Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Academy Awards predictor joins the fray, 'Social Oscars'

The second site to try to "Nate Silver"
the Oscars is Social
. Back in mid-January, Screener reported on Farsite Forecast, which doles out each
nominee's percentage chance at winning the Oscars. Social Oscars, which social
media monitoring company Brandwatch created, takes a different route. The
company's interactive infographic compares which movies the critics think will
win to the ones that the public thinks will win. Surprisingly, the critics and
public are pretty much in agreement for most of the categories. There's rarely
more than a couple percentage points in


differences between the two, which may
not be even statistically significant since they don't mention the sample size.
However, some of their findings do back up the anecdotal feelings about races
in various categories.

In the Best Picture race, for example, more
critics (12%) are excited about Zero Dark Thirty than members of the
public (7%). Life of Pi's sentimentality played better with the public
(12%) than critics (9%). Argo has recently become the frontrunner for
Best Picture, unseating the early momentum of Zero Dark Thirty and the
solid, blue-chip choice of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. If Argo
wins, the Social Oscars will have correctly picked the winner, since 23% of the
public and 19% of critics have voted this as their favorite.

The Social Oscars is a fun tool, but it overlooks
one big fact. Who wins the Oscars usually has only a loose correlation with the
popular and critical choices. For every winner like The King's Speech,
which was the 2010 victor and supported by both critics and audiences,
there's a movie that critics were rooting for but the public did not see in
theatres in big numbers (that describes 2011 winner The Artist or 2009
winner The Hurt Locker), or a popular favorite that's just good enough
or has some kind of special hook that convinces the Academy that it deserves
recognition (Gladiator, Titanic, Forrest Gump). The Oscars can
sometimes be an exercise in game theory (see 2001 Best Picture winner A
Beautiful Mind
for a brush-up on that). Many critics distinguish between
the movies they like best and the movie that they think they will win,
sometimes developing subcategories like a movie they campaign for and want to
win, even while acknowledging another movie probably has a better shot. A
regular Joe may count nominee Django Unchained as the most enjoyable
picture of the year but feel that Argo is the better choice for a Best
Picture winner. The Social Oscars' infographic is an interesting tool to gauge
the relative popularity of the Best Picture choices, for example, but critical
and popular reaction are just one piece of the pie when it comes to the Oscars.

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