I haven’t seen Manchester by the Sea, Arrival or Hell or High Water and for all I know one of those might have deserved Best Picture. I also think La La Land and Moonlight are such different films it’s impossible to judge honestly which one was better. Both were very good. Neither was great. So I had no rooting interest in either. This Vox article, however, reminds me of something I hadn’t previously considered. Moonlight is the lowest-budgeted film ever to have won Best Picture.
Moonlight’s budget was $1.6 million, which is very low by most standards. (By contrast, fellow Best Picture nominees La La Land shot for $30 million, Hacksaw Ridge for $40 million, Arrival for $47 million, and Hell or High Water for $12 million.) And while its $22 million gross is terrific for such a low budget, it’s still the lowest-grossing of the Best Picture nominees.
Out of curiosity I looked up the budgets of a few well-known independent and alternative films.
As I said, I had no great rooting interest between Moonlight and La La Land. The best movie of the year rarely wins the Best Picture Oscar anyway. But in the age of $100 million dollar superhero films and $144 million dollar reboots, a film with a budget of $1.6 million dollars being named Best Picture is surely an encouraging sign. Even last year’s comparatively modest Best Picture Winner Spotlight cost over $20 million.
Moonlight’s budget is even more impressive when you take into account how Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. I hope prospective filmmakers learn all the right lessons. You can make a film about a demographic (black, working class gay men) most Hollywood studios like to ignore on a budget you might be able to raise off a Kickstarter campaign, and not only gain critical acclaim, but make money. Let’s hope that going forward we see more real people and fewer superheroes, more good camera work and less CGI, more first time actors and fewer big stars. Maybe Hollywood can finally get off the disastrous track its been on since the 1970s, when blockbusters, branding and advertising replaced imagination and creativity.