His heart says Zero Dark Thirty, but the big-data analytics that Conor Gaughan helped design say Lincoln will beat out Silver Linings Playbook for the coveted best-picture Oscar.
And he knows better than to argue with big data, which are what Mark Zuckerberg's minions use to determine what ads to put on your Facebook page and how those digital signs above highways know how many minutes it will take you to get to your exit.
"It's a real long shot," Gaughan said of Zero Dark Thirty, his personal pick for best picture.
In what they believe to be a first, Gaughan and the Columbus-based Farsite consulting firm he works for are using data analytics -- the process of examining data to look for hidden patterns or other insights -- to predict the winners of the major Oscar categories at the upcoming 85th annual Academy Awards.
Farsite's research, as of late last week, shows that Steven Spielberg will win the Oscar for director; Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), for actor; Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), actress; Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), supporting actor; and Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), supporting actress (an overwhelming favorite).
And no, Gaughan promised, knowing all this in advance won't take the fun out of watching the Feb. 24 ceremony.
"I think it makes it more fun," he said. "It adds a new lens to view what we already know and love -- and that's the data lens."
Not to mention a new lens through which to determine Oscar office-pool picks.
Farsite's client list includes Dick's Sporting Goods and the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. The Oscars provided an opportunity to have a little fun, said Gaughan, a movie buff, and to attract clients, especially some in the media and entertainment industries.
"Movie studios and distributors can deploy data science wisely in their decision-making, to distribute their films to the right locations, to micro-market and increase sales in a more-efficient way," said Michael Gold, company CEO.
Data analytics capture and analyze the billions of bits of data produced from myriad sources -- information that's then used to help companies make better-informed strategic decisions, improve customer service, detect fraud, market to targeted audiences and gain an advantage over the competition.
Or determine that the race for best actress amounts to a showdown between Lawrence, who has a 41 percent chance of winning, and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), 28.7 percent.
"I think it's totally cool," Jim Gallo said. "They can tell their clients, 'If we can predict the Oscars, we can help you.' "
Gallo is national director of business analytics for Information Control Corp. (known as ICC), another big-data analytics firm based in Columbus.
Steven Ross, director of Ohio University's film school, is likewise intrigued by Farsite's Oscar work.
"I'll certainly keep my eye on it," he said. "It kind of reminds me of the racetrack, and they'r e the equivalent of the handicappers and are coming at it with a statistical model."
Farsite uses several data points to calculate its Oscar winners.
"We've looked at the data from all the past Academy Award shows," Gaughan said.
For example, historically, the more nominations a film receives, the better its chances of winning the picture honor.
Lincoln leads the way with 12 nominations.
"Only three times has a movie won best picture without a best-director nomination," Gaughan said, noting that this is one reason Zero Dark Thirty has a 1.6 percent chance of winning.
The movie's director, Kathryn Bigelow, wasn't nominated; Lincoln director Spielberg has an 81 percent chance of winning.
Farsite also analyzes the nominations and wins in other award competitions, such as the recent Golden Globes, the Producers Guild Awards, held Saturday; and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, handed out yesterday.
As of late last week, Lincoln had a 39.4 percent chance of winning best picture, well ahead of Silver Linings Playbook, at 19.8 percent. Gaughan said that Lincoln would have moved to 66 percent had it won at the Producers Guild Awards and that Silver Linings Playbook would have surpassed it with a win Saturday night. Neither happened; Argo was the winner.
Other analytic factors include the websites that accept bets on the outcome of the Oscars, such as Intrade. Farsite updates its calculations every Monday.
"The relevance of this project to the other work we do," Gold said, "is that it shows how things change on a daily and weekly basis, and you need your models to be dynamic."
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