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The State of the Oscar Race: Post-DGAs and BAFTAs

02/09/2015 08:34 am ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015

This was a major weekend for Oscar predictors, starting with the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards and wrapping up with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. Lots of very important data came in, so let's get right to it.

Directors Guild

First up this weekend was the Directors Guild, which is the best predictor of both Best Picture and especially Best Director.

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This makes Birdman the mathematical favorite for Best Picture, and its director (Alejandro Iñárritu) the favorite for Best Director. My full list of predictions and percentages for every category will be released next week, so stay tuned to @BensOscarMath for all the latest.

The one other category that the Directors Guild predicts is Best Documentary, but they don't do it so well, with 19 misses in the 23 years of the category. In fairness, three of the four successes were in the past five years, so this is a modestly good sign for Citizenfour.

The BAFTAs

On to the BAFTAs, which contain more Oscar-predictive categories than any other awards show.

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Best Picture and Director

First up, Best Picture and Best Director. Boyhood got a big boost here, winning both categories despite only one other victory all evening (well, evening in London's time zone). Wait a minute, didn't I just write that Birdman got a boost in those same two categories from the DGAs? I did, so it was certainly a mixed bag of a weekend, which is great for fans of a close race in the top categories. But the DGAs are a more statistically significant predictor, so Birdman is still on top in my mathematical standings.

Acting Awards

In the four acting categories, the BAFTAs stuck with the four nominees who were already Oscar frontrunners: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), J. K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood). The BAFTAs tend to do slightly better than 50-50 on acting winners, but in a year when their four picks agree with the Screen Actors Guild and nearly everybody else, it looks like the BAFTAs have a legitimate shot at picking all four this year.

The one other BAFTA acting award, the Rising Star Award, is unique to this ceremony. Jack O'Connell, the star of Unbroken, took home the trophy, but Angelina Jolie's film received no additional nominations. This has no mathematical bearing on the Oscar race.

Five Wins for Grand Budapest Hotel

In the remaining categories, the big winner was The Grand Budapest Hotel, which won five BAFTAs on eleven nominations, yet lost the top prize. This is not at all unprecedented - just last year, Gravity earned six victories before losing Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave. But Budapest can still be happy with what it did win: Best Production Design, Best Makeup/Hairstyling, Best Costume Design, Best Score, and Best Original Screenplay.

In Production Design, the boost is not huge: the BAFTAs have only predicted 6 of the last 15 Oscars in that category. The stat is identical for Best Score, which leaves The Theory of Everything still on top in my numbers-only standings.

For Makeup and Costumes, the effects are slightly different. The BAFTAs don't pick all of the winners (60% and 47% over the last 15 years, respectively), but they pick more than anyone else does - it turns out those are two very difficult categories to predict with high accuracy.

For Best Original Screenplay, the bigger question will be answered next weekend, when we learn the choices of the Writers Guild. Remember, the BAFTAs went zero-for-two last year at predicting screenplay Oscars.

The Hometown Winner

The other screenplay winner was on the adapted side, The Theory of Everything. It additionally took home Best British Film, but don't set your Oscar bets by that metric. Only one victor (2010's The King's Speech) of the 22 years since that category was reestablished went on to receive the top prize at the Oscars. Don't count on The Theory of Everything to be the second.

Best Animated Picture

The strangest category of this awards season has to be Best Animated Picture. Like so many other organizations, the BAFTAs lined up behind The Lego Movie, which was snubbed by the Academy. Interestingly, this means that 2015 will be the first year ever in which the BAFTAs and the Oscars disagree on the Best Animated Picture. That was previously the only perfect predictor in my model, for any category, but no more.

Best Documentary

The film with the biggest weekend of all was Citizenfour, the only movie to win the same category (Best Documentary) at both the DGAs and the BAFTAs. But, the BAFTA win, like the DGA win, is not enormous news, since the BAFTAs only reintroduced the documentary category in 2011.

Best Visual Effects and Cinematography

Let's finish off with the technical categories. Interstellar took Best Visual Effects, which is a great sign for that film, since 80% of BAFTA winners over the past decade took home the VFX Oscar. Birdman got a slight boost for Best Cinematography, but there, BAFTA's prediction rate is only 40% over the past 15 years.

Best Editing and Sound

Finally, Whiplash received prizes for Best Editing and Best Sound. The editing win helps a little, but remember, the BAFTAs somehow missed Gravity in that category last year, even though it was produced in Britain! Best Sound is an interesting one, because it loosely corresponds to two categories at the Oscars. It predicts Best Sound Mixing 67% of the time, but Best Sound Editing only 47% of the time, so Whiplash moves up a bit in both of those standings.

Coming Up...

Lots more to look forward to next weekend: the guilds for sound editing, sound mixing, makeup and hair styling, writing, and cinematography all dish out their awards, so be sure to keep an eye on @BensOscarMath for what it all means for the biggest awards show of the season.