While all eyes are on the hyped-up controversy over the lack of nominations for blacks in this year’s Oscars, what’s much more interesting is the Academy’s lack of diversity in the movies it has nominated.
This year’s nominations, films like “Spotlight,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” are vapid and full of delusions of artistic grandeur that fall flat with audiences. In fact, many of the films with multiple Oscar nominations had pitiful box office returns.
With the exception of “The Martian” most of the Best Picture nominees did not crack the top 10 grossing films of 2015. It would seem counterintuitive for production companies to spend millions in making films that are only played in empty movie theaters, but this year’s nominations were not entirely about talent or originality. Many of the nominees have social and political narratives that advance Hollywood’s progressive agenda, or at least they try to.
Hollywood's definition of great drama has remained stubbornly attached to tearing down Western culture's prestige and values. The film industry has a knack for dramatizing parts of American history, both real and symbolic, as a hostile landscape.
This year’s Oscar-nominated film "Spotlight" is a newsroom drama about the Boston Globe's investigation of the 2002 priest pedophilia scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston. Sadly, many of the facts of the story are indisputable, but the portrait of the Catholic Church — not just this despicable diocese — is largely negative. The film strikes the tone of wanting to be like "All of the President's Men" in its self-aggrandizing portraits of journalistic bravery against the church, but the movie is really about Hollywood wanting to shine an undesirable "spotlight" onto one of the oldest religious institutions in the world. The film made $295,009 in its opening weekend and grossed only $31 million.
Another Best Picture nominee vilified Wall Street and the American banking system. "The Big Short" portrays a fast-moving account of the 2008 financial crisis. The film tells a legitimate narrative highlighting the greed and corruption that led to the economic turmoil, but it also allows Hollywood to reinforce a cynicism in the free market with the facade of humor and big-name stars. The film ranked 55th on a list of highest grossing 2015 films, scoring $52 million.
Writer-director George Miller has long enjoyed inserting a climate change agenda into his films. First, we saw his environmental messaging in his Oscar-winning animated sequel "Happy Feet Two," and now Best Picture nominee "Mad Max: Fury Road" depicts a post-apocalyptic desert full of warring factions struggling to survive drought and extreme weather events. The reboot likely made most of its $153 million out of nostalgia.
Some films in the Oscar nominations list couldn’t even get ticket sales of over $10 million.
"After the Oscar nominations, will people finally see 'Room'?" asked Chicago Tribune writer Erin Yahr.
The answer is, probably not. The Best Picture nominee "Room" tells the story of an abducted woman who escapes from a seven-year captivity. The film pulled in a pathetic gross revenue of $6 million.
The Hollywood blacklist story "Trumbo" received a Best Actor nomination for Bryan Cranston. While the former "Breaking Bad" star is a talented actor, the film barely produced movie fan interest with a total of $7 million in domestic gross revenue.
Leonardo DiCaprio's latest adventure-survival film and Best Picture nominee "The Revenant" depicts him as a hunter who is mauled by a bear and manages to survive the attack. The Wrap reports the production budget of the film had ballooned from $60 million to $135 million. Unfortunately, there were not enough film goers for the film to pay for itself, only making $101 million domestically.
Hollywood couldn't get enough of awarding films about transgender characters in 2014 when they awarded Jeffrey Tambor for his transgender role in the Amazon series "Transparent" and Jared Leto for playing a trans woman in "Dallas Buyers Club" (only $27 million at the box office). Actor Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar last year for playing Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," embraced the rise of the transgender roles in Hollywood by dressing as a women in the 2015 film "The Danish Girl."
The film made a measly $9 million in domestic box office — but received four Academy Awards nominations (actor, supporting actress, art direction and costume design). Despite Hollywood's fascination with the transgender storyline, the box office results for these films tell a story of theatergoer apathy, with one less profitable than the next.
If you were to add up the total sum of all the box office revenue for all of the 2015 Best Picture nominations, the revenue of the films would total over $669 million. Keep in mind, the blockbuster film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" received only two minor nominations (Best Sound and Best Sound Editing) and grossed three times that of all those moves at $1.8 billion.
The academy might want to take a look at the Razzie Awards, which is popularly known for celebrating the worst films in Hollywood. In contrast to the academy nominating financial flops, Razzie nominees usually are financially successful films despite their questionable film quality. "Fifty Shades of Gray" was nominated for worst Razzie film but raked in $166 million in 2015. In addition, "Pixels" ($78 million), "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" ($71 million), and "Fantasy Four" ($56 million) made Razzie's worst film list.
Top grossing blockbuster films, with rare exception in recent years, do not receive Best Picture nominations. In 2014, when "America Sniper" topped box office revenue, art house movie "Birdman" won Best Picture. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" drove fans to the theaters in droves in 2013, but "12 Years a Slave" won the Oscar. In 2012, comic book fans turned out to see Marvel's "The Avengers" while the factually challenged "Argo" won Best Picture. And in 2011, J.K. Rowling fans went to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" ($1.3 billion), but the academy chose to award the silent movie "The Artist" instead.
Americans often know when they are being fed an agenda that takes on the environment, religion, the free market or traditional values from a progressive leftist perspective. "The Martian" is the proof that Americans will buy tickets for inspiring, adventure films about space exploration, ingenuity and human excellence. If Hollywood wants to continue to afford their "pet cause" flick picks, they should think again about alienating their audience when award season arrives.
If they don’t, the Oscars will run the risk of becoming a very expensive doorstop at empty theaters.
Last Modified: January 25, 2016, 1:58 pm