“Birdman” Wins Best Picture. Do you care?

Last night, “Birdman” brought home the golden statue for Best Picture.  Howard Stern must be outraged today.  But the real outrage has to go to films that were considered by millions of movie-goers to be their favorite.  There have been precious few science fiction, horror movie or fantasy films nominated, never mind winning.  Does the Best Picture have to be an artistic endeavor, or can a crowd-pleaser take home the golden statue?

Neil Patrick Harris even mentioned that “American Sniper” earned more than half of the total box office earnings of all the Best Picture nominees.  While this is not  a steadfast rule, the tendency is to look towards dramas that have a screenplay geared for an award.  There are exceptions, of course.  “Annie Hall” (which beat out “Star Wars” for Best Picture in 1977, forever earning my disdain) was a comedy.  Or perhaps a “dramedy”.  “Birdman” can also be classified as a comedy, albeit dark.  And I think you could tell this was a vehicle aimed at Michael Keaton making a last effort at Hollywood legitimacy.  But let me ask you: when the blu ray of “Birdman” comes out, would you buy it?  Or would you simply plop in your “Guardians of the Galaxy” blu ray for the fifth time?  Dancing Groot every time.

“Silence of the Lambs” is probably not considered a “horror” movie per se, but it’s certainly a thriller.  Winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1991 was a delight, even though I was secretly rooting for “Beauty and the Beast”.  An animated “Best Picture”?  Awesome.  And I didn’t care for “Beauty” all that much.  I would rather have seen “The Iron Giant” win.  But I digress – back to “Silence”.  Lecter, Starling and crew deserved that statue, no question.  And I still try to make it a point to watch “Silence” every Halloween.  Seems as good a time as any.

When “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won, essentially, all the Oscars in 2003, I thought that we had finally hit a golden age.  Perhaps the Academy was beginning to see that popular movies could also beat out tailor-made Oscar bait.  12 years later, I see little evidence that is changing.

Maybe awards should be given to the films that earn the most box office revenues.  They could have one for domestic, one for foreign, one for animated, one for each of the major genres.  “World War Z” would have won in 2013.  “Annabelle” would be taking home a statue in 2014.  If the Oscars were set up in this particular way, I would watch.  They could even have an “arthouse” category that would allow films like “Birdman” to win an award.  But let’s just not forget what this is: a business.  And the Academy Awards is the greatest commercial.