As we head into November, we can start bidding farewell to the summer blockbusters and October slasher flicks. November and December mark the beginning of Oscar bait season. That's right. This is the time when studios carefully roll out their prize magnets, just in time to qualify for the 2010 cut-off, but not too early to slip from the Academy voters' memories when it comes time to decide which movies will get those coveted nominations.
The best Oscar bait story in recent memory likely belongs to 'Girl, Interrupted.' The film unexpectedly launched Angelina Jolie's career, netting her an Oscar. 'Girl, Interrupted' was an Oscar vehicle, yes, but the driver was supposed to be Winona Ryder, not Angelina. What was meant to revive Winona's career instead became a launchpad for one of the most successful actresses of our time. Who'd have thought, at the time, that this plucky unknown actress would eventually outshine her big-name co-star?
This fall/winter movie season will certainly feature a healthy dose of Oscar bait, including the thematic staples of boxing, horse racing and single mothers fighting the man. Oscar regular Paramount Vantage ('There Will Be Blood,' 'An Inconvenient Truth,' 'Up in the Air,' 'Revolutionary Road,' 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button') has a busy couple of months approaching, with an onslaught of award-baiting films including 'The Fighter' and 'Waiting for Superman.' Moviegoers are in for a treat.
It was difficult to narrow this year's crop of transparent Oscar bait down to just 10, but somehow we managed. Here's a list of the top 10 films that are most obviously jostling for a position on the 83rd Academy Awards ballot.
- 1.'The Fighter.' Looks like Marky Mark is throwing his hat into the Oscar ring again. 'The Fighter' has Oscar bait written all over it. Just look at all of its Oscar-friendly traits: It's a Paramount Vantage flick, Christian Bale lost a ton of weight for it, and it's based on a true story. Not to mention it's a boxing movie, which have been Academy attention magnets for films like 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Ali.' Walhberg had better hope that Bale doesn't overshadow him too much. He wouldn't want Bale to Angelina his Oscar bid now, would he?
- 2.'Conviction.' This has all the hallmarks of classic Oscar bait. Based on a true story? Check. Featuring a determined single mother fighting the man? Check. Starring Hilary Swank? Check. It's been getting mixed reviews from critics as it makes its way along the festival circuit, though, which may damage its Oscar potential.
- 3.'Secretariat.' Who doesn't love a heartwarming tale about an underdog racehorse with a formidable lady owner? Diane Lane will almost certainly score a Best Actress nomination for her portrayal as Secretariat's feisty owner, Penny Chenery. It bodes well that fellow heartwarming horseracing movie 'Seabiscuit' racked up seven Oscar nominations in 2004.
- 4. 'Fair Game.' This flick about the Valerie Plame affair (remember her? The CIA agent outted by a U.S. government official?) is sure to resonate with liberal Hollywood: A powerful woman's career is derailed by the stupidity and spite of the Bush Administration. Extra points for starring Oscar faves Naomi Watts ('21 Grams') and Sean Penn ('Milk,' 'Mystic River').
- 5. 'Black Swan.' We keep hearing two major things about 'Black Swan.' One: Lesbian kiss scene with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Two: Oscar buzz. The former may have something to do with the latter. Who knows? This one seems like a long shot for Best Picture, but it's obviously gunning for some Oscar nods, most notably Best Actress. Will be interesting to see if the Academy takes the bait.
- 6. 'The Town.' The Academy may very well notice a number of things about 'The Town': The thick Boston accents, the gritty Boston scenery, the clash of social classes. They may appreciate the serious take on bank robbery, which isn't glamorized as much as it is presented as a necessary way of life in a desperately poor neighborhood.
- 7. 'The Social Network.' We've been told over and over that this is the "movie of the decade." Sure, it's good. Not sure if it's the greatest movie of the last ten years – or even this year, for that matter - but it's certainly worthy of some love from the Academy. Points for being based on a true story. This just might net David Fincher his first Best Director Oscar. (He was nominated in 2009 for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'.)
- 8. 'The King's Speech.' The Academy loves British historical dramas. And who can resist an Oscar-baiting cast that includes Colin Firth, ('A Single Man'), Geoffrey Rush ('Shine') and Helena Bonham Carter ('The Wings of the Dove')?
- 9. 'True Grit.' The Coen brothers waltzed into the Best Picture category last year for the rather unremarkable 'A Serious Man.' So just imagine how well 'True Grit' will be received, with its Academy-friendly cast that includes Oscar winners Jeff Bridges ('Crazy Heart') and Matt Damon ('Good Will Hunting'), and nominee Josh Brolin ('Milk'). It doesn't hurt that it's a Paramount Vantage film.
- 10. 'Waiting for Superman.' A documentary by the people who brought you 'An Inconvenient Truth' about how American's education system is failing its children? We might as well fork over the Best Documentary Oscar right now. The folks at Paramount Vantage certainly know how to rack up awards.