Number-Crunching The 86th Academy Awards


Hi. Remember me? I used to write this blog before I started an epic journey through Katharine Hepburn’s filmography. Turns out epic journeys are way more time-consuming than I thought. Anyway, the Academy Awards are on Sunday and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-visit my yearly tradition of number crunching the sequels, adaptations, and remakes that are nominated this Oscars season. And since I’m trying to buy back your love, I made the graphs really, really pretty.

First of all, let’s look at the new-and-improved breakdown of all 511 Oscar nominees through history (click to make larger):

511bestpicturenoms(Those are pretty graphs, right?) Side note: while adaptations still dominate, I had to create a new heading, “Other,” to deal with all of the anomalies. Many movie adaptations (like the American Gaslight) are also remakes (of the British Gaslight). “Other” also includes the two later Lord Of The Rings movies which are both sequels AND adaptations, which is just not kosher. Even with this change, adaptations make up over half of the total: 289 straight adaptations have been nominated up to the present.

The sequels you can probably guess most of: Godfather Part II, Godfather Part III, and Toy Story 3 are the obvious, but there are two other early sequels: The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) and The Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935, oddly).

The remakes, on the other hand, have a fun oddity.  Two movies with the same title have been nominated for an Oscar: Heaven Can Wait (1943), and Heaven Can Wait (1978).  However, the first is the story of a playboy who recounts his exploits in Hades, while the second is a Warren Beatty film about a football player who comes back to life in the body of a multimillionaire.  Here’s the weirder part: the second film actually is a remake of a 1941 film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan, starring Robert Montgomery and Claude Rains.

85bestpicturewinnersUnsurprisingly, the numbers stay pretty consistent from types of movies win to what types of movies dominate. As I was re-creating this graph, I started to wonder. Do we nominate so many adaptations because they seem more Oscar-worthy somehow? Is this finally proof of my freshman English professor’s scoff that film is derivative? Let’s try taking a historical perspective on this data.


“Unoriginal” stands for the sum of Remakes, Sequels, Adaptations, and Other

First thing I notice: the 1950s were not big for original content. When you think about it, the 1950s and 1960s were the times of the Great Epics, most of which were based in literature (Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia). The the 1970s and the American New Wave hits and BAM new content! Since then it seems mostly steady, although there’s so far been an uptick in original material in the New Millennium. Don’t get me wrong; I love period pieces, but I definitely welcome stories written specifically for the screen (whatever the theme of this blog may suggest). Let’s see how this holds with Best Picture winners.

85WinnersByDecadeWow. Well, the Academy is at least consistent in its inconsistency. There’s that mid-century dip again, although this time its nadir is the 1960s. We seem to have more or less evened out since then. I do hope this current uptick in original screenplays continues though.

Speaking of current Oscar winners, here’s the breakdown of this year’s Academy Awards. It is by far the simplest graph I’ve made since I started these, and it’s also contrary to everything we’ve been seeing (except that last graph):


No sequels or remakes

With all that critics (including me) keep kvetching about how these are the End Times for the film industry because Hollywood can’t stop making sequels, it’s nice to see visual proof that it isn’t always so. In 2013, we found 9 movies that represent the best of what Hollywood sees in itself, and over half of them were original stories.

What do you see in these graphs? Data is always up for interpretation!

I’d like to thank my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Dicker, for teaching me how to use Excel. I’d like to thank God, Meryl Streep, and my parents, without whom this blog post would not be possible. And now the band is playing me off, so I really have to go!

For more fun updates, or to suggest a movie, like WRM on Facebook or follow on Twitter @WeRecycleMovies. Also check out our podcast on iTunes!

About Anne Marie Kelly

Classic Film history & restoration nerd. Writer of A Year With Kate and Women's Pictures for The Film Experience. Follow me on Twitter @WeRecycleMovies.
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3 Responses to Number-Crunching The 86th Academy Awards

  1. Margaret says:

    Genuinely offended to not be thanked. Unless that Meryl Streep bit was a nickname for me, in which case I accept.

  2. Pingback: My Link Will Go On | Music Movie Magic

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