Since 1960, only three black-and-white films have won the Academy Award for Best Picture: The Apartment (1960), Schindler’s List (1993), and The Artist (2011). This isn’t surprising considering that the form, though generally cheaper to produce, inevitably kills box office attendance and, these days, has a tough time competing with the bombastic 3D/IMAX blockbuster. Yet since The Artist took home Best Picture two years ago, there has been a small, but noticeable resurgence in black-and-white films.
In this year alone, three black-and-white films have elicited attention from Oscar voters: Nebraska, Frances Ha, and Much Ado About Nothing (Frances and Much Ado premiered at 2012 Fall festivals but opened in wide-release this summer). Each of these three films, by Alexander Payne, Noah Baumbach, and Joss Whedon respectively, most likely would have brought in more money had they been filmed in color. So why did the filmmakers go in that direction?