The Oscar Code Cracked (Today’s Most Popular)

Oscars A UCLA-Harvard study revealed the strongest predictors for Oscar nominations. After a careful analysis of nearly 20,000 film, they discovered who has the best chances, and apparently the odds are strongly in favor of dramas, female performers, and big distributors.

"The odds of being nominated for an Academy Award are so much greater for performers who appear in dramas that — at least this time of year — it really pays to be a drama queen," said Gabriel Rossman, one of the study's two authors and an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA.

To a lesser degree, it helps to have a major film distributor, prior nominations, a top spot in the pecking order of past movie credits, fewer films competing, and good collaborators. Also, it certainly doesn't hurt to be a woman, which the study’s authors claim will double your chances.


"A performer's odds of being nominated are largely set before the cameras even start rolling, back when the script was bought, the director was signed and the film was cast," said Nicole Esparza, the study's lead author and a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University. "It's surprising how many variables other than a performer's talent play a role in determining who gets nominated."

The 80th Academy Awards nominations are scheduled to be announced at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

"In the entertainment industry, there's long been a sense that the nomination process prefers dramas, but I don't think anybody is aware of the magnitude of the effect," Rossman said.

The second strongest predictor of a nomination proved to be the number of films screened in any given year.

"It's better to be nominated in a year when fewer films were screened, because there's less competition come awards time," Rossman said.

Actresses, meanwhile, proved more than twice as likely to be nominated as actors for any given performance, making being female the study's third strongest predictor of a nomination overall. But it’s not that judges favor women, it’s just that there are a lot more men in film.

"At least in this case, being underrepresented on the job works in women's favor," said Esparza. "Because there are fewer female than male performers in films, and both are eligible for the same number of awards, actresses stand a better chance of being nominated than actors. It's a simple matter of arithmetic, but as far as I know, nobody has ever raised the point."

Also, the higher a performer ranked in past movie credits, the more likely he or she was to be nominated. A history of high rankings in the movie-credit pecking order more than doubled the odds of a nomination, making pecking order in past credits the fourth strongest predictor, the researchers found.

"It turns out the performers with enough clout and respect from their peers to push themselves to the top of the credits also have enough clout and respect from their peers to be nominated for Oscars," Rossman noted.

Having a major distributor also provided a boost. As well as having been nominated for an Oscar in the past.

"This is an instance of what sociologists call the 'Matthew Effect,' after Matthew 25:29, in which Jesus says, 'For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich,'" Esparza said. "Just as the rich tend to get richer and popular Web sites get even more traffic, so do honors seem to pile onto those who have already been honored, be they scientists or movie stars."

Surprisingly though, they found that industry ties had little influence on the nominations. Performers who had worked over the years with a wide array of Academy members were no more likely to earn a nod than those with fewer industry ties. This was even the case, the researcher found, during the height of the studio system, when studio heads allegedly ordered talent to vote in blocks for other studio talent.

"In all kinds of walks of life, conventional wisdom holds that it's not what you do but who you know," Esparza said. "And Hollywood may be no different, except when it comes to Academy Award nominations. Surprisingly, who you know doesn't make or break you at nomination time."

The Daily Galaxy via EurekaAlert!

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