The second site to try to "Nate Silver" the Oscars is Social Oscars. Back in mid-January, Screener reported on Farsite Forecast, which doles out each nominee's percentage chance at winning the Oscars. Social Oscars, which social media monitoring company Brandwatch created, takes a different route. The company's interactive infographic compares which movies the critics think will win to the ones that the public thinks will win. Surprisingly, the critics and public are pretty much in agreement for most of the categories. There's rarely more than a couple percentage points in
differences between the two, which may not be even statistically significant since they don't mention the sample size. However, some of their findings do back up the anecdotal feelings about races in various categories.
In the Best Picture race, for example, more critics (12%) are excited about Zero Dark Thirty than members of the public (7%). Life of Pi's sentimentality played better with the public (12%) than critics (9%). Argo has recently become the frontrunner for Best Picture, unseating the early momentum of Zero Dark Thirty and the solid, blue-chip choice of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. If Argo wins, the Social Oscars will have correctly picked the winner, since 23% of the public and 19% of critics have voted this as their favorite.
The Social Oscars is a fun tool, but it overlooks one big fact. Who wins the Oscars usually has only a loose correlation with the popular and critical choices. For every winner like The King's Speech, which was the 2010 victor and supported by both critics and audiences, there's a movie that critics were rooting for but the public did not see in theatres in big numbers (that describes 2011 winner The Artist or 2009 winner The Hurt Locker), or a popular favorite that's just good enough or has some kind of special hook that convinces the Academy that it deserves recognition (Gladiator, Titanic, Forrest Gump). The Oscars can sometimes be an exercise in game theory (see 2001 Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind for a brush-up on that). Many critics distinguish between the movies they like best and the movie that they think they will win, sometimes developing subcategories like a movie they campaign for and want to win, even while acknowledging another movie probably has a better shot. A regular Joe may count nominee Django Unchained as the most enjoyable picture of the year but feel that Argo is the better choice for a Best Picture winner. The Social Oscars' infographic is an interesting tool to gauge the relative popularity of the Best Picture choices, for example, but critical and popular reaction are just one piece of the pie when it comes to the Oscars.