You don’t have to be a genius to accurately predict the Oscars — but it probably can’t hurt. Nate Silver, the sports and political statistical soothsayer who correctly predicted all 50 states’ results in the most recent presidential election, has filled out his office pool for Sunday’s Oscars based on the numbers. His only problem: those elusive numbers, which aren’t as solid as a political junkie might be used to. “You can’t claim to have a data-driven prediction when you don’t have any data,” he admits on his New York Times FiveThirtyEight Blog. “There is [no] magic formula for this.”
Instead, Silver digs into the history of the pre-Oscar awards and their respective track records for predicting the big winners. Kudos, Directors Guild (80 percent success rate). Why bother, L.A. Film Critics Association (12 percent)? Crunching the data, dividing by the Life of Pi, and multiplying by the number of electoral votes from the home state of each film’s dolly grip, Silver ultimately produces results that… well, likely resemble your own. Argo, Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway are practically sure-things, duh, while Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence, says Silver), Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), and Best Director (Steven Spielberg) remain toss-ups.
Of course, this being Silver, his analysis is peppered with some unique political metaphors that aren’t normally heard on the red carpet. “Counting on a comeback [for Lincoln in the Best Picture race],” he wrote, “would be a bit like expecting Rudolph W. Giuliani to have resurrected his campaign in Florida in 2008 after finishing in sixth place everywhere else.”
Zing! I can hear the orange juice coming out of Chuck Todd’s nose after he read that one!
Bottom line, Silver’s genius is wasted on the Oscars, whose democratic process has long been somewhat suspect in part because its voting membership is not made completely public. I’m just saying. But it’s nice to know that Silver is as passionate about the Oscars as we are. Just because he picked the favorites, though, there’s no reason for Denzel Washington and Jackie Weaver to give up hope: Silver also liked San Francisco to win the Super Bowl.
In related news, Karl Rove still has not officially announced all of his own Oscar picks, though he insists Ben Affleck will win for Best Director.