other hits vie with smaller dramas for expanded Oscar field
crossing, and Avatar, a tale of humans and aliens in conflict on a distant moon.
Titanic did $1.84 billion at the box office worldwide. Just before his new sci-fi epic opened in December, Cameron said, “I don’t expect that kind of performance out of Avatar.”
Yet Avatar, which won for best drama and director at the Golden Globes, has shot past Titanic, heading beyond $2 billion with plenty of box-office life left in it.
Oscar TV ratings typically rise when a major commercial hit is among the favourites. Titanic dominated the Oscars and lured the biggest TV audience ever — 55.2 million viewers — for Hollywood’s premier party.
The TV audience has been well below that mark since then, bottoming out at 32 million two years ago, when No Country for Old Men was the big winner, and coming in at 36.3 million last year, when Slumdog Millionaire took best picture.
Oscar organizers decided last summer to double the best-picture field to 10 movies, saying they felt there were more than five worthy contenders.
The expanded best-picture category caught Hollywood by surprise, with filmmakers, actors, studio executives and others divided over the idea. Some say it opens the Oscars up to a broader range of films, others think it might allow lesser movies to sneak into the best-picture competition. Among those with reservations: — “I’m never up for lowering the standards. Every one of the nominees should be able to win best picture, and if that can’t be said, I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind it,” said M. Night Shyamalan, who made the 1999 best-picture nominee The Sixth Sense.
— “It seems like it might take away a little bit of the exclusivity of being a nominee out of five, rather than to be a nominee out of 10,” said Michael Douglas, a producer of 1975 best-picture winner One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the 1987 best-actor winner for Wall Street.
Among those who think might be a good idea:
“Consider critics. No critic has trouble coming up with a top-10 list,” said The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, who earned a screenplay nomination for 2001’s Memento. ”When you look at the critics’ top-10 lists, they’re broad lists, a lot of different types of movies. That works very well for critics, and maybe it’ll work for the academy.”
“I believe in a year where you would have Up in the Air and Precious alongside Avatar and Up, I think all it does is bring more attention to the smaller films maybe people wouldn’t see,” said Jake Gyllenhaal, a 2005 Oscar nominee for Brokeback Mountain.