Stat Awards Monday #1 – Making sense of the fresh faces in Best Actor

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Welcome to Stat Awards Monday (or, SAM, for short—see what I did there?—I know, but just go with me here). In this new awards season weekly column for Awards Circuit, I—Sam—will be taking you on an investigation of interesting stats currently brewing in the Oscar race. Sometimes, it’ll be big (have the Oscars ever “split” three years in a row?) while other times, it’ll be small (has anyone ever won an Oscar for playing an Alzheimer’s patient?).

This week, we tackle the 2014 Best Actor race. Specifically, the high dosage of both young actors and Oscar newbies. These stats tend to show that when the Oscars like you, they really, really like you.

STAT #1:

The last time a former WINNER was not a member of the Best Actor lineup was 2006. Since then, Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges, Morgan Freeman, Javier Bardem, Denzel Washington, and Christian Bale have kept the streak alive.

Interpreting the Stat: Okay, so what? Well, from 2003 ­– 2006, Best Actor lacked a previous winner. Since then, the Academy has welcomed back their old friends with open arms. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or…a computer scientist—er, astrophysicist?) to see that former Oscar winners are nearly nowhere to be found in 2014’s Best Actor race.

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There’s former Original Screenplay and Best Picture winner Ben Affleck for his much underloved work in David Fincher’s masterful Gone Girl—but all the buzz seems to be with the heavenly Rosamund Pike. Likewise, last year’s winner for Best Picture, Brad Pitt, is also somewhat in contention for Fury. Beyond that, we have Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar, Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man, Kevin Costner in Black or White, Al Pacino in The Humbling, Christopher Plummer in Elsa & Fred, and Colin Firth in Magic in the Moonlight.

Doesn’t look too good, right? Okay, so maybe there won’t be a former Oscar winner in the Best Actor lineup for the first time since 2006. No big deal. Streaks has short as 8 years get broken all the time. But what about streaks that are 84 years running?

 

STAT #2:

The last time a Best Actor race had ZERO previous Oscar nominees was 1930/31 (a.k.a., the 4th Annual Academy Awards) when Lionel Barrymore beat Jackie Cooper, Richard Dix, Fredric March, and Adolphe Manjou on their very first Oscar nominations for acting.**

**(although if you want to get technical, the last time was probably the 1929/30 ceremony, since Barrymore was a previous nominee for Best Director stemming from the 1928/29 ceremony. In that case, the record dates back to the 3rd Annual Academy Awards, when double-nominee George Arliss beat himself, future winner Wallace Beery, double nominee Maurice Chevalier, double nominee and future winner Ronald Colman, and Lawrence Tibbett. Oy.)

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Interpreting the Stat: That was a very long time ago.  Let me repeat that: 1930/31! Check it out yourself. Recently, this nearly happened in 2005 if it weren’t for Joaquin Phoenix’s pesky supporting nomination for Gladiator. So what does this mean? Simply, I think it means that Academy voters vote for who they like (i.e., their friends) and that, typically, actors with an Oscar nomination get the chance to make good work in the future.

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In case you were unawares, Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), David Oyelowo (Selma), Jack O’Connell (Unbroken), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Miles Teller (Whiplash), James Corden (Into the Woods), and Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood) are not Oscar nominees. None of them have really, honestly ever been close. Oh, and did I mention that these gentlemen are most of the frontrunners for a Best Actor nomination? Looks a little atypical, doesn’t it?

So this second stat ALONE is why I’m looking towards performers like Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) to round out my personal Best Actor predictions.

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While sometimes it can be foolish to rely too heavily on statistics, I think it’s equally as foolish to predict something that hasn’t happened since 1930. Check out Clayton’s Best Actor predictions here and the Staff’s Best Actor predictions here (notice both he and I throw a bone to Bradley Cooper, thereby preventing something that hasn’t occured since the Herbert Hoover administration).

Thoughts on SAM #1? Let me know! This is a new Column and I want it to be the best it can be! What other stats would you like me to talk about?