Data Driven Oscar Predictions 2017

Oscars 2017

I am back to try to predict the unpredictable. Can I guess tonight’s Oscar winners using just an Excel spreadsheet, some questionable mathematics, and seventeen years of award winners? In the past I vary from getting just over half right to getting nearly all predictions right. With that kind of accuracy it’s no wonder I haven’t yet made a fortune at the bookies.

For anyone with no more time to spare my predictions are below and for people who like the nitty-gritty I go into more detail afterwards.

Predicted Winner
La La Land
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Viola Davis – Fences
Manchester by the Sea
Toni Erdmann
OJ Made in America

To make my predictions I will be using 14 other awards ceremonies and looking back at how often the winners they chose have overlapped with the eventual Oscar winners since the year 2000. Using this I can see which awards are good at predicting the Oscars in which category and using the award winners so far this year I can see who will win on Sunday night.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve tried this three times before getting 10/11 right the first time, 6/11 the second, and 8/11 right the third; place your bets accordingly.

Best Picture

La La Land

Often a tricky one to predict with so many contenders in the race, this year the task isn’t so hard. La La Land has won a massive six predictor awards including the Producers’ Guild Award which has the highest accuracy at 59%. Moonlight is a distant second.

Chance of winning: 13%
Runner up: Moonlight (14%)

Best Director

Damien Chazelle
La La Land

The race for best director was a lot closer before I noticed a mistake in my spreadsheet. Now I see hat Damien Chazelle is well in the lead with Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins again taking silver. The Directors’ Guold award is right 81% of the time and it went to Chazelle this year.

Chance of winning: 50%
Runner up: Barry Jenkins – Moonlight(30%)

Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck
Manchester by the Sea

The most predictable award of the evening goes to the younger Affleck brother. He’s won 8 of my predictor awards including three strong predictors. Nobody else is getting a look in.

Chance of winning: 79%
Runner up: Denzel Washington – Fences (8%)

Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert

It all comes down to the Golden Globes. Huppert and Emma Stone both won best actress but Huppert won for drama and Stone for comedy. Drama lines up with the Oscar winner 69% of the time, and comedy just 19%. That said, I will be surprised if this prediction is right.

Chance of winning: 41%
Runner up: Emma Stone – La La Land (29%)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali

A much safer bet her for supporting actor. Mahershala Ali has won a handful of strong predictor award while two of his rivals have won one award each, and the remaining two have nothing.

Chance of winning: 61%
Runner up: Dev Patel – Lion (30%)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis

I got this wrong last year but am convinced that Davis’ four wins at strong predictor ceremonies gives her a strong lead. He main contender is Naomie Harris who only has two wins and neither of those are strong predictors.

Chance of winning: 59%
Runner up: Naomie Harris – Moonlight (13%)

Original Screenplay

Manchester by the Sea

With six awards already above the fire I think the drama about grief will beat out the musical about love. None of the six awards are particularly predictive by their combined weight give this script the edge.

Chance of winning: 44%
Runner up: La La Land (22%)

Adapted Screenplay


This is a bit of a guess more than anything as lots of award ceremonies only have one screenplay award and they gave their prize to Manchester by the Sea. Essentially I am lacking in data. That said Arrival did win the Writers’ Guild award which is right 75% of the time.

Chance of winning: 33%
Runner up: Lion (21%)

Animated Feature


A year with no Pixar nominee opens up this race a bit. Not a lot, but a bit. Zootopia has won five predictor awards putting it in first place but did not win the most predictive award of all; the BAFTA. Kubo and the Two Strings won the BAFTA and that is right 90% of the time.

Chance of winning: 65%
Runner up: Kubo and the Two Strings (18%)

Foreign Film

Toni Erdmann

Until last night this was almost too close to call but a win at the Spirit Awards has allowed Toni Erdmann to pull into a more confident first place.

Chance of Winning: 30%
Runner up: The Salesman (21%)


OJ Made in America

This eight hour documentary about an American hero turned accused killer is set to take home a golden statue thanks to five predictor award wins. If you have the stamina this epic is available now on BBC iPlayer.

Chance of winning: 37%
Runner up: 13th (19%)

Top Ten Films of 2016

I want to write about all the good films that we’ve had already in the first few weeks of 2017 but I still need to put a line underneath 2016. As such here are my top ten films of last year, a by no means definitive list but hopefully a good representation of the quality year of cinema we had while the rest of the world burned.

If there’s one conclusion to be drawn from these films it is that women suffer and men cause nothing but trouble.

10: Notes on Blindness

In order to look suitably cultured it was important for me to include a documentary on this list and no other non-fiction film last year was so cinematic and immersive. The film takes the audio diaries of writer and theologian John Hull that he made as he lost his sight in the 1980s and put his words into the mouth of Dan Renton Skinner. The result is a surprisingly visual journey through the loss of vision as John philosophises about his changing world as his family grows and his senses reduce to four. A beautiful, dreamlike documentary.

9: Mustang

The first in a tragic triptych running through this list is a Turkish drama about five sisters who innocently flirt with a group of local boys and find themselves imprisoned in their home. Their family decides that homeschooling and arranged marriages will help to preserve the girls’ purity away from the temptation lying in the outside world. Trapped inside the girls fill their days by lounging around the house, making each other laugh, and plotting their brief escapes. Throughout the film we see the girls’ spirits slowly decline as they gradually accept their fates or give up entirely. Much like Sofia Coppola’s comparable Virgin Suicides this is a beautifully shot film about the tragedy of young girls’ lives being restricted as they blossom into women.

8: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Sticking with women in captivity we have Dan Trachtenberg’s genre-ambiguous bunker-dwelling marvel. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is this film’s hero who we meet chained up in a bomb shelter. Upon regaining consciousness Winstead meets her host, John Goodman, who she must try to decipher and identify as either her captor or her saviour. 10 Cloverfield Lane plays its card close to its chest and the result is a taut, tense, and tantalising puzzle that dials things up to 11 before revealing there’s a whole other set of gears. Marvellous fun.

7: Hell or High Water

It is rare for a crime drama to allow the audience to develop equal sympathy for both the criminals and the police who pursue them but in David Mackenzie’s modern Western both sides of the coin are given equal weight. We experience the thrills of two brothers robbing banks to save their family land and share the slow jovial investigations of the local Texas Rangers who patiently track their exploits. When the sides finally collide with unglamorous, brutal violence it is hard to know what side to choose and whether to cheer or cry. A timeless drama of crime and punishment.

6: A Bigger Splash

Luca Guadagnino’s English language interpretation of La Piscine came and went without much fanfare last year but when I saw it I adored it. A drama filled with sun, sex, and jealousy as a quartet of characters spend a few weeks on a small Italian island. Tilda Swinton is as captivating in her silent role as recovering rock star as Ralph Fiennes is as a bombastic, occasionally naked, dad-dancer. A big, bold, brash drama that really delivers.

5: Arrival

I still need to rewatch this idea-driven piece of science fiction as the true workings of the tale are only clear at the film’s ends. Watched for the first time the film is teetering at the high end of very good but would surely shoot up to great given a second viewing. Aliens land and they do not attack, instead they want to talk. It is up to Amy Adam’s linguist to figure out a method of communication before the army do what they do best and attack the interplanetary immigrants. A film for the mind and the heart assembled with beauty and brains.

4: Anomalisa

Though painstakingly made in stop-motion animation this human drama is not for kids; this is full frontal animation. Michael Stone is a walking mid-life crisis who is a big fish in the small pond of customer service. Staying at a hotel while he gives a keynote speech at a conference he picks the scab of an old love, contemplates a new love, and tries to ignore the love he has waiting for him at home. Michael is not a sympathetic man but he feels incredibly real despite his detachable face. The film as a whole is surreal and charming with a lot to say about the human condition.

3: Green Room

The sadly departed Anton Yelchin gave one of his final performances in this relentlessly nerve-shredding horror about a punk band trapped in a neo-Nazi club. Without hesitation this near perfect feature pulls its protagonists from one excruciating situation to another as their numbers slowly dwindle. The joy of the film is in its execution. An execution that holds nothing back and constantly surprises and horrifies. I gasped, I groaned, and I hid my face.

2: The Witch

Another horror here in the top three with a god-fearing family in 17th century New England being terrorised by a neighbouring witch. Forget broomsticks and cauldrons and instead think of old hags grinding the bones of a baby and you’re closer to the bone-deep terror that The Witch has to offer. The Witch is a pure, gimmick-free piece of cinema. It is delightfully terrifying and filled with an air of unrelenting fear and genuine horror. Don’t expect any sudden jumps just a consistent feeling that all is not well. It certainly isn’t.

1: Room

My personal favourite film of 2016 is not the most enjoyable to watch. At numerous positions on this list are women being persecuted and none more so than Joy as portrayed by Brie Larson. For years Joy is kept in captivity; initially alone and then with the gift and curse of a young son to keep her company. Room has affected me in numerous ways each time I have watched it, with three different types of tear running down my face. Often with films containing this level of bleakness the work is admirable but hard to actually recommend anyone see. Room is different. Room is an easy film to recommend. Room is devastating and uplifting and finally brought the talents of Brie Larson to the world’s attention. I could watch this film countless times and no doubt I will.

Carrie Fisher 1945 – 2016


21st October 1956 – 27th December 2016

“I always wrote. I wrote from when I was 12. That was therapeutic for me in those days. I wrote things to get them out of feeling them, and onto paper. So writing in a way saved me, kept me company. I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know.”

Ron Glass 1945 – 2016


10th July 1945 – 25th November 2016

“I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”

Paterson – Film Review


To criticise Paterson is to try to fit it into a box it isn’t made to fit. You might think the film lacks enough plot, or humour, or drama but it has exactly as much plot, humour, and drama as writer-director Jim Jarmusch wants it to have. If you dislike Paterson then you and Jarmusch are just going to have to agree to disagree.

In Paterson we spend seven days in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), and to a lesser extent his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), as he goes about his business. Every day Paterson gets up, walks to work, drives a bus around the city of Paterson, walks home, briefly indulges in Laura’s latest fantasy, and then walks their dog to his local bar. Lather, rinse, repeat. In his spare moments Paterson write poems; beautifully mundane poems about small moments written for the film by Ron Padgett. Laura urges Paterson to share his poems but he seems content to live his life and keep his poems as a private expression.


Paterson has no dramatic plot twists, emotional blowouts, or stunning visuals. Like Paterson’s poetry Paterson delights in the minutiae of day-to-day life and the film, running to nearly two hours, allows you to soak up Paterson’s daily routine. As you become familiar with the patterns of Paterson’s days the repetition becomes reassuring and comforting, and the tiny differences leap out at you in all their insignificance. If Paterson is a poem then each day makes up a verse with plenty of rhyming in between.

Adam Driver is the perfect man to tackle this understated role; his expressive face says so much as his character says so little. He plays Paterson as a humble man who keeps his own emotions to himself while absorbing everything from those around him. As a constant observer it is easy to easy to see how Paterson might come to express himself through prose. As his bus moves inconspicuously through the city so Paterson goes unnoticed in the town that is his namesake taking us along for the ride. Paterson, and Paterson, teaches us to look and listen and revel in the details. By the end of the film we might as well be Paterson; few films will have you this absorbed in the life of their lead character.

A perfect unassuming film that celebrates the undramatic wonder of the everyday, Paterson is a charmer. Just don’t go expecting anything explosive.

Paterson is out in UK cinemas now.