Best Picture: A Look Back

A few weeks ago, I posted look backs at major categories at the Oscars from 1990 to the present. I’ve covered all four acting races and if you missed it, you can peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/04/best-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

In each post, I review what I’d classify as the three least surprising winners, as well as the three biggest upsets. And I select what I believe are the strongest and weakest overall fields.

Today on the blog, we arrive at the Big Daddy – Best Picture. It’s important to remember that hindsight doesn’t come into play here. For instance, Forrest Gump won the top prize in 1994. Since then, many believe fellow nominees Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should have won. Yet the Gump victory was not an upset at the time. Same goes for 1990 when Dances with Wolves bested GoodFellas.

Let’s begin with a reminder of each winner since 1990:

1990 – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump

1995 – Braveheart

1996 – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic

1998 – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – American Beauty

2000 – Gladiator

2001 – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Chicago

2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004 – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Crash

2006 – The Departed

2007 – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – The Hurt Locker

2010 – The King’s Speech

2011 – The Artist

2012 – Argo

2013 – 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Birdman

2015 – Spotlight

2016 – Moonlight

2017 – The Shape of Water

We start with my three least surprising winners:

3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson’s final entry in the acclaimed trilogy seemed due for a win after the first two installments were nominated, but lost to A Beautiful Mind and Chicago. This was as much a recognition for the entire franchise and by 2003, it was obvious the Academy would move in that direction.

2. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s epic was plagued with rumors of a troubled shoot and the possibility seemed real that it could be a costly flop. The opposite occurred as Titanic became the highest grossing motion picture of all time upon its release. It seemed clear that Oscar love would follow.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Capping an amazing year which saw Steven Spielberg direct Jurassic Park over the summer, his Holocaust feature Schindler’s List became the undeniable front-runner at its end of year release. Winning all significant precursors, this was a shoo-in selection.

Now to the upsets. In my view, there were four very real ones and I had to leave one out. That would be 1995 when Braveheart emerged victorious over the favored Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Yet there’s 3 others that I feel top it.

3. Moonlight (2016)

La La Land appeared ready to pick up the gold after its filmmaker Damien Chazelle and lead actress Emma Stone had already won. And it looked like the script was being followed when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually announced the musical as Best Picture. Perhaps Oscar’s largest controversy followed as the wrong envelope was given and the Barry Jenkins effort Moonlight had actually won. Correct envelopes or not, the Moonlight victory was still unexpected given the La La momentum.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

All eyes were on Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan to win as Spielberg had already picked up his second statue for directing. Shakespeare rewrote that script and few saw it coming.

1. Crash (2005)

Here is perhaps the most surprising BP winner in history. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the strong favorite when the Paul Haggis race relations drama took it. Even presenter Jack Nicholson looked shocked when he read the envelope.

And now the fields. That’s a bit tough because just under a decade ago, the Academy switched from five finite nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine being the most common). For weakest, I’m going with 2011 when there were 9. While there’s some quality picks like The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life – I feel even some of them might have missed the cut in stronger years. And I think that certainly applies to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, and War Horse.

For strongest, I will go with the aforementioned 1994. Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are indeed two of the most impressive cinematic contributions in recent times. Winner Gump and other nominees Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral filled out the slate.

And that does it, folks! Hope you enjoyed my look back at Best Picture in modern times.

The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…

1990

The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune

1991

The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise

1992

The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player

1993

The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts

1994

The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red

1995

The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas

1996

The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade

1997

The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter

1998

The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show

1999

The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy

2000

The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot

2001

The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive

2002

The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her

2003

The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America

2004

The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake

2005

The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line

2006

The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93

2007

The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2008

The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…

 

Summer 2005: The Top Ten Hits and More

Last week on the blog, we took a trip down nostalgia lane recounting the top ten summer movies from 20 years ago and other notable pictures and flops from that season. This evening, we go back a decade and have a look at what had moviegoers buzzing way back in 2005.

That summer’s top hit was the one we expected it to be as it marked the end of one trilogy that was considered disappointing. Yet it’s a performer in the middle of the pack that started one of the most beloved recent trilogies in recent film history.

Let’s go back in time, my friends:

10. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Domestic Gross: $109 million

As Judd Apatow prepares to release his fifth feature with Trainwreck on Friday, this is where it started with him as this critically acclaimed comedy rocketed Steve Carell into movie stardom.

9. Fantastic Four

Domestic Gross: $154 million

Critics may not have dug it (27% on Rotten Tomatoes) but the adaptation of the famed Marvel Comic with Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis scored with audiences enough to warrant a 2007 sequel. A new franchise reboot hits theaters this August.

8. The Longest Yard

Domestic Gross: $158 million

Adam Sandler took over the Burt Reynolds role in this remake of the 1974 prison football comedy with Chris Rock and Reynolds himself costarring.

7. Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Domestic Gross: $186 million

The action comedy from director Doug Liman earned plenty of headlines due to the real life romance between stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and hefty box office came along with it. The couple will reunite onscreen again in this fall’s By the Sea. 

6. Madagascar

Domestic Gross: $193 million

With no Pixar film on the docket, Dreamworks Madagascar was the top animated feature of the summer and has since spawned two sequels and a spin-off.

5. Batman Begins

Domestic Gross: $205 million

It’s hard to remember now, but Chris Nolan’s reboot of the Dark Knight’s world did quite well, but wasn’t a mega ton blockbuster like its 2008 and 2012 sequels would be. Still, it immediately wiped the bad taste out of the mouth of audiences left by Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin from eight summers ago. Of course, this began the trilogy that has become the gold standard in superhero flicks.

4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Domestic Gross: $206 million

Tim Burton’s retelling of Roald Dahl’s classic book starred Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. It may not have the beloved status as 1971’s offering with Gene Wilder, but it made the studio very happy with its massive earnings.

3. Wedding Crashers

Domestic Gross: $209 million

The sleeper hit of the season paired Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and helped invigorate (along with #10 Virgin) the R-rated comedy. The two would appear again in the considerably less successful The Internship eight years later.

2. War of the Worlds

Domestic Gross: $234 million

Steven Spielberg directed Tom Cruise in this version of H.G. Wells renowned sci-fi novel and crowds turned out in droves so much that it’s Mr. Cruise’s highest grossing domestic earner of all time.

1. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Domestic Gross: $380 million

Sith easily took the crown for the summer’s champion and it concluded George Lucas’s second trilogy that received mixed reactions from critics and audiences… and that’s putting it kindly. This third episode is widely considered an improvement over Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Of course, we’ll see what JJ Abrams manages to do this December when Episode 7 is released… in case you hadn’t heard.

And now, some other notable pictures outside the top ten:

13. March of the Penguins

Domestic Gross: $77 million

This little French documentary that could astonished box office watchers with its magnificent stateside gross. Bottom line: people dig penguins.

18. Cinderella Man

Domestic Gross: $61 million

Critics mostly lauded Ron Howard’s Depression era boxing tale with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellwegger, but it under performed at the box office at the time of its release (not quite enough to put it in the total flop column though).

20. Crash

Domestic Gross: $54 million

Paul Haggis’s L.A. set racial drama came out of nowhere to score solid business. It went on to win Best Picture, which was a surprise over front runner Brokeback Mountain, which came out in the fall.

And now for the flops…

Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell headlined Nora Ephron’s Bewitched, based on the 1960s TV comedy. Audiences and critics reacted with ambivalence and the $85 million budgeted pic managed just $63 million domestically.

Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom captured none of the director’s Gladiator magic and it earned $47 million against its reported $130 million budget.

Michael Bay had found huge success with the Bad Boys movies, The Rock, and Armageddon, but his science fiction tale The Island with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson sputtered with a mere $35 million (rumored budget: $126M).

And, finally, Jamie Foxx was coming off Oscar glory in Ray but his action thriller Stealth was grounded with a $32 million gross against its $76M budget.

And that’ll do it, ladies and gentlemen, for our look back at the summer offerings of 2005. I hope you enjoyed and rest assured you’ll see posts next summer tapping our nostalgia for 1996 and 2006!