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Correctly Predicting The Oscars: How Much Do You Really Need To Know?

The Academy Awards are full of uncertainties and toss-ups. Are there any strategies that might improve predictions?
Posted at 3:36 PM, Feb 26, 2018

The Oscars are Hollywood's biggest night — and they're a huge guessing game for those who love to predict winners. So, how much do you actually need to know to guess accurately?

Let's start with something simple: looking at how the average moviegoer would vote.

To do that, we looked at Vanity Fair's online Oscar ballot, which lets anyone on the internet vote. As of Monday morning, the top three picks for best picture were "Call Me by Your Name"; "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"; and "The Shape of Water."

With over 10,000 votes in and counting, Vanity Fair's system is significantly larger than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' voter base of over 7,000 people. But those Vanity Fair votes don't count. As for the votes that do count, we have an idea of how the people with the Academy make their picks.

The membership of the Producers Guild of America most overlaps with the Academy's, making it one of the most relevant groups to follow for the Oscars. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight reported the Producers Guild's top winner has won the Oscar for Best Picture about 70 percent of the time.

That means Guillermo del Toro's "Shape of Water" is a strong contender for the top prize — but that's not a sure thing. In the past 10 years, two films, "Spotlight" and "Moonlight," won the category without the win from the guild.

For awards in directing or writing, other guilds offer similar guidance for Oscar predictions. In the past decade, the Directors Guild of America Awards has predicted nine of the Academy's wins for best directing. The Writers Guild Awards predicted six best original screenplays, as well as seven best adapted screenplays.

If we go by the groups' picks for this year, you could likely see Guillermo del Toro win for best directing, "Get Out" for Best Original Screenplay and "Call Me by Your Name" for best adapted screenplay.

FiveThirtyEight's prediction model relies heavily on these pre-Oscar honors, while another outlet takes into account critics and top predictors.

Gold Derby crowdsources its predictions but focuses its insight on experts, editors and top users on its site. The odds update every day, which helps show how much of a "race" the Oscars can really be.