Ten Tremendous Oscar Bait Failures

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By Jason Wiese

Just in time for the 89th annual Oscars ceremony Sunday, Feb. 26, let us look back on ten films that failed to get the attention from the Academy they believed they deserved. Three of our top picks just came out last year, and two of them star Will Smith. Here they are, in no particular order:

All the King’s Men (2006)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $7,221,458
  • Production Budget: $55 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 11%

Schindler’s List scribe Steve Zaillian wrote and directed this remake of a 1949 Best Picture winner, inspired by Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the rise and fall of a corrupt politician. How could this not score a home run? Critics cited a weakly conceived narrative and a lack of political insight as why. All of this talent, including Sean Penn, could not attract the Academy’s attention again.

Seven Pounds (2008)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $69,951,824
  • Production Budget: $55 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 27%

Will Smith is an IRS agent who makes it his mission to change the lives of seven strangers, one of whom he strikes an unexpected romance with (Rosario Dawson). Critics and Academy voters did not fall for this tearjerker’s sappy, Lifetime movie-worthy themes and many say the twist ending only makes it more ridiculous than inspiring. Some might credit this is as the beginning of Smith’s desperation phase — and we all know what that led to (*cough* After Earth *cough*).

Valkyrie (2008)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $83,077,833
  • Production Budget: $75 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 63%

Tom Cruise leads director Bryan Singer’s (X-Men) dramatization of a group of German officers’ failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler during World War II. Despite a storyline that should promise a great historical thriller, the film was nothing more than a mildly entertaining popcorn flick that managed to receive seven nominations from the Academy… of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (a.k.a. the Saturn Awards).

J. Edgar (2011)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $37,306,030
  • Production Budget: $35 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 43%

Since scoring his second Best Picture win behind the camera in 2004 with Million Dollar Baby, it seems that all Clint Eastwood wants out of his filmmaking career anymore is to win more Oscars (see American Sniper, Jersey Boys and Sully, all of which were released in the past three years). But perhaps his most embarrassing recent attempt is this formulaic biopic starring Leonard DiCaprio as former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. At least one nomination Eastwood should have predicted this would not receive is Best Makeup.

Diana (2013)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $335,359
  • Production Budget: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 8%

The tragically late Princess Diana of Wales deserved better than giving her biopic the Titanic treatment, focusing primarily on her secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan during the last two years of her life. To make matters worse, the only recognition the film received was lead actress Naomi Watts’ nomination for a Worst Actress Razzie.

Men, Women & Children (2014)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $705,908
  • Production Budget: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 32%

Remember when Jason Reitman was the go-to guy for striking Indie movie gold with films such Juno and Up in the Air? What happened to him? Well for one, he tried to be too serious — like with this preachy PSA that left critics feeling beaten over the head with explanations of why the internet has ruined our lives.

Joy (2015)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $56,451,232
  • Production Budget: $60 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 60%

Although this did earn an Academy Award nomination for Jennifer Lawrence’s titular role, it was also the film that made us realize that director David O. Russell’s go-to-troupe is not unstoppable. We now know that simply teaming up with Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro does not guarantee Oscar gold. Reviews were favorable overall, but criticism of the film’s misguided and depressing approach to dramatize the life of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop was nearly unanimous.

The Birth of a Nation (2016)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $15,861,566
  • Production Budget: $8.5 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

I do not know if it is the preachy nature of the film’s historical themes, writer/director and star Nate Parker’s past sexual assault allegations, or the fact that the title is synonymous with D.W. Griffith’s infamously racist 1915 propaganda film. Yet for some reason, the Academy did not want to touch this otherwise artistically impressive and equally important biopic of slave rebellion leader Nat Turner.

Collateral Beauty (2016)

  • Domestic Total Gross: $31,016,021
  • Production Budget: $36 million
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 12%

The film that Will Smith was hoping would make up for Suicide Squad. Instead, it was another unintentionally laughable, big budget Lifetime movie about finding hope after tragedy that can thank its all-star cast (also including Edward Norton, Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet) for almost making its budget back domestically. Speaking of the cast, the film is even up for this year’s Razzie for Worst Screen Combo, the combo being “The Entire Cast of Once Respected Actors.”

Mr. Church (2016)

  • Domestic Total Gross: N/A
  • Production Budget: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 15%

In an upsetting, failed attempt at a comeback, this predictable story of the friendship between an orphaned girl (Britt Robertson) and her hired cook, played by Eddie Murphy, was the comedian’s first film in four years. If the original choice for the title role, Samuel L. Jackson, had not stepped down, he could have easily wiped off the stink of this film using his Marvel money as a rag. Instead, Murphy had to face the damaging burden of critical and financial misfires once again. I am still pulling for you, Eddie. Just be sure to say no to Shrek 5.

Published to ReviewSTL.com Monday, Feb. 20, 2016

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