Will boffo box office boost Oscar odds for ‘Les Miserables’?

Les Miserables” unspooled Christmas Day to $18 million, setting two records — highest-ever opening for a musical and highest-non weekend Xmas debut (“Sherlock Holmes” opened on Christmas Day 2009 which was a Friday and grossed $24 million.)

This boffo box office was a welcome gift for Universal, especially after some of the tepid reviews for the picture. Overall, the critics had been grinches, with the film scoring just 64 at MetaCritic.

However, among the more positive notices was one from LA Times scribe Kenneth Turan. He is likely the most widely read reviewer among academy members. The site rates his review at 80, based on observations such as these: “Despite its pitfalls, this movie musical is a clutch player that delivers an emotional wallop when it counts. You can walk into the theater as an agnostic, but you may just leave singing with the choir.”

If “Les Miserables” can keep making this kind of money, could that help it overcome the usual prerequisite of rock solid reviews and win Best Picture?

Of  the most recent 10 Best Picture champs, only two scored lower at MetaCritic than the last musical — “Chicago” (2002) at 82 — to prevail. They were 2000 winner “A Beautiful Mind” at 72 and 2005 winner “Crash” at 69. 

Otherwise, the Best Picture winners have rated as follows:

86 — “Million Dollar Baby” (2004); “The Departed” (2006); “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008); “The King’s Speech” (2010)

89 — “The Artist” (2011)

91 — “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

94 — “The Return of the King”; (2000); “The Hurt Locker” (2009)

After “Les Miserables” had well-received screenings for the press and industry over Thanksgiving weekend, our experts were jumping on the bandwagon, with up to 12 of them predicting it to win Best Picture. Following the withering reviews, that support ebbed away, leaving only three of them expecting it to prevail — Dave Karger (Fandango), Keith Simanton (IMDB) and Alex Suskind (Moviefone).  

Lincoln,” which rated 86 at Metacritic and has made $120 million, is now the top pick of 13 of our experts. It leads the race with odds of 9 to 2 while “Les Miz” is in fourth place with odds of 15 to 2. In between are “Zero Dark Thirty” (11/2) and “Argo” (6/1). 

-ADDPREDICTION:56:4:What will win Best Picture?:ADDPREDICTION-

Looking ahead to the precursor prize calendar, two key dates loom on either side of Oscar nomination day (Jan. 10). On Jan. 8, the Directors Guild of America will unveil its five nominees for Best Director while on Jan. 11 the American Cinema Editors announce the contenders for their prizes which, like the Golden Globes, are divided into drama and comedy/musical categories. 

“Les Miserables” helmer Tom Hooper kicked off his 2010 Oscar victory march for “The King’s Speech” with a win from the DGA. In the past decade, 40 of the 50 DGA nominees have gone on to be Oscar hopefuls. And while all the DGA nominees may not contend at the Academy Awards, whoever wins with the DGA is likely to prevail at the Oscars as well.

Since the guild began handing out awards in 1949, the winning helmer has gone on to take home the Oscar with six exceptions. And in the 64-year history of the DGA prize, the guild choice for Best Director has helmed the academy’s pick for Best Picture 50 times. 

The winner of the Golden Eddie has proven to be one of the best indicators of which film takes home the Best Picture Oscar. Since 1990, the film that came up with the ACE went on to win the top prize at the Academy Awards 16 times.

In four of the six years when the ACE barometer was wrong, the Eddie champ was at least a contender for Best Picture. That includes 2010 when the team that cut critics’ darling “The Social Network” (Angus WallKirk Baxter) won over the Eddies and claimed the editing Oscar as well but saw their film fall to “The King’s Speech” for the Best Picture prize. 

In 2007, neither of the Eddie winners — “The Bourne Ultimatum” nor “Sweeney Todd” — made the final five at the Oscars and 1999 the same fate befell “The Matrix” and “Being John Malkovich.”

6 thoughts on “Will boffo box office boost Oscar odds for ‘Les Miserables’?

  1. Jackman’s acting alone should make it a contender. I’ve always thought that film scores should be a combination score of professional critics and those by the public who actually pay to keep them in business. Too often the critics get lost in the weeds of minutia and then slam a film for details whereas the public just knows if they had a great time.

  2. It’s such a huge soaring crowd pleaser and despite the critics the audience is in love
    with the film! The level of passion for Les Miserables is really deep and I know
    a few friends that have seen it twice already! I sincerely do hope it wins and Hugh
    also, He really was amazing!

  3. Les Miserables is going to be the film with the momentum for the rest of the Oscar season. I think it can win Best Picture without winning Best Director (which will go to either Spielberg, Bigelow, or Affleck) and I think Jackman is the only one capable of beating Daniel Day-Lewis (sorry Bradley Copper and Harvey Weinstein). Enough has been made out of Tom Hooper’s Golden Globe snub that the Director’s guild should not ignore him come nomination time. (The same can’t be said about David O. Russell and his actorly film.) Along with Lincoln, Les Miserables will end up with double-digit nominations. (Note to Harvey Weinstein: You could have had a film that was getting double-digit nominations if you would have pushed Django Unchained instead of the generic Silver Linings Playbook, likely only to get 5.) Les Miserables is guaranteed wins in Supporting Actress, Art Direction, and Sound Mixing and will probably pull off wins in Costume and Song. Gladiator was a film that didn’t score high with the critics (it has a 64 on Metacritic, a score which it earned after Metacritic came into being two months later), but was a crowd-pleaser that was able to defeat critical favorites Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I think that we are far enough removed from the Crash over Brokeback Mountain debacle (the main reason why Best Picture winners have been high scorers on Metacritic and thus critical favorites) that a film that is not a critical favorite, especially a musical epic, could end up winning Best Picture again.

  4. MchRe7 makes a great point about Gladiator, and critical darlings versus movies audiences actually love.

    I would also point out that Les Mis was always going to be at a disadvantage with critics because a) it’s a musical/opera (and critics hate those, unless they’re edgy and cynical like Chicago and Sweeney Todd); b) it’s very emotional, and critics hate “too many emotions” in movies; and c) it’s directed by Tom Hooper, who many critics hate only because he won the Oscar over their beloved David Fincher – and now they like to viciously attack Hooper’s directing style, which has been exactly the same for every film he’s done (which they previously loved), but now his style is suddenly “inept” in their eyes. In other words, most critics have had it in for this movie since long before they even saw it, and they’re doing their best to bring it down any way they can (one need only read the completely nonsensical and laughably ridiculous Entertainment Weekly “review” to see what I mean).

    Also: why are these oh-so-important metacritic scores only decided by a handful of critics?? Only 38 for Les Mis and 41 for Lincoln?? That doesn’t seem to be an accurate representation of most critics.

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