Oscar Handicap 2017: Best Picture of the Year

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

We took a look many of the major categories over the past 38 ceremonies (for the films of 1979 through 2015), as well as certain factors that have been predominant over the history of the Academy Awards, and found some surprising mathematical data, which may give some pause about who might win on Sunday night.

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 Mike Trout hits with men in scoring position, with less than two outs, at Angel Stadium, during day games, against left handers, on artificial turf, 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 someone playing a real person, the character that actor played must not be a fictionalized version of a real person. When Christian Bale won Best Supporting Actor in 2011 for playing Dicky Eklund, Dicky is a real person. Had Bale won for “American Hustle,” his Irving Rosenfeld was a fictionalized version of real-life con man and ABSCAM particpant Melvin Weinberg, and thus would not qualify.

And now, on with the show…

There seems to be three basic trains of thought for the 89th Academy Awards:

1) That “La La Land” is a masterpiece that could very well set a new record for the most Oscars win for a movie

2) That “La La Land” is a vile, racist piece of crap that is overshadowing the quiet brilliance of “Moonlight.” (April Wolfe’s sad attempt at politicizing “La La Land” as a propaganda piece at the LA Weekly is a typical attempt to make the film something it was never meant to be, while trying to shut down attempts to point this point out by invoking Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia. Because, you know, La La Land = Nazis. [insert rolling eye emoticon here]) Just because “La La Land” doesn’t tackle certain racial issues does not detract from the movie’s greatness. The movie’s not about race. It’s not about jazz. it’s not about acting or the entertainment industry. It’s about love and the choices we make in our lives because of this most base and complex emotion.

3) That the endless hyping of “La La Land” versus “Moonlight” is casting an even-wider shadow on “Hidden Figures,” with its currently-relevant topics of the contributions of African-Americans to American society, the importance of equal rights for all, and the importance of a viable space program.

Okay, so I admit a bias towards “La La Land.” And I admit that in almost any other year that didn’t include “La La Land,” “Moonlight” or “Hidden Figures” would be my personal choices for Best Picture. But this article isn’t about my personal choices. It’s about voting patterns in the Academy, and if anyone can really predict the winner of certain awards based on past results. So let’s just get to it already!

The Breakdowns

1) Movies with nominated screenplays have won 37 of the past 38 ceremonies (97.4%). Advantage: Arrival, Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

2) Films nominated for Best Editing have won Best Picture 36 of 38 (94.7%). Advantage: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight

3) Best Picture winners have come from movies whose directors were also nominated for Best Director 36 of 38 (94.7%). Advantage: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

4) The Best Picture Oscar has gone to one of the movies with the highest or second highest nomination count 51 times in the last 65 years (78.5%). Advantage: Arrival, La La Land, Moonlight

5) Best Picture winners have lined up with the winner of the Directors Guild’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Award 53 times in the 68 years of the DGA Award’s existence. (77.9%). Advantage: La La Land

6) Movies released after September 30th have won Best Picture 27 of 38 times (71.1%). Advantage: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

7) The Best Picture winner has also won the PGA Golden Laurel Award 19 of the 27 times the latter award has been presented (70.4%). Advantage: La La Land

8) Best Picture winners have had at least two acting nominations 26 of 38 (68.4%). Advantage: Fences, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

9) Pictures that have received the Golden Globe for Best Picture have won 44 of the last 65 years (67.7%). Advantage: La La Land, Moonlight

10) Stories predominantly set outside the past thirty years have won 22 of 38 (57.9%). Advantage: Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures

11) Movies primarily set in the United States of America have won 21 of 38 (55.3%). Advantage: Arrival, Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

12) Movies with a screenplay that also received a Best Screenplay award from the Writers Guild have won Best Picture 37 of 68 (54.4%). Advantage: Arrival, Moonlight

13) Best Picture Winners have come from materials previously published or produced 20 of 38 (52.6%). Slight advantage: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight

14) If the director of the film is not also a producer on the film, that film has won 20 of 38 (52.6%). Slight advantage: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

15 (and we call this one “The Mythbuster”) The winner of the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast has won an Oscar 11 of the 21 times the former award has previously been given (52.4%). Slight advantage: Hidden Figures

By The Numbers

It really is a two-horse race, and by that, I mean that one horse should finish first by a least a full length.

“Arrival” (Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, +11, +12, +13, +14, -15 (367 of 656, 55.9%)

Fences” (Todd Black, Scott Rudin andDenzel Washington): +1, -2, -3, -4, -5, +6, -7, +8, -9, +10, +11, -12, +13, -14, -15 (274 of 656, 41.8%)

Hacksaw Ridge” (Bill Mechanic andDavid Permut): -1, +2, +3, -4, -5, +6, -7, -8, -9, +10, -11, -12, -13, +14, -15 (288 of 656, 43.9%)

Hell or High Water” (Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn): +1, +2 ,-3, -4, -5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10, +11, -12, -13, +14, -15 (272 of 656, 41.5%)

“Hidden Figures” (Peter Chernin, Donna Gigliotti, Theodore Melfi, Jenno Topping andPharrell Williams): +1, -2, -3, -4, -5, +6, -7, -8, -9, +10, +11, -12, +13, +14, +15 (263 of 656, 40.1%)

“La La Land” (Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6, +7, +8, +9, -10, +11, -12, -13, +14, -15 (445 of 656, 67.8%)

“Lion” (Iain Canning, Angie Fielder and Emile Sherman): +1, -2, -3, -4, -5, +6, -7, +8, -9, -10, -11, -12, +13, +14, -15 (266 of 656, 40.5%)

“Manchester by the Sea” (Lauren Beck, Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore and Kevin J. Walsh): +1, -2, +3, -4, -5, +6, -7, +8, -9, -10, +11, -12, -13, +14, -15 (300 of 656, 45.7%)

“Moonlight” (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, -7, +8, +9, -10, +11, +12, +13, +14, -15 (404 of 656, 61.6%)


So, how did we do last year?

Good question, since we haven’t done this since 2014. That year, our Oscar Handicap correctly called Director, all four Acting categories , Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay and Foreign Language Film, while missing on Best Picture (we had American Hustle less than 1% ahead of 12 Years a Slave ), Original Screenplay (Nebraska over Her, 65.19% to 45.71%) and Animated Film (Despicable Me over Frozen, 63.33% to 53.33%).


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