SAM #5: Best Director and its precursors


Welcome to Stat Awards Monday (or, S.A.M., for short). In this new awards season weekly column for Awards Circuit, I—Sam—will be guiding an investigation of interesting stats currently brewing in the Oscar race. Three weeks ago, in the inaugural S.A.M., I scrutinized the unlikelihood that Best Actor will be populated with ZERO former nominees. And in SAM #2, I examined the rarity with which screenplays with four writers win Oscars. In SAM #3, I checked out the very small club of fantastical characters (witches, wizards, etc.) receiving Oscar nominations. And in SAM #4, I investigated the depressing rarity with which actress have been nominated for producing a Best Picture nominee.

This week, I just want to look at a Best Director and its precursors. I sense that the pundits are in many different camps with regards to the final two spots in Best Director—some going full Book of Revelations with James Marsh and Morten Tyldum (see also Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie), while others praying for inspired AMPAS choices like Wes Anderson and David Fincher, while others still are banking on farer afield choices like Bennett Miller and Damien Chazelle. So…we have many Best Director precursors, let’s use them and read them to try and better understand how the AMPAS might fill in their Best Director ballot.


STAT #1: The Golden Globes are almost never a perfect, 5/5 predictor of the AMPAS Best Director quintet.

Interpreting the Stat: That’s right. Well; basically, never.

The last time the Golden Globes nominated all five eventual AMPAS Best Directors was 1983 when it nominated Peter Yates (The Dresser), Ingmar Bergman (Fanny & Alexander), Mike Nichols (Silkwood), Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies), and James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment)—the only rub is that they had six nominees that year and the sixth nominee, Barbra Streisand (Yentl), WON. The last time the Globes got in 5/5 with only 5 nominees was 1980.

The Globes have very often gone 4/5 or 3/5. Often they reflect a Consensus Five which eventually boasts a “snub” (see 2010 where they nominated Christopher Nolan for Inception, 2013 when they gave Paul Greengrass a nod for Captain Phillips, or 2003 when Anthony Minghella made it in for the not-yet-sinking ship Cold Mountain).

Other times, the Globes give VERY left field nominations that we know from the get-go are going nowhere (see: George Clooney for The Ides of March in 2011, Clint Eastwood for The Flags of Our Fathers and Invictus in 2006 and 2009, Peter Jackson for King Kong in 2005, or Steven Spielberg for A.I. in 2001).

Even the Golden Globes manages to NOT nominate the most locked-five Best Director lineup I’ve ever seen—the 2009 race, where they opted for Eastwood’s Invictus over Lee Daniels’ Precious.

People also like to compare The Imitation Game to The King’s Speech, but even Tom Hooper, demonized as he is nowadays, was a Globe and a BFCA nominee at this time during the 2010 race. That isn’t something of which Morten Tyldum can boast.

But let’s look at this year’s Golden Globe five. The 2014 nominees are: Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman), Ava DuVernay (Selma), David Fincher (Gone Girl), and Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel). That means, given the HFPA’s typical record in this category since the Jimmy Carter presidency, one of these great directors won’t be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

But what about the Let’s-Predict-The-Oscars loving BFCA?


STAT #2: The BFCA ain’t much better at predicting the Best Director five, either.

Interpreting the Stat: The BFCA, despite having six nominees since 2009 in Best Director, has only overlapped 5/5 with the Oscar five once: The Year of the Locked Five, 2009, where even a child could tell you Bigelow, Cameron, Daniels, Tarantino, and Reitman were the five nominees. From 2001 to 2002, the BFCA only had 3 Best Director nominees, yet still averaged only a .500 batting average. That being said, when the BFCA only named a single winner with zero nominees, they predicted the eventual Best Director winner each and every time from 1995 until 2000.

So…what? Well, the BFCA is usually more accurate than the Globes when it comes to predicting Best Director. They still have their bad years, like 2007 when they were on the Tim Burton train.

But let’s look at this year’s BFCA sextet of Best Director nominees: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Ava DuVernay (Selma), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman), Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), and Richard Linklater (Boyhood). Based on stats, at least two of these folks are getting bad news on Oscar morning.

Check out a rundown of the stats below since 2003, with the Oscar nominee they missed in parentheses:

2013: BFCA (Payne)—Globe (Scorsese)

2012: BFCA (Haneke, Zeitlin)—Globe (Haneke, Zeitlin, Russell)

2011: BFCA (Malick, Allen)—Globe (Malick)

2010: BFCA (Russell)—Globes (Coens)

2009: BFCA (perfect!)—Globes (Daniels)

2008: BFCA (Daldry)—Globes (van Sant)

2007: BFCA (Anderson, Gilroy, Rietman)—Globes (Anderson, Gilroy, Rietman)

2006: BFCA (Inarritu)—Globes (Greengrass)

2005: BFCA (Miller)—Globes (Miller, Haggis)

2004: BFCA (Leigh)—Globes (Leigh, Hackford)

2003: BFCA (Meirelles, Weir)—Globes (Meirelles)

But check it out—usually, one of these groups has 4 of the eventual 5 nominees correct. This is a statistical boon for either Anderson or Fincher. Or Jolie.

So what do I think this means? I think it means that all the pundits are right to an extent. The evidence does seem to indicate that a director named on only one or neither list will land in the AMPAS top five (in this instance, Jolie is the only one not nominated at both and only one). That’s a boon for campaigners in the Marsh, Tyldum, Eastwood, Marshall, Chazelle, and Miller camps. However, it also means that we ought to pay attention to the love given to Anderson, DuVernay, and Fincher. These groups can often be correct 80% of the time (i.e., get 4/5 of the nominees).

For me? I think the stats would make something like Linklater, Inarritu, DuVernay, Anderson, and Tyldum make sense as a Top Five. But we shall see. Our fearless leader is predicting only three BFCA and Globe nominees to end up in Best Director—Linklater, Inarritu, and DuVernay—in addition to yet-to-land-anywhere Tyldum and Miller. Since 2008, 2012 is the only year where the BFCA and Globes weren’t at least 4/5 correct. If Tyldum AND Miller, we would be seeing shades of 2012—which, coincidentally, also had AMPAS ballots due prior to the announcement of the DGA nominees…

Only time will tell.

Thoughts on SAM #5? 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?