And the Oscar goes to...
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 22, 2013 - The quants are coming, armed with zeroes and ones, aiming straight for the Academy Awards.
It was inevitable. Everywhere we look, soothsayers and hunch-players are being replaced by computer nerds. Quantitative analysis of previously obscure or unknown statistics -- sabermetrics -- has already taken over much of baseball, and Nate Silver of the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog proved last fall that careful and comprehensive numbers-crunching can accurately predict elections. Now, the Huffington Post has run statistics through computers to predict the contents of the 24 envelopes to be opened at the Oscar ceremonies the night of Sunday, Feb. 24. Coverage starts at 6 p.m. on ABC.
If the Huffington numbers don't lie, the Oscar for best picture will go to "Argo," about the escape of six Americans from revolutionary Iran. And Anne Hathaway will run away with the best supporting actress statuette for her waif-like performance in the musical melodrama "Les Miserables." You might have figured out that much already -- "Argo" and Hathaway both won at the British Academy Awards and at the Golden Globes, good indicators of success at the Oscars. And "Argo" has become something of a sentimental favorite since its director, Ben Affleck, was shockingly omitted from the five nominees for best director.
The Huffington number-massagers ran every Oscar nominee for the past 30 years through computers to produce "a scientific metric for predicting the winners at the 2013 Academy Awards." The Huffingtons decided that success in the awards could be predicted by doing well in five categories:
1. Box-office gross
2. Audience rating (according to the compilation at the Rotten Tomatoes website)
3. Critical rating (according to the compilation at the Metacritic website)
4. Other major awards
5. Total number of Oscar nominations.
Here's how the calculation worked out for the major awards.
Best picture: "Argo," 94.1 percent chance of winning. Runner-up: "Lincoln," 5.1 percent.
Best actor: Daniel Day Lewis, "Lincoln," 99 percent chance of winning. Runner-up: Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables, 0.8 percent.
Best actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook," 70.6 percent chance of winning. Runner-up: Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour," 20.5 percent.
Best supporting actor: Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln," 46.4 percent chance. Runner-up: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained," 40.9 percent.
Best supporting actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables," 99.3 percent chance. Runner up: Helen Hunt, "The Sessions," 0.6 percent.
Best director: Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln," 83.8 percent chance. Runner-up: Ang Lee, "Life of Pi," 13.7 percent.
We'll see how the formulas work out on Sunday.
In general, I would agree with the Huffington predictions. After all, the five categories the Huffington gnomes examined statistically have for years been part of the more casual analysis of film critics (or, as Huffington would call us, "bloviating pundits") trying to figure out who is going to win the Oscars.
As for what I would like to see, as opposed to what I expect to see, I would prefer "Zero Dark Thirty" to win best picture. I think Kathryn Bigelow's detailed recounting of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, including the intentionally shocking scenes showing that Americans waterboarded suspects, is one of the most riveting tales of pursuit ever filmed. It has 0.0 chance of winning, according to Huffington.
And, in the supporting actor race, although I loved Tommy Lee Jones' cantankerous abolitionist in "Lincoln," I was also much taken with Robert De Niro (Huffington: 7.2 percent chance of winning) as the obsessive father in "Silver Linings Playbook." A Jones-De Niro tie would be nice.
And I would dig out my Mardi Gras beads and stage a minor bayou-style celebration if the award for best actress went to young Quvenzhane Wallis for her remarkable performance as the courageous and life-affirming Hushpuppy in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Huffington says there is 0.0 percent chance of that happening, but sometimes numbers lie.
Below are the contenders for the 2013 Academy Awards, The ceremony will take place Feb. 24.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild"
"Life of Pi"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables"
Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"
Denzel Washington, "Flight"
Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Quvenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts, "The Impossible"
Best supporting actor
Alan Arkin, "Argo"
Robert De Niro, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Master"
Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"
Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
Best supporting actress
Amy Adams, "The Master"
Sally Field, "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Michael Haneke, "Amour"
Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"
David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln"
Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Best original screenplay
"Amour," Michael Haneke
"Django Unchained," Quentin Tarantino
"Flight," John Gatins
"Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
"Zero Dark Thirty," Mark Boal
Best adapted screenplay
"Argo," Chris Terrio
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
"Life of Pi," David Magee
"Lincoln," Tony Kushner
"Silver Linings Playbook," David O. Russell
Best animated feature
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits"
"Anna Karenina," Seamus McGarvey
"Django Unchained," Robert Richardson
"Life of Pi," Claudio Miranda
"Lincoln," Janusz Kaminski
"Skyfall," Roger Deakins
Best costume design
"Anna Karenina," Jacqueline Durran
"Les Misérables," Paco Delgado
"Lincoln," Joanna Johnston
"Mirror Mirror," Eiko Ishioka
"Snow White and the Huntsman," Colleen Atwood
Best documentary feature
"5 Broken Cameras"
"How to Survive a Plague"
"The Invisible War"
"Searching for Sugar Man"
Best documentary short
"Mondays at Racine"
Best film editing
"Argo," William Goldenberg
"Life of Pi," Tim Squyres
"Lincoln," Michael Kahn
"Silver Linings Playbook," Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
"Zero Dark Thirty," Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Best foreign language film
"A Royal Affair," Denmark
"War Witch," Canada
Best makeup and hairstyling
"Hitchcock," Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
"Les Misérables," Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Best original score
"Anna Karenina," Dario Marianelli
"Argo," Alexandre Desplat
"Life of Pi," Mychael Danna
"Lincoln," John Williams
"Skyfall," Thomas Newman
Best original song
“Before My Time” from "Chasing Ice," music and lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from "Ted," music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from "Life of Pi," music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from "Skyfall," music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from "Les Misérables," music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
Best production design
"Anna Karenina," production design: Sarah Greenwood; set decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," production design: Dan Hennah; set decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
"Les Misérables," production design: Eve Stewart; set decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
"Life of Pi," production design: David Gropman; set decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Lincoln," production design: Rick Carter; set decoration: Jim Erickson
Best animated short
"Adam and Dog"
"Head over Heels"
"Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare'"
Best live action short
"Death of a Shadow"
Best sound editing
"Argo," Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
"Django Unchained," Wylie Stateman
"Life of Pi," Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
"Skyfall," Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
"Zero Dark Thirty," Paul N.J. Ottosson
Best sound mixing
"Argo," John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
"Les Misérables," Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
"Life of Pi," Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
"Lincoln," Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
"Skyfall," Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
Best visual effects
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
"Life of Pi," Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
"The Avengers," Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
"Prometheus," Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
"Snow White and the Huntsman," Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson