The more boutique-y and quality-oriented the Oscars become (“quality” being in some cases synonymous with being less emotionally engaging or accessible), the less popular they will be with the “just looking to be entertained” serf class. That’s where it’s all heading so can we please, please stop with the analysis pieces sounding the dark gong about how much less the Oscars mean these days in terms of generating box-office punch?
“The Oscar bounce has all but disappeared,” N.Y. Times media guy David Carr wrote in a 3.3 column. “In part because the awards have been moved up in the year and the window in which a nomination could be used to attract to a wider audience has become shorter.
“In his book ‘Picures at a Revolution,’ Mark Harris recounts how The Graduate, one of the nominees he wrote about, had a two-year run, including before and after the Oscars. Nowadays, perfectly wonderful films like Sidney Lumet‘s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Sean Penn’s Into the Wild are pushed out of theaters (and out of competition) within a few weeks to make room for other bets.”
Stop right there. If you have a taste for well-sculpted, wonderfully acted melodrama by way of Greek tragedy, Lumet’s film is wonderful. But if you just want something spunky, brisk and thrilling, I can imagine people who aren’t that bright or sensitive calling it a chore and a downer. Same with Into The Wild. If you don’t have a high regard for the film’s naturalist theme or a deep respect for Jon Krakauer‘s novel or an admiration for Emile Hirsch‘s acting or Sean Penn‘s directing chops, it’s not necessarily a “wonderful” film at all.
“As a result, the so-called Oscar movie is a very precise business exercise,” says Carr. “It must be reviewed ecstatically, be seen by loads of adults and receive love at the warm-up awards shows before the Oscars. These kind of films have no toy revenues, no prequels or sequels, and little penetration with youth audiences (give or take the occasional Juno). With that kind of math, it’s a little like playing nickel slots with half-dollar coins.”