Just How Annual Are The Annual Academy Awards?

oscar-2016-08When studying prior Best Picture winners, statistics tell all. Or do they?

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Mad Max: Fury Road is indeed mad. And growing far more furious. Why, oh why, didn’t filmmaker George Miller hold out for a fall release date? Forget the lack of gasoline and water, the shortage of hot young women needed to spawn their grimy race, and pervasive radiation sickness: it’s Mad Max‘s May 15 release date that will cause its annihilation.

Coming up in the 2016 competition for Best Picture, 7 out of 8 of the nominees have opened between September and December. And then there’s Mad Max.

(l to r): Tom Hardy as Max, Tom Hardy as Bane

Tom Hardy as: Mad Max (left), Bane (right)

Akin to the reaction when star Tom Hardy appeared in yet another metal muzzle (“Huh?!?”), what does a movie’s release date have to do with winning the Oscar for Best Picture?

Everything. Or, rather, 81% of everything.

From 1973 to 2014, from The Sting to Birdman, the Best Picture has been awarded 81% of the time, or 34 out of 42 occasions, to movies debuting in the golden timeframe between mid-September through December. (Even September is an anomaly, having had only two films released mid-month, i.e., 1984’s Amadeus and 1980’s Ordinary People.)

The 8 out of the 42 outliers are:

The Hurt Locker, June 2009
Crash, May 2005
Gladiator, May 2000
Braveheart, May 1995
Forrest Gump, June 1994
Unforgiven, August 1992
The Silence of the Lambs, February 1991
Annie Hall, April 1977

A few side factoids about The Silence of the Lambs, released on 2/14/1991: 1. It was the first horror film to win Best Picture (previous nominations were for 1975’s Jaws and 1973’s The Exorcist). 2. Other than 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and 1934’s It Happened One Night, this Anthony Hopkins/Jodie Foster thriller took home all five top prizes (best picture, director, lead actor, lead actress and screenplay). 3. This may be the one and only time that a Valentine’s Day release nods to the color red … but not in the usual Hallmark manner.

One can’t help but imagine just how many romances were shattered beyond repair on St. Valentine’s Day, 1991:

“Honey-Lamb, since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’ve planned a special movie date. There’s a new film that just came out today and, from the title, it sounds like it’s all about some cute little sheep. Since you love animals so much, I’m sure it’ll be very special …”

Yet another intriguing factoid: for all you filmmakers who believe your movie is Oscar-worthy, avoid a July release date like a third-degree sunburn. Per the Academy Awards’ 88-year history, no film debuting in July has ever delivered a victor.

Ultimately, this fall season issue has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since it’s a statistical fact that winning films primarily open from mid-September through December, then the underlying assumption is that no feature released earlier in the year is worth its weight in Oscar gold.

Expanding on this magical autumn premise, should people looking for love reject potential mates who celebrate their birthdays in months previous to September? Should job opportunities be sniffed at prior to Labor Day? And what if a newborn emerges from the womb in seasons other than fall? Do we throw the baby out with the summer bathwater? Just wondering …

Mad Max: Fury Road aside, no one can predict the Best Picture Oscar winners all the time. Not even Doddle. However, we’re fairly certain about predicting the following:

THE OSCARS® - Multi-hyphenate artist and filmmaker Chris Rock will return to host the Oscars® for a second time. The 88th Academy Awards® will be broadcast live on Oscar® Sunday, February 28, 2016, on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Andrew Eccles)

Multi-hyphenate artist/filmmaker Chris Rock will return to host the Oscars® for a second time. The 88th Academy Awards® will be broadcast live on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Andrew Eccles)

– Chris Rock will be offensive. And if Chris Rock isn’t offensive enough … others will be offended.

– Cleavage will be big.

– Meryl Streep will not win.

– The Lord will be praised in many an acceptance speech. Expect additional nods to agents and managers. However, woe to the winner, a few significant others may be overlooked.

– Some Oscar winners will attempt to look surprised, pretending that they don’t have a speech prepared. (Case in point: Kate Winslet at last January’s Golden Globes.)

– The In Memoriam segment will engender far more cries of anguish than when the slighted luminaries actually passed away.

– People will praise Billy Crystal’s prior hosting performances as beyond magnificent. No one will mention Johnny Carson or Bob Hope.

– The insufferable guy who wins your office pool – again – will continue to brag that he never sees the movies. He “just knows.”

– Critics will denigrate the program, ultimately declaring that 2016 was the worst Oscar show ever. Until next year, when that show will be the worst ever.

Before we get played off, we want to remind you one last time that over four decades of statistics point to the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road has less than a 19% chance of winning the award for Best Picture. Hold to your convictions, if you must.

But like Mad Max and Furiosa, it’s best to prepare for defeat.

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About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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