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Data Deep Dive: Can You Predict Oscar Winners?

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For some people, the best part of the Oscars is the fashion. For others, the thrill is gossiping about Seth McFarlane’s latest sexist joke. But for the true fans, printing out a ballot and guessing the winners is where the real fun is at.

Now there’s a new, curious category of Oscar onlooker: The data nerds who are wondering, “What if there were a science behind predicting the winners?” At News360, where we are definitely data nerds, we decided to take a look at the winners in every category and measure how many times their names appeared in news articles in the month leading up to the Oscars. Our hypothesis was that actors and movies who’d received the most buzz might turn out to be winners.

In three categories – best actor, best actress and best supporting actress – our hypothesis turned out to be true. However, when it came to predicting the winners of Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, your guess was as good as ours. So what made the difference? If we knew for sure, we’d be winning all the Oscar pools. But we have a few theories.

You’ll see that in the Best Picture category, the movies that had the most mentions in the past month were actually those that had come out in the theaters most recently. The movie that won, Argo, came out earlier in the fall. As for the Best Supporting Actor category, Robert DeNiro is arguably more “famous” than the other nominees, so it makes sense that he’d get the lion’s share of media attention.

If you have other theories about our data (or other ways of predicting Oscar winners) let us know in the  comments! And stay tuned for next year, when we might be able to give you an advantage in your Oscar pool.

In each of the categories below, we looked at  the total number of articles mentioning the movies and actors nominated.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar and also had the most article mentions: 1389.

Best Actress

Jennifer Lawrence had 2569 article mentions – the most of any actress in the category – and took the Oscar.

Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway won the Oscar and the battle for media attention with 1824 mentions.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert DeNiro had the attention of the media, but Christopher Waltz walked out with the golden statue.

Best Picture

Zero Dark Thirty led the category in article mentions, but Argo, with comparatively few mentions, still managed to take home the Oscar.