Oscar by the numbers

It's Oscar day! To celebrate, I've got my wonk on to provide a slightly different perspective on the self-indulgent, but oddly compelling smuggasm that is the Oscars.

I have crunched some numbers on everything from the average box office boost enjoyed by an Oscar winner to the number of times God has enjoyed a shoutout in acceptance speeches over the past 40 years.

Let's start with the speeches. They are an almost impossible thing to do well. You need to appear moved, but not cry, appear calm but not glib. Mention anything of substance and you'll get in trouble. Go on too long and the orchestra will drown you out before burly security guards drag you to Hollywood's own Guantanamo Bay.

You also have to thank everyone. Can you imagine the trouble if you forgot to thank your wife? Hence, this word cloud of every 2012 Oscar speech, shows the word "thank" is quite popular. You can also see that wife, family, want and movies get a few mentions.

Using this rather handy database of every Oscar acceptance speech since 1971, I have also been able to track common words. You can see them in this bubble graph. The speech bubbles are well worth a look and highlight an interesting hierarchy in people thanked at the Oscar podium. Wife is the most popular person thanked, ahead of mum, dad and even God. Allah has only been mentioned once - in Adrien Brody's slightly odd acceptance speech for The Pianist. This one:

Actually, by tracking the number of times God has been mentioned in speeches since 1971, we can see that paying tribute to the divine is a rather modern phenomenon. In the 1970s and 80s there were a couple of ceremonies where God was mentioned about four times, but it wasn't very common. It is only when we get to 1999 that God starts to get really popular. The Big G got six mentions in 1999 and 2002 and has regularly scored well ever since.

I always wonder if God is watching the Oscars and is quietly thrilled to get a mention. Like this:

Here's a graph tracking mentions of God since 1971, compared to mentions of New Zealand. God peaked in 2002, New Zealand peaked in 2003 when Return of the King cleared the boards.

A couple of other speech stats, the average speech length in 2011 was 79 seconds and the longest ever speech was Greer Garson's in 1943, which went on for seven minutes. The shortest ever speech was delivered by Alfred Hitchcock - "Thank you".

I've also crunched some numbers that show winning an Oscar converts into box office bounty for your film. I compared the US box office haul of the winning film for the last 10 years to the average takings of the other nominees. The average US box office boost delivered by a Best Picture Oscar is about $45 million. The financial boost of the Oscar was clear. The $45 million average was achieved even though Hurt Locker won a few years back with a measly haul of just $17 million compared to fellow nominee Avatar with a crazy box office total of $760 million. If you take Avatar out of the picture as an outlier then the average boost would be even more, probably around $70 million.

And to finish off, here's a pie chart showing which countries have won the best foreign language Oscar the most times. The chart includes the top 10 countries and shows that Italy and France are big frontrunners. You can see the whole list here:

So, by fiddling with some random numbers you can create a rather warped perspective on the Oscars. I look forward to seeing who will win this afternoon and also seeing whether God gets a record number of shoutouts. Six is the number to beat.

Join me this afternoon at Stuff.co.nz, where I'll be live-blogging the Oscars with Chris Philpott and Nyree McFarlane.

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