Numlock Awards: Damn It Feels Good To Be A BAFTA

Live from Wales, it's Anthony Hopkins.

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.

Well, that was something.

Very very quick one today. First things first: last year the wrap-up mailbag was super fun! We’re doing a mailbag again this year and would love to answer your questions. Just reply to this email or shoot us a message at and we’ll tackle it.

Second, wanted to follow up on a thing I alluded to in the last pre-Oscars email that, given how the night turned out (5 out of 6, nailed a hard Best Actress category, solid year!), turned out to be worth diving into. Here’s what I wrote:

A topic I didn’t really get to explore this year is BAFTA and how they’ve been getting very good lately in the acting categories. The reason is I don’t really have evidence for one of the many theories I have as to why: Is it that BAFTA is getting less British-focused? Is it that the Academy, with a global expansion, is looking more BAFTA-like? Is it just a string of good luck? If McDormand (or Hopkins, for that matter) pulls it off, I’ll be all over this next year.

Well, both McDormand and Hopkins did indeed pull it off! The Ho-mentum was real. My personal doubt of my own instruments was unfounded, and damn the BAFTAs are getting good at this.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about how the different precursor awards were trending in reliability. The entire point of the model I run is that precursor awards should be assigned a weight given how well they do, and that weight should evolve rapidly given the rapid evolution of the Academy as a whole. In that post, I looked at it category by category.

To finish out this season, I updated the numbers for this season, and now I want to show you it not by category but rather by precursor for the biggest acting prizes. What this shows is the average predictability of each precursor award’s ability to forecast the Oscars, with recent performance weighted higher per the model:

This, to me, is really really cool. Look at how good the BAFTAs are at calling the individual awards! Over the course of a decade, the BAFTA has gotten better and better at predicting the Oscar winner in every single individual category by double-digit margins. The exception is in Best Picture, which has seen its predictability in general freefall since the early 2010s.

SAG is also not too shabby; yes, they had a bit of a down year in Best Actor and Best Actress, but have held steady overall so don’t lose faith in them. In Best Picture, they too remain a coin flip, but at least nothing’s really changed. There was a period of time in the mid-2010s where it was a serious consideration that SAG may be getting better at predicting Best Picture; this was a bit of illusory, small-sample size data.

Like I mentioned pre-Oscars, one reason I didn’t write about the BAFTAs before the Oscars was I hadn’t yet decided on a working theory as to why they’re getting better. For me the jury is still out, but I’m open to ideas. As for why Best Picture is getting worse, well, I think things are working exactly as the Academy wants them to.

I have more on all this, but let’s save it for the mailbag! Reply to this email or email to get in touch.

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