Want To Predict The Best Picture Oscar Winner? Maybe Our Data Can Help
THE GOOD NEWS FOR 'GET OUT'

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In response to last year's Best Picture envelope debacle, The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik wondered if the "Moonlight"-"La La Land" screw-up was proof that life's just one big computer simulation gone haywire. That was not-yet three months after the 2016 US presidential election threw the world for a loop. Everyone with a platform looked for profound insight, sly humor or both in every unexpected curve life threw out there for a while.

The way we experienced the Oscars night slip-up made it fantastical — all the surrounding context, the films in question, the way the people involved reacted — but the envelope swap itself was an ordinary, seemingly inevitable screw up. Something like that had to happen eventually, right? Weirder things have happened at the Oscars.

That envelope mix-up will forever color the way we look back on the outcome, but a less dramatic perspective should be taken with the real surprise of the moment: "Moonlight" won Best Picture even though most predictions favored "La La Land." This has been interpreted as a sign of shifting tastes and trends within the Academy's voting body, likely stemming from the initiative taken to make the voting body more diverse. If any film was going to upset "La La Land" it was going to be "Moonlight," but were all the predictors who picked the former leaning too hard on gut instincts? Were there trends they missed in the lead-up to the awards?

Wielding the twin powers of hindsight and historical data, we decided to see if they missed something — and if there's anything that can be learned from last year's Best Pictures race to help predict 2018's.

Hi, We're Digg, We Have Lots Of Data

Do you use Digg Reader to follow the RSS feeds of your favorite websites? Maybe you've got Digg integrated into Slack or Facebook Messenger? Between these two services, we're slurping up content from across the internet all the time, including stuff that's relevant to the Oscars. We've got everything pulled in via the RSS feeds plugged into Digg Reader going back a few years.

So, for the 2017 and 2018 Best Picture nominees, we pulled all their mentions from the first of the prior year through to the end of nominations voting in mid-January of the awards year.1 If a nominated film appears in an article's text at least once, that article counts as a single mention.

There was lots of data cleaning to do. Not every movie has a title as unique as "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," — some, like "Fences," "The Post," and "Lion" (a particular bane of our collection process) needed better filtering. We went hunting for unusual patterns and created blacklists for troublesome cases (like removing all articles containing "Cannes de Lions," from the mentions of "Lion" since it did not show at the festival). In some cases, we used whitelists to refine the results by looking for companion terms (i.e. looking for mentions of "Meryl Streep" or "Tom Hanks" alongside "The Post").

Digg Reader users can pull in whatever RSS feeds they like, but there's not much of a case for tallying every blog, YouTube channel or podcast under the sun. Instead, we restricted the results to the list of publications we've circulated here on Digg's front page (in other words: legit publications). After that each of our 2017 and 2018 datasets had over 10,000 hits for their respective Best Picture nominees.

Before You See Our Graphs, Here's A Crash-Course On Best Picture Voting

If you're trying to outperform your friends or coworkers in an Oscars pool, you've probably studied how the Academy goes about nominations and final voting for Best Picture. If you're hoping our graphs will give you an edge, you should definitely know how the votes are tallied in both phases. As it turns out, it's more complicated than you might think.

In 2009, when the Academy decided to expand Best Picture nominations from 5 films to between 5 and 10, they brought the preferential instant runoff voting system from the nomination process to the final voting, with some tweaks. When selecting Best Picture nominees, each voter is allowed to rank 5 to 10 films in order of preference. For the final voting, they rank all of the nominees by order of preference.

Instant runoff systems basically work as follows: in the initial counting of ballots, all of the first place votes are tallied. If a choice passes a mathematically determined threshold on this initial count, it's in — for Best Picture nominations, a film must reach whatever 1/11th of the total ballot count is, rounded-up. A choice that hits that threshold has its ballots set aside. After the initial count, if the threshold hasn't been reached by any choice or there's still potential for additional choices to reach the threshold after redistribution, whatever received the least number of first place votes in the initial count is dropped from consideration and those ballots are redistributed to their second place choices (or to the next choice still in consideration). This process is repeated until either the mathematical limit of winners is reached or until the list is whittled down to the limit.

There are additional rules in effect with Best Picture nominations that mean we don't always end up with 10 nominees. First, there's a surplus rule that kicks into effect for especially popular films: if a film gets over 10% more first place votes than the nomination threshold dictates, those ballots are split, with a fraction of each ballot staying with the first place choice (however much to add up to the threshold) and the remainder of the ballot redistributed to the voter's next choice still in the running. A film must have at least 5% of first place votes to even be eligible for nomination, and any ballot with a first place film that gets less than 1% of the initial count is redistributed instantly.

 If you're more of an audio/visual learner, this explainer from Collider should help you understand Oscars ballots.

Once the nominees are chosen, things proceed to final Best Picture voting, where the threshold a nominee has to reach to win is 50%+1. Now a winner has to have widespread support across the Academy's voting body to win — before 2009, when Best Picture was a five nominee field, the final winner was determined by a plurality. This explainer from FiveThirtyEight illustrates how the preferential runoff system can lead to a different winner than whatever gets the plurality in an initial count.

In a year with several strong Best Picture nominees or particularly polarizing films, the second place position on ballots takes on special importance. "Moonlight" probably didn't win with over 50% of votes in 2017's initial count. It's almost certain that "La La Land" started with a plurality, and then a big group of ballots which didn't list "Moonlight" or "La La Land" first gave their second place to "Moonlight," pushing the film over 50% after however many rounds of redistribution.

So, is there anything in our data that suggests we could've better predicted a wave of second place support for "Moonlight" that put it over the top? If so, do we see similar patterns emerge among this year's nominees?

2017 Nominees By The Numbers

Here's the breakdown by month of all 2017's Best Picture nominees, minus "Lion."2 With all of the graphs to follow, you can hover over each bar to see how many stories about the movie came out in that time period and what percentage of those stories each film accounts for. A bar with diagonal shading indicates the film's initial US release happened in that time period — you can hover over it for the exact date.

2017 Oscar Nominee Coverage

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
2016
2017
0%
100%

Jan

Arrival1 Story
14.29%



Fences1 Story
14.29%



Manchester by the Sea5 Stories
71.43%

Feb

Arrival1 Story
14.29%



Hacksaw Ridge1 Story
14.29%



Hidden Figures1 Story
14.29%



Manchester by the Sea3 Stories
42.86%



Moonlight1 Story
14.29%

Mar

Fences10 Stories
31.25%



Hacksaw Ridge2 Stories
6.25%



Hidden Figures6 Stories
18.75%



La La Land9 Stories
28.13%



Manchester by the Sea3 Stories
9.38%



Moonlight2 Stories
6.25%

Apr

Arrival7 Stories
8.75%



Fences40 Stories
50%



Hacksaw Ridge5 Stories
6.25%



Hidden Figures17 Stories
21.25%



La La Land5 Stories
6.25%



Manchester by the Sea1 Story
1.25%



Moonlight5 Stories
6.25%

May

Arrival2 Stories
2.63%



Fences24 Stories
31.58%



Hacksaw Ridge4 Stories
5.26%



Hell or High Water28 Stories
36.84%



Hidden Figures5 Stories
6.58%



La La Land6 Stories
7.89%



Manchester by the Sea2 Stories
2.63%



Moonlight5 Stories
6.58%

Jun

Arrival14 Stories
16.47%



Fences18 Stories
21.18%



Hacksaw Ridge10 Stories
11.76%



Hell or High Water13 Stories
15.29%



Hidden Figures4 Stories
4.71%



La La Land18 Stories
21.18%



Manchester by the Sea2 Stories
2.35%



Moonlight6 Stories
7.06%

Jul

Arrival12 Stories
5.24%



Fences33 Stories
14.41%



Hacksaw Ridge55 Stories
24.02%



Hell or High Water18 Stories
7.86%



Hidden Figures9 Stories
3.93%



La La Land99 Stories
43.23%



Manchester by the Sea2 Stories
0.87%



Moonlight1 Story
0.44%

Aug

Arrival201 Stories
24.85%



Fences65 Stories
8.03%



Hacksaw Ridge14 Stories
1.73%



Hell or High WaterReleased 8/12/2016187 Stories
23.11%



Hidden Figures137 Stories
16.93%



La La Land138 Stories
17.06%



Manchester by the Sea35 Stories
4.32%



Moonlight32 Stories
3.96%

Sep

Arrival185 Stories
18.92%



Fences92 Stories
9.41%



Hacksaw Ridge87 Stories
8.9%



Hell or High Water54 Stories
5.52%



Hidden Figures109 Stories
11.15%



La La Land309 Stories
31.6%



Manchester by the Sea41 Stories
4.19%



Moonlight101 Stories
10.33%

Oct

Arrival85 Stories
11.02%



Fences35 Stories
4.54%



Hacksaw Ridge131 Stories
16.99%



Hell or High Water17 Stories
2.2%



Hidden Figures39 Stories
5.06%



La La Land80 Stories
10.38%



Manchester by the Sea67 Stories
8.69%



MoonlightReleased 10/21/2016317 Stories
41.12%

Nov

ArrivalReleased 11/11/2016458 Stories
27.26%



Fences91 Stories
5.42%



Hacksaw RidgeReleased 11/4/2016309 Stories
18.39%



Hell or High Water42 Stories
2.5%



Hidden Figures75 Stories
4.46%



La La Land197 Stories
11.73%



Manchester by the SeaReleased 11/18/2016273 Stories
16.25%



Moonlight235 Stories
13.99%

Dec

Arrival165 Stories
5.76%



FencesReleased 12/16/2016308 Stories
10.75%



Hacksaw Ridge97 Stories
3.39%



Hell or High Water50 Stories
1.75%



Hidden FiguresReleased 12/25/2016337 Stories
11.77%



La La LandReleased 12/16/20161209 Stories
42.21%



Manchester by the Sea281 Stories
9.81%



Moonlight417 Stories
14.56%

Jan

Arrival109 Stories
4.16%



Fences314 Stories
11.97%



Hacksaw Ridge49 Stories
1.87%



Hell or High Water37 Stories
1.41%



Hidden Figures496 Stories
18.91%



La La Land1162 Stories
44.3%



Manchester by the Sea193 Stories
7.36%



Moonlight263 Stories
10.02%

Digg Data

 

Those big indigo bars in December and January 2017? That's the effect of "La La Land's" guild awards rampage coupled with the fact that it started in extremely limited release and then kept getting pushed out to more and more theaters through December and into January. Those bars capture the rave reviews for the film, the negative criticism, the awards buzz, all of it.

So what about "Moonlight?" Well, despite coming out late in October and in a fairly limited release, it dominates the month. It has a strong post-release tail in coverage. It raked in wins at critics' awards and smaller festivals through November and December; more stories were written about it in December than in it's month of release; at its peak in November it was only in 650 theaters. Compare "Moonlight" to "Arrival," which opened with a wide release in November and dominated that month's discussion — its share of mentions in December and January drop off a cliff. Same with "Hacksaw Ridge" and "Hell or High Water" earlier in the year.

In FiveThirtyEight's model, which looked at guild and critic awards and weights their results based on past predictive power, "La La Land's" awards from the Producer's and Director's guilds put it far ahead of "Moonlight" in a distant second, where it barely ranked higher than "Arrival." In contrast, our coverage view says "Moonlight" was talked about post-release far more than "Arrival" was. Yes, "La La Land" dominates in total mentions, as it dominated those guild awards. Still, "Moonlight" comes in second for total mentions in the year and it's long tail post-release indicates its buzz relative to the other films stayed strong. Here, in a week-by-week breakdown of the data from September 1st through January, you can see "Moonlight's" staying power in a little more detail:

2017 Oscar Nominee Coverage

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
2016
2017
0%
100%

9/1

Arrival83 Stories
26.43%



Fences9 Stories
2.87%



Hacksaw Ridge77 Stories
24.52%



Hell or High Water22 Stories
7.01%



Hidden Figures15 Stories
4.78%



La La Land72 Stories
22.93%



Manchester by the Sea6 Stories
1.91%



Moonlight30 Stories
9.55%

9/8

Arrival67 Stories
20.49%



Fences2 Stories
0.61%



Hacksaw Ridge8 Stories
%



Hell or High Water16 Stories
4.89%



Hidden Figures64 Stories
19.57%



La La Land104 Stories
31.8%



Manchester by the Sea30 Stories
9.17%



Moonlight36 Stories
11.01%

9/15

Arrival20 Stories
11.36%



Fences6 Stories
3.41%



Hell or High Water4 Stories
2.27%



Hidden Figures15 Stories
8.52%



La La Land113 Stories
64.2%



Manchester by the Sea3 Stories
1.7%



Moonlight15 Stories
8.52%

9/22

Arrival12 Stories
8.76%



Fences74 Stories
54.01%



Hacksaw Ridge1 Story
0.73%



Hell or High Water9 Stories
6.57%



Hidden Figures13 Stories
9.49%



La La Land12 Stories
8.76%



Manchester by the Sea1 Story
0.73%



Moonlight15 Stories
10.95%

9/29

Arrival8 Stories
13.76%



Fences5 Stories
8.62%



Hacksaw Ridge3 Stories
5.17%



Hell or High Water8 Stories
13.79%



Hidden Figures5 Stories
8.62%



La La Land15 Stories
25.86%



Manchester by the Sea6 Stories
10.34%



Moonlight8 Stories
13.79%

10/6

Arrival24 Stories
30.38%



Fences7 Stories
8.86%



Hacksaw Ridge1 Story
1.27%



Hell or High Water2 Stories
2.53%



Hidden Figures2 Stories
2.53%



La La Land18 Stories
22.78%



Manchester by the Sea8 Stories
10.13%



Moonlight17 Stories
21.52%

10/13

Arrival6 Stories
4.14%



Fences10 Stories
6.9%



Hacksaw Ridge19 Stories
13.1%



Hell or High Water3 Stories
2.07%



Hidden Figures11 Stories
7.59%



La La Land25 Stories
17.24%



Manchester by the Sea8 Stories
5.52%



Moonlight63 Stories
43.45%

10/20

Arrival30 Stories
8.2%



Fences11 Stories
3.01%



Hacksaw Ridge49 Stories
13.39%



Hell or High Water7 Stories
1.91%



Hidden Figures22 Stories
6.01%



La La Land18 Stories
4.92%



Manchester by the Sea33 Stories
9.02%



MoonlightReleased 10/21/2016196 Stories
53.55%

10/27

Arrival23 Stories
9.39%



Fences5 Stories
2.04%



Hacksaw Ridge128 Stories
52.24%



Hell or High Water2 Stories
0.82%



Hidden Figures2 Stories
0.82%



La La Land21 Stories
8.57%



Manchester by the Sea16 Stories
6.53%



Moonlight48 Stories
19.59%

11/3

Arrival66 Stories
15.75%



Fences20 Stories
4.77%



Hacksaw RidgeReleased 11/4/2016201 Stories
47.97%



Hell or High Water10 Stories
2.39%



Hidden Figures7 Stories
1.67%



La La Land58 Stories
13.84%



Manchester by the Sea11 Stories
2.63%



Moonlight46 Stories
10.98%

11/10

ArrivalReleased 11/11/2016285 Stories
61.16%



Fences17 Stories
3.65%



Hacksaw Ridge25 Stories
5.36%



Hell or High Water3 Stories
0.64%



Hidden Figures37 Stories
7.94%



La La Land22 Stories
4.72%



Manchester by the Sea47 Stories
10.09%



Moonlight30 Stories
6.44%

11/17

Arrival55 Stories
14.32%



Fences22 Stories
5.73%



Hacksaw Ridge11 Stories
2.86%



Hell or High Water17 Stories
4.43%



Hidden Figures27 Stories
7.03%



La La Land70 Stories
18.23%



Manchester by the SeaReleased 11/18/2016120 Stories
31.25%



Moonlight62 Stories
16.15%

11/24

Arrival49 Stories
15.65%



Fences30 Stories
9.58%



Hacksaw Ridge4 Stories
1.28%



Hell or High Water10 Stories
3.19%



Hidden Figures3 Stories
0.96%



La La Land38 Stories
12.14%



Manchester by the Sea92 Stories
29.39%



Moonlight87 Stories
27.8%

12/1

Arrival25 Stories
4.95%



Fences22 Stories
4.36%



Hacksaw Ridge19 Stories
3.76%



Hell or High Water8 Stories
1.58%



Hidden Figures23 Stories
4.55%



La La Land230 Stories
45.54%



Manchester by the Sea66 Stories
13.07%



Moonlight112 Stories
22.18%

12/8

Arrival60 Stories
4.65%



Fences63 Stories
4.88%



Hacksaw Ridge57 Stories
4.42%



Hell or High Water17 Stories
1.32%



Hidden Figures88 Stories
6.82%



La La Land666 Stories
51.59%



Manchester by the Sea144 Stories
11.15%



Moonlight196 Stories
15.18%

12/15

Arrival54 Stories
10%



FencesReleased 12/16/2016105 Stories
19.44%



Hacksaw Ridge10 Stories
1.85%



Hell or High Water16 Stories
2.96%



Hidden Figures95 Stories
17.59%



La La LandReleased 12/16/2016148 Stories
27.41%



Manchester by the Sea44 Stories
8.15%



Moonlight68 Stories
12.59%

12/22

Arrival16 Stories
4.02%



Fences104 Stories
26.13%



Hacksaw Ridge7 Stories
1.76%



Hell or High Water8 Stories
2.01%



Hidden FiguresReleased 12/25/2016110 Stories
27.64%



La La Land103 Stories
25.88%



Manchester by the Sea16 Stories
4.02%



Moonlight34 Stories
8.54%

12/29

Arrival30 Stories
6.51%



Fences39 Stories
8.46%



Hacksaw Ridge9 Stories
1.95%



Hell or High Water9 Stories
1.95%



Hidden Figures97 Stories
21.04%



La La Land200 Stories
43.38%



Manchester by the Sea44 Stories
9.54%



Moonlight33 Stories
7.16%

1/5

Arrival68 Stories
3.52%



Fences249 Stories
12.89%



Hacksaw Ridge37 Stories
1.92%



Hell or High Water25 Stories
1.29%



Hidden Figures355 Stories
18.37%



La La Land878 Stories
45.45%



Manchester by the Sea126 Stories
6.52%



Moonlight194 Stories
10.04%

1/12

Arrival21 Stories
5.83%



Fences40 Stories
11.11%



Hacksaw Ridge7 Stories
1.94%



Hell or High Water4 Stories
1.11%



Hidden Figures65 Stories
18.06%



La La Land146 Stories
40.56%



Manchester by the Sea34 Stories
9.44%



Moonlight43 Stories
11.94%

Digg Data

 

In an analysis from The Ringer, they concluded that "Moonlight" was better off for having opened in October than in a later month, as late December nominees have been performing worse in recent years. "Moonlight" had ample time to find its champions amongst critics, run a strong Oscars campaign and, at the very least, establish itself as the common number two choice amongst voters.

This isn't robust data analysis, just an effort to see if there were any signs of "Moonlight" being a stronger contender than it was given credit for. What we want to look for in 2018's coverage, given "Moonlight's" success, are films with patterns of strong post-release coverage that could likely scoop up second place votes over the ostensible frontrunners, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "The Shape of Water."

2018 Is A Wild, Wild Race

Once "La La Land" had its Golden Globe and Director's Guild Award, along with a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations, most prognosticators thought Best Picture was a done deal. Folks are a little more hesitant to call 2018's race. "Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri" and "The Shape of Water" split the guilds — the actors liked "Billboards" while producers and directors went for "Shape." The Writers Guild Awards gave Best Screenplay to "Get Out," both that film and "Lady Bird" have been cleaning up at smaller critics' awards shows. Since guild awards are better predictors, it looks like "Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards" are neck and neck.

So, you know how "La La Land" was last year's Best Picture frontrunner, it had the most mentions in our data, and it lost? Well, "Get Out" is seen as a Best Picture underdog for many reasons: its release date, genre, subject matter… but hey, just look at this:

2018 Oscar Nominee Coverage

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
2017
2018
0%
100%

Jan

Call Me by Your Name57 Stories
36.31%



Darkest Hour11 Stories
7.01%



Dunkirk24 Stories
15.29%



Get Out41 Stories
26.11%



Lady Bird4 Stories
2.55%



Phantom Thread3 Stories
1.91%



The Shape of Water17 Stories
10.83%

Feb

Call Me by Your Name12 Stories
2.3%



Darkest Hour7 Stories
1.34%



Dunkirk28 Stories
5.36%



Get OutReleased 2/24/2017471 Stories
90.23%



Lady Bird2 Stories
0.38%



Phantom Thread2 Stories
0.38%

Mar

Call Me by Your Name6 Stories
0.78%



Darkest Hour22 Stories
2.85%



Dunkirk83 Stories
10.75%



Get Out601 Stories
77.85%



The Post32 Stories
4.15%



The Shape of Water1 Story
0.13%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri27 Stories
3.5%

Apr

Call Me by Your Name2 Stories
0.68%



Darkest Hour2 Stories
0.68%



Dunkirk113 Stories
38.44%



Get Out154 Stories
52.38%



Lady Bird1 Story
0.34%



The Post4 Stories
1.36%



The Shape of Water15 Stories
5.1%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri3 Stories
1.02%

May

Call Me by Your Name5 Stories
1.45%



Darkest Hour9 Stories
2.61%



Dunkirk99 Stories
28.7%



Get Out221 Stories
64.06%



Lady Bird2 Stories
0.58%



The Post5 Stories
1.45%



The Shape of Water4 Stories
1.16%

Jun

Call Me by Your Name5 Stories
2.79%



Darkest Hour5 Stories
2.79%



Dunkirk58 Stories
32.4%



Get Out80 Stories
44.69%



Lady Bird1 Story
0.56%



Phantom Thread23 Stories
12.85%



The Post7 Stories
3.91%

Jul

Call Me by Your Name4 Stories
0.26>%



Darkest Hour33 Stories
2.13%



DunkirkReleased 7/21/20171375 Stories
88.94%



Get Out61 Stories
3.95%



Lady Bird6 Stories
0.39%



The Post4 Stories
0.26%



The Shape of Water63 Stories
4.08%

Aug

Call Me by Your Name58 Stories
13.84%



Darkest Hour5 Stories
1.19%



Dunkirk234 Stories
55.85%



Get Out47 Stories
11.22%



Lady Bird15 Stories
3.58%



The Post9 Stories
2.15%



The Shape of Water45 Stories
10.74%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri6 Stories
1.43%

Sep

Call Me by Your Name34 Stories
5.78%



Darkest Hour57 Stories
9.69%



Dunkirk101 Stories
17.18%



Get Out77 Stories
13.1%



Lady Bird83 Stories
14.12%



The Post13 Stories
2.21%



The Shape of Water133 Stories
22.62%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri90 Stories
15.31%

Oct

Call Me by Your Name73 Stories
17.02%



Darkest Hour9 Stories
2.1%



Dunkirk45 Stories
10.49%



Get Out122 Stories
28.44%



Lady Bird44 Stories
10.26%



Phantom Thread82 Stories
19.11%



The Post7 Stories
1.63%



The Shape of Water29 Stories
6.76%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri18 Stories
4.2%

Nov

Call Me by Your NameReleased 11/24/2017199 Stories
11.78%



Darkest HourReleased 11/22/2017154 Stories
9.12%



Dunkirk78 Stories
4.62%



Get Out260 Stories
15.39%



Lady BirdReleased 11/3/2017444 Stories
26.29%



Phantom Thread68 Stories
4.03%



The Post131 Stories
7.76%



The Shape of Water133 Stories
7.87%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing MissouriReleased 11/10/2017222 Stories
13.14%

Dec

Call Me by Your Name143 Stories
6.72%



Darkest Hour129 Stories
6.06%



Dunkirk161 Stories
7.57%



Get Out276 Stories
12.98%



Lady Bird273 Stories
12.83%



Phantom ThreadReleased 12/25/2017230 Stories
10.91%



The PostReleased 12/22/2017334 Stories
15.7%



The Shape of WaterReleased 12/1/2017405 Stories
19.04%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri176 Stories
8.27%

Jan

Call Me by Your Name36 Stories
3.34%



Darkest Hour89 Stories
8.25%



Dunkirk99 Stories
9.18%



Get Out135 Stories
12.51%



Lady Bird216 Stories
20.02%



Phantom Thread59 Stories
5.46%



The Post131 Stories
12.14%



The Shape of Water147 Stories
13.62%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri167 Stories
15.48%

Digg Data

 

"Get Out" is the most talked-about Best Picture nominee, with "Dunkirk" not far behind. Though their total mentions are close, "Dunkirk" has its big isolated summer blockbuster month in July and then drops off. "Get Out" managed to be the most discussed movie of October — over 7 months after its release — thanks in large part to Jordan Peele's surprise appearance at a UCLA class on the film. The film is so good that whole college courses are being built around it. It spawned multiple memes and cemented "the Sunken Place" as a potent metaphor for black marginalization. None of this is the same as running a strong Oscars campaign (that calls for advertising, Q&As with Academy members, etc.), but is it that hard to believe a movie that was the talk of the entire year could scoop up a boatload of second place votes and repeat a "Moonlight"-style upset?

Well, "Lady Bird" will probably pick up a fair share of first and second place votes too: it came out two weeks later than "Moonlight" did the year before and it shows similarly strong post-release coverage. Even as "Three Billboards" was met with praise, spurred a backlash and went home with the Best Motion Picture Drama Golden Globe on January 7th, "Lady Bird" consistently outpaced it in coverage and picked up the Best Motion Picture Comedy Globe on the same night (last year, "Moonlight" and "La La Land" picked up those wins). "Three Billboards" was the ostensible Oscars frontrunner after the Golden Globes, but "Lady Bird" shouldn't be counted out.

2018 Oscar Nominee Coverage

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
2017
2018
0%
100%

9/1

Darkest Hour10 Stories
8.77%



Dunkirk20 Stories
17.54%



Get Out3 Stories
2.63%



Lady Bird38 Stories
33.33%



The Post4 Stories
3.51%



The Shape of Water17 Stories
14.91%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri22 Stories
19.30%

9/8

Call Me by Your Name22 Stories
11.06%



Darkest Hour12 Stories
6.03%



Dunkirk29 Stories
14.57%



Get Out13 Stories
6.53%



Lady Bird24 Stories
12.06%



The Post3 Stories
1.51%



The Shape of Water86 Stories
43.22%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri10 Stories
5.03%

9/15

Call Me by Your Name8 Stories
4.71%



Darkest Hour3 Stories
1.76%



Dunkirk39 Stories
22.94%



Get Out25 Stories
14.71%



Lady Bird15 Stories
8.82%



The Post1 Story
0.59%



The Shape of Water24 Stories
14.12%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri55 Stories
32.35%

9/22

Call Me by Your Name4 Stories
5.26%



Darkest Hour29 Stories
38.16%



Dunkirk10 Stories
13.16%



Get Out15 Stories
19.74%



Lady Bird6 Stories
7.89%



The Post4 Stories
5.26%



The Shape of Water5 Stories
6.58%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri3 Stories
3.95%

9/29

Call Me by Your Name10 Stories
%



Darkest Hour4 Stories
6.15%



Dunkirk17 Stories
26.15%



Get Out26 Stories
40%



Lady Bird3 Stories
4.62%



The Post2 Stories
3.08%



The Shape of Water3 Stories
4.62%

10/6

Call Me by Your Name29 Stories
40.28%



Darkest Hour5 Stories
6.94%



Dunkirk8 Stories
11.11%



Get Out14 Stories
19.44%



Lady Bird7 Stories
9.72%



The Shape of Water8 Stories
11.11%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri1 Story
1.39%

10/13

Call Me by Your Name16 Stories
15.24%



Darkest Hour2 Stories
1.9%



Dunkirk7 Stories
6.67%



Get Out52 Stories
49.52%



Lady Bird11 Stories
10.48%



Phantom Thread3 Stories
2.86%



The Post1 Story
0.95%



The Shape of Water5 Stories
4.76%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri8 Stories
7.62%

10/20

Call Me by Your Name16 Stories
11.59%



Darkest Hour1 Story
0.72%



Dunkirk10 Stories
7.25%



Get Out17 Stories
12.32%



Lady Bird8 Stories
5.8%



Phantom Thread72 Stories
52.17%



The Shape of Water10 Stories
7.25%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri4 Stories
2.90%

10/27

Call Me by Your Name3 Stories
1.94%



Darkest Hour5 Stories
3.23%



Dunkirk10 Stories
6.45%



Get Out40 Stories
25.81%



Lady Bird62 Stories
40%



Phantom Thread11 Stories
7.1%



The Post8 Stories
5.16%



The Shape of Water5 Stories
3.23%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri11 Stories
7.10%

11/3

Call Me by Your Name14 Stories
3.63%



Darkest Hour14 Stories
3.69%



Dunkirk24 Stories
6.33%



Get Out32 Stories
8.44%



Lady BirdReleased 11/3/2017121 Stories
31.93%



Phantom Thread8 Stories
2.11%



The Post57 Stories
15.04%



The Shape of Water23 Stories
6.07%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri86 Stories
22.69%

11/10

Call Me by Your Name10 Stories
3.31%



Darkest Hour21 Stories
6.95%



Dunkirk22 Stories
7.28%



Get Out87 Stories
28.81%



Lady Bird69 Stories
22.85%



Phantom Thread2 Stories
0.66%



The Post5 Stories
1.66%



The Shape of Water15 Stories
4.97%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing MissouriReleased 11/10/201771 Stories
23.51%

11/17

Call Me by Your Name87 Stories
23.58%



Darkest HourReleased 11/22/201779 Stories
21.41%



Dunkirk12 Stories
3.25%



Get Out55 Stories
14.91%



Lady Bird65 Stories
17.62%



Phantom Thread12 Stories
3.25%



The Post4 Stories
1.08%



The Shape of Water16 Stories
4.34%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri39 Stories
10.57%

11/24

Call Me by Your NameReleased 11/24/201787 Stories
15.48%



Darkest Hour35 Stories
6.23%



Dunkirk16 Stories
2.85%



Get Out80 Stories
14.23%



Lady Bird142 Stories
25.27%



Phantom Thread42 Stories
7.47%



The Post62 Stories
11.03%



The Shape of Water78 Stories
13.88%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri20 Stories
3.56%

12/1

Call Me by Your Name48 Stories
8.78%



Darkest Hour28 Stories
5.12%



Dunkirk34 Stories
6.22%



Get Out84 Stories
15.36%



Lady Bird89 Stories
16.27%



Phantom Thread33 Stories
6.03%



The Post57 Stories
10.42%



The Shape of WaterReleased 12/1/2017144 Stories
26.33%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri30 Stories
5.48%

12/8

Call Me by Your Name53 Stories
7.18%



Darkest Hour38 Stories
5.15%



Dunkirk41 Stories
5.56%



Get Out103 Stories
13.96%



Lady Bird104 Stories
14.09%



Phantom Thread35 Stories
4.74%



The Post74 Stories
10.03%



The Shape of Water181 Stories
24.53%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri109 Stories
14.77%

12/15

Call Me by Your Name27 Stories
6.18%



Darkest Hour33 Stories
7.55%



Dunkirk48 Stories
10.98%



Get Out37 Stories
8.47%



Lady Bird38 Stories
8.7%



Phantom Thread64 Stories
14.65%



The Post117 Stories
26.77%



The Shape of Water47 Stories
10.76%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri26 Stories
5.95%

12/22

Call Me by Your Name14 Stories
4.27%



Darkest Hour22 Stories
6.71%



Dunkirk24 Stories
7.32%



Get Out42 Stories
12.8%



Lady Bird37 Stories
11.28%



Phantom ThreadReleased 12/25/201784 Stories
25.61%



The PostReleased 12/22/201779 Stories
24.09%



The Shape of Water20 Stories
6.10%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri6 Stories
1.83%

12/29

Call Me by Your Name16 Stories
4.97%



Darkest Hour25 Stories
7.76%



Dunkirk58 Stories
18.01%



Get Out48 Stories
14.91%



Lady Bird52 Stories
16.15%



Phantom Thread34 Stories
10.56%



The Post33 Stories
10.25%



The Shape of Water43 Stories
13.35%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri13 Stories
4.04%

1/5

Call Me by Your Name21 Stories
2.52%



Darkest Hour72 Stories
8.63%



Dunkirk55 Stories
6.59%



Get Out97 Stories
11.63%



Lady Bird169 Stories
20.26%



Phantom Thread39 Stories
4.68%



The Post105 Stories
%



The Shape of Water117 Stories
14.03%



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri159 Stories
19.06%

Digg Data

 

So, assuming "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards" have the lead but neither has the support to cinch 50%+1 in the initial ballot count, what films do we think will drop out first? Probably "Darkest Hour," "The Post" and "Phantom Thread" in some order. Where would their ballots move? Do "Get Out" and "Lady Bird" end up fighting for second place on ballots to both films' detriments?

If you're inclined to lean on conventional Oscars wisdom, you still should look at the guild support between "Shape" and "Billboards" and pick based on those. Given its 13 nominations, "The Shape of Water" is still the sensible pick and "Shape" also has the edge over "Three Billboards" in our data.

That said, if you feel an upset coming in your bones — if you think that deep down, whether it wins or not, that 2017 was the year of "Get Out" — then its strong coverage throughout the year should reassure you that, no, you're not way off base here. It really could take Best Picture. If it does, that also supports our "Moonlight" takeaway about the significance of post-release coverage.

If you make your pick with the assistance of this article and, on Sunday night, you're proven wrong? Well, first: sorry. Second, hopefully this data dive helps give you perspective. Just because Best Picture goes one way or another doesn't indicate that world is somehow broken. In the (misguided) words of Joaquin Phoenix, the Oscars are "total, utter bullshit" — sometimes there are pleasant surprises, sometimes not. Oscars voting is still a group of humans ranking their favorite films, and not, like, an index that tracks with media mentions.

Now if there's another Best Picture envelope mix up this year? Then we should probably start worrying that we're all in a busted simulation.

Special thanks to Sarah Ruddy, Rob Okrzesik and Shivram Subramanian for their help wrangling the data and making it presentable — and thanks to Digg's dev team for letting us borrow their smarts for a bit.

1

If we tried to include the period leading up to final voting (which ended on Feb 27th this year) we wouldn't have been able to finish this piece before the Oscars. C'est la vie.

2

We were able to adequately filter out most erroneous mentions for "Lion" — in other graphs, the broad patterns matched up with what common sense dictates the film's buzz cycle would be. That said, there were still enough false hits that, given our choice of graph, when we included "Lion" it looked as though it dominated the conversation in early 2016. It didn't: because 2016's Best Picture nominees had their releases clustered later in the year, there aren't as many stories in the year's first half. All it would take is a handful of erroneously tagged stories about lions to make it look like "Lion" was being covered extensively earlier in the year, so we left it out completely.

Mathew Olson is an Associate Editor at Digg.

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