer they know recently lost a race horse. Brando – I couldn’t understand what he said ten years ago and I still can’t understand him now, even without the orange in his mouth. Over-produced opera, but it still wins.

    Yeah, it wouldn’t be pretty.

  19. KT
    February 14, 2013

    Going through some past Oscar years, here are some strong Best Picture winners I think *could* have conceivably lost a preferential ballot:

    1969 – Midnight Cowboy (absolutely: not a typical Best Picture winner BY ANY MEANS; people I know thought Butch Cassidy had it in the bag, especially after the challenging/innovative/New Hollywood films Bonnie and Clyde + The Graduate lost the year before)

    1971 – The French Connection

    1972 – The Godfather (yup absolutely: to Cabaret, which took Best Director)

    1974 – The Godfather Part II (I think this one could have won under both systems, but does anyone think it could have lost to Chinatown?)

    1978 – The Deer Hunter (absolutely: big controversy + polarizing…probably would have gone to Coming Home)

    1991 – The Silence of the Lambs (absolutely: polarizing + violent + significant controversy—watch Jodie Foster’s press conference after she won Best Actress as it’s brought to her attention that the film won Best Picture on the monitor; she TOTALLY cannot believe it)

    1995 – Braveheart (possibly)

    2006 – The Departed (not a strong winner at all, but certainly could have lost under current system)

    2007 – No Country for Old Men

    2009 – The Hurt Locker (though this WAS a preferential ballot, but without Avatar and the battle of the exes narrative, sadly this would lose….NOT a typical Best Picture winner by any means, but ENCOURAGING that that “typical” view has been expanded by such a winner)

    I’m interested if anyone has any feelings of how the current system could have impacted former races. ***Could any films have won a preferential ballot that we might consider BETTER than the winners??? I’m sure there are some others I missed that could join the films I listed.

  20. KT
    February 14, 2013

    ^^^ I should have indicated I absolutely DO NOT think Braveheart is a strong winner. Don’t want to be misleading there…but I’m remembering the faces of the audience, particularly Meryl Streep’s and Oprah’s when it won. It possibly could have lost, especially if it was polarizing. But that Best Picture lineup was particularly awful. And Braveheart’s the only won that sent screeners.

    Also, I couldn’t think of any years in the 80s where a winner could have lost under preferential OR another film could have won. I think it’s generally agreed upon that that decade has many uninspired winners.

  21. Zach
    February 14, 2013

    KT, I had to look up Braveheart’s win after reading that. Meryl’s pleasant surprise is one thing; the Winfreys’ apparent disgust is another entirely! What was she rooting for? Opie? Or perhaps she knew about Mel Gibson before the rest of us.

  22. Christophe
    February 14, 2013

    ^^I love how Oprah starts clapping her hands when she realizes she’s being filmed.

    also, i don’t see why people are bitching abt braveheart. it was a very good film that won in a very strong year: babe, appollo 13, sense and sensibility, all very fine movies, though i don’t know what the postman is. it’s funny how there were more movies i liked that year with only 5 nominees than this year with 9.

  23. KT
    February 14, 2013

    Christophe: EXACTLY! That Oprah moment is priceless, even though you don’t really see her face. I don’t think people realize it now, but I’ve gotten the sense that Mel Gibson was once extremely well liked and well-regarded within the industry. Big names have said he was “the most beloved” actor and absolutely a pleasure to work with, as he does the job in few takes and immediately switches out of character when “cut” is sounded.

  24. February 14, 2013

    “Wrong. The movie is a pile of shit.”

    Well Josh, I won’t say what I am really thinking here. Ha!

  25. Gerry
    February 14, 2013

    Farsite is a joke. A lot of graphics and ‘models’ and then they have DDL at 48%!!!!!

  26. Tim
    February 14, 2013

    Josh, what I’m saying is that most people who don’t like the movie would have said the same thing about the musical when it came out. In which case, it’s not too surprising that they don’t like the movie based on it.

  27. filmboymichael
    February 14, 2013

    I’m now firmly planted in camp Riva – I finally watched Amour today of all days, and what she did was unbelievable.

    Not that it has anything to do with the French language, but what she did emotionally and physically reminded me of Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose.

  28. Robert
    February 14, 2013

    Maybe this will help people understand and accept this all a little better. Preferential or not, film with most votes win. Is the most popular restaurant I.e. McDonalds the best? You could argue that ‘more’ people go it than your favorite Thai restaurant. Similarly, Is American Idol the best show on tv? More people watch it than any other show most weeks. Is the candidate with most votes best qualified to be president? Well sometimes yes, sometimes no. People vote different ways, with their dollars, eyeballs, time etc. More people will vote for one film than another. It’s not rocket science. You may agree that the one that got the most votes is also your favorite but most likely you will not. You are different than other people who vote for all sorts of reasons. Insiders are by their very nature the LEAST objective voters you could possibly assemble!!!!!! They vote for their friends, for their studio, cause someone died, cause someone is due, cause they should have won two years ago when they didn’t win because someone else won inappropriately cause they were due. Or they don’t vote for someone getting a second Oscars or third or because they don’t campaign or because they campaign too much. Or because they “heard” this performance is great but haven’t actually seen it cause there are too many screeners. Or vote because they are a woman, or don’t vote cause its gay. Or do vote cause they are black or don’t vote because they are black. You get the point. Couple thousand people very biased people “vote” and they are counted. Simple math. People rarely agree in this world, especially about art. If they did, every critics group and award show would be awarding awards to the highest grossing movies cause the public would agree as well. Oscar does not equal best. Never has never will. Except on occasion. A broken Clock is still right twice a day. Stop fighting trying to make them pick the best movie. As the readers and commenter’s on this Site alone prove, we ourselves don’t agree on which one that is in the first place. Embrace the differences and then we really can embrace the tagline of this site and not mind! Now, don’t we feel a lot better?

  29. Pierre de Plume
    February 14, 2013

    Daisy defied GREATER odds. It did not even get nominated for DGA. Argo got nominated for DGA and won. If Argo wins BP, that means Daisy made the bigger leap with less arsenal.

    I feel it’s relevant to point out that Driving Miss Daisy’s source material was a hot property — a prestigious, award-winning play — including the Pulitzer. The film version had 2 high-profile stars/performances, and the subject matter — the relationship between a Southern Jew and a black man, — was pithy stuff at the time for the Academy to embrace. Beresford was snubbed alright, but, as an Australian he was not a Hollywood insider and there wasn’t anything particularly stellar about his directorial of DMD.

  30. rufussondheim
    February 15, 2013

    I always find it kind of amazing when people don’t give the director credit when a quiet film dominated by conversation and character development is extremely well done.

    It takes a lot of talent to get the film’s tone to flow from scene to scene, to decide how close to get in the shots, where to put the cameras so they are engaging rather than distracting, how to pace the film to keep it interesting and fresh throughout. Getting the right performances, getting the right line readings is even more important, and difficult, in a film like this.

    Heck, Christopher Nolan could learn a lot from someone like Bruce Beresford.

  31. TruthSayer
    February 15, 2013

    “The way things are going now, though, I wonder if there will ever be any surprises again. I don’t think a movie like The Godfather I or II could run the gauntlet today and win. It couldn’t overcome the giant guilds picking what they facebook-liked over a masterpiece.”

    May I remind you of a little movie that could called Crash? I know you were on the losing end of that surprise, but it was a HUGE upset. The only true upset in the Picture race in a long time. Everyone and their mother thought BBM couldn’t lose. It had the critics, the guilds, the precursors and then BAM. I can still see Jack Nicholson’s mouth saying the word “Crash”. Oh what a joy that was.

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