When it comes to the art of predicting winners at the Academy Awards, it can pay to have math on your side.
At least that’s the mentality of Ben Zauzmer, a Harvard Applied Mathematics grad, who uses data from the year’s earlier award ceremonies, like the Golden Globes and the British Academy Film Awards, to predict Oscar winners with near-perfect accuracy.
Last year, Zauzmer’s Oscar predictions was an impressive 20 for 21 — he correctly predicted what many considered to be an upset best-picture victory for “The Shape of Water.”
“I look at how predictive each of these [other] awards have been in the past when it comes to predicting the Oscars and then I give more weight to the award shows that have done a better job,” Zauzmer told Yahoo Finance on YFi PM.
This year, Zauzmer is back at it again, hinting at who we might see thanking the Academy come Sunday:
Best Actor prediction
Dueling Golden Globes victories for “Bohemian Rhapsody” star Rami Malek and Christian Bale for his starring role in “Vice” meant pretty even odds to start for the two front runners. However, wins by Malek at the British Academy Film Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards give him a statistical edge, according to Zauzmer.
“That’s how he’s pulled so far ahead of Bale and [Bradley] Cooper,” he said. Zauzmer’s model only gives Bradley Cooper about a 4% chance for winning an Oscar for his role in “A Star Is Born.”
Best Actress prediction
Despite the frenzy around Yalitza Aparicio becoming only the second Mexican actress to be nominated for Best Actress for her leading role in “Roma,” Zauzmer does not predict she will walk away victorious.
“Best Actress looks like a long losing streak might finally be coming to an end. Glenn Close on her seventh nomination, across [Best] Actress and Supporting Actress, is finally favored to come home with the trophy,” he said, predicting Close has about a 65% chance at taking the category.
Best Supporting Actress prediction
Things are a little tougher to predict for who will be crowned Best Supporting Actress. Part of the reason for that is because actress Regina King’s interesting awards season provides a lack of conviction. As Zauzmer notes, she either was nominated and went on to win an award, or wasn’t even nominated at all.
“She won the Critic’s Choice, she won the Golden Globe, but then wasn’t even nominated at the BAFTA’s or the Screen Actors Guild. So, she still comes out as the favorite, thanks to the two wins, but not nearly as strong a favorite as the three other leads in the acting categories.”
Best Supporting Actor prediction
When it comes to conviction picks, the award for Best Supporting Actor might be this year’s category, according to Zauzmer’s model.
Mahershala Ali, who made history two years ago as the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, looks to be up to the task of repeating his first win for his supporting role in “Moonlight.”
“He’s not only the favorite for Supporting Actor, his 89.6% is the highest chance of any nominee in any movie across acting, directing, picture, you name it, for his role as a pianist in Green Book,” he said. “He’s very clearly the favorite, if there is an upset in this category it will be quite a shocker.”
Best Director prediction
One of the 10 Oscar nominations earned by “Roma,” a black-and-white film that is viewable on Netflix, comes in the category of Best Director. Alfonso Cuaron, who previously won a Best Director Oscar for his work on the 2013 space drama “Gravity,” not only directed “Roma,” but also wrote, produced and edited the film that is an autobiographical take on Cuaron’s childhood. This year, he’s the odds-on favorite in the category.
“Cuaron for [Best] Director is just over 50% so it’s not a sure thing,” Zauzmer said, “but currently in the lead for a black-and-white foreign language film — a bit of history being made here, potentially, by Cuaron.”
That would be more history for the Mexican-born Cuaron, who previously became the first Latino to win an Oscar for directing.
Best Picture prediction
“Roma” also stands to make history if the film is able to snag the Oscar for Best Picture. Not only would the film become the first foreign language film ever to win a best-picture Oscar, the film would also mark the first best-picture win for Netflix or any other streaming service.
At about a 30% chance to take the award, “Roma” is anything but a sure thing.
“I’m going to be nervous about this one right until they open the envelope,” Zauzmer said.
Zauzmer’s complete Oscar predictions can be found at the Hollywood Reporter.