or how I learned to stop worrying and love the mid budget movie

TJ Parrillo, Staff Writer

The Oscars, known by some as a film buff’s yearly ritual to complain about anything they want, could still lack purpose or perspective. Are they simply a popularity contest? Or do they only choose movies no one watches? That’s not for anyone to decide but the viewer. However, it is difficult to deny that every year is controversial, even excluding a certain former Bel-Air Prince who caught headlines last year. But despite this controversy, the general public thinks that the Oscars have seen a lack of relevance in recent years.

But why is this? Aren’t all award shows like this? Well, what separates the Oscars from something like the game awards (which have only been around for a handful of decades), is how the Oscars have been around since 1929, nearly 100 years. The Oscars, when formed in 1929, was actually an attempt to discourage individuals like actors, directors, and other crew members from unionizing. The gist of the idea was that if they held an award ceremony and treated the crew members more like artists instead of workers, they would have no need to form a union. Needless to say, it worked. The Oscars originally served as a distraction from the studio monopoly in Hollywood, with the downfall of the studio system in the 70s, and the Oscars had drastically changed.
Historically, the biggest complaint about the Oscars has been known as “Oscar bait”. Oscar bait basically means that the Oscars are a popularity contest that has been drastically dispelled with previous years results not even ranging in the top grossing movies of their respective year despite incredible acclaim. Now, it is rumored that they choose movies that nobody watches. Which is true, to a degree. When CODA won in 2022, it was a streaming only movie to date the lowest grossing best picture, with a box office of $0due to its lack of theater release, but even then previous years nomad land which had a theater release grossed less than 40 million at the box office.

While I much prefer smaller films getting the awards they usually deserve, the problem is that the viewership for the Oscars has gone down intensely in the past decade and this might be a major factor. While events like La La Land losing, Parasite winning, and the Will Smith debacle have shortly jolted the Oscars’ relevance. Now, the average moviegoer usually doesn’t really care for what is happening at the Oscars. While the solution might be easy, such as the Oscars letting popular movies win, the origin of this problem is a bit deeper. Before the 2000s, best picture winners were critically acclaimed while also being amongst the highest grossing movies of the year.
The reason why this has become less common is the death of the mid budget movie. With horror movies like the Blair Witch Project having incredibly small budgets whilst forking in amazing profits, smaller production companies have stuck to cheaper budgets to minimize failure. While studios have taken the opposite approach, Marvel movies, for example, at both times are the most expensive movies ever made and the highest grossing studios have realized that even when the movie fails they make money back from things like merchandise. This has led to the death of the mid budget movies, and with that the death of synergy of populism and elitism. We no longer get amazing movies that are successful like Home alone or silence of the lambs.
With the death of the mid budget movie, these extremes only get starker and there seem to be no signs of any change with the new Avatar movies at the time of writing this being the third highest grossing movie ever despite most assuming that it would fail horribly with a lengthy run time, bloated budget, and over a decade of filmmaking. The Oscars decline is not any fault of the Oscars but the failure of the movie industry to cater original movies that the average watcher.

Image taken by Mirko Fabian, with permission of unsplash