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Oscars: What’s the Message in This Year’s Best Picture Nominations?

Bradley Cooper stares through a sniper's scope in 'American Sniper,' and scores two direct hits on Oscar nominations: best actor and best picture. But the film is the exception to the rule this year. (Photo: Studio)

Bradley Cooper stares through a sniper’s scope in ‘American Sniper,’ and scores two direct hits on Oscar nominations: best actor and best picture. But the film is the exception to the rule this year. (Photo: Studio)

Top Oscar nominees “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and at least four other Best Picture nominees share one thing in common. They are all fairly low-budget indie movies. This year’s big money pictures have been scorned, again.

The Oscars have never been about money (supposedly), but about film artistry, craftsmanship and stellar, transformative acting.

But in recent years it almost seems like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, is trying to prove to the world that Hollywood really is too cool for school.

It wasn’t always that way. During Hollywood’s Golden Era in the ’40s and ’50s there was synchronicity between big box office pictures and Academy Awards.

In 1946, the best picture Oscar winner, “The Best Years of Our Lives,” was also No. 2 on the list of top grossing films. In 1949, Columbia Pictures classic “All the King’s Men” won the award and was ranked No. 10.

This year, not one of The top 10 highest grossing films was nominated for a best picture Oscar. It seems pretty obvious that films like “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is not Oscar material.

But the film led all others in 2014, with a grossed of nearly $1.1 billion worldwide. Doesn’t that say something? And what about popular appeal? Doesn’t that count for anything.

Other films on the list seem to have more merit. Surely, Christopher Nolan’s Sci-Fi epic “Interstellar,” No. 10 among top grossing films at $662 million deserved consideration for a Best Oscar nom.


Say what you will, but “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” was breath-taking and panoramic in its sweep. The Warner Bros, New Line, MGM title scored an impressive $782 million at the box office.

In fact, the Oscars this year comes down to essentially eight films: “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” Whiplash,” “American Sniper,” “Selma,” “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything.”

And, among those, really three, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” really count. They captured 26 nominations between them.

Even more oddly, the Academy only nominated eight films this year for best picture, even though it could have awarded up to 10 nominations.

The Academy is essentially saying no other film was nomination worthy–not even “Still Alice,” Brad Pitt’s “Fury” or David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars?”

“American Sniper” directed by octogenarian Clint Eastwood is the only film that cuts against the indie grain and may be the exception that proves the rule. It’s a straight-forward true story cut right from the headlines.

Bradley Cooper’s superior acting and Eastwood’s iconic stature probably edged it in among the indie nominees. But while Cooper won a best actor nod, Eastwood was passed over for best director.

He’s just hot hip enough for Hollywood.

Let us know your thoughts, and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest news and analysis of this year’s Oscar’s race.


Oscar 2015 Best Picture Nominees
RankTitleStudioWorldwide Gross
1American SniperWarner Bros. Pictures$18 million
(Debut: Dec. 25)
2BirdmanFox Searchlight Pictures$34 million
(Debut:Oct 17)
3BoyhoodIFC Films$44 million
(Debut: July 11)
4The Grand Budapest HotelFox Searchlight Pictures$175 million
(Debut: Mar. 7)
5The Imitation GameThe Weinstein Company$83 million
(Debut: Nov. 28)
6SelmaParamount Pictures$16 million
(Debut: Dec. 25)
7The Theory of EverythingUniversal Pictures$46 million
(Debut: Nov. 7)
8WhiplashSony Pictures Classics$7 million
(Debut: Oct. 10)

Highest-grossing films of 2014
RankTitleStudioWorldwide Gross
1Transformers: Age of ExtinctionParamount$1.09 billion
2The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesWarner Bros. / New Line / MGM$782 million
3Guardians of the GalaxyMarvel Studios$773 million
4MaleficentDisney$758 million
5X-Men: Days of Future PastFox$748 million
6Captain America: The Winter SoldierMarvel Studios$714 million
7The Amazing Spider-Man 2Sony / Columbia$709 million
8Dawn of the Planet of the ApesFox$709 million
9The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1Lionsgate$700 millon
10InterstellarParamount / Warner Bros.$662 million

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