This Formula Could Help Decide Best Picture

As the 2014 Oscars approach, the big question as always is who's going to take home the Best Picture statuette. Could it be 12 Years a Slave , a film that's nabbed the best film titles at numerous other awards season ceremonies? Or perhaps Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity? Could Her surprise everyone and nab the honor? We didn't make outright predictions, but we did create a formula to do it for us.

Based on past Best Picture winners, we've come up with a rubric that accounts for the critics' praises, other awards given out before the Oscars, the makeup of each ensemble, and the elements of the films' stories themselves. With a special focus on the last 10 years of Best Picture winners, which includes Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby, and the outlier Crash, we've boiled down the characteristics of each into a simple formula by which to judge this year's nominees.

Of course, bear in mind that as comprehensive as our formula may be, Academy voters are still human. They could surprise us all, but more likely than not the films with the highest scores below are the most likely to nab an Oscar come March.

So, without further ado, the rules:

  1. Add 50 points if the film's Rotten Tomatoes score lands between 91 percent and 97 percent. These may seem like gimme points, but keep in mind that past nominees such as The Blind Side and Babel scored in the high sixties on Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. Add 10 points for every member of the primary and supporting cast who's won an Oscar. Oscar loves to reward those he's already visited once before.
  3. Add 10 points for every A-list actor in the primary or supporting cast. Because being A-list is almost like being an Oscar-winner.
  4. Add two points for every actor in the primary or supporting cast who's recognizable from television, previous Oscar nominations, or indie movies. The better to build an affordable ensemble with, my dear.
  5. Plus 15 points if Leonardo DiCaprio is in the film. The Academy may not give Leo love, but they love rewarding his movies (The Departed and Titanic needed their lucky rabbit's foot to win).
  6. Minus 50 points if the movie could be considered a Rom-Com. There's a reason Jennifer Lawrence won for Silver Linings Playbook and the movie itself lost to Argo. Generally, Rom-Coms can't win.
  7. Add 12 points for each nomination the film received in another category. Duh. If the film was nominated for everything else, it's probably a pretty damn good movie.
  8. Minus 25 points if the movie could be considered "Bro Bait." If you see dudes fist pumping for the trailer at the movie theater, it's probably not going to win an Oscar. Sorry, Best Picture losers Avatar, Django Unchained, and Moneyball, but the truth hurts.
  9. Minus 15 points if two straight women kiss for dramatic effect. It didn't work for Black Swan and it's probably not doing American Hustle any favors either. Academy voters are a stuffy bunch, folks.
  10. Minus 20 points if the main cast includes an actor who's elevated themselves from being a staple in comedy/rom-com popcorn movies — think Jonah Hill in Moneyball or Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris — or if the cast includes Brad Pitt. Sorry, Brad. You're notoriously bad luck.
  11. Minus five points for every elderly main or supporting character played by an actor who's not won an Oscar. It's not fair, but it does seem to be the pattern.
  12. Plus 60 points if the director won that year's Director's Guild Award. Even Ben Affleck, who lost the Best Director Oscar, got the DGA prior to Argo taking Best Picture. Of course, Crash managed to win without that award, so plus 1000 points if you're the movie Crash, which inexplicably won the Oscar in 2005.

Now, let's apply that rubric to this year's nominees:

12 Years a Slave

(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (20 for A-Listers Brad Pitt & Michael Fassbender) + (10 for recognizable actors Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Dano) + (12 x 8 nominations in other categories) - (20 for Brad Pitt being in the cast) = 156

American Hustle

(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (20 for Oscar Winners Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale) + (20 for A-listers Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper) + (2 for recognizable Jeremy Renner) + (12 x 9 nominations in other categories) - (15 for Jennifer Lawrence kissing Amy Adams for dramatic effect) = 185

Captain Phillips

(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (10 for Oscar-winner Tom Hanks) + (12 x 5 nominations in other categories) = 120

Dallas Buyers Club

(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (20 for A-listers Jennifer Garner and Matthew McConaughey) + (2 for recognizable Jared Leto) - (20 for reformed rom-com staple McConaughey) + (12 x 5 nominations in other categories) = 112


(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (20 for Oscar-winners George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) + (60 for winning this year's DGA) + (12 x 9 nominations in other categories) - (20 for reformed rom-com staple Bullock) = 218


(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (20 for A-listers Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix) + (0 For A-Lister Scarlett Johansson because the Academy refuses to recognize voice acting) + (12 x 4 nominations in other categories) - (50 because it could be considered a rom-com) = 68


(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (6 for recognizable Bob Odenkirk, Will Forte, & June Squibb) - (10 for older actors without Oscars) + (12 x 5 nominations in other categories) - (20 for reformed comedy staple Will Forte) = 86


(50 for Rotten Tomatoes Score) + (10 for Oscar-winner Judi Dench) + (2 for recognizable Steve Coogan) + (12 x 3 nominations in other categories) = 95

The Wolf of Wall Street

(0 for Rotten Tomatoes Score, which is a mere 77 percent) + (10 for Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin) + (30 for A-Listers Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, & Matthew McConaughey) + (10 for Rob Reiner because he's not A-List, but he's classic) + (6 for recognizable TV stars Margot Robbie, John Bernthal, and Kyle Chandler) + (15 points because Leonardo DiCaprio is in it) - (25 because it's most definitely Bro Bait) - (40 for reformed rom-com and comedy staples McConaughey and Hill) + (12 x 4 nominations in other categories) = 54

If I were a betting woman, I'd tell you to put your money on Gravity, 12 Years a Slave , or American Hustle based on all this math. But may the best movie win.

Images: Columbia Pictures; Wifflegif (2)