Oscar predictions by statistics guru Nate Silver

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Nate Silver is a Geek God. He started out as a baseball statistics fanatic, then became a political polling fanatic, and now, just for fun, he’s handicapping the Oscars. And his predictions are interesting! And Nate is usually right, so you should pay attention – during the campaign, Nate Silver was right about how 49 out of the 50 states would go. He was also the statistician/blogger/poll watcher who predicted most accurately the actual popular vote/electoral college vote in the general election.

Just for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just give you the basics. Slumdog Millionaire and Danny Boyle are a lock to win Best Picture and Best Director at 99%. Heath Ledger leads in the Best Supporting category with 85%. Kate Winslet wins over Meryl Streep with 67%, and Mickey Rourke beats Sean Penn with a 71% chance. The biggest gamble (according to Silver, who appeared on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” last night) is Best Supporting Actress – Silver gives it to Taraji Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I don’t agree with this (even though I would like to see Taraji or Viola Davis win) – I think Penelope Cruz will get it. Here are the breakdowns from Nate:

Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger………………………85.8%
Josh Brolin……………………………5.0%
Philip Seymour Hoffman……..4.4%
Michael Shannon………………….3.6%
Robert Downey Jr. …………………1.2%

Supporting Actress *
Taraji P. Henson…………………..51.0%
Penélope Cruz……………………..24.6%
Viola Davis…………………………..11.6%
Amy Adams………………………….11.6%
Marisa Tomei………………………..1.2%

*Most of the major awards in the Supporting Actress category have been won by Kate Winslet for The Reader—a role the Academy misguidedly considers a lead. That’s nice for Winslet, not so nice for our computer. Penélope Cruz, who won the BAFTA for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, would seem the logical default. But computer sez: Benjamin Button’s Taraji P. Henson! Button, which looks like a shutout everywhere else, is the only Best Picture nominee with a Supporting Actress nod, and Best Pic nominees tend to have an edge in the other categories.

Lead Actor
Mickey Rourke…………………….71.1%
Sean Penn……………………………19.0%
Brad Pitt……………………………….5.9%
Frank Langella……………………..3.4%
Richard Jenkins……………………0.5%

Lead Actress *
Kate Winslet………………………..67.6%
Meryl Streep………………………..32.4%
Anne Hathaway……………………0.0%
Melissa Leo…………………………..0.0%
Angelina Jolie ………………………0.0%

*While Streep has won both the SAG Award and the Critics’ Choice for Doubt, Winslet has amassed even more hardware for The Reader (albeit as Supporting Actress—Silver resolved this dilemma by giving Winslet half-credit for awards she won as a Supporting Actress). Equally important: Winslet is due. She’s sitting on her sixth nod without a win, while Streep has won both Best Actress (Sophie’s Choice) and Best Supporting Actress (Kramer vs. Kramer). One thing’s for sure: Anne Hathaway’s going home empty-handed.

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire……………………………99.7%
Gus Van Sant, Milk……………….0.1%
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button………………0.1%
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon……0.0%
Stephen Daldry, The Reader..0.0%

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire…………..99.0%
Milk…………………………………………1.0%
Frost/Nixon……………………………..0.0%
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…………………..0.0%
The Reader…………………………….0.0%

From New York Magazine

When Silver appeared on “Countdown” last night, he said the biggest gamble he made was on Best Supporting Actress. That’s the one category he’s really not sure about. It would be really surprising, awesome and heartwarming if Taraji Henson won, because she hasn’t won any of the critics or industry awards. I tend to think the Best Actress race is a lot tighter as well – but the backlash against Kate Winslet might have started too late to make a difference.

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7 Responses to “Oscar predictions by statistics guru Nate Silver”

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  1. Mairead says:

    Interesting – I got to see Frost-Nixon the other day and both it and Langella in particular were excellent. I’m not usually a fan of Ron Howard, but I thought the pace, acting and dialogue was spot-on and almost European in feel. I found it very informative (as a compressed and fictionalsied version of reality of course) on both Nixon and Frost in particular.

    Taraji’s performance in Benjamin Button was great, but I always feel apprehensive about an actor getting a gong on their first really big production.

    I’ve not managed to see Vicki Christina Barcelona yet, but if Penelope’s performance was anything like “Volver” (which she should have won, with respect to Helen Mirren and it’s Almodovar’s best yet) – I’d love to see her get it.

  2. Kaiser says:

    Mairead – I rented Vicky Cristina over the weekend, and I really loved it. Pene is really good (as is Javier) and I think she has a real shot at it.

  3. Mrs.Darcy says:

    hm. I don’t get where his statistics are accounting for the Academy’s various whims, they are not a public vote – yes, there are rarely upsets but is he merely public polling? Even if his results are correct it seems unlikely that the Best Actor and Actress are that much of a given?

  4. Jane says:

    Sean Penn has that low a chance? I don’t think so.

  5. scooter says:

    I want Mickey to win…he’s earned it and deserves it.

  6. Brandy says:

    What’s up with the round mounds of flesh on Mickey’s face? Sure that’s a side effect of his horrendous plastic surgery, no? Odd…

  7. Sara says:

    are you predicting for 2010?