Films that tried too hard to win an Oscar

Daniel Bettridge
Yahoo UK Movies Features
24 February 2012

As a general rule of thumb, the films that usually win Oscars are biopics, films about war, films with troubled children, disabled adults or anything that takes a nostalgic look at early cinema.

On the flipside, anything that’s popular with audiences and/or made a lot of money at the box office stands about as much chance of winning as Kate Winslet getting through an acceptance speech without blubbing hysterically.

[Related feature: The biggest Oscar scandals]

But not every movie that has ticked all the right boxes makes the grade, in fact the annals of Oscar history are littered with discarded flicks that should have been a shoo-in for glory but still missed out. The films that tried perhaps a bit too hard to win awards...

And the Oscar doesn’t go to… J.Edgar (2012)
Last year’s try-hard came in the form of Clint Eastwood’s much-fancied biopic of the controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Everyone thought the statuettes were imminent when the stellar cast and sweeping historical subject matter were announced, whilst the early buzz seemed to set Leonardo DiCaprio on course for Oscars glory.

So what went wrong? Well people watched it, and most of them didn’t like it. In fact ‘J.Edgar’ was derided by critics. The Academy followed suit.

And the Oscar doesn’t go to… Invictus (2009)
‘J.Edgar’ wasn’t the first time that one of Clint’s films has been snubbed. Back in 2009 ‘Invictus’, his biographical sports drama of apartheid Africa, seemed tailor-made for awards recognition. It even had Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela!

But it wasn’t to be. Whilst its leading men received nods in their respective acting categories, the film and its director were snubbed. Clint took it all in his stride however, telling reporters: “I've been around a long time and probably they should give somebody else a look."



And the Oscar doesn’t go to… Frost/Nixon (2008)

Take one historical biopic about a much-reviled American President. Throw in some excellent work behind the cameras by an Academy favourite director, and some truly convincing performances in front of them by two respected thesps. Et voila... you have a recipe for Oscar success.

Or so it seemed when ‘Frost/Nixon’ scooped five nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. However, it went on to win precisely nothing after Danny Boyle’s unstoppable ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ nabbed the big prizes instead.

[Related feature: The worst Oscar acceptance speeches]
[Related feature: The biggest Oscar shocks]


And the Oscar doesn’t go to… Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)
‘Memoirs Of A Geisha’ is the perfect example of the kind of ‘look at me’ fare that invades cinemas around Oscar season; a film that serves no other purpose than to catch the wandering eye of the Academy members.

From the Oscar-snubbed director of ‘Chicago’, ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha’ was supposed to be the film that finally won Rob Marshall the award he failed to land in 2003. It didn’t. Instead, it was slated by many critics and whilst it landed a respectable six Oscar nods, winning three, all were in the technical categories that are handed out when the important people need to pop to the loo.



And the Oscar doesn’t go to… The Soloist (2009)
If you watched Joe Wright’s heart-rending true story about a homeless schizophrenic musical prodigy and thought it all looked kind of familiar, then you’d be right. The film is basically a remake of the 1997 Oscar winner ‘Shine’, only this time they’ve replaced the piano with the cello and an Academy award-winning cast with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

The end result was one of the most cynical set-ups for awards recognition in recent history and one that critics and audience members alike saw right through. In fact the early buzz was so poor that the studio decided to put the film’s release date back by five months, effectively pulling it from the Oscar race.

And the Oscar doesn’t go to… I Am Sam (2001)
It may sound cynical, but more often than not if an able-minded, able-bodied actor can convince Hollywood that they’re disabled, then they might as well start clearing an Oscar-sized space on their mantelpiece. Just look at Dustin Hoffman in ‘Rain Man’, Tom Hanks in ‘Forrest Gump’ and Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’.

And so when Sean Penn picked up his third Oscar nod for playing the mentally handicapped father in Jessie Nelson’s much-fancied 2001 drama ‘I Am Sam’, the studio must have thought that it would open the floodgates for a slew of shiny things. It didn’t. The acting gong was the only nod the film received and it's since gone down in cinema history as one of the most insipid examples of the Hollywood message movie.

And the Oscar doesn’t go to… Frida (2002)
From Oscar factory Miramax came this outrageous example of Oscar-baiting. Surely the only reason this worthy biopic of obscure Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo was greenlit was so star Salma Hayek could try and pursuade the Academy to give her an Oscar with the help of a uni-brow.

Thankfully, despite six noms,'Frida' was overlooked in the major categories and given a Best Make-up shaped wooden spoon instead.

Can you think of any other films that seemed a little too tailor-made to win awards? Let us know in the comments section below...

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