Ever since the fluid dried up in my Magic Eight Ball I’ve
been at a loss trying to come up with a formula to avoid total humiliation when
I have to make my annual Oscar predictions. Make-up use? Facile parallels to
political developments? Boring interns to death compiling Oscar statistics over
the past decade and comparing them to Golden Globes results and sunspot
activity? At best I get maybe 2/3rds right, probably slightly better than
totally random selections.
Enter Nate Silver, the statistician who had uncanny success
predicting election results on the fivethirtyeight.com
Presidential election blog
As he explains in “New York” magazine, his
method is called “...logistic regression. Informally, it involved building a
huge database of the past 30 years of Oscar history. Categories included genre,
MPAA classification, the release date, opening-weekend box office (adjusted for
inflation), and whether the film won any other awards. We also looked at
whether being nominated in one category predicts success in another.”
Well, bad news for me if he’s right — another four out of six
with wrong picks in the tricky Best Supporting Actor category and in Best Actor, with dark horse,
dog mourner Mickey Rourke walloping favorite Sean Penn big time.
However, if this supposed leak of
the final results has any credibility, we’re both looking bad. Amy Adams for
Best Supporting Actress? The Marisa Tomei of 2009.
At this point you are probably saying: enough. That’s what former
“Variety” correspondent Lisa Nesselson says in a dispatch from Paris
to “The Huffington Post,” in which she points out the Gallic disdain for
“awards seasons” and concludes, basically, that “trop est la trop.”
Concurring with her
is “Slate” blogger Timothy Noah, who in a column titled “Kill the Carpetbagger” takes to task the "New York
Times" Oscar correspondent David Carr and points out how the paper of record has
devoted more coverage to the Oscars than just about anything that is
genuinely newsworthy: “A Nexis
database search turns up, in the ‘New York Times’,” he writes, “251 mentions of the phrase Academy Awards or
the word Oscars since Jan. 1. That's more mentions in the ‘Times’ than for the
words Pakistan (186), Geithner (169), foreclosure (142), or Blagojevich (66).”
And perhaps, more tellingly, people who go to the movies don’t seem to give a shit about the Oscars anymore, either.
As pointed out in the “L.A. Times,” although the box office of late has
been record breaking, it’s all going to the likes of “Friday the 13th.” This
year there’s no “Oscar bounce” for any of those films nominated.
a-wasting on getting those predictions for 2009 ready.Frontrunners so far
are James Cameron’s “Avatar,” Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” and Clint
Eastwood’s “The Human Factor.” Interplanetary warfare, life after death, Nelson
Mandela. There must be a pattern developing here somewhere. If only I had that
Magic 8 Ball.