The “model” pick for this year is Captain Phillips. Update The model fails. See below.
To do this I created a “model”, i.e. a set of probative observations, which ranked movies from most to least likely to win. Yet I worry the observations are no longer probative because the Academy is on to me.
The “model” is this: the lead actor—not actress—is at least forty, the other featured actors are mainly older men, and the picture took in only around 20% of the money earned by the year’s top film. Women in winning movies play only a peripheral role and their parts could easily have been played by other women, or even left out.
But, like I say, the Academy is on to me. This year there have been cries of—what else?—sexism! How tedious. Women, and the men who resemble them (I do not mean sexual activity), are saying that the Best Picture should have something more to do with femaleness. This will have some effect on the voting, but how much is anybody’s guess.
In the absence of “gender” politics, here are the “model” picks. Note: I did not see any of the nominated movies (nor any others). I’m relying on public descriptions of the films. As in previous years, I used Boxofficemojo.com for movie grosses.
First, the anti-Catholic Philomena is out: all about a woman. Gravity with its one whole woman and one half is also out. However this movie wins if the politics kicks in. Her focused on Joaquin Phoenix, who was 39 when the film was released. He also played what the male sex has today become, i.e. not quite a man. Movie had to have female support, so this movie doesn’t make the grade.
The main contenders (in alphabetical order) are these.
American Hustle with Christian Bale squeaks in: he was 39 (now 40). The movie also heavily featured a woman (Amy Adams, 39), whose part looks irreplaceable. The movie took in $145 million, which was 34% of the highest grossing movie, $424 million from the latest installment of the live action cartoon Hunger Games. That’s a little high.
Captain Phillips has a lead actor at 58 (Tom Hanks), with mostly men as support; however the main antagonist (Barkhad Abdi) is only 28, which is on the young side, as are the other men. The box-office take was in the sweet spot of 25% of the top’s.
Dallas Buyers Club with Matthew McConaughey at 45, with other 40-plus men in support. The main woman (Jennifer Garner) appears replaceable. But it only made about $25 million, which is only 6% of the best. We’re all “gay” now, so that works in the movie’s favor.
Nebraska has Bruce Dern as the lead actor, who is well past 40. The other main actor is a man (Will Forte), who is 44. While there are women in the movie, they are not the main focus and all appear to be replaceable. A weakness is that the film pulled in only about $17 million, which is a rounding error to the top movie (5%).
12 Years a Slave. There’s nothing Hollywood likes better than celebrating past civil rights victories, so this would seem a shoe-in. But it starred Chiwetel Ejiofor who was only 37 (he looks much older). There are also a lot of women and younger people, but are they dispensable? Took in about $49 million; only 12% of the top. The money is important as a proxy for Academy-member viewing. Why? Because movies are like books used to be and Academy members lie about seeing all the movies they vote on, just like people used to lie about reading “must read” books.
The Wolf of Wall Street edges into competition, but barely. Leonardo DiCaprio is now 40 but was only 39 when the picture was released. He was supported, however, by mainly 40-plus men. The women in the film misbehave themselves to the extent they are not memorable (as far as I have read). Movie made $113 million, which is in the ballpark: 27% of the top.
None of these fit the model perfectly, but Captain Phillips is more probable than 12 Year which is more probable than Wolf. Barkhad Abdi and his pirate crew are young, but their deeds and ways of holding weapons ages them. The movie, though it has a female (and whose role could have been played by anybody), is really all about men.
Naturally, this is a model and not a perfect prognostication. I do not attach a probability to the prediction other than to emphasize that, given the evidence I am using and the assumptions I made, the prediction has the highest probability. This “model” is in the minority, too: scarcely anybody is picking Phillips, which (if they’re right) proves that “models” are only models.
Update 12 Years wins, which suggests my model should take into account politics. Just how remains to be seen.