In case you somehow hadn’t heard, the 89th Academy Awards are this Sunday, February 26th. Some watch the Oscars for the glitz and glamor, and others for the painfully awkward jokes. I watch them to validate the truly saddening amount of time I’ve spent developing a prediction system for who will win.
My system was created to defeat my father in our annual family contest. Now, as dedicated readers of Monkey Fighting Robots, you get the first public look at the most accurate predictions in the world. Unless it’s wrong, in which case…whoops I guess.
The system relies on every nominee in the big six categories from the past 25 years and looks at what else they won before the Oscars. Certain categories have more predictive awards than others. For example, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award is very predictive of Best Actor, while the People’s Choice Awards don’t predict much of anything. Most of the predictors are “inside,” or guild awards, like the SAG, Critic’s Choice, Producers Guild of America, etc., where the same people voting for these awards also vote in the Oscars. The rest of the predictors are “outside” and include film critic societies from around the world, some of which are better than others.
Together, these predictors have certain success rates that, using my super secret analytical method, can be used to build an algorithm that predicts most of the winners of the past ten years. Whether my system predicts the future winners is yet to be seen. So I guess we better get started.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Unlikely: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Very Unlikely: Dev Patel, Lion
Mahershala Ali has claimed every award that matters, including the Screen Actors Guild and Critic’s Choice awards. It will be his, virtually guaranteed.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Unlikely: Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Very Unlikely: Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Viola Davis is a shoe in. She swept the SAG, Critic’s Choice, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs.
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Less Likely: Emma Stone, La La Land
Very Unlikely: Natalie Portman, Jackie
This category is notoriously difficult to predict, and that’s no exception for my system. This is also a contentious year, with Isabelle Huppert, Emma Stone, and Natalie Portman all in the running. Stone has been touted as the popular choice and likely winner for some time and given her BAFTA and SAG wins it is certainly a possibility. Natalie Portman is the least likely of the three, as the Critic’s Choice and Dallas-Fort Worth wins carry less weight. However, the numbers don’t lie, and Huppert has the lead with the Golden Globe (one of the only categories where this actually matters), Florida, London, Boston, and LA wins.
Best Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences
Very Unlikely: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Once upon a time, this was Casey Affleck’s award to lose. His chance went out the window when Denzel Washington took the SAG. No actor in the last ten years has taken the SAG but lost the Oscar. Look for Denzel on the stage come Sunday night.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
This has to be the most surefire win of the big six this year. Damien Chazelle took the DGA, Critic’s Choice, and the BAFTA. He’s had a meteoric rise since Whiplash and will claim what is rightfully his on Sunday.
Best Picture: Moonlight
Most Likely: La La Land
Less Likely: Arrival
Unlikely: Hidden Figures
I’m going against my system here, which means I’m setting myself up for failure. But hey, I guy can dream. According to my system, La La Land will win, by a mile. It has taken home the Critic’s Choice, PGA, DGA, and BAFTA, and an Eddie for Comedy. Behind La La Land is Arrival, Hidden Figures and then Moonlight. So things aren’t looking good for my prediction.
However, in the last 20 years, there was one other time when a film was so overwhelmingly sure to win, and then it didn’t. In 2005, Brokeback Mountain took home almost everything. It was the overwhelming choice to win. Everyone knew it was the best film. Then, come that Sunday, the Academy handed a statue to the producers of Crash. Brokeback‘s loss isn’t a surprise in hindsight: it is a romance film about two gay men’s complicated relationship, and this portrayal has nothing to do with the history of the LGBTQ+ movement or more complex social movements. It is a character focused romance, and nothing more. And in ‘05/’06 America, the Academy was not going to give that movie an Oscar.
But now it is 2017, and the Academy is running scared. They’ve lost viewership, and like any live event, that’s what matters most to the host. Brokeback was denied a win because it was considered too controversial, it would hurt viewership, and so on. But 11 years later, companies and organizations are beginning to recognize, and capitalize, on the opposite being true: what was controversial is now the demanded norm. Come Sunday, this will play out for the Academy too, and the producers of Moonlight will take the stage.
What are your thoughts on the 89th Academy Awards? Comment below.