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FiveThirtyEight Watches The Oscars

12:20 a.m. — Goodnight!

That’s a wrap, everyone. While there weren’t a lot of them, the upsets we did have tonight were massive, in particular the Rylance win for best supporting actor and the “Spotlight” win for best picture. So how’d our amateur forecaster do?

Huge congratulations to Allison Walker and James England, who had the best showings of the night when it came to predicting the toughies. England was the only one who got the “Spotlight” pick, Walker the only one to get Rylance right.

Of the top six awards, here’s how everyone did:

  • Walker: 5 for 6
  • England: 4 for 6
  • FiveThirtyEight: 4 for 6
  • Oddsmakers: 4 for 6
  • Goegan: 4 for 6
  • Tekin: 2 for 6
  • Singman: 3 for 6
  • Goldman/Wissner-Gross: 1 for 3
  • Henry: 1 for 6
  • Angel: 0 for 3

Presumably tonight’s results will only fuel the overarching debate we’ve had throughout awards season: Can math predict the Oscars?

12:02 a.m.

Best picture: “Spotlight”


It was a tough year to predict this category. We had a three-way best picture race for crying out loud! Our model said “The Revenant,” as did the gamblers, as well as modelers Tekin, Walker, Goegan and Singman. Goldman/Wissner-Gross picked “Brooklyn.” England picked “Spotlight, ” Angel picked “The Big Short” and Henry’s team said “Room.”

Again, just a huge upset for “Spotlight” — one that may have been presaged by the film’s win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards: The actors make up the largest bloc of voters in the Academy, and this year — in a fairly evenly divided field — that might have enough to push it over the top. The other thing to keep in mind is that the Academy’s best picture vote is done by instant runoff voting, which might have benefitted “Spotlight” given the unique three-way contest.

11:56 p.m.

Actor in a leading role: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Yeah, Leo was the odds on favorite. This is meaningless from a predictive standpoint.

Now read: Does Leo deserve an oscar? An interrogation.

11:50 p.m.

Actress in a leading role: Brie Larson, “Room”

Our model — as well as the models from Singman, Walker, Goegan and England — had Brie Larson winning. So did the gamblers. No surprises here. Everyone was right!

11:40 p.m.

Best director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) was for some time the favorite in our model, but Iñárritu jumped ahead with a big win at the Directors Guild Awards and he was the favorite going into tonight. The oddsmakers agreed. Iñárritu is the first director since the early 1950s to win back-to-back best director awards.

11:29 p.m.

Original song: “Writing on the Wall”

The gamblers had Lady Gaga and Diane Warren’s ’ “Til It Happens To You” as the strong favorite. But one of our modelers, Brian Goegan, had “Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre” winning. Yes, Radiohead got robbed, but kudos to Goegan, who is having a rather good night.

Original score: “The Hateful Eight”

This was the only category where “The Hateful Eight” was favored, with 1-to-12 odds, and modeler Paul Singman also had it as the likeliest winner. Another Oscar forecaster we highlighted, Nigel Henry, backed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for this one, a reliable bet historically speaking given John Williams’ penchant for scooping up Oscars. Still, big win for Ennio Morricone.

11:09 p.m.

Live action short film: “Stutterer”

Yeah, not a lot of gambling on this category.

Foreign language film: “Son of Saul”

“Son of Saul,” an entry from Hungary, was the favorite in this category according to the betting markets, although France’s entry, “Mustang,” got love from some circles.

10:44 p.m.

Documentary short film: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”

People don’t really place bets on who will win the Academy Award for best documentary short film.

Documentary feature: “Amy”

“Amy” was the favorite, with 1-to-7 odds. No surprises here.

10:33 p.m.

Best supporting actor: Mark Rylance

I lost the most sleep on this one. Irish oddsmaker Paddy Power had Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”) as the favorite, with 2-to-7 odds; our model also had him in the lead, closely followed by Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”). Like I said when we published the final predictions of our model, “My model says Stallone, my brain says Rylance, but my heart says Ruffalo.

Huge congrats to Allison Walker of Yale, who was the only amateur modeler we tracked to get this one right!

10:13 p.m.

Best animated short film: “Bear Story”

This is another category that nobody really bets on.

Best animated feature: “Inside Out”

This was a slam dunk for “Inside Out,” as the gamblers had it with hilarious 1-to-100 odds to win and all four of our modeler friends who tried to predict this category picked it.

9:59 p.m.

Visual effects: “Ex Machina”

This was a tough category to predict! “The Force Awakens” was the slight favorite at the gambling houses. Neither of the modelers we’ve been talking to had “Ex Machina” winning either. The first big upset of the night!

9:55 p.m.

Sound editing: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Sound mixing: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

The gamblers wouldn’t even take bets on these. Brian Goegan, one of the amateur modelers we’ve been covering, had “The Revenant” taking each though, so it’s not like “Mad Max” was preordained to have the kind of night it’s having.

9:47 p.m.

Cinematography: “The Revenant”

Here’s where “The Revenant” starts looking more favored than “Mad Max” when it comes to the behind-the-camera work. “The Revenant” was shot entirely using natural sources of light, which I guess meant something to the Academy. Paddy Power had “The Revenant” as a prohibitive favorite, continuing a pretty vanilla night so far.

Best editing: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

“Mad Max” was the favorite in this category. Even if he doesn’t win best director for “Mad Max,” George Miller is going to have an Oscar in his home. The editor of the film, Margaret Sixel (now an Academy Award winner), is married to him.

9:33 p.m.

Costume design: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

A nice first win for “Mad Max”! This award was one of the more difficult prizes for “Mad Max,” as they were given 50-50 odds to win by oddsmakers.

Production design: “Mad Max: Fury Road“

This was largely expected: “Mad Max” was the heavy favorite.

Makeup & hairstyling: “Mad Max: Fury Road“

Welcome to the “Mad Max” portion of our show!

9:23 p.m.

That Chris Rock monologue is really resonating online, and will probably be talked about for some time. If you want to dive into those talks armed with facts, check out some of the work we’ve done covering diversity in media.

  • Our profile of the group working to put numbers to the problem: the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School.
  • FiveThirtyEight’s look at studio nomination campaigns and the role they might have played in the lack of non-white Oscar nominees.

9:16 p.m.

Best supporting actress: Alicia Vikander

This was a tough category to forecast this year, as our model and the gamblers favored Alicia Vikander while we were seeing a substantial late surge for Kate Winslet. Still, Vikander won out, capping a really good run at the pre-Oscars awards shows.

8:55 p.m.

After a barnstormer of an opening monologue by Chris Rock — the closest thing I’d compare it to is Stephen Colbert at the White House CorrespondentsAssociation dinner ripping apart George W. Bush right to his face — we’re off to the races.

Best original screenplay: “Spotlight”

Right in line with gamblers’ expectations, which had “Spotlight” with 1-to-10 odds to win. An early win for modeler Brian Goegan, but tough start for “Inside Out.”

Best adapted screenplay: “The Big Short”

Paddy Power, the Irish oddsmaker, had “The Big Short” as a huge favorite. If you told me that the guy who made “Anchorman” would have a freaking Oscar someday, I’d have said you were crazy.

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s coverage of the Oscars! We’ll be watching along, updating this article several times through the night to highlight winners who beat out the odds, those who come right in line with expectations, and people who did a great job predicting who would win a statue this year.

Montage of Oscar candidates

Interactive: Our elections-style Oscar model looks at the predictive power of film awards over the past 25 years and tracks this year’s nominees and winners to try to gauge the race in the big six Academy Award categories. See the state of the Oscars race »

In the meantime, check out our coverage of why it’s hard to predict the Oscars, the people exploring new ways to do so, and how the race has evolved. If you’re still figuring out how to talk about the absence of non-white acting nominees, check out our coverage of how the studios campaign for these awards and Hollywood’s big problem with casting minorities.

We’ll be updating this post after the winners of each of the major six awards we tracked this year are announced, as well as periodically throughout the ceremony to shine a light on some of the other categories.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.