Oscars' 9 Best Pictures Are Extras In a World of Box Office Heroes

Tickers in this article: CMCSA DIS LGF NWS SNE TWX

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Studio: Warner Brothers
2012 U.S. box office take: $300 million

Oscar No. 5. Life of Pi
Studio: 20th Century Fox
2012 U.S. box office take: $111 million

So maybe Peter Jackson's denizens of Middle Earth took it out on Ang Lee's religious allegory by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. That doesn't mean Lee's film didn't put the hurt on Jackson's aesthetically and thematically.

Much as with the Spider-Man reboot, The Hobbit offered the sense that the audience had been there before in the not-so-distant past. Zippy, television-style frame rate aside, The Hobbit brought back the J.R.R. Tolkien franchise and the lush New Zealand scenery without offering a whole lot of new elements to its prequel. It also makes viewers painfully aware that it's the first in yet another three-film series of epics that is going to cost them plenty of hours and dollars in the near future.

Lee's Pi, however, tells its story all in one shot and uses its lush imagery and 3-D technology to advance the narrative instead of just wowing the audience. Like Avatar with better source material, Life of Pi lit up both the neurons and the senses, even if audience members weren't particularly taken with its somewhat thin argument for the existence of God.