"Every great film should seem new every time you see it." - Roger Ebert
Pop Quiz: "Name the past ten Academy Award winners for Best Picture."
You may be able to name two or three at best without cheating. Venture over to Wikipedia and you will find yourself realizing just how forgettable the Best Picture winners of the past decade have been. Most are "one and done" watches by even the buffest of film buffs.
The film industry is in a flux, constantly trying to adapt to the market shares television and on-demand streaming services have cemented. They moan and groan about piracy all while recording record profits and exchanging movie screeners like baseball cards. The industry has always been about making money and I am not one to fault them on this fact. It is "show business" after all. It just seems like the model has changed drastically in an incredible short amount of time.
After doing a little digging, I have found some interesting data.
Budgets of Best Picture Winners 2007-2014
2014 - 12 Years A Slave: $20 million
2013 - Argo: $44 million
2012 - The Artist: $15 million
2011 - The King's Speech: $15 million
2010 - The Hurt Locker: $15 million
2009 - Slumdog Millionaire: $15 million
2008 - No Country For Old Men: $25 million
2007 - The Departed: $90 million
Average Budget of a Best Picture Winner 2007-2014: $29.88 million
Budgets of Best Picture Winners 1991-1998
1998 - Titanic: $200 million
1997 - The English Patient: $27 million
1996 - Braveheart: $72 million
1995 - Forrest Gump: $55 million
1994 - Schindler's List: $22 million
1993 - Unforgiven: $14.4 million
1992 - Silence of the Lambs: $19 million
1991 - Dances with Wolves: $22 million
Average Budget of a Best Picture Winner 1991-1998: $53.93 million
Right now you are probably saying, "Yeah, but Titanic skews all of the data just to make your point."
This is a fair criticsm. So let's take Titanic out of the equation.
Average Budget of a Best Picture Winner 1991-1998 (excluding Titanic): $33.05 million
This means that there is only a $3.17 million discrepancy. That is until you invite inflation to the party.
Average Budget of a Best Picture Winner 1991-1998 (Excluding Titanic but including inflation): $52.5 million. This nets to a $22.62 million discrepancy.
The truth is that there are two kinds of movies these days: $200 million budget films with a built-in audience and $15 million budget films that premiere at Sundance or Cannes that studios can scoop up to distribute during Oscar season.
I remember when Disney bought Marvel Studios for $4 billion in 2009. Having been working in Los Angeles for just a year, I did not have the foresight to really know the true nature of the deal. Someone who had worked in Hollywood for over thirty years said to me, "Disney is not in the movie business. They are in the theme park business." Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion just three years later.
INT. DISNEY MERCHANDISE STORE - 2015
Mickey ears floods the shelves in the following varieties: Spiderman, Iron Man, Darth Vader, R2-D2, etc. A Yoda backpack hangs from an adjacent shelf while several patrons build their own light sabers.
CUT TO BLACK.
So what the hell is going on here? We laughed at Dr. Evil in 1999 when he held the world hostage for a mere $1 miiiiiiiiillion dollars. I cannot blame movie studios for not risking their bottom line on five $40 million films rather than investing $200 million on a sure thing. After all, we now know that a million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars.
This is the world as a present day moviegoer. We spend January-March staying at home because we are smart enough to know these months are the dumping ground for film releases. If the distributors do not believe in these films, why should we? Queue up House of Cards on Netflix please! During the five-month span between April and August, we pay to see sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots. Finally, we end the year watching films that Hollywood deems to be the best of the year.
Please. Hollywood already made their billions off of the bread and butter Summer blockbusters. The Oscar race has become nothing more than another marketing ploy to get people out to the theaters in hopes of making these independent lower risk films profitable. The Academy even went so far as to expand the Best Picture category to include more nominees so more of these films could get the Oscar rub at the box office. Otherwise, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, or The Lego Movie would have deserved a Best Picture nod this year in my opinion.
The problem, however, is that just because Hollywood proclaims these films to be Best Picture quality, it does not make it necessarily so. I am referring to REWATCHABILITY. Yes, I am aware that this is not a real word, but take a look at a dictionary these days and you will that there are several non-words that are now officially a part of the English language for better or for worse.
Roger Ebert once said, "Every great film should seem new every time you see it." The problem with the past decade is that so many of these "Best Pictures" are not effective enough to warrant a second viewing.
The following data is extremely subjective. I imagined films I would rewatch and movie I felt others who aren't avid film watchers may rewatch as well. Some movies will be watched more than others, but I argue that the following films will likely be watched more than once. It may not be scientifically accurate, but I argue I am much closer to being right than I am to being wrong...
Rewatchable Best Picture Nominees 1990-2000:
Ghost, Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs, JFK, Beauty and the Beast, A Few Good Men, Scent of a Woman, Schindler's List, The Fugitive, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Apollo 13, Braveheart, Jerry Maguire, Fargo, Titanic, As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, LA Confidential, Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, The Insider, Gladiator, Traffic.
26 out of 55 Nominated Films: 47.27%
Rewatchable Best Picture Nominees 2005-2015:
The Departed, No Country For Old Men, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Bloodm Inglourious Basterds, Up, Inception, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, The Fighter, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight In Paris, Moneyball, The Help, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Life of Pi, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiplash, Birdman.
22 out of 74 Nominated Films: 29.7%
You may disagree with me, but this how I view the rewatchability of the past ten years of Best Picture nominees. Saw it. Liked it. Don't need to watch it again. Is it because these films are not granted the proper budgets like Best Picture nominees in the 90s? One can make this argument as the days of the $30-$50 million are dead.
2015 will break the record for release of film sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes whether we like it or not. 2016 will break 2015's record. 2017 will break 2016's record. The horizon does not show change. This is our new reality.
Enjoy the Academy Awards. I will. I always have. I think the general public should see most, if not all, of this year's nominated films. I just do not expect too many people to add these films to their Blu-ray collections nor do I expect any of them to appear on a film studies syllabus in the near future.
Just remember that we will likely look at the "Best Pictures of of the Year" in the past decade as the most forgettable in history.