Nate Silver gets a chance to spread his math crunching numbers thing with a look at the ‘Best Movies’…..
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) publishes a list of more than four million descriptive keywords, or tags (from “abusive boyfriend” to “Ziegfeld Follies”), associated with its index of films. We analyzed the data for the 503 films that have been nominated for best picture since the beginning of the Academy Awards, in 1928 (we included the 1929 finalists in our tally, though no official nominations were announced that year). Our goal was to identify those themes, motifs, and plots that have been most durable over the years—and those that have cycled into and out of fashion. The numbers tell the tale of the changing whims of the Academy, and the sort of society that it hoped to reflect. Oscar-nominated films involving marriage proposals peaked in the 1950s—and those involving nudity, in the 1970s. Other themes have endured—drunkenness, adultery, and murder have never been out of style at the Oscars. And Hollywood has long had a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles: New York, London, and Paris have been much more common settings for Oscar-nominated movies. Our data is not meant to imply that there is a magic formula for winning an Oscar, but most of the movies nominated in recent years have been neither independent films nor blockbusters. Instead, as Hollywood has sought to re-assert the viability of the movies as both a commercial and an artistic medium, it has tended to honor those films that struck a balance between edginess and accessibility…..