Oscar: 2012 vs 2011

The 85th Annual Academy Awards are quickly approaching, and the debates continue to heat up.  So, to make things more interesting, let’s make ’em even hotter, shall we?

Several articles and discussions later, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we look at this year’s Best Picture category compared to last’s alone, it’s basically no contest.  Why you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you…

1) Using the box office as a barometer, THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!

2) You know those ladies and gents that get paid to watch the films and then give us their professional, critical input? Well, they’ve had something to say also.

3) When we look at the headlines–and the plot lines for that matter–the films on tap this year are just far more jucier.

And finally,

4) My opinion, obviously…

And so, let us begin.

As of Feb. 19th, Lincoln heads this year’s best picture nominees in domestic earnings with $176,811,625 million.  However, in terms of worldwide earnings, Life of Pi leads the pack by far with a whopping $576,685,513 million.  Comparatively, last year’s top domestic earner was The Descendants with $82,584,160 million, while the top worldwide was Hugo cashing in at $185,770,160 million—a bit of a drastic difference, I’d say.  Furthermore, if you look at the rough estimates of this year’s worldwide totals compared to the best pictures of last, you get around $2.1 billion this year and $1.25 billion for last.  Again, significantly different.

So, why is this the case?

Well I would make the argument that last years best picture category pails in comparison to that of this year’s.  If we go by critical reception alone, totaling up the critics-tomato meter on Rotten Tomatoes and then averaging out the nominees, this year stands in at 89% while that of last is at 84%…if that means anything.

Regardless, it gives you a general idea of what we’re working with this year.  Last year featured some 84th-academy-awards-nominations-best-picture-i8notables such as the winner, The Artist, and a few other well-received films like, Midnight in ParisMoneyballThe HelpHugo and The Descendants…then there were some questionables that arguably would not have even seen the light of day on the short-list this year.  Films like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and War Horse, both containing award worthy aspects, but overall, meh.  Both a little too cutesy for my liking, and one seemingly milking tragedy and abusing its dramatic license, resulting in classic, Hollywood pulp (harsh, I know).

Some Oscar Box Office Facts:

Total Box Office Numbers Domestically and Worldwide

(2012…and still going…)

Total Domestic- $924,785,318 million
Total Worldwide- $2,045,928,944 billion

Vs.

(2011)

Total Domestic- $622 million
Total Worldwide- $1.245 billion

Of course, films of this year contain similar aspects, BUT I’d say they do a great job of not crossing the line—between the 85th-academy-awardsadapted and original stories, all consistently remain quality throughout.  Hence, the good reviews and success at the box office.

Furthermore, the storylines (not talking plot, we’re talking headlines) for the films this year are far more appealing than the majority of those of last, and as they gain greater critical reception, the more people want to go see them.

What makes these storylines so “juicy”?

Let’s take a look at a few examples of last year first.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (I’ll play nice), starred Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, among others.  Great actors.  Both previous award winners. Plus, the movie was about a very heavy, sensitive topic, 9/11.  Poor critical reception—let’s wait for it to get to DVD.

Midnight in Paris—a Woody Allen film featuring a respectable cast and a promising story (when is the guy not a favorite for Best Original Screenplay?).  However, Woody doesn’t really seem to care too much about the Oscars judging by his high percentage of absences.  So although he may be recognized by the Academy for his talents and those who know film decently well, the mainstream audience is kind of left in the dark.

Then, we have War Horse.  Brought to you by Spielberg in all ways Spielberg.  Score composed by the infamous John Williams, and the release date, Christmas Day.  Worldwide, it totaled at roughly $178 million.  Why?  In my opinion, even Spielberg can only make a moving story about a man and his horse so compelling.

Finally, I’ll end with the winner and a tough one, The Artist.  In terms of box office, it ended up making close to $134 million worldwide.  Respectable, especially because of the amount of theaters it was released in.  But, let’s look at the bigger picture.  For those who appreciate the arts, the come back of the silent film is both intriguing and in this day, pretty radical.  However, you still have to account for the—here’s that word again—mainstream audiences that want to see some corny romantic the artistrelationship play out or colossal robots run around blowing shit up left and right…in 3D!!!!  My point being, it’s a silent film.  It can only be so appealing.  And a respectable amount of its revenue came during the post-nominee, late January, Oscar hype, and the all important, Oscar win—not to take away from how great a film it was—of course, that’s the point of its release date. But, comparatively to this years Oscar favorite, that released a month earlier mind you, Argo has already surpassed The Artist’s worldwide totals. And, if we look at just their opening weeks to take away the Academy Award bias for a second, The Artist finished its week with $290,359.  Argo on the other hand…wait for it…$26,566,489 million.  As I said before, we must account for the minimal amount of theaters for which The Artist was released, but going back to my point of this year’s attractive storylines compared to last—a Ben Affleck directed, historical thriller focusing on a significant part of our past vs. the arrival of talking pictures sending a relationship in opposite directions.  Playing it down of course…it did win the Oscar.  But, the storyline from the outside looking in, not as attractive.

Now for the good stuff…

Let’s look at a few of this year’s successes.  Let’s start with Lincoln.  Yet again, Spielberg returns (with John Williams), only this time without a horse and with the method-acting, mad-man, Daniel Day Lewis. And he’s playing one of the most prominent historical figures in American history?  Cha-ching. (presumably American audiences and the Academy will eat that up)…Did I mention Academy Award winners Sally Fields and Tommy Lee Jones just so happen to be in it too?  And the increasingly popular Joseph Gordon Levitt may decide to show up as well.

Django Unchained.  Brought to you by the award season addicts and manipulators, Harvey and Bob Weinstein.  Directed by the great, Quentin Tarantino—starring past best actor winner, Jamie Foxx, past supporting actor winner, Christoph Waltz, heart-throb and eventual best actor winner, Leonardo DiCaprio; also featuring an ensemble of other big names…and don’t forget the explicit, comic book stylized, blood and gore violence.  All the makings of another hit.OscarNominees2013_BestPicture

Les Miserables. A remake of an already classic, starring an overwhelming amount of A-Listers.

Life of Pi.  Who doesn’t like pi? Ha.  Ang Lee–he’s won before and is back with a visually pleasing fantasy presented in the modish, 3D format.

You get the point.  

Of course, this may just be my opinion, but I found the story lines of this year, and the movies in general, to be much better than that of the last. Although the total worldwide grossing for the category doesn’t necessarily define it as a “better year” (see 2010), in this case, I’d say you can make the argument it does, or is at least one of the reasons.  The majority of the 9 nominees last year, if not all, probably wouldn’t even crack the top 10 this year.  Saying that, I would put this year’s lineup up of nominees up against any of the other 84 years and would say this is by far among the best.  A memorable year for the Best Picture category, and a memorable year for Oscar and company.  All up for debate, of course.