**POP CIRCUIT is AwardsCircuit’s new weekly column looking at the biggest movies and how they relate to pop culture and general audiences around the country. We’ll examine the box office juggernauts and how critics and awards bodies are responding to them.**
Money and popularity have long been an essential metric for Hollywood. For many years, the Oscars liked to reward box office behemoths. Of the top ten highest grossing films (adjusted for inflation), all but one (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves“) have received a Best Picture nomination. However, since the 1990s, many of the Best Picture nominees have come from the world of independent cinema. While this phenomenon has brought critical favorites into the Oscar race, audiences have felt alienated. Ratings continued to drop over the past decade. While this issue has more to do with cord cutting and the expanding amount of content, the lower box office receipts make for an easy scapegoat. However, 2018 looks like many of the top tier contenders are in play for Oscar love.
In 2017, 12 of the top 25 grossing films of the year received nominations. That number is in line with the rest of the decade. For the most part, popular films do receive nominations of some kind. 2011 and 2015 represent the only years that less than ten of the top 25 box office earners received nominations. Both years, nine box office hits of the year made the lineup.
What makes 2018 different, is that money making films are in the race. This goes beyond big players like “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther,” or “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which all earned more than $190 million domestically. All of these have shown considerable strength with the Guilds. The trio seems likely to get Best Picture nominations, and each has at least one lock. Animated features “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Incredibles 2,“ and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” appear to be locked in the animated race. “Mary Poppins Returns,” “A Quiet Place,” and “Avengers: Infinity War” all look like they can pick up nominations in the techs. Finally, Solo: A Star Wars Story” appeared to have a strong showing at the VFX bake-off. That bodes extremely well for the franchise that rarely misses in the Visual Effects race. Consider me a convert to “Solo” scoring a nod here.
That puts us at 10 out of the top 25 films scoring nominations. What is surprising is that this feels like the worst day for box office hits at the Oscar. In fact, more hits could be in play than any year before. 2004 is the only year where 14 of the top 25 films of the year showed up at Oscar. That year, “Million Dollar Baby” crossed into the top 25 as the 14th big hit but only after it actually won the Oscar. Meanwhile, several years got 13 of the box office favorites into the race. For each additional nomination that a 2018 film picks up, the year inches closer to history.
Let’s look at some of the remaining 15 films looking to score an Oscar nomination. The first one to consider is “Ready Player One,” and that bodes well. With “Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” both on that list as well, only one of these may join the club. Still, that puts us up to 11.
The next films to consider are “Dr. Seuss‘s The Grinch” or the spoiler “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” for the animated film race. If you’re worried that “Mirai” is vulnerable, you might be right. Opening up the voting base brought “Boss Baby” into the race last year. Meanwhile, “The Grinch” made $268 million domestically, and will drop to 7th in the domestic box office after “Aquaman” passes it this week. Still, it held the public consciousness for weeks. It also showed up in a handful of big places, including the Annies. Meanwhile, “Hotel Transylvania 3” became the most significant film in a franchise that already held two big animated hits.
Then there are the fringe tech contenders. “Crazy Rich Asians” has widespread support from the industry, and seems poised to land somewhere. Best Picture feels extremely improbable. Yet with the craziness that’s unfolded this season, weirder things have happened. However, production design and costume design seem far more likely. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” really hit the culture in a big way. Supporters fawn over it. Could it grab a sound nomination or even editing? One can dream.
Last butnot least, “Fantastic Beasts” took a critical beating. Despite that, production design and the costumes have to be on the table. Not only did they each get nominated last time, but “Fantastic Beasts” won the costume prize. Bet against it at your own peril.
At the end of the day, 12 films are very much on the table for Oscar nominations. Those films are:
- “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.)
- “A Quiet Place” (Paramount Pictures)
- “Avengers: Infinity War” (Warner Bros.)
- “Black Panther” (Marvel)
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” (20th Century Fox)
- “Crazy Rich Asians” (Warner Bros.)
- “Incredibles 2” (Pixar)
- “Mary Poppins Returns” (Walt Disney Pictures)
- “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Walt Disney Pictures)
- “Ready Player One” (Warner Bros.)
- “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (Walt Disney Pictures)
- “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures)
There are three bubble films that could tip the scales. “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” all have a chance to grab Oscar prizes. If two of the three get through, 2018 will be a record-setting year. One might even say, it could be a very popular Oscars.