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‘La La Land’ Director Damien Chazelle Is A Lock For An Oscar

The Oscars aren’t easy to predict. The best that we can do is build a model that gives us a sense of the race by looking at the historical predictiveness of the various guild and critic awards that are handed out ahead of the Academy Awards. The model isn’t perfect, but it helps us interpret the news during awards season: Which is more consequential, a Golden Globe or a Screen Actors Guild Award? Which is better, recognition from film critics in Los Angeles or New York? Would you rather score a BAFTA or an Eddie?

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In the director category, however, this award-scoring becomes a very simple proposition: Our model essentially takes the winner of the top award from the Directors Guild and says he or she is going to win the Oscar for best director. That’s because of all the acting and directing awards, the single strongest link across the entire data set is between the winner of the DGA and the Oscar for best director. Over the past 25 years, the DGA winner got the Oscar 21 times. And that actually understates its predictive power, because in half of those “misses,” the DGA winner wasn’t nominated for an Oscar — Ben Affleck (“Argo”) in 2013 and Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”) in 1996.1 So it’d be a historic shock if Chazelle somehow misses out.

What’s interesting here is that Chazelle was already such a strong favorite that the perceived odds of his winning the Oscar didn’t change all that much after his DGA win. I’ve been monitoring the best director betting odds according to Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, and since his win at the Golden Globes, Chazelle has never gone below an 88 percent implied probability of winning the prize. His score according to our model is nearly triple his nearest competitor. He’s a lock.



  1. The other two misses are Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” 2003) and Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” 2001); they won the top prize at the DGA but were nominated and lost at the Oscars.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.