The highest grossing film of 2011 was “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and the highest scoring film on Metacritic (a website that aggregates critic film reviews) was “A Separation.” But on Feb. 26, “The Artist” took home the Oscar for Best Motion Picture.
Why do audiences, critics and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences always disagree on what is the most worthwhile film of the year? Many people would admit to thinking that the best film is the one attached to the Best Picture Oscar. They probably don’t know how the Academy reaches their decisions for awarding films.
A recent study by the Los Angeles Times showed that the average Academy voter was white, male and 62 years old. With this information and the fact that there are 5,765 voting members in the Academy, one can conclude that an audience provides a more ample sample size to determine the best film.
“Harry Potter” grossed over $381 million, while “The Artist” has only grossed over $32 million so far, making it the 96th highest grossing film of the year. This doesn’t mean that “The Artist” is the 96th best film of the year. But because it is in black and white and silent, it has gained little appeal with the public.
Because the public is limited to which films they watch (i.e. ticket prices, film availability, MPAA ratings, etc.), the average moviegoer wouldn’t have the viewing experience a critic would have to determine the best film. We infer that their ticket stub is evidence of their appreciation of the film, but it is entirely possible that they did not appreciate it.
The job of a critic is to watch almost every film and inform their readers if they should go out to see it or not. Critics, due to their professional status, have respected opinions that are trusted. Among each other, though, they disagree. Without aggregation websites such as Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, it would be impossible to decipher their collective choice for the best film. Many of them would scoff at the effort to try to do so.
Since audiences are confusing to understand, critics differ in opinion and the Academy has a limited sample size, a definite best film can never be agreed upon. Maybe ranking films is only important for turning on people’s interest to certain films or informing them of films they may not have heard of otherwise.
The Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, said, “No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep in the twilight room of the soul.” The biggest gift of film is the empathy it instills in us towards the illusions we see on screen and how we carry over those feelings into our own lives. Would there be a detrimental effect on us if we considered them for anything other than this?