The Oscar race for ‘Best Picture’ – can the news predict a winner?

13 Feb 2015 12:00 am by Leela Bozonelis

Oscar nominationsThe awards season swung into gear in early January with the Golden Globes awards – typically seen as a good indicator of the likely winners at the Academy Awards. Last Sunday the British took centre stage with the British Academy Film Awards (the BAFTAs). Despite the tendency for the BAFTAs to favour British films and artists, these awards are also seen as a reasonable guide to who will scoop what at the Oscars. For the actors, directors, producers, animators, writers, costume designers and, yes, even make-up artists of the movie world, the attention now shifts to the big one in Hollywood.

The eight nominees for Best Picture 2015

  1. American Sniper
  2. Birdman
  3. Boyhood
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. The Imitation Game
  6. Selma
  7. The Theory of Everything
  8. Whiplash

The bookmakers choice – Birdman and Boyhood

It seems that, if the bookmakers are to be believed, there are only two movies in the running: Birdman and Boyhood, with the latter having already scooped the prize at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. The other six nominees appear to be long shots, with odds of victory as long as 125/1.

Despite this the Academy Awards do tend to have a history of the occasional surprise. With this in mind, and conscious of the furious marketing and public relations campaigns that are waged to generate nominations for the movies awards season, we've decided to use Nexis Analyser to take a look at the runners and riders for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in terms of the media profile they have received by the British press in the past three months.

The media choice – The Imitation Game and Boyhood

The UK national newspapers referenced the Oscar nominees for best picture more than 2000 times in the past three months, providing a robust sample to analyse. The two movies with most British interest – The Theory of Everything, about the non-professional life of Professor Stephen Hawking, and The Imitation Game, a movie that covers the life and work of English mathematician and code breaker Alan Turing both feature heavily in the media.

Best picture Oscar nominees

Sandwiched between the two is Boyhood, the bookies favourite to scoop the prize. Despite its universally positive reviews. Excluding the UK newspapers' British bias (which would favour The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game), The Imitation Game and Boyhood seem like strong media favourites.

Naturally media interest in the films peaked around the nomination announcements on 15January 2015.

The race for best picture Oscar over time

Each movie that we monitored enjoyed a spike in media profile around the time it was released (hence the high interest in The Imitation Game in November 2014 and in American Sniper in late January 2015. Boyhood (which was released in July 2014) however has continued to receive consistently high media profile during the whole of the awards period and even beforehand. Media interest in The Theory of Everything started slowly in 2015, despite the movie's launch date of 1st January, but has remained consistently high throughout 2015.

So where would we hedge our bets?

Boyhood is not only the bookie's favourite but also the media's, commanding as much media profile as the two biopics of British scientists over the past three months. However, If media profile has any influence on results, it might just be worth quietly backing The Imitation Game as an outsider to win Best Picture. All will be revealed on 22nd February…