Oscar Predictions 2012: Utilizing the Power of the Crowd

Best Picture Winner (Predicted) "The Artist"

UPDATE: The HSX was solid again with correct predictions for 7 of 8 categories. Meanwhile the Metacritic user poll for the rest of the awards was disappointing, correctly predicting only 8 of 16. The crowd ended up correctly predicting 15 of the 24 awards – which is better than I did (14) or Roger Ebert did (11) last year.

I’ve started reading James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Amarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and NationsI apologize for the title’s length – and it offer an intriguing way to predict who will win the Oscars: utilize the predictions of the crowd.

The simple thesis of the book is that the collective decision of the crowd – a mass made up of ordinary individuals with their own specialized knowledge making independent choices – will be statistically more accurate, when aggregated, than the prediction of an “expert.” The clearest example comes from the beginning of the book when Surowiecki mentions the (then) popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Fans of that show will remember that contestants had three life lines to help them answer difficult multiple choice questions and the most valuable of those life lines was the one called “Ask the Audience” where the 100+ spectators were polled on which answer they thought was the correct one. The audience was correct 91% of the time – even though they were made up of individuals who had nothing better to do than watch a game show taping live on a weekday afternoon. Not exactly the “smartest” group you would think, but the stats prove otherwise.

How this all relates to predicting Oscar winners is that Surowiecki mentioned in his book a website called the Hollywood Stock Exchange that predicts the box office take of new releases based on the crowd’s predictions. This website also looks at the crowd’s prediction of who will win the 2012 Oscars in the top categories (the higher the value the more likely that movie/actor/director is likely to win). Here are the current leaders on the site:

Best Picture: The Artist

Best Director: The Artist

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Actress: Viola Davis, The Help

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris

Last year the HSX correctly predicted 7 out of 8 of the 2011 Oscar Winners (they only one they got wrong was incorrectly predicting the Best Director Oscar would go to David Fincher rather than Tom Hooper). If you need more proof about the power of the crowd, check out the results in Ebert’s 2011 Oscar Pool last year – the majority of the crowd correctly picked 19 out of 24 of the winners (crapshoot categories are – as expected – Best Live Action Short Film, Best Animated Short Film, and Best Foreign Language Film. The crowd can’t help you much there). Ebert correctly picked 11. I correctly picked 14 (go me! – but seriously, go with the crowd).

For those looking to win their Oscar Pool here’s the cheat sheet I compiled for the rest of the categories (based on Metacritic’s polling results using the user picks):

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation

Best Documentary Feature: Pina

Best Animated Feature: Rango

Best Cinematography: Tree of Life

Best Film Editing: The Artist

Best Art Direction: Hugo

Best Costume Design: The Artist

Best Original Song: The Muppets

Best Original Score: The Artist

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo

Best Sound Editing: Drive

Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best Documentary Short: Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Best Live Action Short: The Shore

Best Animated Short: La Luna

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