Fun with numbers: Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Oscar nominees

So, the 2019 Oscar nominations are out and the fun begins. Variety releases its usual list of snubs and surprises. Websites/experts likewise express their opinions on the nominees. Various people get their 15 minutes of fame by expressing anger over inaccuracies or omissions in films which are based on real-life events or people they were related to.

As part of my own build-up of excitement leading up to awards night, I decided to have some fun by looking at each of the Best Picture nominees and applying a bit of superficial analysis to gauge their chances of winning the Oscar.

To begin with, I clustered the nominees into five groups:-

  1. Political Intrigue – The Favourite, Vice
  2. Music & musicians – Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born
  3. Race and inequality – BlacKkKlansman, Green Book
  4. Superhero blockbuster – Black Panther
  5. Family drama – Roma

Let’s get some context around each Oscar nominee; I have highlighted acting nominations as these indicate that the movie wasn’t just technically superior, but also delivered on emotional content. I have also highlighted cases where the movie’s director has not been nominated, which is unusual and usually is weakens its chances:-

  • The Favourite, dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos, released by Fox Searchlight (10 nominations, including 3 for acting)
  • Vice, dir. by Adam McKay, released by Annapurna (8 nominations, including 3 for acting)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody, dir. by Bryan Singer (unofficially completed by Dexter Gordon), released by Fox (5 nominations, including 1 for acting, director not nominated)
  • A Star is Born, dir. by Bradley Cooper, released by Warner Bros. (7 nominations, 3 for acting, director not nominated)
  • BlacKkKlansman, dir. by Spike Lee, released by Focus Features/United International Pictures (6 nominations, including 1 for acting)
  • Green Book, dir. by Peter Farrelly, released by Universal (5 nominations, including 2 for acting)
  • Black Panther, dir. by Ryan Coogler, released by Buena Vista (7 nominations, none for acting)
  • Roma, dir. by Alfonso Cuaron, released by Netflix (10 nominations, including 2 for acting)

Based on the above stats, one must assume the two movies which didn’t get Best Director nominations start at a disadvantage. Understandable that Bryan Singer hasn’t got a nomination for Bohemian Rhapsody, since he was sacked due to absenteeism weeks before completion of the movie. Bradley Cooper was nominated for his acting, but sadly not recognized for creating that intense, claustrophobic atmosphere in A Star is Born, that put the audience right in the middle of Ally and Jack’s lives.

With the Academy having a predominantly older white demographic, it’s unlikely that BlacKkKlansman will garner enough votes to get the top spot; we should just be grateful that Spike Lee has finally got a Best Director and Best Picture nomination after all these years.

Black Panther will likewise have to be grateful to be the first superhero pic nominated for Best Picture. It will probably pick up a bunch of technical awards, i.e. Costume Design, Product Design, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, but the absence of any acting noms make it a difficult bet for Best Picture (the last movie to overcome this barrier was the closing chapter of The Lord of the Rings in 2003).

That leaves us with four real front-runners:-

  • Green Book won ‘Best Picture – Musical or Comedy’ at the Golden Globes and won Best Picture at the Producers Guild awards, so that puts it in a strong position. It ticks pretty much all the boxes as you’ll see with my scorecard later on.
  • Roma won Best Director at the Globes and also Best Foreign Film. It’s pretty much guaranteed that it will win Best Foreign Film at the Oscars as well. Will the Academy feel that is sufficient and deny it the big prize?
  • The Favourite seems certain to pick up a win for one of its three actresses who are nominated, but it hasn’t won any other major awards for best picture and may be just a bit too quirky for the Academy. I admired the movie (there is no doubt that director Lanthimos has a singular and distinctive cinematic vision), but I didn’t love it in the way that I love Green Book or adore Roma. The fishbowl style cinematography and the discordant music together actually made me uncomfortable at times. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s probably a bit too edge for the Academy.
  • Vice is a quintessentially American movie, a story of political intrigue and excess (not dissimilar to The Favourite) that is difficult to appreciate for those unfamiliar with the American political milieu. This comes from the same team behind The Big Short, which took on a similar irreverent tone to explain the Global Financial Crisis (which was of interest around the world). The best one can do is to marvel at Christian Bale’s transformation behind facial prosthetics into a spitting image of ex-Vice President Dick Chaney.

Next, I tried to put some science into this process and scored all eight films based on these criteria: feel-good quotient, emotional intensity, visual beauty, acting star power, social relevance, entertainment value. This is how they stacked up, the top four contenders listed first and the remaining four (some of which scored higher than the top four):-

NomineeFeel-goodEmotionalVisualStarsSocialEntertainingTotal
Green Book108710101055
Roma10101027645
The Favourite67984640
Vice455107839
Black Panther10681041048
BlacKkKlansman877610846
A Star is Born4108106846
Bohemian
Rhapsody
968761046

So, the winner seems to be Green Book going by my pseudo-scientific, subjective calculations. If Roma can pick up Best Foreign Film and Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron, I will be very happy indeed!

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