How To Predict Best Picture Oscar Winners

How can we predict Oscar winners? I bet it's worth more than a little pocket change to some of you on Oscar night. To predict successfully, you must banish personal sentiment and preference for certain contenders, approaching the field dispassionately.

Oscar winners aren't chosen by the general public, but rather by a 6,000-plus group of show-business professionals (mainly from the United States, though a relative few hail from elsewhere). These professionals belong to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy is an elite club of sorts - you have to be invited in order to seek membership, and the membership effort is competitive. As for the official members, their identities are confidential......

Thankfully, you don't need to know who they are in order to predict what picture they'll choose as this year's Oscar winner. Here are some good guidelines.

  1. The director. Oscars for director and picture usually go hand-in-hand. Only a handful of Oscar winners have won Best Picture without their respective directors taking home the prize as well. But how can we predict the Oscar winner for Best Director?

That's where the Director's Guild Awards enter our consideration. These awards are always given prior to the Academy Awards, and of the past 57 winners of the Director's Guild Award, only six haven't proceeded to win the Oscar that year as well. If you pay attention to the Director's Guild winner for Best Director, the odds are that his or her picture will be the Oscar winner, though nothing is certain.

  • The number of other nominations. Statistically, the Oscar winner for Best Picture usually has a greater assortment of nominations than its competitors.
  • Golden Globes. While there are exceptions to the rule, generally the Academy likes to reward a 'seeeriooous' movie. A golden Globe winner for Best Musical/Comedy only wins an Oscar about one-fifth of the time. So if the winner of Best Musical/Comedy from the Globes becomes a contender for the Oscar, your odds are better if you predict an Oscar winner from the Drama portion of contenders.

    However, it's difficult to predict an Oscar winner based on which picture wins the Golden Globe for Best Drama, since only about half of Golden Globe drama winners take home an Oscar. But in the years when neither Golden Globe winner (Drama or Musical/Comedy) has won the Oscar, the vast majority of winners have been other dramatic pictures.

  • Money-maker vs. art. It's a false dichotomy in a lot of ways, but still pervades the thinking of most Americans. When a "Titanic" wins Best Picture, many Oscar viewers are thrilled, yet many still accept the pundits' spin that the Academy chose the big money-maker instead of a lesser known, and more artistically rewarding, film. They picked a "movie" instead of a "film," in other words.

    As I said before, a false dichotomy - plenty of blockbuster movies reach intense artistic heights, while the obscurity of some low-budget movies is a credit to the good judgment of the movie-going public. Many believe that there is an oscillation between choosing an art-house film one year and a crowd-pleaser the next. The theory is that the Academy is trying to satisfy their desire for good ratings, while also reassuring themselves (and the public) that the Academy Awards are more artistically relevant than a popularity contest. While the theory might hold water, the oscillation frequency is hard to predict. It's far safer to predict Oscar winners based upon the aforementioned criteria (director, sheer number of nominations, and Golden Globes) than it is to form your prediction around box office numbers.

  • Good luck predicting Oscar winners this year! Check out our other article for tips on how to plan a great Oscar party.


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