Does anyone remember Nate Silver? We're sure you do. Silver is the statistician who predicted the results of the 2012 presidential election cycle, to amazing precision. And on Friday, he released his predictions for the Academy Awards, and that surely has to have the attention of everyone -- everyone who knows about his predictions, that is.
Silver's FiveThirtyEight site is a polling aggregation website and a blog that Silver created. It is sometimes colloquially referred to as 538 dot com or just 538, and takes its name from the number of electors in the United States electoral college. In August 2010 of, the blog became a licensed feature of The New York Times online and was renamed FiveThirtyEight: Nate Silver's Political Calculus.
In the 2012 United States presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. He was not perfect, however, as Silver's predictions of U.S. Senate races were correct in "only" 31 of 33 states; he predicted Republican victory in North Dakota and Montana, where Democrats won.
While Silver has made Oscar predictions in the past, his accuracy has been only around 75 percent. Given that, Silver has refined his Academy Award prediction models by assigning weights to the hoard of pre-Oscar movie awards, similar to how he weighted the various polls in calculating his election predictions. Silver explained:
These patterns aren't random: instead, the main reason that some awards perform better is because some of them are voted on by people who will also vote for the Oscars. For instance, many members of the Screen Actors Guild will vote both for the SAG Awards and for the Oscars.
In contrast to these "insider" awards are those like the Golden Globes, which are voted upon by "outsiders" like journalists or critics; these tend to be less reliable.
So what is Silver's prediction? He's not attempting to predict all of the Academy Awards, but only major awards.
Among his selections is the Best Picture award, and he has that going to "Argo" in a landslide. His figures are as follows:
Zero Dark Thiry: 1.82
Les Miserables: 0.72
Life of Pi: 0.72
Silver Linings Playbook: 0.56
Django Unchained: 0.30
Beasts of the Southern Wild: 0.04
Based on that, "Argo" is a shoe-in. Among his other predictions are Best Actor to Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Supporting Actress to Anne Hathaway by wide margins. These results are in line with what the movie critics have been predicting.
According to his figures, though, Best Director will be extremely tight (he has Steven Spielberg narrowly winning over Ang Lee), as will Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones). Of those, Best Director is the closest (0.58 vs. 0.56).
Can Silver sweep the Oscars, as he did the 2012 election cycle? We'll see, after tomorrow night's awards.