Monday, 14 January 2013

From the archives: does the best picture win?

Oscar Mike
The nominations for this year's Academy Awards are out, with Steven Spielberg's Lincoln leading the way with 12. This put me in mind of a couple of articles I wrote for Significance back in 2011 looking at how well critics' reviews predict which movies walk away with the coveted Oscar for Best Picture. I focused my attentions on Metacritic, the review aggregator site that would hopefully provide the best snapshot of what all the 'experts' thought of each nominated film.

It turned out that average review scores weren't particularly good at predicting the best picture, with just five 'Metacritic favourites' winning in the 18-year period I investigated. Since then, this number has crept up: while the 2011 winner The King's Speech was a mere fourth favourite, last year The Artist became the sixth top-rated movie to actually win.

This year, spy thriller Zero Dark Thirty leads the field, with a Metacritic score of 95. Best Foreign Language nominee Amour is a close second on 93, with a (relatively) big drop down to 86 where three films are lurking in third place. However, it's one of these three - the aforementioned Lincoln - which is currently the runaway favourite with the bookmakers.

It seems, then, that the stage is set for another non-'favourite' to take the top prize. However, should the bookies be proved correct, the makers of Zero Dark Thirty can at least console themselves with this fact: with a Metacritic score of 95 it will become the 'best' losing picture in the last 20 years.

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