But where are the women?
The resulting shortlist is largely packed with scores for films that were either box office behemoths (“Avengers,” “Black Panther,” “Fantastic Beasts”) or have significant awards buzz (“Beale Street,” “First Man”). The 331 voting members of the music branch received a hodgepodge of screeners and FYC score albums.
In the long, slow quest by women and composers of color for bigger films and more visibility, the Oscar still remains frustratingly out of reach.” /> The shortlist may not come back next year, since the Academy Awards date is moving up even earlier and, clearly, the intended grasp for diversity didn’t much work.
Those are just a few of the 2018 films scored by women, but when the shortlist for best original score was announced last month, all of the 15 scores whittled down by music branch members for the first round of Oscar consideration were composed by men.
The shortlist was a win, Karpman notes, in that a broad range of scores — released from January (“Black Panther”) through December (“Mary Poppins Returns”) — are on it, rather than just the most recently released, top-of-mind five that typically get nominated.
Sixteen scores composed by women were eligible, a big step up from years past and a sign that progress is being made somewhere along the chain. “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (scored by Hildur Guðnadóttir) and “Mary Shelley” (Amelia Warner) weren’t among the 156 qualifying scores — because, inexplicably, they weren’t even submitted. But with the exception of the WB comedy “Tag,” scored by Germaine Franco, all were for films with modest budgets ($5 million or less).
Nicholas Britell (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Vice”) and Alan Silvestri (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “Ready Player One”) each have two scores on the list. This year, Terence Blanchard’s score for “BlackKklansman” did make the shortlist. Spike Lee’s longtime collaborator, who’s been scoring films since 1991, has never been nominated for an Academy Award before. But other than Blanchard, the shortlist is blinding in its lack of diversity.
Smaller budgets mean less of a publicity push (or none at all) by those production companies, and the composers themselves often can’t afford publicists to campaign for awards consideration. That’s in keeping with the historic trend of female composers being mostly relegated to independent films and documentaries.
“It shows that women are not getting the top films,” says Laura Karpman, a composer (“Paris Can Wait”) and governor of the music branch. “And that there is a continued invisibility.”
Missing is the melancholy, minimalist score for “The Wife” by Jocelyn Pook, the vibrant, retro-synth and brass-pumping music for “Eighth Grade” by Anna Meredith, and the intimate, buoyant chamber score for “RBG” by documentary-whisperer Miriam Cutler.
“The Wife.” “Eighth Grade.” “RBG.” “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” “Mary Shelley.”
As it was, the five nominees in 2017 were all white and male. She feels that if there had been a shortlist last year, Michael Abels (“Get Out”) and Tamar-kali (“Mudbound”) would certainly have been on it. Karpman pushed hard for the shortlist — this is the first year since 1979 that the music branch has had one, joining a third of the other branches in the practice — explicitly in the hope that it would widen the field.

It’s precisely the intimacy of small movies — the human scale of them — that’s rendered large-than-life when you go out to see them at the movies. Here’s why it’s not actually the perfect movie to watch at home, and why the whole Kneejerk Case For Spectacle misses as much truth as it captures. That’s the primal beauty of cinema, and always has been: It turns everything into spectacle. Yes, a movie like "Avengers: Infinity War" was made, in an obvious way, for the big screen. You’ll miss out, perhaps, on a certain dazzling kinesthetic dimension of it if you wait to see it at home. Yet the notion that "small" movies are perfect for the small screen is, in fact, exactly the opposite of the truth. It takes life itself and makes it large.
If the choice comes down to the megaplex vs. Netflix, we all know, in 2018, who the winner too often is. Serial television is the form of our time, because good serial storytelling, with its sprawl and detail, allows characters to acquire deeper, richer colors and dimension than they would in a two-hour movie. Because of the rise of serial television, going out to the movies has become unnecessary. It’s easier, and more appealing, to stay at home, where your screen is now plenty big enough, and you can avoid all the hellacious trappings that have become the mythological annoyances of the theater experience: the endless trailers and commercials, the talkers and popcorn munchers staring into their glowing phones, and the price (which can rise to $100 bucks for a family, once you throw in the oversize candy boxes and the barrels of Coke).
So this year, at least, no slippage. In that light, a certain slice of the movie pie chart this summer tells a fascinatingly noteworthy — and encouraging — story. Maybe even an echo of going great guns. No, it’s not about smashing box-office records, though 2018 will undoubtedly go down as a very solid summer (up 11% over the last one), and if you extend your gaze back earlier in the year, when "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Infinity War" and "A Quiet Place" ruled, the situation looks even healthier.
Each year, as the summer movie season winds down, we get to hear the box-office analysis of the previous four months, and these days it tends to be more than just a who’s-up/who’s-down postmortem of the business of Hollywood. Or slipping? The grand narrative the numbers of the last 10 years generally add up to is: slipping. Merely holding their own? Are they going great guns? It’s become a way of reading the tea leaves of where movies stand in American life.
You know it like a mantra, and it goes like this: television, a certain slam-dunk argument has come to dominate the discourse and a lot of people’s minds. When it comes to the issue of movies vs. The success of all these films, in its way, flies in the face of an insidious conventional wisdom, and it’s important that we listen to the message they’re giving us.
I don’t say this to be a negative nabob, but because it’s the stark reality that the powers of the movie industry are up against. (MoviePass may or may not prove to be a successful business, but it has tangibly demonstrated that audiences are increasingly hostile to higher ticket prices.) But it’s still just offsetting the slow shrinkage of the domestic market. We all know the larger trends. The international box office takes up a growing segment of the business, and in certain ways (though not all) that’s a good thing. For years, higher ticket prices (and carny-barker gambits like 3D) have been working to compensate for the fact that movie attendance is gradually sliding downward.
Not if you go out to the movies to experience them. Are these movies "small"? That’s because they have a hunger, a desire, a need that has not gone away. They want to go out to the movies to experience the old-school definition of what a real movie once was, and still is. Okay, that last example isn’t an "independent film." But here’s why it belongs on my list: It’s one more drama told on a rivetingly human scale, and one that has drawn audiences like a magnet. At that point they are, by definition, large.
Have they been trumped by the small screen in the renaissance age of television? This isn’t just an issue of how many people are watching what. Then, of course, there’s the real story, the one that's percolating beneath the numbers, and that is this: Are movies, in some inexorable way, becoming a secondary pop-cultural art form? It’s about what’s driving "the conversation" (these days, usually television), and about something that’s just as central but harder to pin down: how much people are actually loving what they watch.
They want to see documentaries (in droves!), to experience the fearless crusader spirit of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in "RBG" ($13 million), or the extraordinary story of separated triplets on a karmic path in "Three Identical Strangers" ($10 million), or the weirdly timely and counterintuitive power of the goodness of Mister Rogers in "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" ($22 million). They want to sink into the briny depths of racial animosity in "BlacKkKlansman" ($23 million), and they want to experience the glory of what diversity in entertainment really means by reveling in the narcotic banquet of glitzy over-the-top wealth porn and delicately intense and moving love story that is "Crazy Rich Asians" ($34 million). They want to see "Hereditary" ($44 million), a ghost story spooky and original enough to make the audience feel like it’s the ghost. They want to see "Sorry to Bother You" ($16 million), a down-and-dirty surrealist fairy tale of African-American desire and ambition in a world overtaken by commerce. They want to see an enveloping drama like "Eighth Grade" (domestic gross thus far: $11.5 million), which plugs you into the experience of a shyly reflective middle-schooler trying to hold onto her sincerity in the wilderness of a mean-girl culture gone wildly digital.
And you can only experience it when you go out to the movies. It’s a privileged space — maybe even, in its way, a religious one. It might have something to do with the times; these days, who doesn’t want to escape the news? It’s a trend that just might keep an art form thriving.” /> But the truth is that for every viewer who wants to wait until something arrives on the small screen, there’s another who is eager to seek out a movie not merely for spectacle, but to feel the quiet thrill of being in an audience and sharing a space that can encompass that audience and the people on screen. And this summer’s run of indie hits tells a comparable story — though, if anything, an even more important one. It might have something to do with MoviePass; maybe those lower tickets prices helped to swell the ranks of audience members.
Simply put: It’s the argument that spectacle — special-effects fantasy, comic-book epics and multiverse space operas, over-the-top action-adventure flicks — is the one thing that still requires the sheer awesome size of the motion-picture screen. How many times have I heard people who actually like independent films say about a movie like "Eighth Grade," "I want to see it, but it’s the perfect movie to watch at home." Mainstream movies are very much alive, but one of the results of the preceding mantra has been The Kneejerk Case For Spectacle. It’s the argument that spectacle, and spectacle alone, justifies the sheer bother (and expense) of going out to the movies.
Where Film Forum set the standard for a long time (and still does), the scene has grown more fluky and adventurous with the arrival of Metrograph and the new Quad Cinemas, where I recently went to see an old Hammer horror film on a Friday night — a 1971 curio called "Dr. These days, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that people are going out to the movies as a conscious and thrillingly cultivated entertainment choice. You can now see old movies at home like never before, yet audiences have proved to be stubbornly addicted to going out to the movies to see them. Jekyll and Sister Hyde" — and watched it in a packed house. The freshly thriving repertory scene of New York City is a telling example.
But while the matter of how well blockbusters do is fundamental to the life of the industry, I’m focused on a smaller group of numbers: the robust slate of independent films that have connected with audiences, in a decisive and passionate way, during the height of blockbuster season. Yet the stubborn success of movies on that underlying tier adds up to a thrilling and highly significant story about what audiences now want to go out to the movies to see. True, the amount of revenue they generate — $20 million here, $40 million there, another $10 million over there — may not seem like much compared to the whopping numbers generated by the sci-fi/action/fantasy/franchise/ monster sequel mega-smash of the week.

Meanwhile, Bleecker Street's "Leave No Trace" brought in $1.2 million from 311 locations, for a per-screen-average of $3,726. The Sundance drama, directed by Debra Granik, follows Ben Foster as a veteran father with PTSD, who lives in isolation with his teenage daughter (Thomasin McKenzie).” /> Its box office total currently sits at $2.1 million.
The feature debut from writer-director Bo Burnham launched this weekend with $255,000. That was enough to top the record previously held by Fox Searchlight's "Isle of Dogs." Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated film, which opened in March with a per-theater-average of $58,148. Its debut was especially noteworthy given the film opened in just four theaters, translating to a per-screen-average of $63,071.
Its domestic tally currently sits at $2.5 million. Meanwhile, "Three Identical Strangers" is still scoring strong returns. In its third outing, the Neon film picked up another $1.2 million from  167 screens.
Kevin Macdonald directed the film, which focuses on the life and career of the legendary Whitney Houston, has secured $2.6 million. Another documentary, Roadside Attractions and Miramax's "Whitney" collected $535,385 from 208 screens.
Documentaries are still on a hot streak. Notably, Focus Features' "Won't You Be My Neighbor" pocketed $1.8 million in its sixth weekend. With $15.8 million to date, Morgan Neville's film centering on the career of the lovable Mister Rogers is now the 16th-biggest documentary of all time.
Elsie Fisher stars in the coming-of-age film as a middle schooler navigating her last week of eighth grade. The movie, which holds a coveted 99% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has been a critical favorite since it premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival. A24 will continue rolling out "Eighth Grade" in coming weeks.
The film, which had its world premiere at Sundance, also features Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black. Newcomer "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" picked up $83,130 when it premiered on four screens. Gus Van Sant directed the Amazon Studios comedy, starring Joaquin Phoenix as cartoonist John Callahan, who discovers his passion for drawing after becoming paralyzed.
Annapurna's "Sorry to Bother You" generated $4.3 million when it expanded to 805 theaters, landing in seventh place at the domestic box office. Though documentaries have been dominating the specialty box office this year, recent nonfiction titles have started to impress. Boots Riley's directorial debut, which follows Lakeith Stanfield as a black telemarketer who finds success using his "white voice," has acquired $5.3 million in two weeks.
"Eighth Grade" is already scoring high marks.