Once upon a time, a TV meteorologist went on the air and said there was a 99% chance the next day would be sunny. The next day, a thunderstorm swept through town, and when he left the station that evening he found himself an angry mob of viewers who had been convinced by your forecast to leave their warm, dry homes for day of outdoor recreation, only to end up sopping wet. "Your prediction was wrong!" they shouted.
"Calm yourselves, angry viewers!" he say. "It's true that I said there was a 99% chance of a sunny day, but implicit in that was a 1% chance that the day wouldn't be sunny. You see, statements of probability are never wrong, because they inherently allow for the chance of something unlikely happening, and unlikely doesn't mean impossible." The angry mob surged forward and tore him to pieces, but he went to his grave knowing that he'd been technically correct.
Let's keep that in mind as we consider the fact that Argo won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the SAG Awards last night. The Outstanding Cast SAG Award is spotty when it comes to predicting the Best Picture Oscar, and it remains true that movies that movies that are not nominated for the directing Oscar rarely win Best Picture. But it's also true that when a movie wins the Best Picture Critics' Choice Award and the Best Picture Golden Globe and the Best Cast SAG Award, that movie usually wins the Best Picture Oscar too. That said, prior to this year, only six films have won all of those first three awards:
- Shakespeare in Love
- American Beauty
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- Slumdog Millionaire
On the one hand, the sample size is probably too small to be meaningful. One the other, an 83% correlation is nothing to sneeze at. And actors do represent the largest percentage of Academy members. I still think it's unlikely that Argo will win the Best Picture Oscar … but like the dead meteorologist said, unlikely doesn't mean impossible.