Monday, July 6, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Why Certain Oscar Bait Movies Fail

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. You know how every awards season, there are certain films that come out that tackle similar tropes (biopics, real-life topical issues, musicals, et .) and some of those films, known as Oscar bait, crash and burn as the season progresses? Well, for today's topic, I figured I'd go into why that might be. Here we go:

(possible spoiler alert)

Now, I think a lot of the awards vehicles that fail fail because of how they feel designed to win awards and are more concerned with checking off the most boxes. Take, for example, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. That one deals with 9/11 with the main character suffering from autism while bonding with his mute grandfather whose family died in WWII. Plus, the film has two likeable movie stars, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. So, it just felt designed to garner laurels with all the boxes it checks off. The film did get nominated for Best Picture, but I think it was partially because of the films they didn't want to nominate: Drive was too pulpy, Bridesmaids and 50/50 were too funny, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was too mean and cynical, and Harry Potter was too young adult.

Another great example is The Judge. On paper, it seemed like a legitimate contender with its 2-hour plus running time and sad family drama storyline with the main character's father accused of murder then dying of cancer. Plus, it has a starry and pedigree cast (RDJ, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D'Onofrio, etc.). But it turns out that its running time hindered the film, the storyline was emotionally pandering, and the film was more concerned with being a showcase for Robert Downey, Jr.. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, then stumbled out due to its mixed to negative reception. But it still managed a career acknowledgment nod for Robert Duvall.

On a more positive note, I'll go into a film that, I'm sure, was geared as an awards player, but succeeded: The Social Network. The film deals with one of the more classic awards tropes: being based on a true story. But what director David Fincher does is he takes a film about the founding of Facebook and makes it work as both a piece of cinematic art and entertainment. He focuses on every important detail of the filmmaking process: the editing, the screenplay, the score, the cinematography, etc., rather than mostly the triumphs of the founding of Facebook or anything like that because plenty of these awards vehicles are designed to tug at the heartstrings and make viewers feel good about themselves, like the film that beat The Social Network for Best Picture that I won't name. But Fincher was more concerned with making a great film rather than a great Oscar film and that's why it worked so well.

So overall, I think that a lot of Oscar movies that fail fail because the makers of these films are more concerned with making a great Oscar film by checking off as many boxes as possible rather than simply a great film. To me, that is quite sad because whenever we could be talking about a well-crafted film that isn't trying to be an awards contender, we will eventually be looking into films that are trying to be which will steal the buzz from the films that aren't trying too hard to tug at the heartstrings or be topical. More Theory of Everything's, August: Osage County's and Extremely Loud's will continue to get on the board while all the Gone Girl's, Short Term 12's, Drive's, The Dark Knight's, and Starred Up's will be left out in the cold.

Those are my thoughts on why certain Oscar vehicles fail. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!