Data visualization presents the road to victory at the Academy Awards

The traditional red carpet and overzealous fanfare was rolled out again for this week’s 84th Annual Academy Awards. This year’s awards – Billy Crystal’s ninth as host – recognized the best films, acting and behind-the-scenes performances of 2011. Much hyped films Hugo and The Artist captured five awards apiece, while the ever-present Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her role as the controversial Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

With two dominant films and a household name taking home many of 2012’s trophies; it begs the question – how hard is it to clean up at the Oscars? Do the favorites normally get up? Let’s find out.

Today’s data visualization and data analysis is brought to you by: Yellowfin; now making Business Intelligence even easier.

Data source
Today’s data is brought to you by the official Academy Awards Database. Data contains academy award winners and nominees from its inception in 1927 through to 2010.

Films with ten or more nominations

Seventy-nine films have received ten or more nominations in the award’s 83 year history between 1927/28 and 2010/11. So, a reasonably common occurrence you’d have to agree.

However, rising to the publicity and occasion is difficult. Aside from Titanic (11 awards from 14 nominations), Ben-Hur (11 awards from 12 nominations), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (11 awards from 11 nominations), West Side Story (10 awards from 11 nominations) Cabaret (eight awards from ten nominations) and Slumdog Millionaire (eight awards from ten nominations), most much-lauded films fail to deliver on their massive pre-award expectations.

Anyone involved in The Turning Point (0 awards from 11 nominations), The Color Purple (0 awards from 11 nominations), Gangs of New York (0 awards from ten nominations) or True Grit (0 awards from ten nominations) will attest to that.

Further evidence that hogging all the accolades is a difficult task, only three films – It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – have taken out awards for best picture, director, actor, actress and writing.

Actors and actresses with five or more nominations

Again, critiques/critics’ calls for official recognition of individual performances often remain unfulfilled.

Excluding this year’s triumph, which marginally improves an arguably unenviable record, Meryl Streep (rightfully regarded as a once-in-a-lifetime talent) had only secured two awards from 16 nominations. Even Katharine Hepburn, who took home an impressive four Best Actress awards, holds a poor strike-rate from her 12 nominations.

Persons with acting nominations in three or more consecutive years

Further underscoring the near impossibility of asserting individual dominance at the awards, a substantial number of actors and actresses have undergone nomination hot-streaks, but almost all have failed to capitalize.

Of the 20 actors or actresses who have secured best, or best supporting, actor/actress nods in three or more consecutive years, only Spencer Tracy (1936, 37, 38) managed to claim an award in more than one of those years – Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938).


There’s no shortage of talent in the movie making industry – proof lies in the breadth of Academy Award recipients. And so it seems that there’s rarely such a thing, as a sure thing, at the Oscars.

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