The Oscar nominations are in, and the outrage over the snubs has begun. As several movie buffs have posited (and as Tierney Sneed mentioned to me this morning), "The Butler" may have missed out on a best picture nod in part because it peaked too early.
According to Google Trends data, "The Butler" did hit peak buzz early on, and then promptly faded from view. Americans' highest interest in the movie came in August, while all of the nine best picture nominees peaked in October or later. As Google's charts only allow five films to be shown at a time, the first chart below is how Google users' interest in "The Butler" stacked up against four of this year's top best picture contenders.
And below are the other five best picture nominees.
Note: Charts are not on the same scale; 100 on the first chart does not equal 100 on the second chart. Or put more simply, "12 Years a Slave" is not currently more popular on Google than "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Of course, a person doesn't need Google data to know that one movie came out earlier than another – "The Butler" came out in August, while the earliest best picture contender, "Gravity," came out in October. But what also is apparent is that interest in other movies didn't fall off in the same way as interest in the "The Butler" did. "12 Years a Slave," for example, peaked later, but maintained people's interest throughout the rest of the year.
Timing is important with the Oscars – that is, of course, why the end of the year is considered Oscar season. The pattern held among best picture nominees in 2012, when only one – indie underdog "Beasts of the Southern Wild" – had peak interest (on Google, that is) before October.
Not that Google searching can tell you anything about whether Academy voters – or even the American public – thought a movie was good or not. Take four Razzie Awards worst movie contenders matched up against best picture nominee "Captain Phillips." In three of the four cases, the Razzie films bested the Tom Hanks true-life thriller in terms of Google interest.
Or maybe it really is all timing. If only "Grown Ups 2" had been released in November, we might be seeing it competing alongside "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle."