Best Picture showdown: Do the stats really favor ‘La La Land’ to win at 2017 Oscars?

With “La La Land” clearly out front to win Best Picture according to our current racetrack odds at Gold Derby, I started wondering if there was any remote chance it could be vulnerable for an upset. Many of our own experts, editors and readers have already made their predictions this year based on certain precursor awards (or just their own personal feelings), but I thought it would be fun to dive into the numbers a bit deeper. Going into full data junkie mode, I put on my sleuthing cap to find the potential upset that nobody but I would see coming.

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To come to my conclusions, I compiled data over the last 20 years of Oscar history from some of the best precursor awards in each category. While some of the data proved a bit obvious, other statistics could change how I view this race for years to come.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic is that all 20 of the Best Picture winners since 1996 (100%) have had their respective director nominated at the Directors Guild of America Awards. This is devastating news for “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water” and “Hidden Figures.” With 15 of the last 20 DGA winners (75%) going on to take Best Picture, “La La Land” was the recipient of a major boost from Damien Chazelle’s recent victory there.

The only red mark on the “La La Land” report card was a quite significant. For the past 20 years, every Best Picture winner has been nominated for Best Film Ensemble at the SAG Awards. You have to go back to “Braveheart” in 1995 to find the last time a film was ignored by SAG, yet went on to win the top Oscar. The snub of “La La Land” here would prove unsettling if it wasn’t so strong everywhere else. The film that received the biggest bump from SAG was “Hidden Figures,” which won the ensemble acting award. Eleven of the last 20 films (55%) that have won the best ensemble prize at SAG have also won Best Picture at the Oscars.

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What came as another shocker was my discovery that 18 out of 20 (90%) of all Best Picture winners in recent history have been at least nominated in the same category at BAFTA. While I certainly knew that BAFTA provided some insight to Oscar night, considering certain members of BAFTA cross over into the academy, this particular statistic was eye-opening. Here we see “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures” and “Lion” take a major hit. Interestingly, it makes very little difference in this category if you actually win BAFTA; it is the nomination that is key.

The next best viable statistic in making your predictions in this category is the Producers Guild of America Awards. The winning film here has a gone on to win Best Picture 14 of the last 20 years (70%). Once again, “La La Land” reaps the rewards on a nearly unstoppable path to victory. The other films can all rest easy that they were at least nominated here, as a snub would have made it virtually impossible to win the Oscar.

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The next area I pulled numbers from was the Critics’ Choice Awards. Although they aren’t industry-voted like the guilds, they have a pretty decent track record when it comes to predicting Best Picture. Twelve of the last 20 winners (60%) took home the Oscar, which is more good news for “La La Land.” Another seven of the most recent Oscar champs (35%) failed to win the Critics’ Choice Award, but were at least nominated there. That’s solid news for each film except for late release “Hidden Figures,” the only Oscar nominee the critics, who voted early, ignored.

Last, and yes least, we have the Golden Globes. While winning here only gives a film a roughly 60% chance at Oscar glory, being ignored completely is what really takes the wind out of their sails. That was the case for “Arrival,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” which saw their odds of recovering in time to win the Oscar decrease by a staggering 95%. In the last 20 years, “Crash” was the only film that didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination in either Best Drama or Comedy/Musical, yet still went on to win the Oscar.

Guild awards scorecard: Oscar frontrunner ‘La La Land’ is 5 for 7 so far

So, what do all of these figures and statistics tell us? After calculating all the numbers through my own mathematical formula (which I readily admit may not be the most scientific), here is how I now officially rank the Best Picture nominees, based on data:

1. “La La Land” – Won DGA, Won PGA, BAFTA nom, Won Critics’ Choice, Won Golden Globe

2. “Moonlight” – DGA nom, PGA nom, BAFTA nom, SAG nom, Critics’ Choice nom, Won Golden Globe

3. “Manchester by the Sea” – DGA nom, PGA nom, BAFTA nom, SAG nom, Critics’ Choice nom, Golden Globe nom

4. “Arrival” – DGA nom, PGA nom, BAFTA nom, Critics’ Choice nom

5. “Lion” – DGA nom, PGA nom, Critics’ Choice nom, Golden Globe nom

6. “Fences” – PGA nom, SAG nom, Critics’ Choice nom

7. “Hacksaw Ridge” – PGA nom, Critics’ Choice nom, Golden Globe nom

8. “Hell or High Water” – PGA nom, Critics’ Choice nom, Golden Globe nom

9. “Hidden Figures” – PGA nom, Won SAG

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It turns out in this particular category, the numbers agree with the forgone conclusion that “La La Land” will take home the top prize on Oscar night. But the statistics that prove it will win are still a fascinating discovery, and may prove more helpful in my upcoming articles ranking other categories by pure data.

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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