Even before the firework sparks danced their way to the ground on 31st of December, the award season jumped upon us. We have seen what 2012 has to offer and those last few films have snuck into the year on a limited release (Zero Dark Thirty).
Award season is a strange beast; it more or less makes November, December, and January into a blockbuster season for the highbrow, critical darlings. Can you imagine if last year The Artist had come out in June? Would the critics have remembered it six months later when it was up for Oscar and Golden Globe consideration?
This does beg the question as to whether films that try to bridge the gap between critical success and mass public (economic) success are stunted by their summer releases – films like 2010’s Inception, which grossed $825,532,764 (£513,398,844) worldwide and is currently ranked the fourteenth greatest film of all time on IMDB’s Top 250. Yet Inception won only four Oscars and none of them in the major categories (sound editing, mixing, visual effects, and cinematography), despite the fact that it was a public and critical smash hit when it was released in the summer.
The fact of the matter is, for summer blockbuster films the Academy Awards season is not the number one priority, box office takings are. More recently the films that have had the greatest success over awards season have been those that have had huge media campaigns behind them, drumming up support and coverage. The backing of industry figures like Harvey Weinstein has become instrumental in a movie’s ‘campaign’ for awards success.
If one looks back over the years, it is the films that have had both the box office success and the award success that have stood the test of time, and will be remembered as greats in twenty or thirty years. Examples include 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, 2000’s Gladiator, and 1994’s Forrest Gump.
The pervasive consensus seems to be that the Academy is looking more and more kindly towards smaller, more indie pictures, a trend that could work in the favour Beasts of the Southern Wild and against Spielberg’s Lincoln.
As we wait with baited breath to see 2013’s award success story let’s take a look at the December box office figures. Rather unsurprisingly, the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy topped the charts with a larger total than the next three movies on the list combined, despite polarizing reviews from the press. Les Miserables and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained come in at two and three. Keep an eye out to see these two do well at the Golden Globes on the 13th January.
After the top three there is a significant drop off in takings to Jack Reacher at four and This is 40 at five, with $54 million and $44 million respectively.
Zero Dark Thirty is the much-anticipated release stateside, despite its Senate probes and controversial torture scenes. Katheryn Bigelow’s first film since The Hurt Locker, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, and the aforementioned Django, Les Miserables, and Beasts of the Southern Wild all look set to figure when the Oscar nominations are announced on Thursday the 10th of January.
Until then, go to the cinema. I insist, because this is the period when many of the best viewing experiences are to be had. Also, you can take pleasure in being the only one of your friends who has actually seen all of the best picture nominations. There is a challenge for you all.