Oscar Handicap 2010: Best Picture of the Year

We begin (or conclude, depending on how you go about perusing) this year’s series of articles with the most important and prestigious award in all cinema.

Can one win an Oscar even though they appear in the lowest-grossing film nominated in that category? Or win in an acting category being the only one whose film is not also nominated for Best Picture? We took a look many of the major categories over the past 31 ceremonies (for the films of 1978 through 2008), as well as select statistical data from all 80 previous ceremonies, and found some surprising mathematical data, which may give some pause about who might win on March 7th.

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 Alex Rodriguez 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 meant to entertain and start some interesting discussions about the nominees.

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 Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There or Joe Pesci in GoodFellas. Had Pesci won for Raging Bull, that would have counted. Joey LaMotta was a real person. But Tommy DeVito in GoodFellas was, allegedly, a fictionalized version of Lucchese family gangster Thomas DeSimone, and thus does not qualify for this category.

And now, on with the show…

For the first time since the ceremony that honored the films of 1943 (that would be the year Casablanca won), the Academy has opened up the Best Picture category to ten nominees. Some have complained this cheapens the awards, as it could conceivably dilute the voting pool and cause a movie to win with only a plurality of votes. But since we the public never see the results of how the voting came about, there’s no way to know if Sunday night’s winner won with 51% of the vote or just 15%.

The Breakdowns

1) Best Picture winners have come from directors also nominated for Best Director 30 of the last 31 shows (96.77%). Advantage: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2) They’re also come from films with a screenplay nomination 30 of 31 times (96.77%). Advantage: District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

3) And they have also been nominated for Best Editing 30 of 31 times (96.77%). Advantage: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious

4) As long as you’re not the lowest grossing nominee at the time of the nominations, you’ve won 29 of 31 times (90.32%). Advantage: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

5) Best Picture winners have had at least one acting nomination 27 of 31 times (87.10%). Advantage: The Blind Side, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

6) The director of the Best Picture winner has also won the DGA Award 48 of 61 times (78.69%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker

7) Stories not predominantly set in modern times have won 20 of 31 times (64.52%). Advantage: Avatar, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man

8) The picture with the most nominations has gone on to win Best Picture 54 of 81 (66.67%) times. Advantage: Avatar, The Hurt Locker

9) The Best Picture winner has also won the PGA Golden Laurel 14 of the 20 times the latter award has been presented (70%). Advantage: The Hurt Locker

10) Pictures that have received the Golden Globe for drama have won 18 of 31 times (58.06%). Advantage: Avatar

11) The winner of the SAG Ensemble Acting Award has won the Best Picture Oscar 7 of the 14 times the latter award has been handed out (50%) Advantage: Nobody, so stop trying to make this factoid a spoiler already!

By The Numbers

The Hurt Locker has received more Best Picture awards this season than any other film, and there is no reason to suspect Sunday night will end any different. But if there is a spoiler, it should be Basterds.

Avatar (James Cameron and Jon Landau): +1, -2, +3, +4, -5, -6, +7, +8, -9, +10

The Blind Side (Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson): -1, -2, -3, +4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10

District 9 (Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham): -1, +2, +3, +4, -5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10

An Education (Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers): -1, +2, -3, -4, +5, -6, +7, -8, -9, -10

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicholas Chartier and Greg Shapiro): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6, -7, +8, +9, -10

Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, -6, +7, -8, -9, -10

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10

A Serious Man (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen): -1, +2, -3, +4, -5, -6, +7, -8, -9, -10

Up (Jonas Rivera): -1, +2, -3, +4, -5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10

Up in the Air (Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman): +1, +2, -3, +4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10

Personal prediction for Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

Personal choice amongst these nominees: Up

All articles in this series:

Best Picture of the Year
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature
The Technical Categories