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How Often Do the Early Favorites Win Best Picture? –

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Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical The Fabelmans is the first favorite to win the Oscar for best picture. Or maybe it’s Babylon. EITHER The Banshees of Inisherineither Everything everywhere at onceeither Tareither Top Gun: Maverick. For now, it depends on which expert you ask.

We’re just days away from what some consider to be the real start of Oscar season, when critical groups begin to make their voices heard. And with those lists of nominees will come another “first favorite,” perhaps one of the movies mentioned above. But how much should we trust that the first favorite is in fact the Favourite?

To answer this question, I jotted down the winners from eight major review groups dating back to at least 1990, giving us 32 years of data to work with. It turns out that those eight—the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics, and the critic circles of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Kansas City, and London—have a spotty record.

Of the 32 best picture winners in that span, only 11 were “early favorites,” which I define as the film that won a plurality of those eight honors: The silence of the lambs, unforgivable, schindler’s list, American Beauty, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, No country for old men, the wounded locker, The artist, 12 years a slave, Parasite Y land of nomads. The account goes up to 13 if we include the ties: millionaire Y wall-e won three each, just like the forever link Moonlight Y the the earth.

To complicate matters, the early favorite is often far from unanimous. Only schindler’s list Y The social network swept all eight of these critic groups, with the last one still losing to The king’s speech a couple of months later. In three years, 1996, 2000 and 2017, the top eight awards were split between six different films. Yet somehow, not a single one of them won the Academy Award, because The English Patient, Gladiator Y the shape of water all were excluded from those critical groups.

And they’re not the only movies that scored 0 out of 8 early on, but gained late momentum to win the Oscar: Brave Heart, shakespeare in love, An amazing mind, chicago, Argo Y coda he also had to endure eight consecutive failures from the December competitions just to come out on top.

On the back, three films: Mulholland Drive, About Schmidt Y United 93 — all were considered early favorites based on this methodology, but didn’t even earn a best picture nomination, an unfortunate phenomenon that’s less likely to happen now that the Academy has doubled the size of its top category.

There seems to be some correlation between how well a movie does between these critical honors and its eventual Oscar fate, even if it’s a scattered film. The graph to the left, looking at the past two decades, shows that while many Best Picture winners earn critical honors throughout the campaign, there remain a handful of films that manage to carve their own path to the top. Academy Award Major.

These days, we have even more data to point to an early favorite, as the number of December awards has grown substantially since 1990, with critic groups forming in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Dallas, among other cities. But at least from this data set, the mid-December favorite has a slightly better than 1 in 3 chance of finally raising the final statue, giving the Oscars race plenty of time to offer twists and turns. during January, February and March. .

Ben Zauzmer is the author of Oscarmetrics: The Math Behind Hollywood’s Biggest Night.

This story first appeared in the November 21 issue of magazine. Click here for subscribe.



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