Oscars 2014: 6 Takeaways from Best Picture Nominees Through the Years

By ABC News

Mar 2, 2014 12:22pm

ABC News’ Taylor Smith reports:

Tonight at the 86th annual Academy Awards, nine films, including “American Hustle” and “Gravity,” will go head-to-head in the best picture category. This morning on “This Week,” statistician and ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver and General Editor of FiveThirtyEight Walter Hickey discussed what best picture nominees throughout history have in common. Here are six takeaways from their findings:

1. It’s All About Adaptation

Silver and Hickey calculated that nearly 40% of best picture nominees originate from books, while about 18% originate from plays.

2. Oscar Hearts NYC

As seen in the DeNiro classic and best picture nominee, “Taxi Driver,” the Big Apple is an Oscars favorite, with about 20% of nominees taking place there. Next in popularity are London and Paris, along with Washington D.C. and Los Angeles just barely making the top five.

3. 1930s or Bust

The 1930s turned out to be the most common decade to have a film set.

“Since 1939, about one in seven best picture nominees have involved World War II in some way, shape, or form,” Hickey pointed out.

Overall, time periods filled with dramatic events are more likely to be seen in best picture nominees.

“Decades that were more tumultuous – the ’30s, the ’40s, the ’60s probably – create more ground for really fertile, rich topics than happy decades like the ’90s, or the ’50s,” Silver said.

4. Family Matters

Nearly 36% of nominees include plots featuring a familial relationship between a husband and a wife. Other commonly used stories include father-and-son and mother-and-son relationships. Silver and Hickey also found that relations between women don’t fare as well during Oscars season.

5. Is There a Doctor in the House?

Doctors are the most commonly portrayed profession in best picture nominees. Following those in medicine are those in the entertainment industry: singers and dancers.

6. A Slap in the Face…Literally

And the most surprising commonality found in Oscars best picture nominees? “Face slap,” Silver said. “How often movies that have been nominated for best picture contain – literally – a slap in the face.”

“Around 31% of best picture winners involve a scene where somebody is slapped in the face,” Hickey added.

When asked specifically about the film “12 Years a Slave,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o and nominated for nine Oscars, Silver noted that the film has many of the key components that typically appeal to the Academy.

“A husband-and-wife relationship is a core element to the plot. There is loss. There is death. There is folks overcoming adversity. So it really does kind of have a very signature Oscar appeal package,” he said.

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