What Are Movies Made Of – The Oscars (Pt. 2)

As promised, we are continuing at full speed with our journey into the source material origin of Academy Award winners. In the previous post I presented the method behind the analysis and an overview of the winners by origin type. In the next two posts we will spice things up with the introduction of two unique measures and see how the source material of a film affects the possibility of winning.

Deceiving Figures

You may recall from the introductory post that even though it seems in all prize categories (excluding Foreign Language) that the “Art”-based films dominate winners, it doesn’t mean they have the best chance of winning. The simple reason is that there aren’t necessarily nominees from all 4 origin types for each award every year. If we look at the major studios as reference, we see that “Film” and “Real Events” compose around 12% of their films. Without the data of eligible Oscar nominees, we will assume that the same ratio applies there as well. This results in many cases in which 3, 4 and even 5 of the contestants are “Art” based. What this means is that mathematically, those films have a better chance of winning. Yet I want to understand how the type of movie affects the win, regardless of simple probability, to see if a specific type has an effect on different awards.

In order to do so, I created two measures. The final post in the Oscar series will be dedicated to the more complex of the two, and this post will be dedicated to the other which I believe is simpler.

One is the Loneliest Number

The first measure checks the success percentage of an origin type when there was only one nominee of that type. It is expected to be for most cases 0.2 (1 out of 5). The higher the actual result, the more that type is successful. For example, if during the years there were 10 ceremonies when an award category included only one nominee based on real events , we expect 2 winners of that type. But if the number of actual winners is 4, it performed much better.

Each of the following charts represents one of the origin categories. The bubbles in the charts are awards and their size is determined by the percentage of success in cases where there was only one nominee. The gray bubbles are those which fall under the expected success rate (20% for all, 33% for makeup that has only 3 nominees). In some charts, some awards are missing because they either have no cases of a single nominee or a winner with a single nominee.

Single nominee - Art (Gray)

Makeup and costume awards beat the odds since many “Art” based films are inspired by other visual arts which require some extraordinary work in those departments.

Single nominee - Film (Gray)

After all, cinema in an art form, and it is not surprising to see a similarity between this chart and the previous one.

Single nominee - Real (Gray)

Once again we see that directing, makeup and costume win in the “Real Events” films. It comes as no surprise that the majority of the acting awards are also in (and most successful).  By now I think you know where I stand on this issue.

Single nominee - Original (Gray)

There are two possible reasons for the success of the original films in the Foreign Language award: the appeal of the “exotic” nature presented in a different culture on one hand; on the other, the unfamiliarity of the origin story (be it from another art, film or historical event) leaves the voting members with no actual ground for comparison and hence weakens the effect they usually have.


Single nominee-Combined

The most significant figures here are related to the performance of the Directing award. Just a bit over 20% in art, cinema and real events, but falling to 4% in original. From the perspective of the Auteur theory, this means that directors need a visual reference to make remarkable cinema, and that cinema has still not gained its status as a unique art, even within its own establishments.


2 thoughts on “What Are Movies Made Of – The Oscars (Pt. 2)

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