Oscars: Final Math-Based Predictions in the Tech Categories

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'La La Land'

The two sound awards could end up splitting between 'La La Land' and 'Hacksaw Ridge'

Last call to fill out that Oscars office pool ballot.

In part one of my annual Academy Award predictions, I revealed the mathematical probability that each nominee would win its category in the eight most prominent contests, headlined by La La Land’s 59 percent chance to win best picture. I also explained the method I use to calculate these percentages.

In part two, I covered the genre-specific awards, along with a quartet of categories that all appear poised to favor Damien Chazelle’s musical.

Now, it’s time for the third and final part: the rest of the technical awards. It may not be the flashiest part of the evening, but with a slew of less-followed categories, it’s where Oscar records are made and Oscar pools are won. While upsets happen every year, here is an unbiased look at who is most likely to win in each of the below-the-fold races.

Traditionally, the most accurate predictors of best editing are the BAFTAs and the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards. This year, they weren’t very consistent: the BAFTA went to Hacksaw Ridge, the Eddie for drama went to Arrival, and the Eddie for comedy/musical went to La La Land. All three are nominated for the Oscar and stand a reasonable chance to win, making this a great race. La La Land’s Critics' Choice Award win, a variety of other critics’ honors, and a lead in the betting markets put the juggernaut musical out in front.

The Jungle Book has had an excellent awards season in this category, driven by wins at the BAFTAs and the Visual Effects Society. The math is still a little shell-shocked from last year, when Ex Machina pulled off a major upset in this category, so my model responds by refusing to give any nominee too commanding of a lead. Nevertheless, Disney’s lifelike animals are favored to win.

Outside of the Oscars, the few awards that honor movie sound often distribute just one trophy, combining mixing and editing. This means such awards fail to be strongly correlated with either Oscar category, since it’s difficult to predict two Oscar categories at once. The Cinema Audio Society, however, is specifically a guild for sound mixing, and as such has a decent track record of Oscar prediction. They picked La La Land, and it doesn’t hurt that the Oscars have a history of picking musicals in this category, such as Dreamgirls (2006) and Les Miserables (2012).

As mentioned, La La Land has won other awards for sound. The BAFTAs chose Arrival. But the Motion Picture Sound Editors gave multiple Golden Reel Awards on Sunday night to Hacksaw Ridge, enough to make it a weak favorite in a category with relatively little data.

Speaking of categories with barely enough data, this is culprit number one. To make matters worse, there was no overlap this year between the nominee lists from the Oscars and the BAFTAs. Suicide Squad won one award from the Make-up Artists and Hair Stylist Guild, but lost to Star Trek Beyond in the one category (Special Makeup Effects) where the two went head-to-head. Star Trek was also the only one of these nominees to earn a Critics' Choice nomination, and has a slight lead in the betting markets.

There’s a growing consensus that La La Land will pick up this award, especially after it was the only nominee to win its category at the Costume Designers Guild Awards earlier this week. But the math disagrees. The BAFTAs have predicted this category eight years in a row, and the Critics' Choice Awards have gone seven-for-seven since introducing a costume contest. Both chose Jackie, which puts it in first. But with three nominees within 9 percent of the lead (don’t count out production design nominee Fantastic Beasts), this one is wide open.

Unfortunately, there is not enough data to predict the three short film categories using statistics. Looking at betting markets and non-mathematical Oscar predictors, there seems to be a consensus around Piper for animated short, Ennemis Interieurs for live-action short, and Extremis for documentary short. For those of you using this article to fill out your Oscar pool, those three may be your best bets.

Ben Zauzmer (@BensOscarMath) uses math to predict and write about the Oscars for The Hollywood Reporter. He recently graduated from Harvard with a degree in applied math, and he now works as a baseball analyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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