Will 'The Shape of Water' Take the Oscar for Best Picture? A.I. Predicts

It's a close one.

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Ahead of the Oscars on Sunday, there’s been quite a debate over what film will actually take home the ultimate award of the evening, Best Picture. The race is actually pretty close, with a lot of impressive films competing in the top category. This year’s list includes nine films with a wide range of storytelling, that include everything from horror to more traditional dramas. Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri are all contenders.

Unanimous A.I., a San Francisco-based technology firm that uses “swarm intelligence” to make scarily accurate predictions, anticipates one film has the highest likelihood to win, but not by much. The result suggests that The Shape of Water has a 43 percent chance of winning the award, the highest of any film in the category — which makes this still a bit of an “anything can happen” race.

To predict the winner for Best Picture and make other 2018 Oscar winner predictions, Unanimous A.I. uses what’s known as swarm intelligence to forecast the likely winners, harnessing its prediction from a pool of around 40 die-hard movie fans. Each member of the swarm worked together as a hive mind to decide on the probability of a winner, based on what they perceived the academy was likely to choose. Using the collective intelligence of the group, manifested through the A.I. algorithm, the predictions tend to merit eerily accurate results.

As you can see in the animation below, each participant controlled a little golden magnet and used it to drag the puck toward the answer they thought was the most likely outcome. In this case, the top contenders in the category going into the awards have been anticipated as being The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, riding high on its Golden Globes wins. As users see the puck move toward a particular outcome, it triggers a psychological response. They readjust their decision-making, building toward a consensus.

The prediction makes sense, given the critical love that’s been poured onto both films since their releases. The Shape of Water also leads a pack of diverse nominations this year, with its inclusion in 13 categories. The dark fairytale of forbidden love between a janitor and a strange water creature exemplifies director Guillermo del Toro’s ability to blend fantasy with hefty, character-driven narratives.

In 2017, Unanimous A.I. got five of the Big 6 Oscar categories correct (Best Actor, Actress, Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress). It missed the mark on Best Picture, as its swarm of movie experts incorrectly guessed that La La Land would win. Moonlight was the actual Oscar winner for Best Picture in 2017.

Unanimous A.I. has also predicted winners for the other categories at the upcoming Oscars ceremony. The swarm is betting that Frances McDormand will win Best Actress, while Gary Oldman will take home Best Actor, and Guillermo del Toro is pegged to receive Best Director.

Here’s how to stream the Academy Awards on Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

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