Databases could help gives clues to who will win Oscar races

Posted by Justin Hesser on February 28, 2014

For movie buffs, the Academy Awards are often compared to the Super Bowl. Once a year, the best and most accomplished get together to determine who performed the best over the previous year, replete with weeks of lead-in coverage and millions of dollars spent on performances and ads. And just like with the Super Bowl, interested parties enjoy making their predictions on who will win. Traditionally, these parties have included film geeks, entertainment press and industry professionals, but now, there's a new group among those ranks: data scientists. 

One company, ICC, has been delving into the Oscar-guessing world via Farsite, its analytical arm. They recently posted their predictions, which are based on the sophisticated modeling used by their custom database software. Farsite also posted a brief description of how their algorithms work, which is of particular note considering that their predictions were so close to spot-on last year. 

The company was able to accurately guess winners in five out of the six major categories, which include Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. They were particularly unique in predicting that Christoph Waltz would walk away with the hardware for his supporting turn in the Quentin Tarantino slave epic Django Unchained. 

In an explanation on their site, Farsite detailed some of the variables that go into making their predictions. 

"We'll use a first-of-its kind data-modeling tool to predict Oscar winners again this year. The model incorporates more than 40 years of film industry and Academy Award related information to forecast probabilities for the winners. This information includes real-time data and an array of variables, including total nominations, other Guild nominations and wins, buzz and nominees' previous winning performances," reads the site.

This Academy Award Season, they expect 12 Years a Slave to walk away with Best Picture, Alfonso Cuaron to win Best Director, Matthew McConaughey to walk away with Best Actor, Cate Blanchett to take down the Best Actress award, Jared Leto to win Best Supporting Actor and Lupita Nyong'o to get the hardware for Best Supporting Actress. 

Will they be right? The answers will be revealed on this Sunday's Oscar telecast. In any event, their predictive software indicates one of the many uses for programs like FileMaker, that are able to seamlessly capture and parse a large amount of data.