Oscar Handicap 2007: Best Picture of the Year

Can one win an Oscar, even though they appear in the lowest-grossing film nominated in that category? We took a look many of the major categories over the past 28 ceremonies (for the films of 1978 through 2005), as well as select statistical data from all 78 previous ceremonies, and found some surprising mathematical data which may give some pause about who might win on February 25.

Please note: These are not predictions on how the awards will turn out. Like in baseball, there are always more stats that could delve deeper into any category (like how well Ryan Howard hits with men in scoring position, with less than two outs, in his home stadium, during day games, against left handers, when the count is 3-1, etc.), but these numbers are a good place to start, to have fun with and to start some interesting discussions about the nominees.

How to read these numbers: With each category is a breakdown of factors with a percentage listed how many times this has happened in the past twenty-eight years (or with an award like the Screen Actors Guild or the Art Directors Guild, since those awards were created), followed by the titles which are helped or hurt by that factor. By The Numbers adds up the positives and negatives and comes up with a raw score and percentage. For example, the By The Numbers for the Best Animated Feature category will read like this:

Cars: +1, -2, +3, +4, +5 (16 of 25, 64%)

Happy Feet: -1, +2, +3, -4, -5 (10 of 25, 40%)

Monster House: -1, -2, +3, +4, -5 (10 of 25, 40%)

The pluses mean Cars is positively affected by Factors 1, 3, 4 and 5, and negatively affected by Factor #2. As the Animated Oscar has only been given away for the past five ceremonies, each factor is worth only up to five points. Being positive with Factor 1 is worth 5 points, while being positive with Factors 2 through 5 are worth 3 points each. 5 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 16. Happy Feet has positives only for Factors 2 and 3, so it’s total would be 0 + 3 + 3 + 2 + 2, or 10 points. Ditto with Monster House, even though it has some different positives and negatives as Happy Feet. Five factors, with each award being given out five times equals 25 potential points. Divide the actual points by the potential points and we get the percentage chance each title has of winning in that category.

For clarification purposes, when there is mention of a pre-award favorite, this describes how this person won at least two of the top five pre-Oscar awards, between the Golden Globe for Drama, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. Also, when there is mention of someone playing a real person, the character that actor played must not be a fictionalized version of a real person, such as with Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada or Joe Pesci in “GoodFellas.” Had Pesci won for “Raging Bull,” that would count. Joey LaMotta was a real person. But Tommy DeVito in “GoodFellas” is a fictionalized version of Lucchese family gangster Thomas DeSimone, and thus does not qualify for this category.

And now, on with the show…

Best Picture

Based on the categories listed below, maybe you don’t want to be the front runner. Last year, Brokeback Mountain had the clear statistical edge over the other nominees, with Crash way down in fourth place. The year before, The Aviator was the stronger entry over Million Dollar Baby. Which only goes to show that, as William Goldman is often quoted as saying, nobody knows anything.

The Breakdowns

1) As long as you’re not the lowest grossing nominee at the time of the nominations, you’ve won 28 of 28 times (100%). Advantage: Babel, The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

2) Best Picture winners have had a nominated director 27 of 28 times (96.43%). Advantage: Babel, The Departed, Letter from Iwo Jima, The Queen

3) Best Picture winners have had a nominated screenplay 27 of 28 times (96.43%). Advantage: All nominees (and thus will not be factored into the percentages this year)

4) Best Picture winners have also been nominated for Best Editing 27 of 28 times (96.43%). Advantage: Babel, The Departed

5) Best Picture winners have had at least one acting nomination 25 of 28 times (89.29%). Advantage: Babel, The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

6) The director of the Best Picture winner has also won the DGA Award 45 of 58 times (77.59%). Advantage: The Departed

7) Stories not predominantly set in the present have won 20 of 28 times (71.43%). Advantage: Letters from Iwo Jima

8) The picture with the most nominations has gone on to win Best Picture 53 of 78 (67.95%) times. Advantage: None, since the most nominated film this year is not up for Best Picture (and thus will not be factored into the percentages this year)

9) The Best Picture winner has also won the PGA Golden Laurel 11 of the 17 times the latter award has been presented (64.71%). Advantage: Little Miss Sunshine

10) The Best Picture winner has come from a movie released after October 1st 18 of 28 times (64.29%). Advantage: Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima

11) Pictures that have received the Golden Globe for drama have won 18 of 28 times (64.29%). Advantage: Babel

12) Pictures based on an adapted screenplay have won 16 of 28 times (57.14%). Advantage: The Departed

13) Pictures that feature the director as one of the producer have won 13 of 28 times (46.43%). Disadvantage: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima

14) The winner of the SAG Ensemble Acting Award has won 5 of 11 times (45.45%) Disadvantage: Little Miss Sunshine

By The Numbers

“Babel”: +1, +2, +4, +5, -6, -7, -9, +10, +11, -12, +13, -14 (201 of 338, 59.47%)

“The Departed”: +1, +2, +4, +5, +6, -7, -9, +10, -11, +12, -13, -14 (231 of 338, 68.34%)

“Letters from Iwo Jima”: -1, +2, -4, -5, -6, -7, -9, +10, -11, -12, +13, -14 (129 of 338, 38.17%)

“Little Miss Sunshine”: +1, -2, -4, +5, -6, -7, +9, -10, -11, -12, -13, +14 (139 of 338, 41.12%)

“The Queen”: +1, +2, -4, +5, -6, -7, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, -14 (166 of 338, 49.11%)

Find out who wins this year’s Oscars, when the Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2006 are presented on Sunday, February 25, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, televised live on ABC beginning at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST. A one-hour red carpet arrivals show will precede the telecast at 4 PM PST/7 PM EST.

All articles in this series:
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Score, Best Editing and Best Art Direction
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature