If you're an Oscar stats geek, you should check out the new blog 1:37:1 which responded to the recent debate about whether or not the number of Oscar-nominated films is shrinking due to the expanded Best Picture field with lots of charts. It's fascinating but requires concentration. Then a follow up specifically looking at the acting categories.
The most interesting finding in the second article is how enormously rare it is for an acting category to feature only performances from Best Picture nominated films. It's happened only 10 times in Oscar's entire 86 year history and 2 of those times were this year alone including, for the first time ever, in a supporting category. That's a disturbing development if you're of the opinion (and you should be) that great performances can happen anywhere including within movies that aren't otherwise popular or great.
The Only Times (Once All Acting Categories Were Invented) When All Acting Nominees in a Category Came From a "Best Picture"
• 1939 BEST ACTRESS Davis (Dark Victory), Dunne (Love Affair), Garbo (Ninotchka), Garson (Goodbye Mr Chips), Leigh (GWTW)
• 1940 BEST ACTRESS Davis (The Letter), Fontaine (Rebecca), Hepburn (Philadelphia Story), Rogers (Kitty Foyle), Scott (Our Town)
• 1942 BEST ACTOR Cagney (Yankee Doodle Dandy), Colman (Random Harvest), Cooper (Pride...), Pidgeon (Mrs Miniver), Woolley (Pied Piper)
• 1943 BEST ACTOR Bogart (Casablanca), Cooper (For Whom The Bell Tolls), Lukas (Watch on Rhine), Pidgeon (Madame Curie), Rooney (The Human Comedy)
• 1964 BEST ACTOR Burton (Becket), Harrison (My Fair Lady) O'Toole (Becket), Quinn (Zorba the Greek), Sellers (Dr Strangelove)
• 1966 BEST ACTOR Arkin (Russians are Coming...), Caine (Alfie), Burton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, McQueen (Sand Pebbles), Scofield (Man For All Seasons)
• 1977 BEST ACTRESS Bancroft (Turning Point), Fonda (Julia), Keaton (Annie Hall), Maclaine (Turning Point), Mason (Goodbye Girl)
• 1988 BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Cusack (Working Girl), Davis (Accidental Tourist), McDormand (Mississippi), Pfeiffer (Dangerous), Weaver (Working Girl)
• 2013 BEST ACTOR Bale (Hustle), Dern (Nebraska), Ejiofor (12 Years), DiCaprio (Wolf of), McConaughey (DBC)
• 2013 BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Abdi (Capt. Phillips), Cooper (Hustle), Fassbender (12 Years), Hill (Wolf of), Leto (DBC)
As we can see and to no one's surprise if you've ever read an Oscar stat in your life, Best Actor has the closest ties to the Best Picture race. In the 64 year span (1944-2008) in which we had only 5 Best Pictures a year, though, this exact correlation Actor-Pictuer has only ever happened twice (1964 & 1966).
Do your share Mark Harris's original concern that the Academy is actually looking at less films now than they use to for honors?