In an interview with Michael Haneke, done after Golden Globes, the Amour writer-director said he hadn’t seen any of the fellow nominees for the best picture Oscar. In a way that doesn’t surprise me. Me, I saw all nine. Most of them are quite long. Are they exceptionally long?

Below is a plot of running times of all 473 best picture nominees ever in chronological order. Winners have blue disks on their stems, the longest five are labeled, and topping all is nominated-only Cleopatra, clocking just above 4 hours. The orange group is this year’s nine.

First of all, it’s a mess, a noise, with no discernible trend other than a slight progression toward longer films, or let’s say not short. There were long and short nominees before as there are now.

We’ll get a better overview by sorting the runtimes.

Winners (in blue) do tend to be longer with the average 139 min vs. 126 min for all nominees. Nominated this year are in orange.

In addition, as the histogram on the right with the notably longer right tail indicates, I think Academy likes to nominate a bit longer films in general. I’d expect that all feature films ever made would be distributed more symmetrically. Exactly how much more I don’t know. The well-defined minimal length and somewhat arbitrary upper length of a feature film are intrinsic to some asymmetry.

This year’s shortest nominee is Beasts of the Southern Wild (93 min), while the shortest ever are She Done Him Wrong (1933, 66 min) and The Ox-Bow Incident (1943, 75 min).

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