According to a complex analysis of this year’s Oscar nominees and the past decade’s winners by Senzari, a media-centric big-data company, the frontrunner to take Best Picture on Sunday isn’t Boyhood or Birdman – the two films most expected to duke it out for the prize – but American Sniper.
Senzari’s MovieGraph technology, which tracks and analyzes different aspects of thousands of films, looked at the Oscar nominees’ box office returns and narrative elements, including overarching themes like “rebirth” and “man vs. wild” as well as genre and tone, then compared them to the previous ten Best Picture winners.
The company’s bold conclusion? American Sniper has a 43 percent chance of taking home the Best Picture Oscar – even though Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel have been dominating the awards circuit all season long.
The Imitation Game is next likely, with a 30 percent estimated chance of winning. Whiplash comes in next at 19 percent, with The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma tied at 18 percent. MovieGraph gave Boyhood a puny 15 percent chance, but that’s not as bad as Birdman, scraping the bottom of the barrel with 13 percent.
Unfortunately, Senzari’s calculations in no way consider the Academy’s politics or assorted biases, which will sway the race. Said Senzari CEO Bill Hajjar:
“While there’s no algorithm that can consider the politics and bias that could sway Oscar voting, from a statistical view, MovieGraph thinks American Sniper has a great shot.”
The reason American Sniper appears to be leading the pack by such a wide margin is that it hugely outgrossed its competition, becoming a runaway box office hit. The financial side of things certainly played into this analysis, though it’s also easy to imagine Sniper‘s success working against it. Remember when The Hurt Locker beat Avatar? Sometimes, being audience-friendly appears to hurt a contender. Additionally, though Sniper is filled with many of the “Oscar themes,” like “biography,” “voyage and return,” “war,” “tragedy” and “man vs self,” it lacks the creative spark so beloved in Boyhood and Birdman. Something tells this writer that the race is still between those two cinematic gimmicks – but if the numbers are in play, as Senzari appears to have found out, that shouldn’t be the case at all.
Who will you be rooting for come Oscar night? Does American Sniper deserve the honor? Sound off below.