A Secret to Picking Oscar Winners: Go With the Best Picture Nominees

In the below-the-line categories, a full 80 percent of the winners come from the ranks of best-pic contenders

If you’re wondering who might win some of the below-the-line categories at Sunday’s Academy Awards, here’s a hint:

Stick with the films that are also nominated for Best Picture.

If you go back six years, to when the Academy expanded the Best Picture field from five to 10 nominees (and then adjusted it to a variable number two years later), the vast majority of Oscar winners in almost all categories have come from the films nominated for the Oscars’ top award.

Overall, 80 percent of the Oscar winners in all categories except documentary, foreign-language, animation and shorts have come from Best Picture nominees.

And in the directing, original screenplay, adapted screenplay, cinematography, musical score and sound mixing categories, it’s been a clean sweep for best-pic nominees: They’ve won every award handed out in those categories since the expansion.

Clearly, a Best Picture nomination gives all of a film’s nominees a big leg up – maybe because it means Oscar voters are generally favorably disposed toward everything about the film, or more likely to watch that film’s screener.

Other stats: In the four acting categories, 19 of the 24 winners have been from best-pic contenders. The Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories both split 5-1 in favor of performances from best picture nominees, and Best Supporting Actress was 6-0; only Best Actress was split, with three winners coming from best-pic films (“The Blind Side,” “Black Swan” and “Silver Linings Playbook”) and three not (“The Iron Lady,” “Blue Jasmine” and “Still Alice”).

In film editing and visual effects, five of the six have been from the best-pic ranks. In art direction (now called production design), four of the six have.

In fact, there are only two categories in which most of the winners come from films that weren’t in the Oscars’ top category: Best Costume Design and Best Original Song, both of which gave the Oscar to two best-pic nominees and four non-nominees.

Along with Best Actress, Best Makeup and Hairstyling also split 3-3.

The moral: In your Oscar pool, it might be risky to pick “Carol,” “Ex Machina,” “Inside Out” or “Straight Outta Compton” in the screenplay categories, or “The Hateful Eight” in cinematography, or even “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in visual effects.

On the other hand, it seems likely that the 6-0 string for Best Picture nominees in the Best Original Score category will be broken this year; only one of the five nominees, “Bridge of Spies,” is a best-pic contender, while the others are “Carol,” “The Hateful Eight” (the favorite), “Sicario” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

For that category, at least, it’d be smart to ignore the Best Picture rule. For the rest of the ballot, do so at your own risk.

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