For the concerns in some quarters that Birdman might be too cerebral or idiosyncratic for Oscar, I offer thisfoolproof rebuttal: It's about the theater!
Oscar has a long history of mad love for theater movies from early musicals which were often about vaudeville through biopics about theater giants and on to today's more playful genre hybrids. Even when the Academy doesn't fully commit to its latest greasepaint and footlights suitor, it will often give him a quick kiss in the form of a nomination or three. Some examples: To Be Or Not To Be (1942 & 1983), Being Julia (2004), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), The Producers (1967), 42nd Street (1934), and The Bandwagon (1953). While it's true there are exceptions that they completely ignore (Stage Beauty, Waiting for Guffman, Opening Night) it's a subject matter that appeals to showbiz people and showbiz people like congratulating their own.
OSCAR'S 10 FAVORITE THEATER MOVIES
Why didn't you include Cabaret, Black Swan or Chicago in this list?: I opted not to include films about cabaret, ballet, opera, etcetera but events more traditionally associated with "the theater" like plays, musicals, revues. I opted not to include Chicago since the vaudevillian references are atmosphere but not really related to the story as told but the story before the story and briefly after it if you will though there's definitely a case for including it. If you do include it it's #3 in this list with 13 nominations and 6 wins.
Honorable Mention: Best Foreign Language Film Winners with a theatrical bent include Hungary's MEPHISTO (1981) and Spain's ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999)
Runners Up: The all star actressfest known as STAGE DOOR (1937), discussed earlier this year, received 4 nominations including Best Picture & Mike Leigh's exquisite TOPSY-TURVY (1999) took 4 nominations and a win. And just barely missing the list is THE DRESSER (1983) with 5 nominations including Best Picture. While The Dresser seems to have been all but forgotten (was it not readily available enough for home viewing?) Oscar really went for it this intimate relationship drama at time including a double lead actor nomination (the second to last of its kind - Amadeus closed out the practice for men the following year and category fraud began to run rampant) for Tom Courtenay as the dresser and Albert Finney as the theater star he works for during a production of King Lear.
10 STAR! (1968) 7 nominations
Though this notorious flop, recently discussed in our celebration of Robert Wise's centennial, ended Julie Andrews time as the #1 box office star in the world, The Academy responded with much greater initial enthusiasm than the public to this super long critically massacred biopic about stage star Gertrud Lawrence.
nine more encores after the jump...