Opinion Research

“Here’s who’ll win the Oscar”

I’d love to tell you which film will pick up the Oscar for Best Picture or one of the Best Writing awards, so I through I’d have a look at some scripts.

If my prediction if it was based simply on what I’d read then I’d probably pick The Artist– but what if maths and stats had a part to play?

If you’ve read a few articles on Considered Words you may have noticed I like to put text through a word analysis program called the LIWC. At the heart of this bit of kit is a list of words that have been put into different categories and ranked – such as for positive emotions, for thinking and so forth.

So on a sunny Sunday I put through what scripts I could obtain for this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominations – The Artist, Moneyball, The Descendents, The Help and War Horse – then put through all available scripts, winning and losing, that had been nominated since 2000.

I then looked for any trends. Note that it’s been a while since I did any stats, and that many scripts aren’t available as text files, but in doing so I narrowed it down to these categories and this is the chart I got out:

Selected data from Oscar-nominated scripts


There are several reasons I chose these categories, involving stats and other stuff to dull for most writers to want to read, but it does mean I am going to make a prediction.

But first a caveat – actually, many caveats. I have broken the rules of LIWC in my rush, I haven’t tidied up the text to remove certain phrases, these scripts may not be what was filmed, it doesn’t take into account the best actor, the director’s style, the score, the makeup, the best boy. Not all scripts are available, and The Artist barely has any dialogue. Plus I was in a rush, it is a Sunday.

Anyway, in general the higher the value of all columns the better, except for Cognitive Processes where the lower is better. Looking at this I am going to say that The Descendents‘s heavy use of cognitive processes rules it out of the running. As The Artist uses barely any dialogue I am going to ignore its high value.

However, looking at social processes War Horse could be in with a chance, but in other columns it is pretty low. So let’s send War Horse to the glue factory of our consideration.

Looking at verbs and tense then it may well be The Artist that does well. But if we focus instead on emotions, in this case it is pretty close but overall it’s The Help that just inches ahead.

So here is where my money is going (assuming Ladbrookes is still online) – The Help. I like The Artist, and my heart says it will pick up most awards. But if I am going to make a predication based on some hokey stats, I am going to go with The Help.

Whoever wins, enjoy tonight’s Oscars. If you want more information on the data I’m using leave a comment below.

By Jonathan Richardson

Jonathan Richardson is a writer and the editor of Considered Words.

He's worked as a journalist, writer and analyst for organisations including the BBC and Which? He's also written for the stage in Cambridge, radio and sketches at the Edinburgh festival.

He's now a freelance writer and data analyst.

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