Avatar: The Way of Water was nominated for Best Picture at this year's Oscars, but most analysts don't expect it to win. Experts tell CNN why blockbusters are often overlooked at the grand prize.
IsOskarThey were never exactly predictable, but Hollywood's biggest night regularly rewarded crowd favorites.
In the 90s, the box office likes to crack"Forrest Gump"j"Titanic"took home the Best Picture award, and original hits like "Ghost" and "Beauty and the Beast" received top award nominations.
But for the past two decades, the Oscars have avoided honoring the blockbuster films that once dominated the awards. For every"Gladiator"j"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," there is a"Schock"Ö"Green Book"– Films that have not dominated the box office to the same extent or have particularly delighted many critics and viewers.
Getting nominated for and eventually winning an Oscar is no easy feat, and many of the year's biggest blockbusters don't get best picture. and when youSohnnamed as"Avatar: The Way of Water",awards tipstersNO Hope Shewin.
CNN asked film and awards experts why some of the year's biggest hits were overlooked at the Oscars, and if theAwards 2023could change this pattern.
Voting for best film doesn't reward risk
Oscar voting is easy, down to the best picture, said Christopher Rosen, chief digital officer at Gold Derby, an agency that tracks and predicts the biggest races of the awards season.
In all Oscar categories except Best Picture, the nominee with the most votes wins. ButAcademy members use a preferred ticketwhen voting for best picture, rank the nominees in their preferred order. The system was introduced in 2010, he said, a year after the number of nominees in the category was increased from five to ten.
Films with the fewest first-place votes are eliminated first, unless one of the films manages to get more than 50% of all first-place votes, Rosen said. This is rare, however, so ballots are reduced and films eliminated until there is a consistently high film on a variety of bills. Color film has a harder time getting the best picture on this system, Rosen said.
"So it's possible that the best way to get the best image in this current system is to just guess," Rosen told CNN.
Today's blockbusters aren't like Titanic or Forrest Gump
It's not that Oscar voters are against blockbusters, it's just that today's blockbusters are less original than "E.T." and Titanics. Instead, there are more sequels, reboots, prequels, or other variations on the well-known IP (intellectual property), experts told CNN.
For example, the drama Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, was a "cultural event" upon its release, Rosen said, and became one of the highest-grossing films of 1994 before winning the Best Picture award. If Forrest Gump were released today, it would likely be a "much less successful theatrical film" or a limited series, Rosen said.
"The top-grossing movies these days are usually sequels, superhero movies, or sequels to superhero movies," said Dave Karger, host of Turner Classic Movies and awards correspondent for Entertainment Weekly. "This is generally not the type of film that appeals to the academy."
Titanic was a box office hit before it won Best Picture.
Isstreamen adventjDisney box office dominancehas changed the types of movies audiences are looking for at home rather than in theaters, and with so many streaming services out there there is onesurplus of filmsburied in algorithms that some viewers will never find. WithCovid-19 im Mix, it takes something special to convince an audience to buy a ticket to see something: going to the theater can feel more like an event than an everyday activity. The blockbuster formula is also waning, but the family-friendly IP is a big draw. That means fewer original hits like "Gladiator" (which now has its ownContinuation in progress) and other episodes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"Movies used to be a monoculture, but even the biggest movies don't come close to the kind of universality that something like a popular television series can have," Rosen said.
Oscar voters tend to give away "important" films
The kind of film that used to win an Oscar has evolved over the life of the award.
"The Oscar pendulum swings between grittiness and grandiosity, as does popular taste," said Loren PQ Baybrook, editor-in-chief of Film & History magazine and a film professor who taught at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. "Movies often swing from one extreme to the other... the same goes for the people behind the films: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."
Movies that end up being nominated for an Oscar don't have much in common these days. Some have a facade of prestige due to creative teams or source material, while others have independent credibility or broad public approval, but Academy voters tend to reward "important" films, Karger said. These films "talk about the weather or offer some kind of social message," he said.
That emphasis on “importance” might beWhy was Black Panther Marvel's first film?be nominated for best picture of 2019, Baybrook said. (Rosen also noted that theCeremony 2019higher ratings than seen last year). It was one of the first superhero films with a predominantly black cast and received some of the best reviews of any Marvel film. And that after years of Oscar viewersto denounce the lack of black candidates, the voting panel ultimately nominated a film that "can accommodate complex racial issues at the level of a blockbuster production," Baybrook said.
Black Panther, starring the late Chadwick Boseman, was the first Marvel film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
Of course, "Black Panther" didn't win this year: a 1960s comedy set in the Deep South."Green Book"did (alsotries to address racebut many criticsbelievedhe did it clumsily). Academy voters tend to "vote with their hearts, not their heads," Karger said, which explains how less acclaimed films like "Crash" and "Green Book," which may have touched voters, win first prize could.
As for this year's nominees, "they're everywhere," Baybrook said. There are blockbustersThe biography, artistic, audience-effective films: Studio hits "Elvis" and "Top Gun: Maverick" are also among the nominees, as are critics' favorites "Tár" and "The Banshees of Inisherin".
"I think we're seeing the midpoint of the swing of the pendulum in the history of nominations, a period of apparent equilibrium when the Oscars seem eclectic and focused on the substance and style of the films themselves," Baybrook said.
When their favorite films aren't nominated, some fans stop watching.
In recent years, the Oscars have had onepublic Problem. The show is long, typically spanning three hours, and viewers have little incentive to watch it unless they expect their favorite movies to win, said Juju Green, film commentator forTick Thank youWith over 3 million followers, it loves superhero blockbusters and prestige alike.
Nominating a film like Black Panther in 2019 and not awarding it felt like a play to me.attract a wider audienceattending the ceremony, Green said, with little reward for the public.
"It alienates the general public" when the year's biggest films — which, of course, usually come with a fee that Academy voters shun — don't appear on the Oscars television show, Green said. That's probably one of the reasons the Academy included a Happiest Moment honor category during last year's ceremony for fans to vote (they chose onecenaof DC superhero Flash joining the Speed Force in the expanded version of Zack Snyder's "Justice League").
But ultimately, while debates about whether the Oscars "still matter" will likely continue as long as the Oscars exist, filmmakers will continue to create without any expectation of winning the gold statuette, Green said, and audiences will continue to come to the Oscars. .Movie theaters to catch the next Marvel movie or any Tom Cruise gravity-defying film. But these films, even if they don't have the same artistic ingenuity as original films like "Tár" or "The Banshees of Inisherin," still matter to audiences, Green said.
"These are the films that attract hundreds of billions of people," he said. "You experience that together, it's something very special."
That's why fans and moviegoers like Green celebrate the success of a film like"Everything, everywhere, at the same time"which feels like a blockbuster in scope but also tries outlandish things that most mainstream hits would shy away from with its butt plugs, talking raccoons and hot dog fingers. If it can be too broad or full of ideas like somecriticismTersaying, he is also more serious and sentimental than many of the other contenders.
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" makes the heart overflow. Karger predicts it will win Best Picture this year.
CNN and Turner Classic Movies share parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, which is also behind movies like Justice League and Elvis.