This year’s Oscar nominations for Best Picture are clearly a stark contrast from last year’s nominees. Whereas the 2010 Academy Awards were dominated by big-budget science fiction and 3D films (with Avatar taking centre stage), this year’s movies are more serious, and coincide with what is primarily taught at a prestigious American filmmaking school. The Oscars this year are focusing on deeper themes, such as confidence, communication, courage, class and friendship.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the nominations during previous years were lackluster. Purists at your typical filmmaking school would be foolish to say that “The Hurt Locker” or “Slumdog Millionaire” pale in comparison to this year’s nominees. Even “Avatar,” which left many wanting with its plot, cannot be easily dismissed.
Still, the shift from movies such as 2009’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and 2010’s “The Hurt Locker,” to more serious films such as “Black Swan,” “The Social Network,” and “True Grit” among others, is remarkable. One cannot help but ask if this reflects another change in the appetite of moviegoers. According to the Toronto International Film Festival’s co-director, Cameron Bailey, this year’s Best Picture nominations prove that moviegoers aren’t just interested in big-budget films with crazy special effects. Instead, it’s the experience gleaned from watching movies that matters most.
However, Jason Squire, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Filmmaking School of Cinematic Arts, believes that studios aren’t really making a conscious effort to produce serious films. He thinks that studios will jump on any chance to maximize revenue, regardless of whether or not the movie is a big-budget flick, an indie film in Sundance, a serious drama or what have you.