Numlock Awards: Predicting the 2020 Oscars

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.

Today I’m going through the model, the updated weights as a result of last year’s awards, and a little bit about where the state of the race sits right now.

It’s an understatement to call this week pivotal: Sure, the Golden Globes are tonight, and those can be useful to suss out who’s got an advantage in some of the acting categories. But the real thing to look out for is this Tuesday. That’s when the BAFTA, Directors Guild, and Producers Guild announce their nominees. And for films and directors, getting a nomination for a PGA or DGA is vastly more significant than winning a Golden Globe, based on historical predictiveness.

What my model does is pretty simple. All it looks at is the success of precursor awards in predicting the Oscar winner over the past 20 years. It’s just a weighted average, where the past five years are worth three times as much and years 6 through 10 are weighted twice as much. That’s because I want this to adapt quickly to changes in the Academy. That average is then squared, and multiplied by 100, and then if it’s a guild award its score is doubled. Nominees get a fifth of that number, winners get all the points. Here’s the spreadsheet so you can see the basic scoring here.

Let’s go category by category to talk about what we’re looking out for and what the state of the race is.

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Best Actress

  • The major precursors for Best Actress are the SAG Award (worth 110 points), BAFTA (59 points), the Golden Globe for drama (43 points), the Critics’ Choice (24 points), and the Golden Globe for comedy (8 points). The most-predictive local or regional critics’ prizes — Southeast, St. Louis, Las Vegas, New York Online, and Florida — split 33 points between themselves.

  • With just nominations and critic prizes in, Renée Zellweger (Judy, 50 points) and Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, 49 points) are looking great.

  • Other strong contenders included Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), and Lupita Nyong’o (Us). Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) and Awkwafina (The Farewell) are in the mix as well.

Best Picture

  • Lots to cover here. There are several guilds: the Producers Guild Award (102 points), Directors Guild Award (79 points), Screen Actors Guild Award (42 points), and BAFTA (59 points) are the most consequential by far. Also counted are the Writers Guild awards for adapted (6 points) and original (16 points) screenplay, the American Cinema Editors awards for comedy (1 point) and drama (10 points), and the American Society of Cinematographers (4 points).

  • Then, the critics, though they’re less useful than a few years ago. We have the Golden Globe for drama (12 points) and for comedy (3 points) and the Critics’ Choice (29 points). The most-predictive local or regional critics’ prizes — Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Online Film Critics — split 21 points among themselves.

  • That’s just 18 percent of the reservoir of points coming from critics’ groups

  • This is still a pretty wide-open category, but this Tuesday — when the BAFTAs, DGA and PGA unveil the nominees — we’ll have considerably more clarity.

  • Tonight, the Golden Globes are legitimately meaningless. The only thing that would be truly remarkable is if a film like 1917 or The Two Popes wins for drama, as those have gotten a little less love than some of their competition from the likes of SAG and the Critics’ Choice, and a win would keep them in the race in a major way.

Best Actor

  • The major precursors to Best Actor are the SAG Awards (worth 128 points), BAFTA (59 points), the Golden Globe for drama (60 points), and the Critics’ Choice (26 points). I technically must include it, but I refuse to describe the Golden Globe for comedy (0.7 points) as “major.” The most-predictive local or regional critics’ prizes — St. Louis, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, New York Online, and Washington — split 43 points among themselves.

  • Adam Driver (Marriage Story, 60 points) has been having an excellent season so far, as has Joaquin Phoenix (Joker, 52 points). There’s a bunch of folks gunning for a nomination here: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood), and Taron Egerton (Rocketman) all got the SAG nomination, while Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) got enough love from critics to keep an eye on.

Best Director

  • The major precursor to Best Director is the the DGA award (worth 157 points). That’s half the available points, and is functionally a coronation.

  • Everything else is fairly ancillary: BAFTA (72 points), the Golden Globe (33 points), the Critics’ Choice (40 points). The most-predictive local or regional critics’ prizes — St. Louis, Dallas-Ft. Worth, North Texas, Las Vegas, Phoenix — split 36 points among themselves.

  • This is a wide-open race. Sam Mendes (1917) has been doing really well among critics, as has Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood).

  • But again, this race is still completely open and I have a sense it’s going to be really competitive this year. Last year, critics formed an orderly queue to hand Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) awards. This year, they’re all over the map.

Best Supporting Actress

  • The four major precursors to Best Supporting Actress are the SAG Awards (worth 128 points), BAFTA (79 points), the Golden Globes (51 points) and the Critics’ Choice (47 points). The most-predictive local or regional critics’ prizes — New York, Washington, St. Louis, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin and Iowa — split 49 points among themselves.

  • Laura Dern (Marriage Story, 70 points) has been cleaning up, and the Globe is actually pretty consequential for this category so I’ll be watching eagerly tonight.

  • The caveat is that SAG nominees Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit) and Nicole Kidman (Bombshell) are not competing tonight so it won’t be a full testing of the field. A Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers) win tonight would make her a thorough frontrunner.

Best Supporting Actor

  • The four major precursors to Best Supporting Actor are the SAG Awards (worth 102 points), BAFTA (79 points), the Golden Globes (51 points) and the Critics’ Choice (55 points). The most-predictive local or regional critics’ prizes — North Texas, Austin, Dallas-Ft. Worth, St. Louis and Washington — split 51 points among themselves.

  • Al Pacino (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood), Joe Pesci (The Irishman) and Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) were all each nominated for the Globe, the Critics’ Choice and SAG, though Pitt’s been picking up the most critics’ awards.

  • It’s looking like Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes) and Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy) are the two vying for that fifth slot.

  • The Globes are actually pretty decent at picking this category, so I’ll also be anticipating this award tonight.

Enjoy the sloppy, televised paperweight allocation tonight!