Anyone surprised the critically acclaimed box-office monstrosity “Avatar” didn’t sweep all of the nine Academy Awards it was nominated for? Considering that many movie-goers are claiming that “Avatar” has change the landscape of modern filmmaking, no one should be surprised that this big budget blockbuster wasn’t a big winner at the 2010 Academy Awards, especially in the Best Picture category. In fact, current trends over the last 5 years will show you that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has swayed towards awarding Oscars to independently produced “art house” films instead of the traditional big-money earners that have dominated the awards in the past. Did “Avatar” get snubbed or is this just a sign that independent filmmaking is reaching a quality that is hard for mainstream Hollywood to keep up with? Lets consider the big Oscar winners over the past few years:
Despite the buzz of “Avatar”, Iraq War thriller “The Hurt Locker” walked away with 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. This indie film has been on the festival circuit since 2008 but finally found US distribution through Summit Entertainment in 2009, making it eligible for this year’s Oscar season. The film claimed by critics to be the most authentic and honest depiction out of the recent Iraq War movies.
“Slumdog Millionaire” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 8. It’s also important to know that 3 out of the 5 Best Picture nominees of that year were independently produced films (“Milk”, “The Reader, along with “Slumdog”). Warner Brothers Studio was at first skeptical of the commercial viability of “Slumdog” and finally agreed to distribute the film through Fox Searchlight. Its box-office sales since the 2008 Academy Awards have proved Warner Brothers otherwise (over $377 worldwide gross).
4 out of the 5 Best Picture nominees of 2007 were distributed by the art-house wings of the major Hollywood studios (Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Miramax/Paramount Vantage). The big winner for 2007 was Miramax’s “No Country For Old Men” with 5 Oscar wins including Best Picture. Other lower-budget notables of that year were Best Original Screenplay “Juno” and Best Actor/Best /Cinematography “There Will Be Blood”.
Although “The Departed” was 2006’s big Oscar Winner with 4 awards, 3 out of 5 Best Picture nominees were lower-budget features (“The Queen”, “Babel” and “Little Miss Sunshine”). 2005’s most critically acclaimed films were “Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain”, both lower-budget features. Both of the films won 3 Oscars each, with “Crash” winning the Best Picture category.