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SYFY WIRE Awards Season

Mathematician crunches the numbers on Black Panther, A Quiet Place's Oscar odds

By Jacob Oller
Black Panther via official Disney website 2019

Nothing is less cold and analytical than the decisions of critics and other voting awards bodies when it comes to picking their favorite movies and movie stars of the year. Predicting the Oscar nominations is speculation deeply concerned with a movie’s awards narrative, the mood of the voters, and other intangible qualities. So of course, that means someone went and applied an algorithm to the process. And we’re here for it.

Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Harvard applied math grad Ben Zauzmer crunched the numbers — using a formula that looks at previous awards data for those in the running for Oscar nominations, then weighs it according to how successful those past awards have been at predicting Oscar nominations. This results in a handful of percentages for awards favorites and underdogs so that fans can start putting some numbers to their favorite genre film’s chances — and Black Panther and A Quiet Place lead the charge.

Let’s get into the numbers. First, those for Best Picture. Black Panther, one of the year’s most popular films with critics and the box office, leads the pack among genre films. Sitting at an 80 percent chance to land a Best Picture nomination, it’s far above A Quiet Place (19 percent), Mary Poppins Returns (16.5 percent), and First Man (10.3 percent).

First Man also clings to the bottom rung of the Best Director (6.8 percent for Damien Chazelle) and Best Actor (14 percent for Ryan Gosling) ladders, but is the only film even remotely about a genre topic to make a showing in either race. However, Michael B. Jordan’s exquisite performance as one of Marvel’s best villains in Black Panther has him resting at a respectable 28.7 percent chance at a Supporting Actor nomination.

Best Actress is where things get a little more interesting, as Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins performance has a 43.4 percent chance at getting nominated while Toni Collette’s Hereditary turn hovers at 13.7 percent. Blunt actually shows up in the Supporting Actress race too, with a 17.4 percent chance at a nom for A Quiet Place, but she’s far behind Claire Foy’s 57.3 percent for First Man.

A Quiet Place also has the highest chance for a genre film to earn a Best Original Screenplay nod, at 37 percent, while Black Panther’s second-highest showing is in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, where its 66.6 percent odds of a nomination leads First Man’s 31.3 percent.

While the formula wasn’t applied to areas where genre films traditionally dominate, like the visual effects awards, there are at least enough possibilities here to bolster the hopes of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror hopefuls as the awards season comes to a close.

The Oscars will face the numbers when they air on Jan. 22. Nominations are set to be announced on Tuesday.