The 91st Academy Awards are this Sunday, which means it’s time to lay down some predictions. Each awards season brings with it numerous awards such as the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) Awards, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards. Additionally, information unique to each nominee is available such as box office take, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores, and release date relative to a year’s given award show. Data was gathered on winners and nominees from the last 30 years, and we developed predictive models for win probability for each category based on how these films performed at the Oscars. Looking at the output for each model, we can identify the front-runners, get a sense for the closeness of each race, and recognize the magnitude of an upset should an underdog win.
It is also worth noting that the Academy has been aggressively adding members over the last few years to increase diversity amongst the voting body. Therefore, it is entirely possible that old trends discovered in the data no longer apply. Even if this is not true, objective information is still being used to predict a subjective outcome. There are a number of reasons these models might fail, but that’s enough caveating. The models improve each year and were 100% accurate last year. Let’s look at some of this year’s predictions.
Roma has the potential to be Netflix’s first win for the top prize in film. While it may look like Roma is far ahead of the pack with 19.24% chance of winning compared to a host of 11% films, this isn’t a large enough margin to call it a lock. The previous two years were similarly competitive. Last year the award went to the front-runner (The Shape of Water at 15.3%) and the year before that it went to the underdog (Moonlight 10.3%). This race could be summed up as Roma versus everything else.
The best director award is Alfonso Cuarón’s to lose after having won the equivalent prizes at the Director’s Guild awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAS, and Critics’ Choice awards. Spike Lee has upset potential with a lengthy career and several nominations, but likely not enough to overcome the gap.
Rami Malek has had a similar path to the Oscars winning the majority of Best Actor awards and is the clear favorite. His probability of winning lowers because of his lower-rated film and shorter career. It is not impossible for his lead to be overtaken, but it is a very comfortable lead.
Glenn Close likely won the Oscar for Best Actress after her Golden Globe speech. The narrative forming around this category seems to be as a sort of lifetime achievement award for her. It would be fairly surprising to not see her walk away with the Oscar that night. Though, an Olivia Colman win would be well-deserved.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali has no reason to lose this award. He has won at seemingly every other award show, he’s a previous Oscar winner, and Sam Elliott and Richard E. Grant are likely splitting a lifetime achievement vote. This one should be a lock.
Best Supporting Actress
This is an extremely close race. There is no clear front-runner and a strong narrative for each of these nominees to win. Perhaps it makes the most sense to put your chips on Regina King who was not nominated (read: snubbed) at the SAG awards and a win there would have put her in the lead here.
Best Animated Feature
Spider-Man has the type of win probability that Pixar movies typically have in this category. The best part is that it is competing against a Pixar movie in Incredibles 2. How cool would it be for a win here?