Live updates: The 2023 Oscars

Live updates: The 2023 Oscars

“Avatar: The Way of Water” was nominated for best picture at the Oscars this year, but most awards prognosticators don’t expect it to win.  (Courtesy 20th Century Studios)

The Oscars have never been exactly predictable, but Hollywood’s biggest night used to consistently reward crowdpleasers. But over the last two decades, the Oscars have largely avoided rewarding the blockbuster films that once dominated the awards.

Earning a nomination – and eventually winning – an Oscar is no easy feat, and many of the biggest box office smashes of the year don’t stand a chance at best picture. And if they are nominated, like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” awards prognosticators don’t expect them to win.

Here’s why, according to experts in film and award shows:

Best picture voting doesn’t reward risks: For every Oscar category except best picture, the nominee with the most votes wins. But Academy members use a preferential ballot when voting for the top prize, ranking the nominees in their preferred order. Ballots are whittled down and films are knocked out until one film ranked consistently high across a multitude of ballots remains. Polarizing films have a harder time winning best picture with this system.

Blockbusters have changed: It’s not that Oscars voters are anti-blockbuster – it’s just that blockbusters today are less original fare than the likes of “E.T.” and “Titanic.” Instead, there are more sequels, reboots, prequels or other variations on familiar IP (intellectual property), experts told CNN, making the Academy less inclined to reward them.

Oscars voters tend to reward “important” films: The films that wind up getting nominated for Oscars don’t have much in common these days. Some have a veneer of prestige based on creative teams or source material, while others have indie credibility or the mass approval of audiences – but Academy voters do tend to reward “important” films, said Dave Karger, a Turner Classic Movies host and Entertainment Weekly award correspondent. These films “speak to the times or offer some kind of social message,” he said.

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