This may be the strongest batch of Oscar nominees in some time, but general audiences don't care, according to a recent look by the Associated Press. The five Best Picture nominees combined have grossed about $246 million to date, compared with $297 million last year and $245 in 2005. (Juno is the sole exception, which has grossed over $100 million on its $2.5 million budget.) In 2003, the winner, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King alone grossed more than $300 million, making this year's batch of nominees look small and paltry.

To break it down further, about 51 million people went to see The Lord of the Rings, while about 7.3 million have seen No Country for Old Men and 2 million have seen There Will Be Blood. Other multiple nominees like Michael Clayton, Away from Her and The Assassination of Jess James by the Coward Robert Ford have likewise played to small, specialized audiences. Though these are tough films, it's inspiring that they have received such an enthusiastic response from the few that have seen them. One commentator compared them to gourmet food as opposed to fast food. It takes a little more time and patience, but the flavor is ultimately better. And if everyone appreciated the good stuff, then places like McDonalds and movies like Spider-Man 3 would be out of business.

The great cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is nominated twice for No Country for Old Men and Jesse James, said: "It's one of the best years because there's so many intelligent films that are provocative. They're actually about something as well as being entertaining. It really makes you feel part of a real cinema," he added. "There's brilliant, brilliant people out there."