Amidst the surprise successes of Moonlight and Hell or High Water in this year’s Oscar nominations, there are a handful of films that were surely made with the Academy in mind: Hidden Figures, Lion and Loving are three such examples. However, some of the year’s most Oscar-baiting releases and performances have been completely ignored: let’s take a look at a few examples.
BEST ACTOR: EDDIE MURPHY (MR. CHURCH)
After an extended hiatus from acting, Murphy returned with a relatively strong performance in Bruce Beresford’s painfully-sentimental period drama. Opposite Britt Robertson, he showed his ability for subtlety and sympathy. Unfortunately, few bothered to watch or acknowledge this extremely old-fashioned film.
BEST ACTOR: MICHAEL KEATON (THE FOUNDER)
Michael Keaton is two-for-two with Best Picture winners: Birdman and Spotlight scooped the prize for the past two years. Yet his third consecutive Oscar-bait project was not to witness the same fate: this true-story of the creation of McDonald’s is stunningly boring, directed by the reliably-mediocre John Lee Hancock. Keaton is good, but isn’t challenged in the slightest by the material.
BEST ACTOR: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY (GOLD)
One of a handful of slick dark comedies commissioned after The Wolf of Wall Street‘s success, this uninteresting adventure saw the 2014 Best Actor winner slip further back towards the mediocrity we once expected from him.
BEST ACTOR: TOM HANKS (SULLY)
The latest Hanks Does American Hero drama to emerge, Clint Eastwood’s Sully was one of the dullest, most pointless pieces of cinema released in 2016. Hanks’ performance is one of his weakest in years, with virtually zero plot happening around him.
BEST ACTOR: JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (SNOWDEN)
JGL can’t catch a break. After awards-buzz for Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk failed to materialise last year, he was once again ignored for his terrific work as Edward Snowden (complete with terrifyingly-accurate voice impersonation) in Oliver Stone’s underrated film.
BEST ACTRESS: JESSICA CHASTAIN (MISS SLOANE)
John Madden’s smart, entertaining political thriller saw Jessica Chastain give a typically-intense, but unsurprising, central performance. The desperation of the film to land Chastain a nomination is visible in its every frame– and this is its downfall. Hopefully Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game will finally get Chastain the recognition she is long overdue next year.
BEST ACTRESS: AMY ADAMS (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS)
Adams was horrifically-snubbed for her excellent work in Arrival, but also ignored was her less-stellar turn in Tom Ford’s faux-suspensful thriller, a more typical ‘Oscar-bait role’.
BEST ACTOR/BEST ACTRESS: BRAD PITT/MARION COTILLARD (ALLIED)
Robert Zemeckis’ WW2 drama is basically a boring quasi-remake of Casablanca, offering very little in the way of interesting characters for its two leads. They do, however, get to participate in the most originally-shot sex scene of the year.
BEST PICTURE: BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK
This one’s on us. After poorly predicting that Bruce Dern would get Supporting Actor for The Hateful Eight, this year’s Shitty Oscar Prediction Tweet (from March 8, 2015) saw us call Best Picture for Ang Lee’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel, and Steve Martin for an acting win. Fountain’s novel is superb, and Ang Lee’s last film- Life of Pi– was a major awards heavyweight. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be absolutely awful, and Martin barely registers in a role that- in fairness- was pretty insignificant even in the book.
The moral of this story is: don’t read our tweets. And definitely don’t make bets based on them.
BEST PICTURE: SILENCE
A 3-hour spiritual drama set in Japan may SOUND boring, but you’ll never understand what a tedious watch Martin Scorsese’s Silence truly is until you’ve suffered through it. Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson and Adam Driver are all truly terrible. There is no interesting substance, par some questionable glorification of Christianity. There is no beautiful score nor original imagery. Silence is an exercise in extraordinary directorial indulgence (yet, thanks to HBO’s Vinyl, is only the second-worst Scorsese project of 2016).
BEST PICTURE: THE BIRTH OF A NATION
At Sundance last year, EVERYONE in attendance at Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation proclaimed the slavery drama would sweep the boards at the 2017 Oscars: it was fresh, passionately-directed, and awarding it would fix the Academy’s race problem. Midway through the year, however, information involving serious rape accusations against Parker and the film’s screenwriter became public, and very soon the film began to lose support. Ultimately, it was extremely overhyped to begin with, and the brilliance of another drama by a black director- Moonlight– allowed #OscarsSoWhite to end without Birth‘s help.
Sorry, Oscar-bait. Ya didn’t fool us this year! (Except for *cough* Hidden Figures *cough). We KNOW a great film when we see one, and La La Land, Moonlight and Arrival are truly great films. Better luck in 2018, eh?