True stories win more Oscars?

As the saying goes, history always repeats itself. And the movie award season is not excluded from it. The best way to see how that implements in movies we just need to focus on previous Oscar winners and nominees to recognise what captivates the Academy’s attention.1560620_10151904560166987_254882870_nIt’s not a secret that true stories wins more often, and proof of that can be seen also in the last couple of years. So, let’s see if we can establish a certain pattern that follows the Oscars by looking at the last decade only.

If we look at the last decade only, from Million Dollar Baby to 12 Years a Slave, seven out of ten Oscar winning movies in the category of the Best Movie belong to the “true story” group.

As history showed us, the Best Director winners are (almost) always correlated to the Best Movie winners. That correlation brings a trend as well: four out of ten winning movies in this category are inspired by a true story. When we look at films by other directors who were contenders in the last decade, a pattern is evident: Lincoln in 2013, Precious in 2010, the Fighter in 2011, Milk in 2009, United 93 in 2007 and the list goes on.

The “true story” pattern is also noticeable in the category of the Best Actor and Best Actress. For example, this year’s winner Matthew McConaughey portrayed Aids victim Ron Woodroof; Chiwetel Ejiofor played Solomon Northup, the son of a freed slave from New York; and Leonardo Di Caprio portrayed Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker in the Wolf of Wall Street, a movie based on Belfort memoirs.

We can see a similar outline in the Best Actress category as well. This year nominee Judi Dench played Philomena Lee, a woman who has been searching for her son for 50 years; three times Meryl Streep portrayed Margaret Thatcher in 2011 that made her a record three-time Oscar winner. That same year one of the contenders was Michelle Williams who played Marilyn Monroe. In the following year, Jessica Chastain was nominated for her role in Zero Dark Thirty, where she played Maya Lambert, a young C.I.A. analyst who was looking for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

And this year’s Oscars were no different: six out of nine nominated movies were true stories (or inspired), including the winner, 12 Years a Slave. It is unprecedented in the Oscars’ history.

So, is it safe to say that in the last decade or so, real life became more important than the actual fiction in movie making? Are we watching documentary features without even knowing it?

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