(Granted, Allen may be an exception to all rules: To date, Hannah and Her Sisters, one of the most overrated films, never mind Woody Allen films, of all time—who talks like that?—is his biggest grosser, at a paltry $40 million.)
If you look at a list of Best Picture winners, though, most have been money makers. The art-house film seen by only New York and L.A. types has been the exception. The reason No Country for All Men has done as poorly as it has, given all the hype, is that it, too, is vastly overrated. It has all the dramatic power of a broken hip. Barden’s Boris Karloff impression was as amusing as it was threatening, and the distancing effect the Coens’ have been praised for, as if it were intended to express the the quotidian nature of crime in the 1980s, was merely dull. I don’t think audiences were put off by the violence and the matter of fact, almost philosophically detached way in which it was expressed, but because everyone in the film seemed bored by it.
So I think this year’s selection of less-than-blockbuster selections for Best Picture (Juno‘s being the exception) is an aberration.