The months October, November and December are known most commonly in the movie world as Oscar season. This time of the year often brings out the year’s ‘Oscar bait’, films that focus on important subject-matter, employ stong casts and are produced at least partially in order to be nominated for, and hopefully win, an Academy Award. While more often than not these films provide a compelling cinematic experience, on various occasions films have tried and failed at being oscar bait. Here are just some examples of Oscar Bait Gone Wrong:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
Okay, so this movie got nominated for Best Picture but that doesn’t mean it’s a good movie, on the contrary in fact. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the prime example of a film trying to get the Academy’s attention by focusing the story on a tragic incident in American history. The movie is a lamentable cry for attention, mawkish and pretentious to a fault.
J. Edgar (2011)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood teaming up in a biopic about one of the most famous personalities in American history screams Oscar gold, unfortunately J. Edgar is a tedious and disappointing film that doesn’t do justice neither to the legacy of J. Edgar nor to the talent involved. DiCaprio does his best and offers a convincing performance as the titular character, but the film falls short in too many areas. The script is poorly written and doesn’t have anything to truly compel the audience. The film drags on for the most part and the pacing is very inconsistent, not to mention the cringe-worthy make-up and bad cinematography.
All The King’s Men (2006)
When you’re remaking an Oscar winning classic starring an all-star cast of: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson, Mark Ruffalo and James Gandolfini you expect a gripping film with strong performances. However, All The King’s Men is neither gripping nor well-acted and above all a very, very bad movie. The biggest disappointment of the film is Sean Penn: taking the lead role of politician Willy Stark, Penn offers a scenery chewing, over-the-top performance and basically drags down what little momentum the film has. The script written by Schindler’s List screenwriter Steve Zaillian is largely incoherent and disjointed one. Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law and James Gandolfini deliver passable performances but ultimately this is a film that fails to make an impact.
From Australian director Baz Luhrmann, starring Australian actors Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman comes Australia. Believe me, this movie is as dull and uninspired as its title. The film, which Luhrmann described as an Australian version of Gone With the Wind, does not have the same epic feel as the civil war classic. Like all Luhrmann productions the movie is all style over substance; the production design, costumes and cinematography are quite beautiful but the script fails to enthrall in any way. The performances from Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are admirable but not enough to make the movie interesting.
Rob Marshall looking to recreate the same success he found with Chicago thought it was a good idea to remake the Federicio Fellini classic 8 1/2 into a musical starring awards magnet Daniel Day-Lewis and a bunch of other awards magnets: Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotilliard. Sadly however, Nine comes nothing close to the Fellini classic. The music numbers are abysmal, the script is bland and the performances just fail to come through. Daniel Day-Lewis can’t capture the wit and charm Marcello Mastroianni brought to the role of Guido, and all together the film is a rather lackluster production and an unnecessary remake that doesn’t even come close to its predecessor.
The Fifth Estate (2013)
The biggest problem that I felt this film suffered from was that it tried too hard to tell an otherwise interesting story. The film tries to be too intelligent for its own good and focuses far too much on explaining the facts instead of offering a gripping portrayal of the WikiLeaks story. The film should have gone for The Social Network route by giving attention to Julian Assange’s character and keeping the script tight by focusing only on important events and also by hiring David Fincher instead of Bill Condon. Benedict Cumberbatch is good as Assange but doesn’t bring anything special to the character any more than any other actor could.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Adapting a book like The Lovely Bones into a PG-13 rated movie was always going to be a difficult task considering the explicit themes of rape and murder the book explored. Nevertheless, Peter Jackson looking the recreate his past Oscar glory did so and might I say, failed quite badly. The biggest problem with this film is its inconsistent change of tone – it goes from a touching coming of age story to a deeply disturbing movie about child rape and murder in a matter of minutes and keeps going from heartwarming to horrific throughout the course of the movie. The film does have some positives: Stanley Tucci offers a sadistic and immensely compelling supporting performance and like most Peter Jackson films the film is visually splendid, however it is not enough to save this uneven and ultimately disappointing attempt at Oscar gold.
Oliver Stone’s career started to take a dip after Nixon but I don’t think anyone expected him to make something as terrible as Alexander. Alexander is basically a flat-out failure – nothing about this movie clicks, it’s an epic that has nothing epic about it. Stone’s direction is monotonous, the acting is quite poor, Colin Farrell brings nothing to the role of the titular character and feels miscast while others like Anthony Hopkins and Val Kilmer are wasted. Aesthetically the film is just bad to look at, the production design, costumes, cinematography are awful and the bloated run-time which clocks at 180 minutes only makes things worse. It’s an epic train-wreck.