TOKYOPOP Fam: Hi everyone! I'm in sunny Los Angeles right now and here in Tinseltown, it's awards season. That means industry players and haters, geeks and gurus, suits and creatives alike - everyone is talking about the best movies of 2014.
Since I'm in the Producer's Guild (known as the PGA - and, no, not the one with Tiger), they mail me a bunch of "screener" DVDs so I can catch up on these awards-season flicks in the comfort of my living (sort of like downloading movies illegally, but actually endorsed by the MPAA).
Typically, the movies we receive as screeners are very different than the ones popular in the box office throughout the year. In fact, as of January 15, the 8 nominations for Best Picture combined for only $231 million at the US box office compared to $2.147 billion for the Top 8 films. That means the best movies of the year only did 10% of the business that the most popular movies of the year did.
Granted, best is a subjective term, and certainly some of these nominated films will do much better after the Oscars (in fact, American Sniper had a huge box office this past weekend), but overall the ratio will still significantly favor the box office megahits.
So, if the American movie-going public favors certain movies (Hunger Games, Captain America, Transformers, Maleficent etc.) while the industry prefers other movies (Boyhood, Birdman, Imitation Game, etc.), are we living on different planets?
This year in particular the nominated films feel particularly boring to me. I asked a few industry friends their opinion and many agree - the performances may be incredible but the movies themselves are basically celluloid Ambien.
All of this is subjective of course, but why are the box-office monsters and Oscar hopefuls so different? One theory is that the industry is out of touch with the movie-going public. Another argument I've heard is that the industry feels the responsibility to support high-quality, artistic cinema (however they define it).
And, certainly, it's a better world with a range of films. Personally, I enjoy box-office bonanzas as well as independent movies, foreign films, biopics, documentaries and the occasional arthouse fare. So, I typically look forward to watching the screeners, and supporting the undiscovered gem.
This year, though, was rough. I have seen all the nominees, and frankly there is no "best picture" out of that bunch. For me, most were either boring (Birdman, Theory of Everything), unique yet pointless (Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel), or unnecessarily melodramatic (Imitation Game). American Sniper wasn't boring, but it felt too pro-war (and where was the ending?!). I enjoyed Whiplash more than the others, but not quite as much as I hoped I would. Selma was probably my favorite of the bunch - but I tend to favor biopics and historical dramas when the visual storytelling stays rich and the topic interests me.
But, my favorite film of 2014 was by far "Guardians of the Galaxy". Wasn't it yours? It seems most people loved that movie - and it won the domestic box office at first place (#3 worldwide). The story was exciting, dialogue was funny, visuals were amazing, characters were compelling, acting was top-class, soundtrack tons of fun, and the subject was fresh (not a sequel or remake). So, why was GOTG not on the critic's Oscar list this year? Is it just me, or shouldn't we sometimes choose the best all-around movie of the year as the Best Picture of the year?
Call me crazy, but perhaps the general public would watch a wider range of movies if Hollywood actually considered all movies together during awards season. In music, the Grammy awards has learned to do this, and it seems good for the industry. Movies used to do this: think Lord of the Rings (2003), Gladiator (2000), Titanic (1997), Forrest Gump (1994), and even Rocky (1976). So, I think nominating "Guardians of the Galaxy" this year would have been a smart move for movies, and for Hollywood.
PS if you have watched the nominated films and are in the mood for a chuckle or two, check out the satirical posters here.