The Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Screen Actors Guild, the list of film awards goes on and on. Traditionally, once we enter September, Summer movie season is over and we begin the march toward the years’ end which acts as a deadline for Oscar consideration. Those lines have blurred over the past 20 years or so through several factors. There has been a widening gap between popular films and critically acclaimed films. If you look at the Best Picture Oscar Winners from the 1970s and 80s (The Godfather, Rain Man, and Rocky) many of them were the most popular movies of the year. I don’t know if we can trace it back to a particular film, but many have linked the beginning of this divide to Jaws in 1975.
Wherever the crack started, it has grown into a grand canyon. In 2015, Spotlight won the Best Picture Oscar, but it earned just over $45 million. That may sound like a lot, but it was the second lowest grossing Best Picture Winner in 38 years just behind Birdman in 2014 which made just over $42 million. Spotlight made over 20 times less than the top grossing film of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which hauled in a cool $936 million domestically. In fact, The Force Awakens made over 5 times as much as Spotlight in its opening weekend.
Obviously, these two films are very different. For instance, The Force Awakens had a $245 million budget and it was continuing an epic saga that millions of fans have adored for decades. I’m not out to condemn the blockbusters. I love them. I don’t even particularly mind that the top grossing films of this fall/winter season will probably be big budget blockbusters like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Marvel’s Dr. Strange, or the one that my kids are clamoring for, the animated, Sing! We live in a different time than the late 60s when The Jungle Book was the 2nd highest grossing film with $73 million behind The Graduate with just over $100 million. Those years were not better than today, just different.
Perhaps the likes of the People Choice or MTV Movie awards could fill the gap and give some recognition to the films which have captivated the popular opinion. However, I don’t believe that those films need any awards. Most of them have traded their hopes for critical success for big bags full of money. Who knows, maybe there is a film just on the horizon that will be able to complete the trifecta: Entertain fickle audiences, delight cynical critics, and pad the pockets of greedy producers.
But, since the mountains have gotten higher and the valleys lower, it makes it more difficult to notice some of the films that are garnering Oscar attention. Some of the films are counting on that Oscar consideration to help them at the box-office as they will stretch their theatrical run through February in hopes of getting a bump. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post a handful of guides to this season. I want to give you a roadmap so you can set your calendar and look out for some of the exciting releases that are coming soon. Are there any that stand out in your mind that you are particularly excited about? Let me know in the comments below.