Oscar baits: hook, line, and sinker

Origins, the beginning

Oscar bait is a colloquial term used in the film communities for movies, that have been produced for the single-minded goal of winning an Academy award. While the term was doing rounds from late 1940’s itself, its major effect was seen with Michael Cimino’s The deer hunter in 1978. The film had limited release with special screenings for Oscar jury members, after being nominated for the statue. It got a wider release with critical acclaim and good return all while bringing home the award for the best picture.

To be or not to be

To plainly defend Oscar baits as they are sometimes cinematic milestones or to just say that they too formula based as any other franchisee out there is right and wrong at the same time. If we can come together for a word called Oscar snub then it’s only fair for Oscar bait as well. A study from UCLA in 2014 went through 3000 films from 1985; they did find a pattern for Oscar bait films they are always a war themed, Biographies of not so well known people and historical epics to name a few. Releasing between November to January, helping them to stay fresh in the minds of Oscar jury.

The usual suspects

While written before about the cliches of bait films before, here are some of details. The Academy loves period pieces a lot, by the sheer number of awards it has received. Since 1960, 56 movies that have won Oscars 40 of them were period pieces. The timeline doesn’t matter it could be 15 years for Spotlight while 2000 years for Ben-Hur. Biographies of not so well known people overcoming obstacles such as deformity in The Elephant Man, Drug addiction in The Fighter, Pirates in Captain Philips etc. The portrayal of topics relating to humans and society such as divorce and effects on children in Kramer Vs Kramer. Drug addiction and suicide in Ordinary People, racism in Crash and Driving Miss Daisy. One cannot help think how there are movies that portray more realistically such as racism in Do The Right Thing and Drug Addiction in A requiem for a dream and Depression in Anti-Christ and so on, The problem is dark and disturbing approaches to subjects by the director has made the difference here. While Schindler’s List and 12 Years A Slave are a difficult watch they are often saved by their optimistic endings. And nothing guarantees an Academy award like the Holocaust, 24 pictures that depicted Holocaust in one or the other form an astounding 21 of them have gone on to win an Academy awards.

Show me the money

The audience needed to appreciate the complex aesthetics of these Oscar baits may be few and far between, but the economics are straight and simple. It is a game of both skill and chance when it comes to making money of Oscar baits, since most of them need a cast and crew of the most skill and talent the money needed is always on the expensive side. It seems that it’s a risk most movie studio’s more than willing to take. In the case of the 2010 Academy award winner “The King’s Speech” over shots its initial revenue estimates by 14 times after getting Oscar nominations. The economics of Oscar baits also extends to the cast and crew of the films, the pay too grows exponentially for cast and crew involved.

For whom the bell tolls

Are Oscar bait films that are better at fooling everyone while keeping in touch with their own cliches. Is the pure talent that propels them is the true reason why even people bother with them year after year. Whatever the reason, the modern Oscar baits seems to be, while good movies but not worth watching again. The case of The Crash and A beautiful mind, the latter is now considered while the former is still hated as it was then. They seem to quite forgettable these Oscar baits, while all the soul and cast do their best to be remembered they do seem to disappear from our memories. Are Oscar baits made for jury or for the regular moviegoer? The answer is simple as said before its economics, the biggest winner being the studio itself. Branding themselves as the multi-time award winning filmmakers is the single biggest and hard hitting marketing slogan out there now. There will be more Oscar baits in the future too, let’s just hope that they do what they supposed to do. That is, it should be able to connect with the average audience and not just the Jury.

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