Anticipating the Academy Awards

How to predict results on Oscars night.

As the pinnacle of awards season rapidly approaches, we must mentally prepare ourselves for questionable red carpet choices, shocking results and, as always, unnecessarily drawn out acceptance speeches. Thousands of gamblers are getting ready as well, abandoning their usual horseraces and sports games to focus their attention — and money — on the Academy Awards. Although there are occasional outliers, eight decades of this event have crafted a series of trends that winners rarely deviate from. These patterns have created a series of  unwritten rules behind the Oscars.

This year, the race for Best Picture is competitive, with nine films going head to head.  To take home the night’s highest honor, a film tends to also need nominations for director, screenplay, and editing. Following these indicators, the race becomes less close. Out of the five films with a director nomination, war thriller Hacksaw Ridge misses a screenplay nod and the heart wrenching Manchester by the Sea lacks an editing nomination. Another critical piece of the puzzle is an Best Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild awards, which space drama Arrival does not have. Since La La Land lacks this nomination as well, Moonlight would seemingly hold the front position.

However, because the popular movie musical revolves around two characters instead of a full cast, this hindrance does not tarnish the film’s frontrunner status. La La Land took home the top awards at the Producers Guild Awards, Critics Choice Awards and the Directors Guild Awards. In the last twenty-five years, nineteen of the Best Picture winners had previously won at the Directors Guild Awards.

Acting nominations increase Best Picture chances, with the reverse also proving true; the more prominent and well recieved a movie is, the better chance actors nominated for that film will have compared to those who stared in less popular movies. For this reason, Emma Stone’s lighthearted and fun performance in La La Land has a slight edge over Natalie Portman’s tragic and intimate role in the less acclaimed Jackie.

In terms of predicting winning actors, examining awards shows that precede the Academy Awards help to create a clearer picture. However, lead acting categories this year are complicated, since the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild awards have refrained from producing a unified result in both the male and female categories. Nevertheless, the supporting actors groups are more clear-cut, as Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali and Fences’ Viola Davis have remained the strong favorites throughout the award season.

Although there will always be surprises and upsets, a plethora of factors can be taken into consideration so that one can better weigh the chances of nominees on Oscar night. Anticipating these results is difficult—the Academy is a body made up of thousands of people whose opinions cannot be predicated— however, by looking at other award shows and patterns from past years, you can figure out the chances of your favorite flick taking home the golden statuette on February 26th.