"Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!" exclaimed Cate Blanchett while accepting the Best Actress Oscar for "Blue Jasmine."
Blanchett's female empowerment mantra received a tidal wave of good cheer from her peers in the Dolby Theatre Sunday night, especially compared to the muted reception she got for thanking her scandal-ridden director Woody Allen.
But does Blanchett have her box office facts correct? (See the list of 2013's top money makers below.)
While there's no question certain audiences will always want to see female-driven movies, the idea that those movies "earn money" is perhaps a statement more designed to inspire hope than reflect actual facts. Sorry for the reality check, Cate!
Case in point, "Blue Jasmine" only earned $33 million at the domestic box office. That's a respectable number, but hardly earth-shattering. Perhaps Blanchett wasn't referring to her own film as a cash cow, but to one of her four Oscar rivals?
Led by Sandra Bullock, "Gravity" grossed $269 million domestically, easily making it one of the most successful films of all time headlining an actress. Besides earning box office green, "Gravity" also scored Oscar gold in the form of seven trophies Sunday night -- Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron), Cinematography, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Music Score, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing -- but it lost out on Best Picture to "12 Years a Slave."
I got a lot flack last week for writing that "Gravity" would lose Best Picture because it starred a woman, but as long as the academy's majority voting demographic remains old, white, and male, this unfortunate curse will likely hold true for many years to come. Over the past 20 years there have been only two Best Picture winners where a woman received top billing: "Chicago" (2002) starring Renee Zellweger and "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) fronted by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Let's break down 2013's Top 30 movies by the criteria that matters most to studios -- money, money, money! We'll also list the first-billed star for each movie to determine whether Blanchett's claim is true that female films do well at the box office. (All results are courtesy of IMDB.)
Special kudos go to 2009 Oscar winner Bullock ("The Blind Side"), who starred in the other two top-earning female-driven films of 2013: 6th place "Gravity" and 15th place "The Heat."
For Blanchett's Oscar speech to become a reality, things will need to dramatically shift in Hollywood from the ground up, starting at the screenplay level and continuing on up to the casting department.
Until that day, Cate, it's my unfortunate duty to inform you that the female-driven film world is still very, very flat.
Rewatch Blanchett's Oscar acceptance speech below, then sound off on this controversy in the comments section below.
Woody Allen is indifferent to the Oscars; indeed, he didn't even show up to collect his four prizes. But this talented writer-director has crafted seven roles that won Academy Awards for their performers. And another 11 parts in his pictures earned their portrayers acting nominations.
Only two helmers -- William Wyler (14) and Elia Kazan (9) -- have directed more Oscar-winning performances.
And with 18 nominated performances overall, Allen is tied for sixth with Mike Nichols (18), Sidney Lumet (18), and George Stevens (18), ranking behind Wyler (36), Kazan (24), Martin Scorsese (22), George Cukor (21), and Fred Zinnemann (20).
After several films to start his career, Allen's first big success at the Oscars was "Annie Hall" (1977). His leading lady Diane Keaton played the title character and won as Best Actress. She defeated Anne Bancroft ("The Turning Point"), Jane Fonda ("Julia,"), Shirley MacLaine ("The Turning Point"), and Marsha Mason ("The Goodbye Girl").