Oscar Handicap 2019: Best Picture of the Year

We begin (or conclude, depending on how you go about perusing) our fourteenth 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 39 ceremonies (for the films of 1979 through 2017), 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 Cody Bellinger hits with men in scoring position, with less than two outs, at Dodger 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…

I was talking to my boss at my job yesterday about the Academy Awards, and he expressed genuine shock that I still get excited for the Oscars. And I genuinely am still excited for the Oscars. I’ve been watching the Oscars for over 40 years now, and they are still, to this day, to me, the gold standard for what film excellent is all about. I don’t always agree with their choices (for example, you’ll never convince me that Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction were better movies than Quiz Show or Shawshank Redemption, or that Braveheart was a better movie than Apollo 13, or that Shakespeare in Love was a better movie than Saving Private Ryan, or that Crash was a better movie than Good Night and Good Luck, and you get the picture), but I respect that their track record for honoring the best of the best is still pretty damn good.

But enough of my yapping, let’s get to the numbers…

The Breakdowns

1) Movies with nominated screenplays have won for Best Picture 39 of the past 40 ceremonies (97.5%). Advantage: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice

2) Films nominated for Best Editing have won Best Picture 38 of 40 (95%). Advantage: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice

3) Best Picture winners have come from movies whose directors were also nominated for Best Director 38 of 40 (95%). Advantage: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Roma, Vice

4) Films nominated for the SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast have won here 21 of 23 times the Screen Actors Guild has also handed out awards (91.3%). Advantage: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star Is Born

5) A movie also named one of the American Film Institute’s Top Ten Films of the Year, or given an AFI Special Award, has won here 16 of the 18 years the AFI has been giving out its Top Ten list (88.9%). Advantage: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born

6) A BAFTA nominee for Best Film has won here 33 of 40 (82.5%). Advantage: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born

7) The Best Picture Oscar has gone to one of the movies with the highest or second highest nomination count 54 times in the last 67 years (79.1%). Advantage: The Favourite, Roma

8) Best Picture winners have lined up with the winner of the Directors Guild’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Award 54 times in the 70 years of the DGA Award’s existence. (77.1%). Advantage: Roma

9) Movies released after September 30th have won Best Picture 29 of 40 times (72.5%). Advantage: Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice

10) Best Picture winners have had at least two acting nominations 28 of 40 (70%). Advantage: The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice

11) The Best Picture winner has also won the PGA Golden Laurel Award 20 of the 29 times the latter award has been presented (69%). Advantage: Green Book

12) Pictures that have received the Golden Globe for Best Picture have won 45 of the last 67 years (68.2%). Advantage: Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book

13) Stories predominantly set outside the past twenty years have won 23 of 40 (57.5%). Advantage: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma

14) Movies primarily set in the United States of America have won 23 of 40 (57.5%). Advantage: BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, A Star is Born, Vice

15) Movies with a screenplay that also received a Best Screenplay award from the Writers Guild have won Best Picture 38 of 70 (54.3%). Advantage: None of the nominees this year (which hasn’t happened in over forty years), but we’ll keep this here for continuity’s sake for future tracking.

16) Best Picture Winners have come from materials previously published or produced 21 of 40 (52.5%). Slight Advantage: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born

17) If the director of the film is not also a producer on the film, that film has won 21 of 40 (53.8%). Slight Advantage: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody

Bonus (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 23 times the former award has previously been given (47.83%). No advantage whatsoever: Black Panther

By the Numbers…

Oh, let me add one more thing before we get to the numbers… some people have complained that Roma, which is also up for (and is most likely going to be the winner of) the award for Best Foreign Language Film, that is somehow stole a spot from another, more deserving film. In order for a film to get nominated for Best Picture, it needs to achieve a certain amount of votes from those casting a nominating ballot. Since there can be up to ten nominees in any given year, and there are only eight including Roma, there was still space for two more nominees if there were any films that achieved enough votes to secure a nomination. Clearly, these eight films had the support of enough voters, while who knows how many others came almost close enough but not quite close enough. Roma deserves to be here.

Oh, and another thing… if Roma wins here tonight, and there’s a decent chance it will… it really doesn’t change anything about how the film industry is operated. It might give hope to a few filmmakers that an entity like Netflix or Amazon will bankroll their not super-expensive passion project, but it won’t put a knife through the heart of theatrical exhibition, and it won’t all of a sudden make Netflix “The King of Hollywood.” In a perfect world, Netflix would see the benefits of a proper theatrical release for future movies like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. A proper three month theatrical window to help promote a movie that will exclusively be on your service for years or even decades is a small price to pay to get more of Hollywood on your side. Netflix taking theatrical windows more seriously really would be the best for everyone, and I don’t say that as a movie theatre manager who would have loved to have seen Roma on my giant 80 foot wide movie screen with Dolby Atmos sound. I say that as a film fan who knows he is not the only movie fan who would like to experience films like Roma and The Irishman for the first time in a movie theatre.

If you’re confused about which movie is the front runner… well, we might not be able to help. There is 0.26% difference between The Favourite and Roma, so these two films are in a virtual tie. Roma could become the first movie to ever win for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. Or voters, being fairly certain Roma will win the latter, could have given their top vote to The Favourite. Or, being fairly certain Roma will win the former, voted for Shoplifters as Best Foreign Language Film. Or, fairly certain Roma would win either category, voters ended up giving their votes to other films in both categories, shutting Roma out of both awards.

It’ll certainly be interesting. And that’s what excites me about this year’s Oscars race. We honestly have no idea which film will walk away with the highest honor.

Okay, now the numbers…

Black Panther (Kevin Feige): -1, -2, -3, +4, +5, -6, -7, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, -14, -15, +16, +17 (241 of 742, 32.48%)
BlacKkKlansman (Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6, -7, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, +13, +14, -15, +16, -17 (387 of 742, 52.16%)
Bohemian Rhapsody (Graham King): -1, +2, -3, +4, -5, -6, -7, -8, +9, -10, -11, +12, +13, -14, -15, -16, +17 (308 of 742, 41.51%)
The Favourite (Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos): +1, +2, +3, -4, +5, +6, +7, -8, +9, +10, -11, -12, +13, +14, -15, -16, -17 (433 of 742, 58.36%)
Green Book (Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga): +1, +2, -3, -4, +5, +6, -7, -8, +9, +10, +11, +12, +13, +14, -15, -16, -17 (392 of 742, 52.83%)
Roma (Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón): +1, -2, +3, -4, +5, +6, +7, +8, +9, +10, -11, -12, +13, -14, -15, -16, -17 (435 of 742, 58.63%)
A Star Is Born (Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor): +1, -2, -3, +4, +5, +6, -7, -8, -9, +10, -11, -12, -13, +14, -15, +16, -17 (343 of 742, 46.23%)
Vice (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick): +1, +2, +3, -4, -5, -6, -7, -8, +9, +10, -11, -12, -13, +14, -15, -16, -17 (354 of 742, 47.71%)

So, how did we do last year?

Well, we got Best Picture (now 8 for 13, 61.5%). We got Director, both Lead Acting categories, both Screenplay categories, Animated Feature, Production Design, Editing, Score and Documentary Feature.
We missed both Supporting Acting categories, Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling, Costumes, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.

So we were able to call eleven of the nineteen categories we handicapped last year. Not our best year, but not our worst year.

Thank you for taking the time to check us out.

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 Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Animated Feature
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Cinematography
Best Production Design
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Best Editing
Best Costume Design
Best Score
Best Sound Effects and Best Sound Mixing
Best Documentary Feature