In this week’s podcast, Sasha, Craig and I agree that Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay for 127 Hours is a compact gem of concentrated narrative focus. I mention that the script itself — at a swift and riveting 84 pages — is one of the shortest I’ve read in quite some time. (Most screenplays run around 120 pages, pacing out roughly to one page per minute of screen time). Danny Boyle’s film is equally speedy. Craig said on Twitter that “127 Hours is among the most intense 90 minutes I’ve spent watching a movie outside of horror.”
In a break during recording I tried to gather some data about some of the shortest Best Picture winners. During the podcast I say the shortest BP winner was Marty in 1955 — 90-minutes. Today after more careful checking, I find conflicting estimates for the length of 127 Hours. Variety has it down for 93 minutes, but The Hollywood Reporter says 95. So if 93 minutes is the correct measurement, 127 Hours would tie with Annie Hall (1977). Just wanted to clarify — in case anybody ever pays any attention to what I say in a podcast — to intercept any fact-checkers before you call foul for a faulty factoid.
Either way, you can see the point we latched onto: Short Best Picture winners are a rarity. Over the past 20 years, the briefest BP winner was Crash, at 112 minutes. Of all the metrics that weigh into Oscar formulas, running time is among the least important, though there’s no denying winners usually exceed 2 hours. Just as we know length is less important than girth, it’s not a matter of how long a movie runs — it’s a matter of making the most of those, um, fluctuations. Lay the Best Picture winners side by side after the cut to see how they measure up.