Nate Silver Predicts Academy Awards, Ruins Your Viewing Party

Nate Silver is not a witch. Still, the New York Times-stats pro's sober and uncannily accurate prediction of the final electoral count and distribution for the past presidential election made him one of the most celebrated personalities of the campaign season. Well, now he's finally turning his tested methods and singular vision toward something actually, you know, useful to the American public— predicting the winners of Sunday's Academy Awards.
Over at his FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times website, Silver explains his methodology, weighting past awards (the Golden Globes, etc.) much like he did the myriad political pols he analyzed in the buildup to Romney vs. Obama. As with past predictions, he and his team aren't swayed by sudden bumps, gut feelings, social buzz, or other "noise" — they simply target the most regularly accurate indicators and crunch the numbers. A tad boring, but probably on the money.
And to that point, Silver's dough is on Argo for best picture by a pretty wide margin. Back when we thought it was a 10-picture race, we were betting on Les Mis, but softened toward Lincoln when the field was narrowed down to five. We'll just have to see which of us is right Sunday night.
With one exception, the rest of his winners for the major awards aren't surprising at all. Sure bets Steven Spielberg, Tommy Lee Jones, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Anne Hathaway all get the patented Silver nod. The one surprise? The world's reigning spoiler has Jennifer Lawrence taking home a little golden statue for Silver Linings Playbook instead of Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain.
Honestly, Best Actress was the tightest, most intriguing race in our minds (and divided hearts), so we're kind of sad that Silver is betting against Chastain and mirroring the current Vegas line almost exactly.
There's hope for some variance, of course. As Silver says, in the past he's predicted nine out of 12 nominees (a solid 75-percent success rate.) "Not bad," he says, "but also not good enough to suggest that there is any magic formula for this." Still, with so many accurate forecasters betting the same way, it looks like you could curl up with a good book and a glass of Chardonnay, nod off around 8 p.m., and wake up Monday to absolutely no surprises at all (except for whatever horrible gaffes Seth MacFarlane commits.) Way to ruin everyone's fun again, Nate Silver, you frustrating, highly-accurate witch. (NYT/FiveThirtyEight)

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