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Which Awards are the Best Predictors for the Best Picture Oscar?

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Jan 23, 2014 | 2:33pm EST

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With the stumbly and boozy end of the Golden Globes, the award race is on, and all the usual backroom deals, sneaky politics, and character assassinations that usually mark another glitzy awards season are in full swing. While it may be difficult to stay afloat in the rushing tides of award season politics, a good way of correctly predicting the top prize at the Academy Awards is to look at the best film winners from other award organizations, but one should tread carefully. While some best picture awards line up with the Oscar winner quite often, others seem determined to zig where the Academy zags, and pick a winner that the Academy only has a fleeting interest in. Using complex algorithms (3rd grade math) we took a look at a host of different award ceremonies and critics associations, and calculated how often each of them synchs up with the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Active Since: 1951
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 10 times. (That's 16%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 1 time. (That's 10%)
This year's winner: American Hustle

Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama
Active Since: 1951
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 31 times. (That's 50%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 3 times. (That's 30%)
This year's winner: 12 Years a Slave

New York Film Critics Circle - Best Picture
Active Since: 1935
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 31 times. (That's 40%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 4 times. (That's 40%)
This year's winner: American Hustle

Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film
Active Since: 1948
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 52 times. (That's 81%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 9 times. (That's 90%)
This year's winner: N/A

The Critics Choice Award for Best Picture
Active Since: 1995
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 11 times. (That's 61 %)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 7 times. (That's 70%)
This year's winner: 12 Years a Slave

Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture
Active Since: 1989
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 15 times. (That's 63%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 7 times. (That's 70%)
This year's winners: 12 Years a Slave/Gravity

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Film
Active Since: 1975
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 8 times. (That's 21%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 2 times. (That's 20%)
This year's winner: Gravity/Her

The Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Active Since: 1995
Since then, has correctly predicted the Oscars 9 times. (That's 50%)
In the past 10 years, has correctly predicted the Oscars 6 times. (That's 60%)
This year's winner: American Hustle

So what should we make of all this? It's clear that in terms of predicting the Oscars, not all awards are created equal. A betting man would certainly want to place his bets with the Directors Guild, who have correctly predicted the Best Picture Oscar an astonishing nine times in the past 10 years. The DGAs seemed to have tapped into whatever wavelength that the Oscars operates in, and it's almost as if they have a man on the inside looking into all those little gold Oscar envelopes a few weeks early. The Producers Guild Award and the Critics Choice Award have also emerged as good predictors for the big Oscar in the last ten years, each aligning with the award seven times since 2003. Next, Firmly standing in the middle ground, are the SAG awards which have predicted the Oscars about 60% of the time in the last 10 years, and 50% of the time since the award's inception.

Now The Golden Globe Awards are a bit of a sticky issue since they split their nominees into "Drama" and "Musical or Comedy" categories. The Golden Globe for Best Drama is a better predictor for the Oscars, but it's still not a great one, only predicting that Academy Award 50% of the time, and only three times in the past 10 years. The Golden Globe for comedies and musicals is even worse, with the award only matching up with the Oscar 10 times since 1951. Finally, on the other end of the spectrum, the Los Angeles Critics Association and the New York Critics Circle are dismal predictors, with the New York Critics only synching up with the Oscars 40% of the time and the Los Angeles critics only matching a paltry 20% of the time.

In terms of actually predicting the Academy Award for this year, the Los Angeles critics picked Her and Gravity, two films that have a sci-fi twinge to them, and ones that the traditionalist at the Academy would never pick over safer choices like American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave, because the future is scary (the Academy has just discovered fire, and is now delving into the mysteries of the elusive wheel). The New York critics, on the other hand, have picked American Hustle, a film that the Academy appears to dig, given its 10 Oscar nominations.

Both the Critics Choice Awards and the Producers Guild gave their prize to 12 Years a Slave, which given both organization's history of predicting, also has a good chance of winning the Oscar. The heavy hitter on our list, the Directors Guild of America, hasn't yet announced their winner, so it has yet to be see if they will also pick 12 Years a Slave.
 

Conclusion
So after playing around will all these statistics, we're placing our bets on Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. Even though the DGA hasn't given us their winner as of yet, the second and third best predictors of the Oscars have already chosen the drama, and it's hard to think that the Academy won't follow suit.


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