Oscar predictions from Nate Silver

Nate Silver, the political prognosticator, the man who kept liberals from jumping off a cliff all throughout election season 2008 with his site Fivethirtyeight.com, has turned his analytical predictions to Hollywood.


He breaks down the percentages and guesses who’s taking home Oscar gold next Sunday (February 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC).

Formally speaking, this required the use of statistical software and a process called logistic regression. Informally, it involved building a huge database of the past 30 years of Oscar history. Categories included genre, MPAA classification, the release date, opening-weekend box office (adjusted for inflation), and whether the film won any other awards. We also looked at whether being nominated in one category predicts success in another. For example, is someone more likely to win Best Actress if her film has also been nominated for Best Picture? (Yes!) But the greatest predictor (80 percent of what you need to know) is other awards earned that year, particularly from peers (the Directors Guild Awards, for instance, reliably foretells Best Picture). Genre matters a lot (the Academy has an aversion to comedy); MPAA and release date don’t at all. A film’s average user rating on IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) is sometimes a predictor of success; box grosses rarely are. And, as in Washington, politics matter, in ways foreseeable and not.

So who does Silver like?  Glad you asked.

He calculates the overwhelming odds that Slumdog and Danny Boyle will take Best Picture and Best Director, respectively.  Mickey Rourke for Best Actor, Kate Winslet for Best Actress, Heath Ledger for Supporting Actor and suprise, Taraji P. Henson for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as Queenie in Benjamin Button.

And since Nate Silver is god when it comes to predictions, we can now avoid the Hollywood circle jerk next Sunday.

jackmanQuick Update: The changes made to the Oscar ceremony this year have us intrigued enough to tune in.  From what we’ve been hearing/reading it’s going to be very different.

We’re not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the ceremony having Hugh Jackman as the host and produced by Billy Condon and Laurence Mark, seems like it’s either going to be a successful reinvention or crash and burn.

Jackman certainly has that star magnetism and theatrical chops to make this happen. Jackman gives a hint as to what viewers can expect.

Obviously I’m not a standup comedian and generally there’s been comedians who are actors as well (who) have been doing it for the last however many years. So there’s not the same pressure. I don’t think people expect me to come out and do seven minutes of bang-bang-bang jokes. … They really just encourage me to do what I feel I do best. It’s a night to have a feeling of celebration, of community.

The look of the theater is very different. It’s more like the nightclub of your dreams. It’s very intimate. … It’s got to be a lot closer. It’s been a little austere in the past. You know, there’s that stage, the host being up above the stalls, looking down at everybody. … But this is a lot more intimate. It’s still spectacular, being in the Kodak Theatre. But it’s a real difference in the way things are laid out.

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