TCS Daily


And the Winner ... Isn't Hollywood

By John Merline - March 8, 2006 12:00 AM

As The New York Times put it in its coverage of the Academy Awards, "2005 was billed as the year of the message movie."

It's true, this year the Academy did send a message: moviegoers don't have a clue as to what makes a good movie.

Consider:

  • Not one of the nominees for Best Picture managed to make it into Top 20 in terms of box office receipts. Brokeback Mountain came in 26th, according to Box Office Mojo. Capote barely made it into the Top 100. The winner, Crash, was ranked 49th.
  • Even if you combine the box office receipts of all five Best Picture nominations, it would still rank No. 5, behind War of the Worlds.
  • Crash sold about 8.3 million tickets before Oscar night. The average number of tickets sold for Best Picture winners from 1978 to 2004 was 34.7 million.

USA Today tried to defend this by arguing that the Academy "snubbed all of last year's biggest moneymakers in favor of ... social commentary films that took on provocative subjects, told their stories well and won critical acclaim."

It is true popularity and artistic merit don't always mesh. But the Academy has in the past managed to find movies that more or less achieved both (see chart). In any case, isn't the ability to deliver a powerful statement to a wide-ranging audience a mark of true artistic achievement?


Movie goers may be too stupid to understand quality filmmaking. But given the 10 percent drop in ratings for the Academy Awards ceremony, they are apparently not stupid enough to take such insults lying down.

John Merline is a writer living in Virginia.

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