The Data Analytics of the Oscars

February 28, 2012
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oscar viz1 407x1024 photo (advanced analytics)

oscar viz1 407x1024 photo (advanced analytics)

Data pros tuned in to the Academy Awards last night to watch the film “Moneyball” take a stab at a very subjective award. With the movie up for six awards (including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Sound Mixing), it was a night of anticipation for sports and analytics fans.

Data Pros Snubbed

Or not so much. “Moneyball,” which is only one of three sports films ever nominated, was snubbed in true Oscar fashion – not winning a single award. Interestingly, a sports movie did make best picture back in 2004 with Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby.”

“Moneyball” starred Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, who hired data geek Peter Brand (Jonah Hill as Brand was nominated for Best Supporting Actor) to help him draft players based on “computer-generated analysis.” Another interesting fact is that Pitt starred in two films nominated for best picture – and left empty-handed. Pitt was in “The Tree of Life,” which was also nominated for best picture.

According to New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, data geeks were robbed. He says that “Moneyball” so engrossed him from beginning to end because “the moviemaking – from the dialogue to the editing to Bennett Miller’s pitch-perfect direction – was so expert.”

His synopsis of why this was the “best picture” of the 2012 nominees gives data experts and enthusiasts something to write home about. He says, “This wasn’t really a movie about baseball, it was a movie about statistics, and even about philosophy.” He adds, “That it found a way to press those subjects into the service of a poignant mass-market drama astounds me. And deserves the highest recognition.”

One more interesting statistic about this year’s favorite analytics movie – “Moneyball” had about a 25% chance of winning the award based on the length of its title. Of the past 84 Best Picture winners, only 21 movies have had one-word names.

Money Matters

Moving on to the money side of Oscar analytics, the winning film made the least amount of money at the box office to date. Silent film and top Academy Award winner “The Artist” drew in a mere $28 million, while popular favorites “The Help” and “Hugo” brought in $170 million and $106 million, respectively.

However, according to an article from the Media Awareness Network, the Best Picture award is worth anywhere from $20 million to $50 million in additional sales to the winner.

Oscar is Predictable

While snubs made the award show intriguing, the predictability of the winners made the night “boring,” according to early recaps. According to several reports, the multiple award ceremonies from the Golden Globes to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards are the real predictors of Academy Award winners.

Twitter Predictions Spot On

Twitter was also a good predictor of the winners. As you can see in today’s infographic from WebTrends, the analysis of 476,000 Tweets was spot-on in predicting three of four of the top categories – Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress.

Next Steps:

  • We want to know . . . does Peter Brand’s character in “Moneyball” meet this description of a data scientist? Tweet us your answer and watch this in-depth analysis of how sports teams build their rosters using data analytics as well as the instincts of general managers and owners.
  • Be sure to check out the upcoming Sloan Sports Analytics Conference real-time updates March 2-3 at hashtag #SSAC.
  • Remember to subscribe to our blog to keep up to date on sports analytics and other data analytics topics.

Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team