Numlock Awards: What the model says going into nominations, and what it doesn't say
Numlock Awards is your one-stop awards season newsletter. 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.
The model is back!
Just wanted to drop in what it’s saying now, not because it’s designed to predict nominations — it’s not — but because it’s a good way to suss out the snubs and surprises ahead of the announcements tomorrow. This model is geared to predict winners, and it’s pretty good at that, especially in actors and directors.
It’s important to have that clarity. Just because a model is optimized to measure one thing doesn’t mean it’s optimized to measure things that seem similar but are actually rather different. There’s a ton of noise in the nominations for the biggies that makes it so that these probably aren’t the best indicators of who’s definitely bagging a nom. Beyond the standard idiosyncrasies of certain precursors — the Globes are more populist than the Academy, the BAFTAs inherently more British, and so on — there’s specific reasons why the data we collect isn’t especially useful for nominations.
The BAFTAs have some of their nominees selected by the traditional vote from the membership (which is what we care about, because the hope is that membership resembles the Academy voter base) and some nominees selected by a jury (which we don’t particularly care about for our purposes, because there’s no guarantee that jury resembles the Academy voter base.)
The BAFTAs are really good at predicting actor winners, and are actually getting better. Here’s how the weighting for them has changed over the past several years within the model:
But just because they’re better at nailing the eventual winner doesn’t mean that they’re good at predicting nominees, because of that jury selection system. And it’s also worth noting that just because they’re great at actors and directors, the track record on Best Picture has collapsed over the past five years. They’ve lost the pulse when it comes to what pops at Best Picture.
This is an important component of the model we run here. Lots of Oscars coverage is reputation based. This is good: the very fundamental concept of the model is weighting the reputation of precursors. But the thing is that here, those reputations can change. We have no gold standards here, just precursors that are doing a pretty good job lately. And the whole fun of it is figuring out if we can update those ratings faster than the Academy itself is changing. We’ll have a lot more on that soon, but increasingly my answer is yes, because the Academy isn’t changing anywhere near as quickly as it once did.
It’s going to be an exciting year. Last year was highly encouraging after the model weighted CODA very highly despite most of the historical indicators going for Power of the Dog.
Heading into nominations, here’s what we’re looking at. The local critic scoring has been left off to keep things clear.
This category is going to be our marquee one this cycle. I was at first surprised when Michael yesterday predicted that Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans) might miss out given my impression of that campaign, but yeah wow from the looks of it it would be downright unsurprising if she ended up on the outside looking in.
Another excellent category. This is one of the ones where the Golden Globes has some mojo, and we’ve got ourselves a race. The core four appear to be clear — Butler, Fraser, Nighy, and Farrell — so who gets that fifth spot will be pretty interesting to see, as the precursors are utterly split.
Best Supporting Actress
Barring a shakeup, the Supporting categories seem a bit clear in terms of frontrunners, but honestly outside of the three who have secured nominations at each of the big four precursors the supporting actress category could really go anywhere in terms of who gets those cusp nominations.
Best Supporting Actor
This category also seems to have a very core three, but Redmayne and Dano seem to be teed up to round out the category. That said, even for Redmayne, I’m not entirely sure how much I buy those BAFTA nominations as predictive of Oscar nominations.
Who the hell knows? The highly predictive PGA did their classic move of “put a chip on every single spot on the roulette table,” the Critics’ Choice awards pretty much did the same. The DGA, SAG and BAFTA did a pretty decent job of spreading out some love this year.
Just six movies appeared in three or more serious categories with some solid points to go around, so there’s four spots to go to some movies that are unlikely wins but truly Honored To Be Nominated.
Finishing on this one because it’s a great and extremely competitive category!
This one is the DGA’s coronation, but giving the nod to seven directors means that someone has got to be the odd men out here.
Weirdly, all the people on the outside of the DGA looking in all have a plausible case for why the Academy might give them the nod: Baz Luhrmann directed the current frontrunner in Best Actor and Gina Price-Bythewood directed a major Best Actress contender, Damien Chazelle has a great reputation on the awards circuit, S.S. Rajamouli is one of the breakout stars of the season so far and people who have bet against James Cameron have had a rather bad couple months. I can see noms all over the board here for a lot of very fun movies with exciting direction, even if the eventual winner is a boring DGA coronation.
Enjoy the nominations!