What will the Oscars jury be in the mood for this year?

How mood can predict who wins the Oscars

It’s that time of the year again. Nominees have been presented, we’ve had some time to watch the nominated movies and now we are waiting with anticipation for the Oscars to take place. Although admittedly, after the way 2020 turned out, we might not be presented with the most thrilling line-up of films, we can’t deny that it’s refreshing to have new movie magic to discuss, analyze and connect with.

To take a different approach to the exciting pre-Oscars speculation game, we at Vionlabs decided to run the Oscar nominees in the category for Best Picture from the past 4 years through our Mood Lab to see if we can predict what the jury might be in the mood for this year. Who will win? Although for obvious reasons we can’t know for sure, we have looked at previous years to see if we can find any patterns, similarities or differences to in good fun try to predict the 2021 winner. Judging from the mood data we have found, combined with film analysis, here’s what we have to tell about this year’s movies.

What is Vionlabs mood data?

At Vionlabs we are leveraging established Psychological models, combined with the input of 1000s of humans across the globe to train our AI-network to accurately predict the emotional impact on a second-by-second basis for video content. Through the training of AI-networks in this way, we are able to understand exactly what goes on from an emotional standpoint at any given point in time e.g. how stressful, engaging, scary, happy, controlling etc a scene is second by second. What makes a movie e.g. captivating and inspiring? Well, it’s actually a combination of multiple factors ranging from averages, peaks, ups and downs, how quickly a movie goes from a high to low etc. all which is well defined in the universe of content production. Leveraging our emotional data allows us to define and automatically categorize content assets relevant mood categories such as “Captivating and Inspiring” or “Feelgood and Laughs”. The mood represents the theme of the movie/series to better help users pick content that “they are in the mood for”.

Artistic qualifications to win an Academy Award

The Academy Award is one of the most prestigious film awards to be handed out each year. Although there don’t seem to be any specific criteria regarding the artistic qualities of a film in order for it to qualify, there are certain unofficial rules and traditions. Certain genres appear to be more popular than others for a nomination, with drama being the clear winner. The ultimate goal of an Oscar nominee seems to be to move its audience, to discuss a difficult or challenging topic, or to inspire something within the viewer or the world around us.

Around 7000 members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are allowed to vote for who should be nominated as well as who the winner should be. Let’s closer examine what they’ve previously been in the mood for!

What past years’ Mood Data can tell us about the future

We have run the Best Picture nominees from 2018 to 2021 through our Mood Lab. Looking at these results we can tell that the mood category “Captivating and Inspiring” is the most common category with 34 percent. This is followed by “Emotionally Reflective” and “Eventful and Engaging” at 28 percent. These categories vary a bit from year to year. They are featured as the main mood categories in 2018 and 2019. 2020’s ceremony seems to have been more hopeful, leaving out the “Emotionally Reflective” category altogether.

Given that drama is the predominant film genre of the nominated films, it makes sense that our Mood Lab has presented us with the mood categories above. If the ultimate goal of an Oscar nominee is to move its audience this might explain why the mood categories we find tend to shift in a certain direction. It’s pretty safe to say that the drama genre, which shows us human beings when they are at their best, worst and everything in between, will inspire moods such as “Emotionally Reflective”, “Eventful and Engaging” as well as “Captivating and Inspiring”. As humans, we relate to the struggles of others, and we find truth about ourselves and the world around us within these mood categories.

When we look at the winners, however, that’s when it becomes interesting. Although “Emotionally Reflective” is one of the most popular mood categories in our findings, it seems that none of the winners fall into this category. The winners of 2018 and 2019, The Shape of Water as well Green Book are both engaging stories that present something important, a glimmer of hope.

It seems that for the 2020 Award ceremony, the nominees presented were of the more inspiring variety overall with the main mood categories being “Eventful and Engaging” as well as “Captivating and Inspiring”. Amidst all of these movies, there was one film that stood out as unique, Parasite. It didn’t make us feel hopeful or inspired but instead played with tempo, genres, and messaging in a way that surprised us and felt memorable amongst its competitors.

So what we see is that movies featuring a hopeful element have been popular these past years, with the winners being films that are able to stand out from the crowd. We can imagine these 7000 voters see a lot of films each year, so being able to move and engage your audience as well as present them with something unique seems likely to be of importance.

Only 5 of our 19 of our mood categories have been featured at the Oscars during the last 4 years, so even though there aren’t any official artistic criteria it’s clear that when it comes to moods, the Oscars like to pick films that inspire something very specific in the viewer. For example, we have not seen many movies from the moods “High-Octane Action” or “Eventful and Action-Packed” in the lineup of these films, further hitting down the point that drama is what the jury likes to go for. Black Panther, nominated in 2019, might be the exception to this rule, but one could argue it wasn’t nominated for its’ groundbreaking action scenes, rather than some of the cultural significance the film is said to have stood for.

“Dark and Nail-biting” movies such as Dunkirk or Get out have been nominated but didn’t win, and if you look at the data for 2021, there are no representatives in this category this year. Nothing from the mood category “Creepy and Scary” has been nominated for the past 4 years, but then again it’s not very common for most horror to get recognition as something other than entertainment.

So, what is the Oscars’ jury in the mood for this year?

The Awards this year have been described as a pretty uneventful affair, and looking at the Mood Category results for the Best Picture nominees of 2021 it’s pretty clear that they all feature a similar mood. Looking at the stark difference in mood between 2020 and 2021, we can feel the pandemic looming over us with its heavy emotional impact and less-than-fun circumstances.

4 of the 8 nominated films all fall into the emotional categories, with The Father leaning into a slightly heavier mood than Promising Young Woman, Minari, and Sound of Metal, who are “Emotionally Reflective”.

That leaves us with Judas and the Black Messiah, The Trial of Chicago 7 and Nomadland which all fall into the “Captivating and Inspiring” category. We also have Mank, leading the nomination race with a total of 10 nominations, in “Feelgood & Engaging”. Judging from what we saw in previous years, our bet is that here is where we should look to find our Best Picture winner.

Who will win Best Picture this year?

Our data has shown us that although the Oscars jury appreciates an emotionally challenging movie, for the past few years these films have not come out as winners.

Looking at Mank, our video data analysis informs us that it has some major similarities with the previous 2018 winner The Shape of Water in it’s feelgood aspects, although the tempo of the film is of a different variety. Mank is a film that celebrates Hollywood and its history, showing us the behind-the-scenes of one of cinema’s greatest movies, so one could be quite certain that it will bring home some points with the jury.

Judas and The Black Messiah, The Trial of Chicago 7, and Nomadland fall into a mood category it seems likely the jury would enjoy, “Captivating & Inspiring”. They all present a challenging topic but inspire something within the viewer, they move us without removing our hope for the future. nn

Our personal favorite of these three has to be Nomadland. To us, it signifies the essence of an Oscars movie. It tells us something about ourselves and the world around us, it shows us there are many people out there who’ve yet to fulfill their dreams and have a story they wish to tell. And it does this without feeling emotionally heavy, or wallowing in misery. Its natural storytelling style brings us emotional resonance, something we believe could win the jury over.


No matter the outcome of Sunday’s awards ceremony, it makes sense that the mood of the Oscar-nominated films is a bit heavy this year. We’ve all had a rough year and it seems that this atmosphere is reflected back to us watching some of the 2021 Best Picture Nominees. That is precisely why we believe that if there’s any year where it makes sense for a more hopeful contestant to win, it’s this year!

At Vionlabs we know that it’s the emotional impact of content that matters and that mood is the deciding factor when you’re choosing what to watch. Our mood data provides us with important information that is instrumental to improving the way we find what content we as viewers are interested in. Looking at movies from the perspective of moods rather than genres will erase some of the time wasted searching for the next big thing to keep you entertained.

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