The Academy Awards ceremony is just three weeks away and, unlike previous years, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus opinion among critics as to which film is the "best". Normally you can see a growing trend by the time the Oscars arrive, but this year there seems to be some dissidence regarding the critic’s favorites.
- Golden Globes: “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave”
- Bafta Awards: “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity”
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards: “American Hustle”
- Gotham Independent Awards: “Inside Llewyn Davis”
- LA Film Critics’ Awards: Tie “Gravity” and “Her”
- The Critics’ Choice Awards: “12 Years a Slave”
You may say that when you exclude "Her" and “Inside Llewyn Davis” – which is not nominated – that it’s basically just a race between three films, but it’s very hard to find a year where three films had equal chances to win.
Take 1994 as an example. There was “Pulp Fiction” one of the defining films of our generation and “The Shawshank Redemption” which as of right now sits at #1 on the ALL-TIME BEST FILMS LIST on IMDB. Each of these films could win in any given year, but NOONE gave them a snowballs chance in hell of beating out “Forrest Gump”. 1994 was one of the finest years in filmmaking EVER, but even then the winner was obvious months before the awards.
So, to say that this year’s awards are unique is an understatement. The big question is…do these awards even matter?
Sure awards are nice and all, and they make a great dining table centerpiece or a necklace that would make Flava Flav drool, but those awards only get you so many free meals at restaurants. However, if the films you produce win zero awards, but generate huge box-office grosses then you won’t need those free meals, now will you?
So what is the ultimate goal for filmmakers – to make great films worthy of awards, or to make money? It’s pretty obvious once you look at the numbers. We’ll be looking at the domestic figures since the Oscar is a domestic award.
Over the past 25 years, 138 films have been nominated for Best Picture. Out of those, only 53 films were among the top 20 grossing films of the year (38%) and only 29 were among the top ten (21%). If we look at the films that eventually won the Oscar we find that only three were that year’s top grossing film (“Forrest Gump”, “Titanic”, and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”), and this gap seems to be widening dramatically.
Throughout the fifteen years from 1989 to 2003, 24 of the nominees for Best Picture were among the top ten grossing films (an average of 1.6 per year), not bad.
In the ten years since, there have only been five (an average of one every two years), not good. Notably, during the four years from the 2004 awards to the 2007 awards, out of 20 nominated films, only two cracked the top 20 grossing films, and neither was in the top ten.
The frontrunners for this year’s Best Picture award are “12 Years a Slave”, “American Hustle”, and “Gravity”. Of these, only “Gravity” cracks the top twenty at number seven. “American Hustle” comes in at number 22 and you can find “12 Years a Slave” way down the list at number 74.
The Best Visual Effects category may be a better gauge of American's preference in movies. Four of the five nominees are among the top 11 grossing films of the year. “The Lone Ranger” – which for some ungodly reason was nominated over “Man of Steel” – is a bit further down at number 40.
So what can we make of all this? One of my favorite film related websites, Pajiba.com, recently posted an article stating that the Academy got the Best Picture award wrong 19 out of the past 20 years. You may not agree with all of Pajiba’s choices, but the opinion of which films are the “best” is entirely subjective and open for debate. With only a select number of open spots for nominees, there are quite a few great films that are left out of the eternally elite.
1993 is a great example.
“Schindler’s List” won Best Picture, and it’s hard to argue against that. However, my problem is with the other nominees. I’ll see your:
“In the Name of the Father”, “The Fugitive”, “The Remains of the Day”, and “The Piano”.
And I’ll raise you:
“Jurassic Park”, “Philadelphia”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, and “Tombstone”. Which list would you rather watch?
TO THE SLIDESHOW!