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 1995: The Top Ten Hits and More

We are now smack dab in the middle of the 2015 summer movie season and we’ve seen our share of massive hits (hello Jurassic World) and big flops (goodbye Tomorrowland). As has become tradition on this blog, I will now take a look back at the same season from 20 years ago – giving you the top ten hits of that summer plus other notable pictures and the flops that also populated the calendar. I’ll be following up shortly with a post about the summer of 2005, one decade ago.

One thing that stands out for the summer of 1995 is that an astonishing four of the five eventual Best Picture nominees for that year came out in the summer. This is unheard of due to the fact that, typically, Oscar bait is released in the fall months. All four of those movies will be discussed in this post.

And now – let us revisit the titles that got us in the theaters during the hot months in 1995 (and some that didn’t).

10. Braveheart

Domestic Gross: $75 million

The 10th highest grosser of the season also happens to be the one that would go onto win Best Picture at the Oscars and earn director/star Mel Gibson a gold statue for his work behind the camera. The medieval war epic would win a total of five Oscars and mark a high point in Gibson’s filmography.

9. Congo

Domestic Gross: $81 million

Two summers earlier, an adventure film based on a Michael Crichton novel came out. It was called Jurassic Park and the rest is history. Expectations for the Crichton based Congo were high and it came from Spielberg protege Frank Marshall. Its $81 million gross was on the low end of expectations and critics were not kind (22% on Rotten Tomatoes).

8. Dangerous Minds

Domestic Gross: $84 million

One of the sleeper hits of the season was this urban classroom drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Now I could certainly attach a clip of the film or its trailer, but let’s be honest. The reason we remember this movie is three words: “Gangsta’s Paradise, Coolio!” Enjoy…

7. Waterworld

Domestic Gross: $88 million

The Kevin Costner adventure is widely considered to be the Heaven’s Gate of its decade. The production was a disaster with cost overruns (a budget of $172 million, which was crazy at the time) and highly mixed critical reaction. Also, like Gate, its reputation has improved over time. Yet in the summer of 1995, it was considered the season’s big belly flop.

6. Crimson Tide

Domestic Gross: $91 million

This Tony Scott directed submarine action thriller struck a chord with audiences and critics. Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman costarred with an impressive supporting cast that included Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and Steve Zahn.

5. Die Hard with a Vengeance

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Bruce Willis’s third go round as John McClane costarred Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons. It couldn’t quite match the $117M take of the 1990’s Die Hard 2, but the franchise would spawn two more entries years later.

4. Casper

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Despite mixed critical reaction, this live action version of America’s favorite friendly ghost starring Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman and lots of special effects was quite the family hit.

3. Pocahontas

Domestic Gross: $141 million

While not coming close box office wise to what Disney accomplished the previous summer with The Lion King, families still turned this retelling of the Pocahontas tale into a nice hit for the studio.

2. Apollo 13

Domestic Gross: $172 million

Ron Howard’s true life space epic starring Tom Hanks earned a Best Picture nomination and the admiration of audiences and critics alike, giving its star his fourth summer blockbuster in a row after A League of their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and Forrest Gump.

1. Batman Forever

Domestic Gross: $184 million

The third flick in the Caped Crusader franchise marked the end of the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton era and the beginning of the Joel Schumacher version of the series. While Forever (which cast Val Kilmer as the title character and Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones as villains The Riddler and Two Face) held bragging rights for the season’s largest grosser, it would all crumble two summers later when the disastrous Batman and Robin sunk the franchise until Chris Nolan rescued it.

And now – some other notable pictures from the summer of 1995 that didn’t make the top ten:

13. Nine Months

Domestic Gross: $69 million

This Hugh Grant comedy didn’t make much of an impression in the critical community, but audiences turned out partly because of the media swarm surrounding its star’s tabloid status involving picking up a prostitute.

14. Babe

Domestic Gross: $63 million

George Miller’s talking pig tale not only became one of the season’s sleeper hits, it also managed an unexpected Oscar nod for Best Picture.

16. Clueless

Domestic Gross: $56 million

Alicia Silverstone became a household name in this Valley Girl comedy which spawned endless catchphrases.

31. The Usual Suspects

Domestic Gross: $23 million

This indie thriller with its shocking ending started the career of director Bryan Singer and earned Kevin Spacey an Oscar for Supporting Actor.

32. Il Postino

Domestic Gross: $21 million

This Italian import was an art house favorite and is the fourth summer release in 1995 to nab a Best Picture nomination. If you’re wondering, the fifth was Ang Lee’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, which came out in the fall.

And now, the flops of summer 1995:

Steven Seagal’s Under Siege 2: Dark Territory managed only $50 million at the domestic box office, not coming close to the $83M earned by its predecessor.

It may have been a hit kids show, but the film version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers sputtered with only $38 million.

While Braveheart had audiences in period piece action movie approval mode, the Richard Gere/Sean Connery King Arthur retelling First Knight flopped with just $37 million.

Comic book fans soundly rejected Sylvester Stallone’s wrong headed Judge Dredd to the tune of a paltry $34 million take.

Two films attempting to capitalize on the virtual reality craze at the time did virtually no box office business. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe’s Virtuosity and Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Mnemonic made $24M and $19M, respectively.

Finally, while crowds loved that Babe pig, another family tale about the same animal – Gordy – came in 52nd for the summer earning just $3.9M. That’s not exactly bringing home the bacon! (I’m sorry)

And that’ll do it for my recap of the summer of 1995, folks! I’ll have 2005 up later this week…