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Predicting the Oscars: Don't Trust Me, Trust Nate Silver

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by Caryn James
February 23, 2013 9:30 AM
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Movie the Movie 2V

I was thinking this might be the first year in recent memory when the Oscars actually held some suspense about the winners. Is anything really a lock for Best Picture? What about that wacky Best Directors race, already full of also-rans? Then I read Nate Silver’s thoroughly lucid and compelling analysis in his FiveThirtyEight blog, so: Argo, Argo, Argo.  And Spielberg.

Silver is the first to admit he hasn’t had great success predicting the Oscars in the past – not nearly the same as his jaw-dropping accuracy in forecasting the state-by-state results in the last presidential election -- but he has varied the formula this time, relying more on the pattern of wins in other awards races, like the SAGs.

This is very bad news for Robert DeNiro, who, as Silver points out, has yet to win a major award this year. And it’s good news for Jennifer Lawrence – not a lock but a likelier bet than Jessica Chastain.

Even Silver can’t quite explain why Ben Affleck was overlooked for a Best Director nomination, although his best guess, “karmic payback for ‘Gigli,’” is clever and as good an explanation as any. Between the Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow snubs, there is a sense of the Old-Timey Academy Members wanting to keep those whippersnappers down, which clears the way for the venerable Spielberg and his snooze of a history lesson. So the ultimate karmic payback would be Affleck collecting the Best Picture award along with the other Argo producers, George Clooney and Grant Heslov.  

I can’t do better than Silver in handicapping the awards, but I can predict that host Seth MacFarlane will make everyone queasy, his fans because he won’t be enough like his usual irreverent self and everyone else because he’ll be too much like his usual irreverent self. It’s never a good idea when the Oscar producers take an edgy host and force him inside the polite, cookie-cutter Oscar shape. Just ask Chris Rock and Jon Stewart. But they keep doing it.

And I can predict with great certainty that Jimmy Kimmel Live after the Oscars will be worth staying up for. Last year he premiered an extravagant fake-movie trailer for Movie: The Movie, with an all-star cast including everyone from Clooney to Tom Hanks to  Gabourey Sidibe as Black Hitler. (You can still watch the three parts here: Original Flavor, Extra Clooney and Scorsese.)

This year’s sequel, “Movie: The Movie 2V,” features Jessica Chastain, Bradley Cooper, Jude Law and others. That sounds so much better than MacFarlane’s Ted handing out an award. Here's the teaser.

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