February 10, 2006


A question of taste: The Hollywood awards season is useful first and foremost as a gauge of what the industry thinks is important (Andrew Coffin, 2/18/06, World)

Hollywood's problems at the box office last year may come down not so much to quality (or the lack thereof), as many have supposed, but to taste. There are plenty of talented craftsman in Hollywood, but—and this will come as no surprise—the prevailing tastes in Hollywood may not match those of the general movie-going public.

Just look at the films that people actually went to see last year, and compare that list to what Hollywood is now recognizing as 2005's best.

The 15 top-grossing films released in 2005, in descending order, were: Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; War of the Worlds; King Kong; Wedding Crashers; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Batman Begins; Madagascar; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Hitch; The Longest Yard; Fantastic Four; Chicken Little; and Robots.

Good or bad, these are the movies that Americans were watching last year. They're mostly family-oriented films, with only one R-rated movie, Wedding Crashers, making the list.

Now, compare that list to the films that the industry itself has chosen to honor as the year's best. You won't find many of them above. The recently announced Academy Award nominations were the culmination of a month-long awards rush that heaped praise on the likes of Brokeback Mountain; Syriana; Good Night, and Good Luck.; The Constant Gardener; A History of Violence; Transamerica; and Munich.

The five Academy Award best picture nominees—Brokeback, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Munich—reach a combined U.S. box-office total of just over half of what 2005's top-grossing film, Star Wars, raked in. None of them makes it into the top-40 grossing films of the year.

Personally, I can't recall a prior year where I'd seen none of the best picture nominees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2006 4:03 PM

not only have i not seen any of the nominated movies, i have actively avoided seeing them.

when people say that the prc would never get in a war with the U.S. because it is against their economic interests to do so -- remember this post.

Posted by: toe at February 10, 2006 4:12 PM

Toe beat me to it:

There's little chance that I'll ever watch any of those 5 movies.

I did see three of the top grossing in the theater tho, and several more on dvd.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 10, 2006 4:16 PM

I try to watch alot of independent movies, and these pictures usually dont gross much, due to many factors. I actually saw two of the five academy award nominated picture--Crash and Munich--and they both sucked. Munich had some action which was good, and the production values were very good, but they film was about as vacuous as you could imagine.

Crash, on the other hand, sucked. Absolutely horrific. It was the most heavy handed, contrived and condescending (to the viewer, at least) movie I have seen in years. I just cant fathom how a movie like this can actually he in the running for films most prestigious award. Than again, Farhenheit 9-11 won the Grand Prize at Cannes, so maybe it just goes to show that the film industry is generally stupid.

Posted by: Murf at February 10, 2006 4:50 PM

There was a time when I was going to the movies weekly. In 2005, I can count the new movies I saw in theaters on one hand:

1. Downfall (not even a Hollywood production)
2. Revenge of the Sith
3. Batman Begins
4. Narnia

And unless I'm forgetting a title (which wouldn't be hard to do last year), that's it.

I think I'm not alone in avoiding the movies; and I doubt Hollywood calculated just how much its politicized tone in 2004 and 2005 would knock people out of the movie habit. They'll have to work extra hard to get people back into the theaters--and I think they're too far up nihilism creek at this point to change their tone.

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at February 10, 2006 4:52 PM

They could have at least thrown a bone to us rubes and nominated Batman Begins. It was a fine, fine movie by any measure, and while it had a clearly conservative message, it was dark enough to make them feel ok with nominating it. Alas, they are apparently driven to marginalize themselves.

Penance for all the Lord of the Rings love, perhaps?

Posted by: Timothy at February 10, 2006 4:57 PM

I thought Batman Begins had somewhat of a liberal message, in that Batman would not kill the Liam Neeson character in the end, but would let him die by not rescuing him from the train crash. Also, the scene in Tibet where he trained under Neeson to fight the criminals of the world, but stopped short of executing the murderer was typical Hollywood anti-death penalty boilerplate. It was so much like the scene in Star Wars III where Palpatine gets Anakin Skywalker to decapitate General Voodoo, or whatever Christopher Lee's character was called, that you can imagine the two screenwriters working together. Then the fact that Neeson turned out to be the mastermind of the entire crime wave was too much of a parallel to the Bush/Republicans as the ultimate force of evil screed of liberals to be a coincidence.

Other than that, it was a fine movie.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 10, 2006 5:28 PM


Batman never kills--his victims fall to divine justice. He didn't even kill Joe Chill.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2006 5:32 PM

I did see two of those five on DVD ($1.00 rentals), Crash and Constant Gardner. Neither was money well spent even if it was only a dollar. Crash could be summed up by saying "everybody's a racist", Constant Gardner by "big bad money grubbing pharmaceutical companies exploiting poor uneducated people of color".

Posted by: MB at February 10, 2006 5:33 PM

Murf, they're not stupid, they just have different agendas and take full advantage of captive audiences. I not only didn't see any of the five, but will probably never see them, not to be stubborn, but I have better things to do. Disclosure: I love the movies, but I hate being propagandized on my own money and time.

Posted by: Genecis at February 10, 2006 5:48 PM

Brokeback, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Munich.

We saw Capote, which we thought was pretty good, had never heard of Crash and shuned the others.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 10, 2006 6:34 PM


OJ is correct. Batman has always avoided killing people. You can't blame that on Hollywood.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 10, 2006 7:11 PM

Yes, but they didn't have to turn the movie into an anti-death penalty rant. That's the part that bugged me.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 10, 2006 7:14 PM

So when you combine the list of films generally acclaimed by the Academy and the Best Picture nominees, you get this:

Brokeback Mountain; Syriana; Good Night, and Good Luck,; The Constant Gardener; A History of Violence; Transamerica; Munich; Capote; Crash.

How many people here have seen a single one of these films? I haven't. I thought A History of Violence might be good but I didn't see it, and after my folks saw Good Night my dad called to tell me I might like it, which is doubtful.

The films produced last year that I enjoyed were as follows: Revenge of the Sith, Narnia, War of the Worlds, Hitch, and Cinderella Man (Harry Potter was fun at times but still greatly disappointing in comparison to the book).

That's all I can think of. Usually I have some film I root for among the Best Picture nominees. Not this time.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 11, 2006 12:29 AM

"Yes, but they didn't have to turn the movie into an anti-death penalty rant. That's the part that bugged me."

I wouldn't call it anti-death penalty. It was against vigilantes taking the lives of others in order to fit their notion of justice. That's something pretty different from disagreeing with state-sanctioned, court-ordered retributive punishment.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at February 11, 2006 11:14 AM

Like others, I haven't seen any of the front-runners. I have, however, seen all the movies Ed Driscoll noted

I saw "Downfall" only a couple of weeks ago. A terrifically creepy movie, ghoulish, and occasionally even funny -- like when the very first thing the German officers do immediately after Hitler shoots himself is light up in the previously smoking-free bunker.

I also saw "Fantastic Four", near the bottom of top-grossing films. Now there was one real stinker. Absolutely terrible. Either X-Men movie was far better. If not for Jessica Alba in tights, no one woulda bothered.

Posted by: Twn at February 11, 2006 2:23 PM

Whoops, should add The Exorcism of Emily Rose to that list of 2005 films I enjoyed.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 11, 2006 9:07 PM