Numlock Awards: Final Oscar model predictions for 2023
Every major category, every tight race, all at once.
Numlock Awards is your one-stop awards season newsletter, and it’s back! Every week, join Walt Hickey and Michael Domanico as they break down the math behind the Oscars and the best narratives going into film’s biggest night. Today’s edition comes from Walter.
Before I get into the forecast data this year, I do want to re-up a chart from a story I wrote a few weeks ago, "When can we feel cocky about predicting Best Picture again?"
In that story I calculated the percentage of the Academy that had been in the organization longer than five years over the course of the past couple decades. The point was to demonstrate that the rapid expansion of the Academy is decelerating, and year by year our understanding of the preferences of this organization is going to improve.
The point was that the worst is probably over when it comes to the enigmatic preferences of the Academy but it's still a very challenging time.
I would say that Best Picture is not in a whole lot of doubt — more on that in a bit — but the acting races this year are going to be a real challenge, in no small part because we're still evolving our understanding over how we should evaluate the acting precursors as the organization begins to level off around 10,000 members.
On a modeling level, I like this a lot, because the data that we get this year will make next year's model better, and I think that's good.
On a personal level I love it, because this Oscars is going to be exciting as hell, dammit.
Best Supporting Actor
The only real slam dunk in the acting prizes.
The model exists because in lieu of being able to poll the Academy voters, we can look at other groups of people that resemble Academy voters, like SAG voters and BAFTA voters and the critics’ groups that watch all the same movies.
We can assign a score to these groups based on how good they are, historically, at resembling the Academy in a few given categories. You can always see the data for yourself whenever you want, lots of models are black boxes but the whole fun of this is being extremely open about what we’re doing here.
Then we add up those scores for contenders who win them.
Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All At Once) won among the Screen Actors, and the Critics’ Choice, and the Golden Globes, and all the local critics’ groups that most resemble Academy preferences on this category. He lost only at the BAFTAs, where Barry Keoghan won.
Best Supporting Actress
Utter lack of agreement between our precursor prizes here, so our only refuge is to stand by our scoring. The SAG Award has been a slightly better predictor of Best Supporting Actress than the BAFTA, and awards from guilds and professional groups are inherently more valuable information than the awards from the critics of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Critics’ Choice Association.
As a result, we must give Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All At Once) the edge here, but this category is obviously very winnable by any of those top three contenders.
Here we find ourselves in a similar situation as in Best Supporting Actress, but with a hair more uncertainty. Essentially, the BAFTAs are only a smidge better than SAG at predicting this award. The tiebreaker here is that Austin Butler (Elvis) won a Golden Globe and Brendan Fraser (The Whale) won a Critics’ Choice Award, and the Globe is better at this historically.
I concede there is reason to doubt the predictive power of the Globe this year, however: Fraser accused a former president of the organization of assault and groping him in 2003, and understandably boycotted the ceremony this year. We put a lot of value on an award the guy pretty much rejected.
The model gives Butler the edge. If we're wrong, I think Fraser's particular relationship with the Globes may have had something to do with the Academy and Globes diverging.
The showstopper category this year. Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once) versus Cate Blanchett (Tár). Blanchett won at BAFTA, which is remarkably good at predicting Best Actress, and Yeoh won at SAG, which is less good. Blanchett won the Drama Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice, too. The model gives Blanchett the lead.
I am absolutely sympathetic to the arguments that Yeoh has an edge. She's the main character of the movie that is probably going to win Best Picture. That momentum has got to mean something, right?
To that I just want to remind people that BAFTA is rather good here for a reason. I can recall another campaign that seemed a lock but lost at BAFTA despite otherwise appearing to sweep. Then, BAFTA winner Anthony Hopkins beat the late Chadwick Boseman in an end-of-night Oscars shock.
BAFTAs are good at this, momentum is definitely a thing but you should sleep on BAFTA at your peril.
Duo Daniels (Everything Everywhere All At Once) won their coronation at DGA, so they're the favorite by default. Add on a Critics’ Choice win and a BAFTA that went to someone outside the category. Plus, the argument for closest competitor Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans) is predicated on just a Golden Globe, meaning the Daniels have a clear edge.
This really, really seems done. If Everything Everywhere All At Once loses it'll be the biggest upset in decades.
James England’s model is one I personally check every year because I love his great track record on Best Picture and the way his simulation captures the idiosyncrasies of ranked-choice voting. Vote if you want to, check out his final model run sometime tomorrow.
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