In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oscar vs. Box Office

Just for fun, I enjoy creating two random groups of similar objects, and deciding which group I would prefer. What follows are comparisons between the five best picture nominees from 2000 to 2008, and the top five grossing films (in the U.S.) for those same years. For each year, imagine you will only ever be able to watch five movies for the rest of your life, and those five must either be from the Oscar column, or the Box Office column. An asterisk (*) notes that the film appears in both columns, and can therefore be ignored, since you will get that film either way.

OscarBox Office
*GladiatorHow the Grinch Stole Christmas
ChocolatCast Away
Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonMission: Impossible 2
Erin Brockovich*Gladiator
TrafficWhat Women Want

What we basically have here is a choice between a life with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or a life without Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (my 4th favorite film of all time) brings with it three interesting films; on the flip side, Cast Away might hit a bit too close to home if I were watching my five movies on a desert island, and it has weak back-up. 2000 produced some good movies, but as blockbusters go, it was a terrible year. Oscar 1; Box Office 0.

OscarBox Office
A Beautiful MindHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Gosford Park*The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
In the BedroomShrek
*The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingMonsters, Inc.
Moulin Rouge!Rush Hour 2

Again we have a titan, Gosford Park, my 5th favorite film of all time. Moulin Rouge! is tragic, but meaningful, as is A Beautiful Mind (I haven't seen In the Bedroom). The Box Office side is filled with light, entertaining fare, my favorite of which is Monsters, Inc., but there's just no competing with the myriad characters and relationships in Gosford Park. Oscar 2; Box Office 0.

OscarBox Office
Gangs of New York*The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The HoursStar Wars Ep. II: Attack of the Clones
*The Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The PianistMy Big Fat Greek Wedding

I have no desire to see Gangs of New York or The Hours again. I'd like to see The Pianist, but probably not multiple times. Chicago, weighted down by Richard Gere's singing voice, is not a strong contender. On the other side, we have a good romance in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and excellent sci-fi/fantasy action in the other three. Box Office wins by a landslide. Oscar 2; Box Office 1.

OscarBox Office
*The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King*The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in TranslationFinding Nemo
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the WorldPirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Mystic RiverThe Matrix Reloaded
SeabiscuitBruce Almighty

This conflict is more interesting. We have Scarlett on one side, and Keira on the other. Two ship movies. One movie about a horse, another about a fish. Bill Murray alone in Tokyo; Keanu Reeves alone in an incomprehensible plot. I might regret this, but I'll go with Box Office on this one for shear entertainment value and humor, over the more meaningful Oscar column. Oscar 2; Box Office 2.

OscarBox Office
Million Dollar BabyShrek 2
The AviatorSpider-Man 2
Finding NeverlandThe Passion of the Christ
RayThe Incredibles
SidewaysHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Two of the three best superhero movies ever made (the third being X2: X-Men United) and the best Harry Potter film at that point, vs. three depressing films and two I haven't seen (Ray and Sideways). No contest. Box Office, with The Incredibles at the front (my 11th favorite film of all time), stomps the competition. Oscar 2; Box Office 3.

OscarBox Office
CrashStar Wars Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith
Brokeback MountainThe War of the Worlds
CapoteThe Wedding Crashers
Good Night, and Good Luck.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
MunichBatman Begins

Crash, Brokeback Mountain, and Munich are all depressing and not re-watchers for me. I enjoy Good Night, and Good Luck; I haven't seen Capote. I don't want to rewatch The War of the Worlds; it's just too gross. But the others in that column are entertaining, even if strange (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) or shallow (The Wedding Crashers). I am a Star Wars Prequel apologist, and have no problem rewatching Revenge of the Sith. Oscar 2; Box Office 4.

OscarBox Office
The DepartedPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Letters from Iwo JimaX-Men: The Last Stand
Little Miss SunshineThe Da Vinci Code
The QueenSuperman Returns

The Departed is a gritty, well-done thriller. Babel I haven't seen, but it doesn't sound like my type of movie. Letters from Iwo Jima I also haven't seen, but would like to, as I enjoy war movies. On the other side, we once again have two superhero movies, with really fluffy backup. X-Men: The Last Stand is, by comic book standards, an excellent movie, but they made some plot choices that really ruffle my feathers. My gut tells me to go with Box Office, but longterm, the joy of Little Miss Sunshine and the quiet drama of The Queen might be healthier for my soul, so I'll go against type on this one, in favor of Oscar. Oscar 3; Box Office 4.

OscarBox Office
No Country for Old MenSpider-Man 3
AtonementShrek the Third
Michael ClaytonPirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
There Will Be BloodHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Juno and Michael Clayton are both excellent, as is the first half of Atonement. No Country for Old Men is too brutal for me to actively seek out again, but it was 100% engaging when I saw it. Box Office fills its coffers with four sequels, the best of which are Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the Sandman scenes of Spider-Man 3. Shrek the Third disappointed, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was a mess, and my IQ erodes a little each time I see Transformers. Oscar 4; Box Office 4.

OscarBox Office
Slumdog MillionaireIron Man
The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
MilkKung Fu Panda
The ReaderHorton Hears a Who

I saw 70 movies in the theater in 2008, but the Academy saw fit to nominate five films that I had not (and still have not) seen. Box Office wins by default, though I won't mind any of those titles long-term. Emotionally, WALL-E is the deepest, and there is great action in Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda. The Who half of Horton Hears a Who and the look Indiana Jones gives Marian when he first sees her are a delight.

Final tally: Oscar 4; Box Office 5.


  1. 2000. Oscar in a landslide, just so I won't have to be near any copies of Mission Impossible II. Indeed none of the 4 that are exclusive to the Box Office have any appeal to me. Oscar 1: Box Office 0

    2001: This is my toughest challenge, solely on your own recommendation of Gosford Park. And that is a strange thing to say since I watched it, but I didn't have it on loud enough and had the hardest time figuring out what they were saying. I need to watch it again with subtitles. Not having seen any of the Harry Potters is going to constantly count against the box office, but here we have Shrek and Monsters Inc, two heavy hitters. But I'm more interested in watching Gosford park going forward, I'm going to nod toward the Oscar. Oscar 2: Box Office 0

    2002: I didnt' see Chicago. I have similar feelings about Gangs. Spider-man would carry this all by itself and my Big Fat Greek Wedding is a good addition. Star Wars Episode II, funny you should mention you're an apologist because I watched portions of this last night and couldn't wait to remind you how awful it is. Win Box Office. Oscar 2: Box Office 1

    2003: Master and Commando is boring and Mystic River is to depressing. Lost in Translation was ok but not nearly as great as advertised by all those who have to lick the box cover when passing it by at Blockbuster. The Matrix reloaded is awful, no desire to watch Bruce Almighty again, and I get the Lord of the Rings either way. But Pirates, baby, one of my favorite movies of the last ten years. I have seen it about 27 times in Cardio Cinema and it still hasn't gotten old. Box Office for the win. Oscar 2: Box Office 2

    2004: I have only seen portions of one movie on the Oscar list, Million Dollar Baby. That said it was really good and I do want to watch all of it. But WTF are you going to put up against Spider-Man II and Incredibles? I would choose those on the desert island over bottled fresh water. Oscar 2: Box Office 3

    2005: I have seen butkis on the Oscar side and the Box Office is a junk yard. I was a Batman Begins fan for several showings before it nose dived, and Ep III is the best of the chaff spit out by the recent trilogy, so I'll give the nod to Box Office, begrudgingly. Oscar 2: Box Office 4

    2006: X-Men was good but not great. I have no desire to see Superman again, never saw nor was interested in Cars, and Pirates was awful awful awful. The Departed was excellent though not high on my list to see again. Little Miss Sunshine helps tip the scale over X-Men. Oscar 3: Box Office 4

    2007: Michael Clayton for the trivial landslide win. I have yet to see There will Be Blood but would like to. No Country for Old Men was extremely gripping, though I agree on being wary about sitting through the violence again. Michael Clayton would beat out a strong collection on the competing side, and as it is we're getting negative points over there. After watching the first 7 minutes (albeit on a bootleg copy) of Pirates I have zero desire to ever watch it. Shrek the Third was a huge disappointment. Transformers(?), please. Spider-Man 3 wasn't horrible but it isn't going to save this mess. Oscar 4: Box Office 4

    2008: I haven't seen any of the Oscar movies either. I saw portions of Indiana Jones at the gym and had no interest in it. Ditto Horton Hears a Who. I thought Wall-E was boring, but watchable. Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda are fantastic (Iron Man is a stable of Cardio Cinima to this day). A good strong showing all together. Oscar 4: Box Office 5

    We agree all the way down the line with 2001 being the only time I might have flipped.

  2. Since I watched There Will Be Blood I came back to update this. I was trying to remember when you wrote it and thought it was probably in July or so(!), had to go back every month until I finally hit January and January 11th at that. Its funny how at the start you had so much time/motivation/energy that you came up with additional content above and beyond your reviews of theaters and movies.

    Now that I have looked it over I have a change. But first, There Will be Blood was excellent. Daniel Day Lewis is just incredible and deserved the best actor award he won for his role. His antagonist, the local preacher also does a great job (and apparently had four days to prepare for the role as he was not originally cast in it). The movie is a bit slow at times, and LONG (2.5 hours +) but it is a wonderful time piece type film, with lots of "intercalory chapters" into the life of an oil man circa 1910. One warning; it doesn't have a strong plot per say outside of the character development of the main character; and this leads to an ending that gave me zero closure.

    So as previously stated, Michael Clayton could carry this all by itself, but add There Will Be Blood to the already strong supporting cast of Juno and No Country For Old Men and man, that was a good year for the Academy. Why the heck aren't these films also in the box office category . . . are people just . . . .dumb or something?

    I might switch on 2005 after now having seen Crash. It was depressing at times but I certainly thought finished on a high note in most regards. Now, if either that child or that father had been killed by the local convenience store owner I would have flipped out but the magic invisible bullet proof vest saved the day! Granted, I am not in a huge hurry to watch it again . . . but nothing on the box office side has any more appeal for that either.

  3. "Its funny how at the start you had so much time/motivation/energy that you came up with additional content above and beyond your reviews of theaters and movies."

    Ah, to be young again.

    I think I would now flip on 2006, reverting to my baser, super-hero-loving instincts.