Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographyThe Fabelmans was an early favorite for Best Picture at the Oscars Film. Or it could be Babylon. Or Banshee of Inisherin, or Everything Everywhere All Once, or Tár(, or Top Gun: Maverick . Now, it depends on which expert you ask.
We’re just a few days away from what some believe is the real start of Oscar season, when critic groups start making their voices heard. Along with those nominees comes another “early favorite” — perhaps one of the films listed above. But how far should we trust the early favorites to really be the favorites?
To answer this question, I note that winners from eight major groups of critics go back at least as far as , giving us 21 years of work data. The eight—the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics, and the critical circles in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Kansas City, and London—have proven to have mixed records.
The picture winner for the best span in , only is an “Early Favorite”, which I define as a film that has won more than one of these eight honors: The Silence of the Lambs , Unforgiven , Schindler’s List , American Beauty , The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King , Old Men Without Borders , The Hurt Locker , Artist, 11 A Year of Slave , Parasite and Nomadic Continent . If we include relations, the count goes up to : Slumdog Millionaire and Wall-E won three each, forever linked Moonlight and La La Land.
to complicate matters Unfortunately, early favorites are often far from unanimous. Only Schindler’s List and The Social Network dominated all eight comment groups, the latter still losing to
The King’s Speech a few months later
. Three years later- 1000, 1996 and 2017 — Eight early awards were assigned to six different films. Yet somehow, none of these guys went on to win Academy Awards, as The English Patient, Gladiator and The Shape of Water were rejected by those critics.
And they’re not the only movie to go 0-8 in the early Oscars for late momentum: Braveheart, Shakespeare in Love ), A Beautiful Mind , Chicago , Argo and CODA also had to endure an eight-game losing streak in December before eventually winning .
Conversely, three films – Mulholland Drive , About Schmidt and United 75 – both considered early favorites this way, but didn’t even get a Best Picture nomination, an unfortunate phenomenon that’s unlikely to happen now that the Academy has doubled the size of its top category.
There does seem to be some correlation, even if it’s rambling, between a film’s performance at these major honors and its eventual fate at the Oscars of. The chart on the left looks back over the past two decades and shows that while many Best Picture winners have taken critics’ credit along the way, a handful of films have managed to carve their way to the Academy’s top prize.
These days, we have even more data showing early favorites, as the number of awards for December has increased since
Ben Zauzmer is Oscarmetrics: Author of The Math Behind the Biggest Night in Hollywood.
This story first appeared in November 13 Issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe .