Film: Can 'best' = 'most popular'?

October 28, 2008
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Interesting stat in today's New York Times: The last four winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture ("No Country for Old Men," "The Departed," "Crash," and "Million Dollar Baby") combined didn't bring in the box office money of 2003's winner "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Yes, it's already Oscar season--the time of year when "prestige" films pack the release schedule. But the Times sees something changing this time around. This year, it seems, Hollywood studios are going back to pushing some of their more popular films as potential Oscar winners. These include "Wall-E" (which could be the first Best Picture nominated animated film since "Beauty and the Beast"), "The Dark Knight," and "Iron Man."

Does this feel like a push to sell out to the moneymakers and drive up ratings? Certainly Batman vs. the cute robot would attract more eyeballs than last year's low-viewership match-up between "No Country for Old Men" vs. "There Will Be Blood."

Or have the best films so far this year just so happen to also be the biggest at the box office?  

Looking backwards, is it embarrassing that popular hits "Titanic" and "The Greatest Show on Earth" won Best Picture (and "Ghost" and "Love Story" were nominated)? Or are these justly rewarded films that happened to bring in lots of money?   

Your thoughts?
  • Maybe there should be an award for highest money making film of the year. This would be like New York best seller or a record going platinum. It wouldn't matter if it was up to Oscar standards, just as long if it made money.
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was a great movie, full of pathos. Just because it made beaucoup bucks doesn't mean it was a lesser film than the other mentioned.
  • As a film viewer, amateur creator, and critiquer, I believe very rarely does the most popular film equal the best film. Being married and busier I don't always get to see the more critically acclaimed films anymore since my wife prefers more entertaining fare than artistic films (I haven't seen any of last years best pic nominees yet). This might be one of the few years that popular=best. If a film maker can combine art and entertainment - they should win best picture. Wall-E, Dark Knight, and Iron Man are all solid movies, both for entertainment and art and deserve to be considered for best picture. Box office should not indicate what are the best films, etc., then again, popularity contests shouldn't either.

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