vie. Jul 19th, 2019

The Final Episodes

Un par de clics es todo lo que necesita

La categoría de "película popular" de los Oscar podría ser una buena idea, sugiere la matemática

4 min read
madmax-fury-road

And the Oscar for the best popcorn blockbuster goes to…

The Academy Awards are adding a new category for popular film. What that means, nobody knows, because the academy hasn’t filled in any details. All we know is that the flicks considered for outstanding achievement in popular film will also be eligible for best picture.

Even though the details are still unconfirmed, the announcement has led to outrage among film fans who feel a separate category for blockbusters is condescending to filmmakers and audiences. One of my fellow CNET staffers argues this distinction between ‘popular’ and ‘serious’ art just shows the academy is out of touch.

Hang on a second. Let’s take a quick step back and look at how the academy is attempting to fill a genuine gap in its awards. To do that, we’re going to crunch some numbers. 

History of the best picture

But first, a brief history lesson on the best picture award, which has gone through a number of changes in the Academy Awards’ 90-year history.

The first Academy Awards were held in 1927, and initially there were two best picture categories: outstanding picture, and unique and artistic picture. The unique and artistic picture award was dropped after just one year — and since then, the top Oscar has been renamed a number of times. 

Janet Gaynor and Frank Borzage with Academy Award

First it was the Academy Award for outstanding picture. Then it was changed to outstanding production. Next it was renamed outstanding motion picture, then best motion picture, and, since 1962, the Academy Award for best picture.

What about nominations? The first Academy Awards saw just three films nominated. By 1933 the field expanded to eight nominees, then 10 films in 1934, 12 in 1935 and back to 10 in 1937. Finally, the category was limited to just five nominees in 1945, and that’s the way it stayed for more than 60 years.

But in 2009, the academy widened the playing field to a possible 10 nominees. The idea was to open the category to more popular blockbusters and genre films. 

Sid Ganis, president of the academy at the time, said that ‘having 10 best picture nominees is going to allow academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.’

VFX_Avatar.jpg

He’s talking about blockbusters, which get recognized for technical achievements like effects and sound. These are often well-deserved for the teams of innovators and creators who conjure these eye-popping effects. These awards single out specific aspects of filmmaking prowess without rewarding the film as a whole. 

Except that in the last nine Academy Award ceremonies since the nomination cap was raised, big blockbusters have been entirely shut out of the best picture prize.

Lower-budget films now dominate best picture

Let’s take a quick look at the budgets of the best picture winners, starting with those scooping up the award since the nominee cap was raised and followed by the previous victors.

 

Best Picture Winner

Budget

2017

The Shape of Water

$19.5M

2016

Moonlight

$4M

2015

Spotlight

$20M

2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

$18M

2013

12 Years a Slave

$22M

2012

Argo

$44.5M

2011

The Artist

$15M

2010

The King’s Speech

$15M

2009

The Hurt Locker

$15M

Average Budget from 2017 – 2009 : $19M

 

Best Picture Winner

Budget

2008

Slumdog Millionaire

$15M

2007

No Country for Old Men

$25M

2006

The Departed

$90M

2005

Crash

$6.5M

2004

Million Dollar Baby

$30M

2003

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

$94M

2002

Chicago

$45M

2001

A Beautiful Mind

$58M

2000

Gladiator

$103M

Average Budget from 2008 – 2000: $52M

 

Best Picture Winner

Budget

1999

American Beauty

$15M

1998

Shakespeare in Love

$25M

1997

Titanic

$200M

1996

The English Patient

$31M

1995

Braveheart

$70M

1994

Forrest Gump

$55M

1993

Schindler’s List

$22M

1992

Unforgiven

$14M

1991

The Silence of the Lambs

$19M

Average Budget 1999 – 1991: $50M

So from 1991 to 2008, when the field was narrowed and it was harder for blockbusters to get a nod, the best picture winners cost, on average, about $50 million to make. Then from 2009 to 2017, when the field was supposed to have been opened to blockbusters, the budgets of best picture-winning films actually dropped to an average of $19 million. And this doesn’t even account for inflation, which would raise the average budgets of older films even higher.

The numbers don’t lie. Lower-budget films are winning more frequently since the nominee cap was raised.

madmax-fury-road

What do the numbers mean?

If the Academy Awards’ goal by increasing the nominee cap was to be more inclusive of popular big-budget blockbusters like the $150 million budget Mad Max: Fury Road, it completely backfired. All it’s done is put a spotlight on lower-budget films like Spotlight.

And if this trend continues, it seems ‘popular’ films like Fury Road, The Last Jedi and Black Panther will only ever get a ‘pat on the back’ nomination, with little hope of ever actually winning. Which is where the popular film category comes in.

Whether a popular film accolade is the right solution to this sidelining of big-budget filmmaking remains to be seen. But given the data I’m looking at, the academy needed to do something. Because if it doesn’t adapt to the changing moviemaking landscape, do we really need to take the Academy Awards that seriously anyway?

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *