10 'Oscar bait' movies that didn't get a single nomination

  • 10 'Oscar bait' movies that didn't get a single nomination

The term Oscar bait has become increasingly popular over the past decade or so - incredibly dramatic films going all-out in a bid to please The Academy and land the big one - the Best Picture Oscar.

A few tropes are go-to topics for Oscar bait: engrossing true stories (Spotlight, Argo), an unflinching look into history's 'dark pasts' (12 Years a Slave, Schindler's List), the main character having a disability or mental illness (Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind), a gritty story of crime and deceit (The Departed, No Country for Old Men) or a light-hearted look into yesteryear (The King's Speech, The Artist).

But most importantly, the film has to be of a high-quality, otherwise, you get Oscar bait films that come nowhere close to even being on The Academy's radar. Films like...

10. J. Edgar (2011)

Serially-snubbed Oscar candidate Leonardo DiCaprio (until his win in 2016 for The Revenant) must have thought the statuette was his when he teamed up with director Clint Eastwood for the biopic of the long-standing FBI head.

Clint Eastwood's efforts to make a pro-American story meant that the film lacked any bite, as  J. Edgar turned out as a boring, melodramatic tale, and while DiCaprio's attempt to play the 77-year-old Hoover were praised, the film just dragged his performance down.

As a director, Eastwood had twice won Best Director and his films seem to have a magnetic pull to the Oscars, but J. Edgar didn't pick up a single nomination, and with a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is his lowest-rated directorial effort to date.

9. Seven Pounds (2008)

After dominating the 1990s and early 2000s as one of the world's biggest action stars, Will Smith wanted to flex his dramatic skills, doing so in touching true story The Pursuit of Happyness  which earned him a Best Actor nomination.

On the success of that, Smith starred in 2008's Seven Pounds, as a man who causes the death of seven people in a car accident and attempts to atone for the deaths with his own sacrifice.

Despite grossing over $160 million at the box office, the film was pilloried by critics for being frustrating, irritating and overbearing in its attempt to provoke an emotional response from viewers.

Being released in December - high season for Oscar bait - Seven Pounds wasn't even considered amongst the candidates and currently boasts a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Smith continued with the Oscar bait roles, including 2015's Concussion, about a forensic pathologist's investigation into NFL-related head trauma, which was equally ignored by The Academy.

See also | 8 times authors preferred the film adaptations to their novel

8. Amelia (2009)

Hillary Swank was already a two-time Best Actress Oscar winner with her roles in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby, when she joined Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor and Mia Wasikowska in the Oscar bait movie Amelia, about the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart.

For a real-life tale of a daring pilot who disappeared in mysterious circumstances, Indian director Mira Nair somehow made Amelia as a dull and slow-paced slog which was not helped by the cast's wooden acting.

With a lowly 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Amelia was in no danger of finding itself among the Oscar hopefuls, as the biopic also bombed hard at the box office.

Amelia also helped to accelerate Swank's slump into movie mediocracy that now sees her appearing in films which go unnoticed by all but the most ardent of film fan.

7. The Soloist (2009)

Based on a true story (tick) of a Los Angeles journalist who, while looking for an article to write, befriends a homeless schizophrenic (tick) that is also a skilled musician.

Oscar winner Jamie Foxx teamed up with Robert Downey Jr. - who was riding the crest of a wave after appearing in the first Iron Man movie and Tropic Thunder the year before - as two Hollywood megastars were bound to push it in the directions of the statuettes.

Heavy-handedly addressing the treatment of America's homeless and mentally ill, The Soloist turned out to be a critical and commercial failure and didn't receive a single Oscar nomination.

See also | The 10 biggest snubs in the 2016 Oscar nominations

6. Pay it Forward (2000)

Boasting an impressive cast, including Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment, who had all won or been nominated for Oscars in the previous few years, in the story of a 12-year-old who attempts to make the world a better place with his 'pay the favour forward' idea, aided by his social studies teacher.

With Helen Hunt playing a white trash alcoholic single mother (tick) and Kevin Spacey wore disfiguring burns make-up (tick) to add extra 'inspiration' from audiences and Academy judges.

While the actors' performances were praised, it was criticised for heavily emotional blackmail and using the cliche 'damaged' characters; all-in-all, the film didn't make any impact with Oscars judges.

5. The Monuments Men (2014)

When George Clooney wrote a WWII film that he would also direct, he gathered some of his big-name pals to star, including Matt Damon, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray.

The story, set in Nazi-occupied France (tick) and based on real events (tick) sees an Allied platoon searching for valuable art stolen by the Nazis in a bid to return them to their original owners.

The film's pre-Christmas 'Oscar season' release was pulled as it arrived mid-February - too late to be in contention, as Clooney explained that the effects wouldn't be completed in time for it's 18th December release.

Clooney's statement may not have been the full truth, but chances are that it may not have even featured in the nominations after mixed feedback left it with a 30% Rotten Tomatoes rating with criticism levelled at its insincere and unsatisfying take on the story.

See also | 8 hated sequels that should be given a second chance

4. Radio (2003)

Cuba Gooding Jr. starred as James Robert "Radio" Kennedy, an 18-year-old man with mental disabilities (tick) who is taken under the wing of a high school football coach, and forge a decades-long friendship, which turns Radio into an inspiration to his community.

The semi-biographical drama was heavily criticised for its formulaic plot and excessively sentimental screenplay, including the unimaginably corny line: "We're not the one been teachin' Radio, Radio's the one been teachin' us."

Cuba Gooding Jr. was looking to add to his Jerry Maguire Best Supporting Actor Oscar with a potential Best Actor award for this one but only saw himself nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actor (alongside his efforts in Boat Trip and The Fighting Temptations).

3. Serena (2014)

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence had already worked on Silver Linings Playbook (which had won Lawrence a Best Actress Oscar) and American Hustle - which bagged 10 nominations, but went home empty-handed - when they appeared together in period romantic drama Serena.

Set Depression-era North Carolina, Cooper plays a timber baron, whose becomes complicated when he marries the titular Serena, when she starts to dominate his business and life.

In the editing room, the film was chopped to within an inch of its life - over an hour of footage was cut, and director Susanne Bier stated that producers had a different idea for the finished version than the one that was shot.

The film was then shelved for over two years before getting released on video-on-demand and then a theatrical release a month later which saw it gross a measly $176,000.

All of this meant that it wasn't eligible to be nominated for the Oscars, leaving the whole experience with a bitter taste from all involved.

See also | Oscars trivia: how much do you know about record-breaking Oscar winners?

2. Diana (2013)

Naomi Watts must have been preparing a space on her mantelpiece when she took on the role of Diana in the biopic (tick) of the late Princess of Wales in 2013.

With many staking their claim on the film being a major awards player, with Watts in the pole position for the Best Actress nominations.

However, the biopic focused on a secret affair that Princess Diana had with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, rather than her incredible life, or tragic death.

The film was universally panned as it turned out to be a melodramatic, soppy romance story that failed to bring anything different from a standard Nicholas Sparks adaptation, and earned a lowly 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Watts wasn't able to use the mantelpiece space, as the only recognition that she or the film received was a Worst Actress Razzie nomination.

1. Come See the Paradise (1990)

You may not have heard of the WWII drama film starring Dennis Quaid, but if you did, you probably wouldn't remember it.

Alan Parker, the ten-time Oscar winner - who had previously directed Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and Mississippi Burning - turned his attention to the film set in 1936 about an American film projectionist in Little Tokyo who falls in love with the boss' daughter, only for war to break out, and the authorities declare that Japanese immigrants must live in camps like war prisoners.

Come See the Paradise ticked all the boxes for an Oscar-bait film: love story, true and tragic historical event, setting in Hollywood and focus on film, and set against a backdrop of war and racism.

So much so, in a 2014 study by two UCLA sociologists of 3,000 films, they identified Come See the Paradise as the most deliberate example of an Oscar bait film.

Despite filling out the Oscar bait template to perfection, the drama was completely ignored by The Academy and didn't earn a single nomination, as well as that, it was ignored by cinemagoers and earned less than $1 million at the box office.



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