After watching the wonderful trailer for the upcoming (sure
to be awards contender) The Soloist, I was shocked to read a number of
complaints, by fanboys and critics alike, damning the trailer due to blatant
awards baiting. That strikes me as
somewhat odd. I mean, yes, Joe Wright’s
film looks to contain a pair of exquisite performances and an interesting
(while admittedly unoriginal) story. And
as far as I can tell, I don’t see why Dreamworks shouldn’t advertise such a
Every year, a whole slew of films are accused of something
referred to as “Oscar baiting”; whether it be a result of the use of music,
actors or the type of storyline. Bare in
mind, I’m talking strictly in terms of advertising here, not the films
themselves. With that said, is it right
that the studios be condemned for selling their films the way they see
fit? I can’t begin to tell you how
annoying it is to hear a number of people state that a film is presented as
being “Oscar baiting”.
Has anyone seen the trailers for Schindler’s List or The
Elephant Man or The Pianist or Titanic? These are
wonderful, memorable and powerful films and it frightens me to think what
audiences would think of their trailers if they were released today. Take The Elephant Man, for example. In Lynch’s masterpiece (argue all you want, but
it’s a fact), a deformed man is given the opportunity to live a life filled
with dignity and respect in the comfort of a London hospital. The trailer is simple, direct and displays
the powerful acting by both Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt (even though Hurt
remains largely unseen throughout most of the trailer), complete with swelling
violins and accompanying orchestra. At
the time, Paramount had no qualms with revealing the fact that they had a
potential award winner on their hands and audiences came in droves to see the
I find it incredibly unjust for anyone to judge a film based
solely on whom its key demographic is.
Look at horror films. Do people
actually complain about the commonly used tactic of jump in the dark scares
prevalent in a number (though not all) of horror trailers to sell their
films? How about trailers for biopics or
action, comedy and romance films? Like
the motion pictures they are advertising, the trailers incorporate a successful
method of promotion, one that requires a very specific execution in order for
it to work.
Over the years, I have gradually come to the horrific
realization that audiences like to judge films based strictly on trailers
alone. Now, this is a tricky topic,
because trailers are meant to entice audiences; so if it doesn’t look good,
it’s not going to get your eleven bucks.
I understand that. But somewhere
along the line, films have been ridiculed over the way in which the trailers
draw the audience in. Again, I’m talking
about The Soloist. The talent in front
of and behind the camera has proven itself time and time again, so I’m sure we
will end up with a beautiful story about friendship prevailing over the face of
adversity. Is the trailer “Oscar
baiting”? No more than the trailer for Revolutionary Road, Milk or the eventual trailers for festival darlings Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler.
We’re in award season, for crying out loud. Live with it.
Looking back, I can’t shake the horrible feeling that the term “Oscar
bait” is a cover for a much more complicated topic of discussion, which is what
I find so beautiful about the cinema.
We are all entitled to like and dislike whatever we
want. Maybe I’m asking too much, but
when I get involved in a healthy discussion about films, I would only expect
that the individual I’m talking to has a strong point, whether I agree with
them or not. “Oscar bait” is a horrible
way in which to cut the discussion dreadfully short. What’s worse, it’s used in a negative
connotation, in reference to a film that may very well be in the front running
come award season and thus deserves better treatment.
To better prove my point, perhaps I should state that the
(beautiful) trailer for Milk is Oscar baiting; it’s a film about an important
topic with a top notch cast at the peak of their craft. Think about it. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? I guess the only thing left to do is judge
the film on its own merits after watching it.
What a novel idea.