Greetings, Oscarwatchers. I bid you dear friends a warm welcome back to Awards Daily’s Statsgasm for the 2016-2017 Oscar season. This is the third year of Statsgasm’s existence, and I certainly hope to continue providing you all an insightful and engaging look into the wacky intersection of Oscar watching and math by this incurable, unrepentant wonk/nerd.
With Oscar nominations just a day away, I am pleased to kick-off this season’s festivities by performing Statsgasm’s third simulation of the Best Picture nominating process. As we know, since 2009 the Academy has been using a preferential balloting system to determine its yearly Best Picture lineup, to coincide with its expansion of the number of Best Picture nominees from the usual five. Then in 2011, the Academy made the exercise even more complicated by introducing a variable number of nominees dependent on voter support. Consequently, making heads or tails of how BP nominees are chosen is usually an exercise in futile frustration for even the savviest of Oscar prognosticators.
As always, it is my hope that Statsgasm builds understanding of even the most esoteric and quirkiest concepts with a learning by doing method. Experimentation, repetition, analysis, and reflection – these are all effective tools in obtaining and enhancing our collective knowledge.
So let’s get to this year’s simulation and results, friends. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Many of you longtime Awards Daily readers should be familiar by now with how Statsgasm emulates the preferential ballot process and/or have participated in Dr. Rob Y’s Simulated Oscar ballot (which also returned this year). But for those of you who are new readers or simply need a refresher, here are links to the 2013 and 2015 simulations.
The usual reminder applies: this simulation is *not* intended at all to predict the Best Picture nominees or how Academy voters will behave in any given year; rather, it’s only meant to demonstrate the guts and gears of the preferential voting system, and possibly show how certain outcomes might occur.
With that said, I am happy to present Statsgasm’s Best Picture voting simulation for 2016!
This year, Statsgasm’s simulation resulted in seven Best Picture nominees!
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
— Again, #1 votes are most critical in landing a Best Picture nomination under this preferential system. Passion rules the day and can earn a film a nomination instead of broader but less intense support. As I have hypothesized from looking at previous results of Statsgasm’s and Dr. Rob’s simulations, a film really needs to have at least 3% of the #1 votes after the first round of voting to have a shot at the nomination. Not that it’s impossible to land the nomination when starting off with less than 3% of the #1s, but it’s very difficult to hit the 5% needed to get nominated through the vote transfers that occur in Rounds 2 and 3. In this case, both O.J.: Made in America and American Honey made up ground in Round 2, and Elle surged in Round 3, but all three films fell short of hitting 5%. That being said…
— In a pleasant surprise, my 3% rule-of-thumb was finally defied by two films this year: The Handmaiden and Hell or High Water. Though both made 5% of the vote by the skin of their teeth at the end of Round 3, the fact remains that their Round 3 surges managed to overcome the deficit resulting from each having only 2% of the first round votes.
— This year’s results really show the quirks that can happen under this preferential ballot system. More specifically, they demonstrate how the shifting vote level needed to obtain a nomination may create a situation where certain films can effectively block other films from gaining the support they need to get nominated. Case in point: let’s take a deeper dive into how Manchester by the Sea fared:
• Manchester by the Sea began with 6.2% of the votes in the first round. Since in the end all a film needs is just 5% of the votes, we know that Manchester is going to get nominated. However, in Rounds 1 and 2 a film needs 9.1% of the vote to get nominated. Given that Manchester didn’t quite hit 9.1% after Round 1, it was eligible to receive the surplus bonus votes from the two leaders, Moonlight and La La Land. Manchester hugely benefited from the surplus distribution as it had heavy crossover support on both Moonlight and La La Land ballots, and ended up taking 25% (!!!) of the combined surplus votes – *easily* the most I’ve seen any one film obtain in Round 2 in the three years I’ve done this. As a result, Manchester ended up hitting the 9.1% it needed to get nominated by the end of Round 2.
• Similarly, both Arrival and Toni Erdmann already had 5% of the vote locked up after Round 1. Again, this means that in the very end, both films would be nominated, but because they were below 9.1% through the end of Round 2, they would be eligible to receive additional votes. Arrival and Toni Erdmann didn’t benefit from the Moonlight/La La Land surplus votes to the extent that Manchester did, but they did end up taking a combined 17 of the 121 votes transferred from eliminated films in Round 3. Those 17 votes certainly would have been enough to have allowed some combination of O.J.: Made in America, American Honey, Elle, and Paterson to hit 5% and get the BP nomination if Arrival or Toni Erdmann hadn’t received them instead.
And with that, I conclude Statsgasm’s 2016 Best Picture voting simulation. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments or contact me directly either through email or Twitter! And of course stay tuned for more Statsgasm posts between now and the Oscars on February 26th.
Happy predicting! Please be sure to enter Awards Daily’s Oscars prediction contest if you haven’t done so already.