Who is the Nate Silver of the Oscars? Maybe not Nate Silver

Ben Zauzmer may be the Nate Silver of the Oscars. The Harvard sophomore talks with Ellen Killoran about the glitziest gig a statistician can get: Predicting the Oscars. Zauzmer says it's likely Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor, that "Searching for Sugar Man" will win Best Documentary and that "Brave" "is pretty close to being a lock" for Best Animated Feature. Zauzmer "compiled all of the significant award shows (e.g. BAFTAs), the guild awards (e.g. Writers’ Guild Awards), any corresponding Oscar nominations (e.g. Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing)" plus Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes scores to arrive at his numbers.

"I'd love to see 'Les Mis' pull off Best Picture, but I know it's not going to happen," Zauzmer tells Killoran. He picks "Argo."

Nate Silver may also be the Nate Silver of the Oscars. His model weights more heavily "insider" awards like those given by the Director's Guild of America, whose members share membership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, over those by the Golden Globes, which are voted on by journalists.

The short version: our forecasts for the Academy Awards are based on which candidates have won other awards in their category. We give more weight to awards that have frequently corresponded with the Oscar winners in the past, and which are voted on by people who will also vote for the Oscars. We don’t consider any statistical factors beyond that, and we doubt that doing so would provide all that much insight.

He tips "Argo" as Best Picture.

• On Twitter Friday, Politico reporter Dylan Byers added another slim chapter to his already rich history with Silver:


• Just in case you were wondering, at least one person was complaining that Nate Silver ruined the Oscars way back in 2011.

• Speaking of "Argo" (which is totally gonna crush Best Picture, I'm hearing), Nicholas Thompson writes in The New Yorker about how the article that inspired the film made it way through the editorial maze at Wired:

At Wired, at least at the time, every pitch was graded on a scale of one to six by everyone on staff, and then there was a meeting in which the pitches were presented in reverse order of their scores, along with their standard deviations. This one scored a 4.0, coming in fifth out of the twelve that day. It was clearly a good tale, but it wasn’t clearly appropriate for a magazine about optimism and the future. It involved science fiction, which is Wired, but it involved the Carter Administration, which is not. “This is total mission creep, but I think we should do it,” Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief, said at the end of the debate over whether to assign the story.

Thompson gives a shoutout to Angela Watercutter for fact-checking the story. It's not quite giving a grateful speech in front of millions -- as Ben Affleck is bound to do when "Argo" wins -- but I'd venture a New Yorker mention is the fact-checking equivalent.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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