Is Oscar ambition so bad?
By Joe Harker
Winning an Oscar is financially beneficial to everyone involved in a film. It can make actors bankable, the director seem like the person to trust with future projects, and being part of an award-winning team is a big boost for those who want to secure further jobs in the industry.
Thing is, if winning an Oscar was easy then everyone would be doing it. Making what you hope is the best film of the year is one way to get an Oscar, but there have been several films hit with the tag of "Oscar bait" and accused of pandering to Academy voters in the hopes of winning.
The term Oscar bait is highly subjective but hallmarks of the term tend to include a cast packed full of academy darlings, a story based on real events and a disadvantage for the main character to overcome. The King's Speech is often accused of being an Oscar bait film and it took home Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. There's a reason Oscar bait is still being made, it works.
Of this year's offerings the film most accused of being Oscar bait is The Post. It stars beloved actors Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep (check) and is based on a true story (check). The main characters do not have a disability to overcome, but Streep's character faces the challenges of a woman in a male-dominated industry and the cast grapples over siding with the truth or the government. Oh, and it's directed by Steven Spielberg (check).
That is not to say that the Post is a bad film, or that Oscar bait films are bad. Only that they can come off as cynical attempts to win awards by pandering to the tastes of the academy rather than by being the best film.
Not everyone agrees that there is such a thing as Oscar bait, with Mark Harris and Kyle Buchanan of Vulture questioning whether the term is actually a fitting description or is used as "a kind of anti-intellectual dog whistle". Harris thinks calling a film Oscar bait only reveals "the tastes of the users of the term". Buchanan believes some films are made with the aim of winning an Oscar and understands the allure of the award. He said: "There's an implication that what appears to be prestigious is, in its own way, as formulaic as a Marvel blockbuster.
"I do think it would be naïve to pretend that some films are not made with Oscar in mind. These are ambitious people, and even the most humble among them can succumb to Oscar fever."