Spinning off the idea that the numbers at IMDb and critics scores might hold some significance in predicting awards potential, here’s a chart of stats and rankings for 16 Oliver Stone films over the past 22 years. These figures might mean something or they might mean very little. But a couple of connections seem to jump out: (1) Every one of Stone’s movies that has an IMDb rating above 7.0 was an Oscar nominee. Below 7.0, no Oscar noms. (2) Likewise, Metacritic scores. 66 or above, Oscar nominations start sprouting, and the higher the critics score, the more nominations the movie received. (3) Further hammering the point, an IMDb score in the rarefied region above 8.0 combined with a lofty Metacritic score over 70 always results in big armloads of Oscar nominations and multiple wins for Oliver Stone.
The exception falling just outside the pattern is Wall Street. It’s lone nomination and solitary win was for Michael Douglas, Best Actor. [The competition that year was not very intense: William Hurt (Broadcast News), Robin Williams (Good Morning, Vietnam), Jack Nicholson (Ironweed), and Marcello Mastroianni (Dark Eyes)] Crosschecking the surprisingly low metacritic score of 56 for Wall Street against Rotten Tomatoes, we find that RT gives the movie 80% — but then we notice the “Top Critics” only gave it a painful 17% (!) The lone top critic on RT who liked Wall Street? Roger Ebert, who gave it 3 and half stars. The low 56 and high IMDb score of 7.3 also point to a disconnect between critics and audience for this film in particular.
Another thing we see in the raw numbers is that Stone seems to have better artistic success on a tight budget. Heaven and Earth was the beginning of a rough and bloated decade when 5 films with a combined budget of over $350 mil returned only $183 mil (domestic). The Oscars dried up during the same period, with Nixon being the sole nominee. World Trade Center saw Stone drift from left to center, ideologically, and maybe he thinks that’s part of the reason it earned its money back.
So if I were a director looking back on this amazing career, I’d be unable to overlook these peaks: Hot-Button Topical Events + President = Financial and Critical Success. It would be mghty tempting to return to that well, wouldn’t it? Throw in presidential initials instead of a name for good luck, and promise to work fast on a small budget (100% foreign financing)…
Because the last thing we notice is that the best way for an Oliver Stone movie to get 8 nominations is to rake in box office receipts that double, quadruple or gazilliazuple the film’s budget:
- JFK – budget $40 mil – earned $70 mil – 8 Oscar nominations
- Platoon – budget $6 mil – earned $18 mil – 8 Oscar nominations
- Born on the 4th of July – budget $14 mil – earned $70 mil – 8 Oscar nominations
Sounds like the recipe Stone has reheated for W. is one that’s worked for him before, but we’ll have to wait to fill in the blanks at the top of the chart to see if the formula still functions as well as it did 20 years ago.