Saturday, September 20, 2014

Oscar and the Box Office

For as long as I have been watching the Academy Awards, there has been complaints about how "they don't nominate the movies people actually see," and I have always scoffed at this for a couple of reasons.  For starters, Oscar does frequently have categories (many times including Best Picture) that do honor the films that people line up around the block to get tickets to, and I always have examples each year of a celebrated film that will score big with AMPAS.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Oscars could be a lot more esoteric: look at the (oftentimes very worthy) nominations of the Independent Spirit Awards and there are many times that the Spirit nominations could be more worthy than what's going on with AMPAS.  Still, though, this argument isn't enough for some people, so I decided to go and see: am I right or are they (or, as I suspect will eventually be proven, perhaps we both are, as is the case in so many debates?)

Going back to 1980 (because that's when Box Office Mojo goes back to domestically), I took a look at what the highest-grossing films of the year were as well as where the Best Picture lineup stood with the Box Office.  Let's start the popcorn and begin:


Highest-Grossing Film: Coming off of the initial Star Wars hit three years earlier, it was of little doubt that The Empire Strikes Back would be a major force, earning double that of second place 9 to 5 (yes, a film starring three women in a workplace comedy was the second-highest grossing film of the year-unfathomable in a marketplace that now seems entirely geared toward movies for teenage boys).  Despite being the best of the trilogy, Empire didn't score the Best Picture nomination its predecessor did, but it did get a very respectable three nominations (winning for Best Sound), as well as a special award for Visual Effects.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?:  Yes-Coal Miner's Daughter was the seventh-highest grossing Best Picture nominee of the year, just out-earning Smokey and the Bandit II.
Where's the Winner?: Ordinary People, the eventual winner, was the eleventh-highest grossing film.


Highest-Grossing Film: Continuing the utter dominance that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg once had on the Box Office, Raiders of the Lost Ark clobbered the competition in 1981.  It also dominated with AMPAS, winning four Oscars (Art Direction, Sound, Film Editing, and a special awards for Visual Effects) and seven nominations (including ones for Best Picture and Director).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: In addition to Raiders, we had On Golden Pond (#2) and Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire (#7) in the Top 10 for the year.


Highest-Grossing Film: E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial became the highest-grossing film of all-time in 1982, in a year that relied pretty heavily on sequels.  Like Raiders, E.T. scored another pair of nominations for Best Picture and Director (yet again, Spielberg was involved), and won four Oscars (Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Effects Editing, and Original Score).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Once again, the highest-grossing film of the year was a Best Picture nominee.  It was joined by the year's number two film, Tootsie.
Where's the Winner?: The Best Picture winner was at #12 that year, with Gandhi just missing the Top 10.


Highest-Grossing Film: Yet again we have the Lucas/Spielberg machine giving us the top-grosser, the final of the original Star Wars trilogy: Return of the Jedi.  The film won one Oscar (again, for Visual Effects), while scoring four more nominations.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Absolutely-the Best Picture winner, in fact.  Terms of Endearment was the second highest-grossing film of the year, a monster hit for Paramount and one of the biggest of Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson's careers.


Highest-Grossing Film: For the first time we get a film not connected to Spielberg or Lucas (but instead to that other Box Office titan Jerry Bruckheimer): Beverly Hills Cop.  This is also the first film to not have won an Oscar but to top the Box Office, getting instead just a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: This is also our first year without a Best Picture nominee making the Top 10.  The highest-grossing Best Picture nominee of the year was Amadeus at Number 12 (it won the Oscar).  One has to assume that if this were ten-wide some Top 10 hits like Ghostbusters (#2), The Karate Kid (#5), or Romancing the Stone (#8) would have been a part of the conversation.


Highest-Grossing Film: We are back to the top-grossing film of the year being an Oscar-winner, with Back to the Future scoring Best Sound Effects Editing, and getting another three nominations (including Best Screenplay, meaning that in a ten-wide field it may have been a nominee for the top prize as well).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: A huge bounce back from the previous year, three Best Picture nominees were in the Top 10: The Color Purple (#4, and yes that Spielberg magic touch worked once again here), Out of Africa (#5, and the eventual champ), and Witness (#8, proving that Harrison Ford was once the greatest Box Office champ of them all).


Highest-Grossing Film: Of course Ford would soon have competition from one toothy-grinned boy from Syracuse named Tom Cruise, as Top Gun became the mammoth hit of 1986.  The film won four Oscar nominations, winning one (for Best Original Song, and admit it, you just started slow-dancing in your head).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: The third-highest grossing film of the year was also the Best Picture winner, as Platoon became the only nominee to crack the top ten.


Highest-Grossing Film: Easily the weirdest film to ever top the Box Office, Three Men and a Baby beat more obvious champs like Fatal Attraction and Beverly Hills Cop II to become the highest-grossing movie of 1987.  The Leonard Nimoy-directed hit (yes, Spock directed this movie!) didn't score any Oscar nominations (or any Globe nods, stunningly enough), making it our first top grosser to completely be overlooked by AMPAS.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: The rest of the Top Ten was pretty kind to the Best Picture lineup, with Fatal Attraction (#2) and Moonstruck (#5) both appearing in the Top 10 alongside likely near-misses The Untouchables (#6) and Good Morning, Vietnam (#4).
Where's the Winner?: Bernardo Bertolucci's epic The Last Emperor became the lowest-ranking Best Picture winner so far by landing #25 on the year-end Box Office charts.


Highest-Grossing Film: After the doldrums of the previous year for AMPAS and the Box Office, we had a complete turnaround, as for the first time in our count, the Best Picture winner became the highest-grossing film of the year: Rain Man.  Winner of four Oscars (it also took Directing, Writing, and Best Actor honors), it just aided the "Tom Cruise is the touch of gold" truth of that period of movie-watching.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Of course it did with Rain Man, though that was the only Best Picture nominee in the Top 10 (Working Girl just missed, coming in eleventh).


Highest-Grossing Film: In the first of many comic book movies to top the Box Office, Batman took out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at the Box Office.  Batman was outmanned by Indy at the Oscars, however, with the former only getting one nomination (for Art Direction, which it won), while the latter nabbed three nods and a win.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Two did, actually: both the eventual Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy (#8, a massive hit and yet another non special effects film in the Top 10-unthinkable these days) and Dead Poets Society (#10).


Highest-Grossing Film: This was during that brief period where America couldn't get enough of the spritely Macauley Culkin, as he conquered the Box Office (and two Oscar nominations for Song and Score) in Home Alone.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Right behind Home Alone, however, were two Best Picture nominees: Ghost (one of those nominations that seems to have been basically mandated by the American public, and would probably feel like a "Top 10" nomination now were it not for clear proof it was in the Top 5) and eventual victor Dances with Wolves.


Highest-Grossing Film: 1990 was pretty much the end of the "no special effects, no animation" period of the Box Office champs, as Terminator 2: Judgment Day took the top spot at the Box Office (anyone think we might be about to see Arnold Schwarzenegger start to pick up some lifetime achievement awards soon?).  T2 was a huge Oscar hit, however, and picked up six nods and four wins (Sound, Makeup, Sound Effects Editing, and of course Visual Effects).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Beauty and the Beast (#3) was not only a bona fide smash hit, but it also was the first animated film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (it'd be another eighteen years before it happened again with Up).  The Oscar champ Silence of the Lambs was right behind it in fourth.


Highest-Grossing Film: Aladdin couldn't quite pull off the same nomination the year after, but it moved Disney up two slots on the Box Office charts and pulled off number one (it won two Oscars, for Best Song and Best Score, as well as three more nominations).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: With Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, and Tom Cruise in the cast (and being that it was 1992) there was no way A Few Good Men wasn't a hit-the film hit #5 on the charts.
Where's the Winner?: Clint Eastwood's magnum opus Unforgiven was just out of reach of the Top 10, landing at Number Eleven.


Highest-Grossing Film: In the year of Spielberg, Jurassic Park was clobbering the competition in first place, earning over $100 million more than second place Mrs. Doubtfire.  Jurassic Park won on all three of its nominations: Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and Visual Effects (which still look incredible-this was a really worthy citation).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: It's hard to fathom that an historical epic could actually make the Top Ten now, but everyone wanted to see eventual Oscar-night champ Schindler's List, which ended up in ninth place, a bit behind fellow Best Picture nominee The Fugitive (#3).


Highest-Grossing Film: For the first time in six years, the Box Office champion was also the Best Picture of the year: Forrest Gump pulled off thirteen nominations and won six trophies (Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay, Editing, and Visual Effects).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: In addition to Gump, Quentin Tarantino's masterwork Pulp Fiction was also in the Top Ten, coming in at the very last slot with tenth.


Highest-Grossing Film: In what was at the time a pretty close battle, Toy Story ended up the victor at the Box Office.  At the time there was buzz that the landmark film (the first full-length computer-animated film) would get a Best Picture nomination, but it had to settle for three nominations (Screenplay, Song, and Score) as well as a special award for John Lasseter.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Just one this year, thanks to the massive star power of Tom Hanks audiences everywhere enjoyed Apollo 13, which came in second to Toy Story that year at the Box Office.
Where's the Winner?: Braveheart was a bit of a surprise winner on Oscar night, and was a modest hit at 18th place on the charts.


Highest-Grossing Film: One of those summer's that truly felt made by blockbusters, we had the $300 million Independence Day dominating theaters everywhere (and making Will Smith's permanent mark on the Fourth of July going forward).  The film won one Oscar (Visual Effects) and one more nomination (Best Sound).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: We're getting to the point where this becomes a bit more reliant on special effects to even make the Top Ten, but we're not quite there yet: Tom Cruise's magnetism in Jerry Maguire got it 4th place that year.
Where's the Winner?: The English Patient may have been part of the "Year of the Indy" but it still made 19th place.


Highest-Grossing Film: Titanic went on to become the highest-grossing film of all-time (people saw it countless times in theaters: I hit five if you count the re-release), scored the Best Picture trophy, and won on eleven of its fourteen nominations.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Both As Good As It Gets (#6) and Good Will Hunting (#7) joined Titanic, proving that if given the chance adults will buy tickets at the movies as well.


Highest-Grossing Film: I genuinely forgot that this happened, but Saving Private Ryan actually topped Armageddon in the year-end Box Office, meaning that the 5-time Oscar winner (including Best Director, but famously not Best Picture) is our highest-grossing film of 1998.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Aside from SPR, this was a negatory.  The rest of the Top 10 (with films like The Waterboy, Godzilla, and Patch Adams) is a pretty solid embarrassment.
Where's the Winner?: Shakespeare in Love did cross the $100 million mark, but that was only good enough for 18th place.


Highest-Grossing Film: The grand-daddy of the franchise reboots, Star Wars-The Phantom Menace was insanely popular at the Box Office (crossing $400 million domestically, a number that would top the Box Office in most years) and scored three Oscar nods (the blockbuster Holy Trinity of Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and Visual Effects, all of which it lost to The Matrix).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Why yes, yes it did.  The Sixth Sense (another movie many people saw multiple times in theaters-that's your ticket, Hollywood-start making films people want to see multiple times again!) was a surprise hit and brought on a Best Picture nomination after its second place finish (it also brought us Lady in the Water, but let's try and forget about that).
Where's the Winner?: American Beauty was also a smash, landing at 13th place with $130 million.


Highest-Grossing Film: Ugh-this is the year The Grinch made it to the top of the Box Office, proving sometimes we all can get it completely wrong (at least we all knew it-does anyone watch this movie anymore?).  The film did score three nominations (winning for Best Makeup), but let's all agree to never speak of it again (unfortunately until we get to the 2000 OVP) and just watch the Boris Karloff classic instead.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: 2000 was one of the tightest Best Picture races I have ever seen, but the ultimate victor was Box Office hit Gladiator, which came in at Number 4 on the charts.


Highest-Grossing Film: Setting off a series that would spawn eight Top 10 hits on the Box Office charts (...and counting), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone got the top spot by just $4 million over the silver medalist The Fellowship of the Ring.  The movie scored three nominations (Costume, Art Direction, and Score) but no wins.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: As I've just mentioned, The Fellowship of the Ring was in second place, and crushed the boy wizard in terms of AMPAS, scoring a Best Picture nod amongst its thirteen nominations.
Where's the Winner?: Just outside the Top Ten at Number eleven (for the curious, that would be Ron Howard's schmaltzy A Beautiful Mind, the worst of the five films in contention that year).


Highest-Grossing Film: Was it Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter that came out on top in the only year that has ever featured all three against each other?  It was actually D, none-of-the-above.  Instead it was Spider-Man, the original non-Andrew Garfield version that swung up $400 million and two nominations (Sound and Visual Effects, though it won neither).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: There were two, actually-Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers hit second place again for the franchise, while Best Picture victor Chicago snuck in at tenth place at the Box Office.


Highest-Grossing Film: In the last time this has happened (to date), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won both the Box Office crown and the Best Picture trophy, along with ten other Oscars.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: There were no other nominees in the Top Ten other than Return of the King (Finding Nemo was in second place and that was probably pretty close).  The next highest-grossing picture was Seabiscuit at Number 17.


Highest-Grossing Film: We're back to animated features again, with Shrek 2 (still one of the highest-grossing films of all-time, and probably the one that people talk about the least in that list) getting $440 million at the Box Office and a pair of Oscar nominations (Song and Animated Feature lost both).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: For the first time in twenty years, none of the Top 10 highest-grossing films scored a Best Picture nomination.  The highest-grossing would be The Aviator at No. 22.
Where's the Winner?: Coming in just behind The Aviator (as opposed to just ahead like on Oscar night), Million Dollar Baby was at No. 24 with a nice $100 million to boast of.


Highest-Grossing Film: We were back in the world of George Lucas again, as Revenge of the Sith hit the number one slot once more (Attack of the Klones is noteworthy for being the only one of the six films to not dominate the Number One slot for its year, an astounding achievement for the series).  Sadly for Lucas, the film received only one nomination for Best Makeup, and say what you will about the film, but I think it's pretty idiotic that it got snubbed for Best Visual Effects that year in favor of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: 2004 actually kicked off what would be one of the longest-stretches (probably THE longest stretch) of years where AMPAS didn't pick a film in the year's Top 10.  So no, with King Kong missing out on a nomination (the only film that had a remote shot at the top category), the highest-grossing Best Pic nominee was oddly Brokeback Mountain at No. 22.
Where's the Winner?: Sadly Brokeback wasn't the winner, and instead it was Crash, which rose to No. 49.


Highest-Grossing Film: For a brief period in the mid-Aughts we would buy a ticket to everything that Johnny Depp was in-this has since passed (as has any interest from Depp in playing a normal human being again), but that was enough for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to hit the Numero Uno slot (and to win Best Visual Effects amidst a set of four Oscar nominations).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Once again we get a no, with Best Picture winner The Departed getting the closest with a respectable 15th place.  It's worth noting that in a ten-wide field Casino Royale (which was 9th) may well have made it onto the roster.


Highest-Grossing Film: Once again we have Tobey Maguire swinging into Number One, and for only the second time in this write-up, we have a film that couldn't get a single Oscar nomination.  One imagines that it probably would have landed a nomination in a five-wide field for Visual Effects (we were still a couple of years away from that happening), but you would be wrong-the film made the shortlist (Visual Effects at that time had a shortlist of 15 films, then would corner it down to seven for the bake-off before selecting three) but not the bake-off, with 300, I Am Legend, Evan Almighty, and The Bourne Ultimatum all making it to the "just miss" category (all but Evan Almighty made the year's Top 10, and all but The Bourne Ultimatum would go home without an Oscar nomination).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: No, though in a ten-wide field surely The Bourne Ultimatum would have been a threat.  Still, this is one of the finest Best Picture fields that Oscar ever assembled, so I don't think anyone should be complaining (the highest-grossing was Juno at 15th).
Where's the Winner?: No Country for Old Men came in at 36th, getting just shy of $75 million.


Highest-Grossing Film: So much has been written about how The Dark Knight (in my opinion still the high mark of the superhero genre) didn't get a Best Picture nomination, likely causing the jumbled mess of nominees we see today, but let's be honest here: it clearly just missed and it was amply rewarded; most films would kill to score eight nominations and win two (Supporting Actor and Sound Editing).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: No, though the streak will soon be over.  We did have near misses in The Dark Knight and WALL-E at the top of the list, though, so this was almost a resounding yes.  The highest-grossing ended up being the winner Slumdog Millionaire (coming in at #16).


Highest-Grossing Film: Once again the highest-grossing film (ever, in this case) managed to top Oscar's charts with Avatar scoring a Best Picture nod amongst its nine nominations (it won three: Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Art Direction).  This is also the third time James Cameron has directed the highest-grossing film of the year, an impressive stat for a man who makes films about once every decade.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Aside from Avatar, we also had Up (#5) and The Blind Side (#8), the latter of which is a rare throwback to when the Box Office was driven by domestic dramas.
Where's the Winner?: The lowest-ranking film we'll chart, The Hurt Locker is the best example on this list of a film that no one saw winning a ton of Oscars: it ranked #116 on the year-end Box Office charts, being out-earned by all but two of its competitors.  It's had a solid life on DVD/streaming, however.


Highest-Grossing Film: Continuing our streak, Toy Story 3 managed to land $400 million and a Best Picture nomination when it topped the charts four years ago.  The film won five nominations, winning for two of them (Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: In addition to TS3, we also had Inception at Number 6 on the charts.
Where's the Winner?: Despite being a non-effects driven drama, The King's Speech made up for a lot of lost time over The Hurt Locker, getting $135 million and 18th place.


Highest-Grossing Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 became the second film in the series to nab the top spot, but like all of the films in the series, it missed both for Best Picture and for an actual trophy (it still feels wrong that Harry Potter never won an Oscar, though as the OVP has been revealing so far, I'd likely do the same thing, though I admittedly have a few years left of nominations to suss through).  This installment got three Oscar nominations, though, for Makeup, Visual Effects, and Art Direction.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: No, it did not-the closest that any nominee got in this extremely franchise heavy list (seriously-every film in the Top 10 was part of a franchise) was The Help at #13.
Where's the Winner?: The Artist hit 71st on the list right between two films I think almost all of us would be hard-pressed to mention the stars of (Hall Pass and Soul Surfer, for the record, proving that Box Office frequently means diddily to the public's memory).


Highest-Grossing Film: Reigniting the trend of comic book movies topping the list, Marvel's The Avengers clobbered the competition and hit $623 million.  They did not, however, get an Oscar win or a Best Picture nod, instead settling for a sole nomination for Visual Effects (which quite frankly the film didn't deserve).
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Nope once again, though Skyfall and Brave both were close and they were in the Top 10.  It's worth noting that six of the Best Picture nominees crossed the $100 million mark, so it's not like this wasn't a pretty populist year.  Lincoln ended up being the surprise hit of 2012 (Spielberg-what can I say?) and landed 13th, making it the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee.
Where's the Winner?: Argo wasn't too far behind, making it to Number 22.


Highest-Grossing Film: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire won everyone's favorite movie star Jennifer Lawrence the top spot to go along with her many other accolades.  That said, this is the third film on this list to not score an Oscar nod, and considering there are two more films in the series guaranteed to be major successes, this may be a weird streak coming into 2014.
Did a Best Picture Nominee Make the Top Ten?: Absolutely-Gravity landed No. 6 on the list, proving once again that Sandra Bullock is a Box Office powerhouse.
Where's the Winner?: 12 Years a Slave managed to land Number 62 on the year-end list, making over $50 million.

And there you have it-a comprehensive look at the many, many films that made up the Box Office and the Oscars.  Overall, while I kind of see the point of those who claim that the Best Picture race isn't remotely reflective of the Box Office, I have to say that I still feel pretty right.  Almost all of the films that topped the Box Office got at least an Oscar nomination, and almost every year had major hits nominated in the Best Picture race.  And not to chastise, but if we were a bit more discerning in what movies we were throwing our money at (The Waterboy, really?), AMPAS might better reflect public tastes.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  Are there any surprises on this list?  Are there any films that should have gotten more/less attention from AMPAS that were Box Office powerhouses?  Share in the comments!

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