Oscar Predictions 2015: Beat My Ballot and Win a Free PPC Audit

The Oscars are right around the corner.  If you’re like me, you’re jittery with anticipation.  After all, how many other nights of the year provide such an amazing opportunity to put probabilistic theory to work?

Now I know what you’re asking yourself: why on Earth is a search engine marketer writing about the Oscars?  Well, for one, choosing Oscar winners is a lot like choosing which landing page to use, or which ad copy to run; informed decisions require statistical insights and we use stats-based Bayesian models to help us make better marketing decisions for our clients on a regular basis.  We’re applying those same principles to help us choose Oscar winners.  Second (and the real motivator), I filled out an Oscar ballot last year for the first time and have been fascinated with the selection process ever since.

So before I reveal this year’s winners (or at least those that are favored to win), let’s lay the foundation for the logic behind choosing the winners.

First, I considered the popular opinion of top critics (GoldDerby does a great job of consolidating this information).  The greater the consensus was among these critics, the more confident I felt in my decision.  Second, I looked at previous winners to see if there are any trends or consistencies that could be applied to this year’s nominees.  For example, of the 86 films that have been awarded Best Picture, 62 (or 72%) have also been awarded Best Director.  So, if you think a film is going to win Best Picture, you should almost always pick the director of that film to win Best Director.  Also, the number and types of awards a film has already won are the strongest indicators of its success at the Oscars.  For example, most critics have chosen Birdman as the favorite to win Best Picture because it won the Directors Guild Award (among other awards), which is the strongest predictor of Oscar success for this category (over the last 15 years, the Best Picture winner in the Oscars also won the Directors Guild Award 80% of the time).

With these insights, I have carefully chosen this year’s Oscar winners for each category.  If you send me your predictions ahead of time and win more categories than I do, Synapse will provide you with a free PPC audit.  In the unlikely event that more than one ballot beats mine, the PPC audit will go to the lucky one who won the most categories.  So, without further ado, here are my predictions:

  • Best Picture: “Birdman” (it’s a slight favorite over “Boyhood”, but statistically it’s very close)
  • Best Director: “Birdman,” Alejandro Gonzalez (going with the 72% stat here, plus the fact that Gonzalez has already won the Directors Guild Award, which is the strongest predictor of who will win best director at the Oscars)
  • Best Lead Actor: Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” (he’s nearly a 3:1 favorite over Michael Keaton, since he’s already won the SAGs, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes)
  • Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” (he’s over a 90% favorite to win)
  • Best Lead Actress: Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” (she swept the Golden Globes, the SAGs and the BAFTAs)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood” (is anyone voting for anyone else?)
  • Best Animated Feature: “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (it’s a sizable favorite, although some critics believe Big Hero 6 will win)
  • Best Documentary Feature: “Citizenfour” (all nine sites I polled chose Citizenfour)
  • Best Foreign-Language Film: “Ida,” Poland (“Ida” is a huge favorite)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Imitation Game” (its WGA victory puts it slightly ahead of the pack)
  • Best Original Screenplay: “Birdman” (this one is quite tricky because “Birdman” was ruled ineligible for WGA, but the WGA winner is typically a 70% favorite to win this category. Without this insight, the numbers would say “The Grand Budapest Hotel” should win, but Golden Globe and Critics Choice wins make “Birdman” the slight favorite)
  • Best Cinematography: “Birdman” (this is a slight favorite)
  • Best Costume Design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (heavy favorite over “Into The Woods”)
  • Best Film Editing: “Boyhood” (its win at the American Cinema Editors guild makes it the favorite)
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (this is a heavy favorite based on its BAFTA and guild wins)
  • Best Original Score: “Theory of Everything,” Johann Johannsson (about a 2:1 favorite over “The Grand Budapest Hotel”)
  • Best Original Song: “Glory” (it won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice)
  • Best Production Design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (it won the BAFTA and the Art Directors Guild award, which make it a heavy favorite)
  • Best Sound Editing: “American Sniper” (one of the tightest races of this year’s Oscars, but “American Sniper” is a slight favorite)
  • Best Sound Mixing: “Whiplash” (this one is tight, but its BAFTA victory puts “Whiplash” slightly ahead of “American Sniper”)
  • Best Visual Effects: “Interstellar” (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” could upset, but “Interstellar” is the only film with more than two nominations in this category)
  • Best Animated Short Film: “Feast” (last year the favorite lost, so watch out for “The Dam Keeper”)
  • Best Live-Action Short Film: “The Phone Call” (heavily favored, although both Entertainment Weekly and IndieWire have predicted that “Boogaloo and Graham” will win)
  • Best Documentary Short Subject: “Joanna” (I’m going against the stats on this one because I saw this film and it was amazing, and in my opinion, better than “Crisis Hotline”)

So I’m going with a completely probabilistic approach, with the exception of the last category.  Based on the probabilities for each category, I am expected to win roughly 17-19 categories.  Think you can beat me?  Reply to this post or email me your selections at paul@synapsesem.com.  Let the best probabilistic mind win!