Another year of the Academy Awards has come and gone, culminated with the biggest mistake in Oscar history, when Warren Beatty, who was handed the wrong card, announced La La Land the winner for Best Picture, when in actuality it was Moonlight.
That mistake, although a big deal too many Oscar pundits, pales in comparison, in my opinion, to the fact that there has been a decade long trend of disconnection between box office popularity and movies selected by Hollywood to win the academy awards.
For instance this year’s winner, Moonlight has taken in to date an unimpressive $21 million at the box office. Compare that to this year’s most popular movie, Captain America, which took in over $1 billion, and I think you get my drift.
La La Land was by far the most popular movie of those nominated in the Best Picture category. It has made $340 million at the box office, but less than half of that was made in United States theatres. The top ten grossing movies this year- Captain America, Finding Dory, Zootopia, Jungle Book, Secret Life of Pets, Batman vs Superman, Deadpool, Fantastic Beasts, Suicide Squad and Rogue One all did much better than La La Land, yet were nominated for very few Oscars.
A similar trend occurred the previous three years. 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight grossed a paltry $45 million. In 2014 the winner Birdman came in at $42 million and in 2013 Twelve Years a Slave grossed $56 million.
I dare write not since 2003 has a popular box office movie won Best Picture, or any major academy award for that matter. That year, Lord of the Rings- Return of the King, grossed $377 million, and swept most of the major academy categories including Best Picture.
What does it matter, you might say? For movie goers like myself, I yearn for the days when pure acting made a popular motion picture. Nowadays it’s the technical aspects of a movie, not acting that makes it popular. Movies like Captain America or Rogue One are all about special effects. Acting is secondary.
I admit I am guilty of plopping my money down on the popular box office movies and not the critically acclaimed ones. In 2016 I saw five of the top ten box office hits and only one (Hacksaw Ridge) of the Oscar nominated pictures. Just my opinion but I thought Hacksaw Ridge was deserving of all the critical acclaim it garnered.
I don’t see the movie landscape changing. As long as movie goers swarm to the latest Marvel comics adventure, or Jerry Bruckenheimer thriller, movies like Moonlight or Hidden Figures, will remain at the bottom of the box office heap.
The same can be said about acting and actors. Their importance is diminishing. It was once thought you had to pay someone named Tom, Hanks or Cruise, and exorbitant amount of money, to insure that your movie would be profitable.
Nowadays all you need is an awesome special effects crew and you are in business. Tom’s or Julia’s are no longer a necessity. Another trend seems to be that a number of action movies are being made by Chinese producers. It is said by some, China is slowly taking over the movie industry.
So to me, a mistake at the end of an Academy Award’s television presentation is small potatoes compared to the disconnect between the Academy and the movie going public. Will special effects continue to dwarf acting at the box office? Will China become the next Hollywood?
Stay tuned. If acting was my profession, I know I would be very concerned.