Sunday night’s Academy Award telecast means many traditions are being executed; themed party favors are being purchased, company copy machines are running dry as Oscar ballots are printed, and invites have been sent imploring people to arrive dressed in character-specific attire; (Many being the same hipsters who mock Cosplay enthusiasts.) There is one other tradition we can expect – the dismal Oscar weekend in theaters.
Normally the opening months on the calendar are regarded as a dumping-ground for Hollywood. There is an irony where studios expand their Oscar-bait titles as they also release films that have proven problematic to sell, stewed on the shelf for a spell, or have just turned into complete fiasco’s. And specifically the weekend of the Oscar telecast typifies this paradox; while touting their greatest accomplishments they often dispense work that is commonly embarrassing.
This weekend is no different as we have a pair of films debuting that is arriving with tepid reception. Hall Pass is a crude sex romp that has some wondering if the Farrelly Brothers can return to form. The other is Nic Cage in a 3-D revenge blood-fest that may set a record among reviewers employing the term “bat-shit”. And if history serves out there is a probability that an existing title will instead repeat in the top spot. Looking back at the Academy Award Weekend during the 00’s shows many trends. Debuting titles struggle, anything resembling quality will endure, and while Hollywood is praising itself it manages to embarrass itself as well.
10. THE ASTRONAUT FARMER A prime example of a studio not knowing what it has on its hands and not knowing what to do with it. This was an earnest tale starring Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton in the title role. It was released in 2,000 theaters, and it could only manage to become the #9 film that weekend, far behind Ghost Rider.
9. DREAMCATCHER The weekend of the 75th Awards in March of 2003 may be one of the most notorious for low quality against the Oscars. Try this for an example — there were numerous films worse than A View from the Top. This title was a wan Stephen King story that is largely looked at with disdain today. The central theme of anal-breaching aliens I’m sure can serve as some sort of Oscar metaphor.
8. (Tie) ULTRAVIOLET / AQUAMARINE These two were released together in March of 2006, both trying to underperform the other. The first was a violent CGI fantasy, and the other involved the story of a teenaged mermaid. Not only did Ultraviolet open weak at #4, and Aquamarine even weaker at #5, continuing the color theme was the remake of The Pink Panther at #6, after a month in theaters.
7. FIRED UP This release during the 2009 ceremony was a horrid attempt at a teen comedy involving a pair of horny guys worming their way into a cheerleading competition. The reason was it would be filled with hot girls. See how that works? The studio had its attitude towards the audience on full display; the posters were mostly a large image of the letters “F-U”. That begins to explain how it only $6 million that weekend.
6. 16 BLOCKS How’s this for forgettable? 16 Blocks?! It says it was released in March 5, 2006 the weekend of the 77th Academy Awards. I had to be reminded of the existence of this Bruce Willis urban drama, where he co-starred with Mos Def. This is almost insomnia-inducing, it was so anonymous. It may have placed higher on this list except for the bafflement of it debuting in the #1 spot that week.
5. CURSED In February 2005 this unrecollected Wes Craven horror title came . . . and quickly went. It even starred Christina Ricci, yet all it could do was come in as the #4 film of the weekend, not at all having a chance against a Tyler Perry Madea title. It would not be long after that Craven would go on his 5 year long sabbatical from film making.
4. (Tie) CHARLIE BARTLETT / WITLESS PROTECTION These two were released in tandem in February 2008. The good news? It may have led to the removal of Larry The Cable Guy from our nation’s movie screens. Both of these titles opened on over 1,000 screens. Both finished well outside of the top-10 for the weekend. Neither could earn more than the pittance of $2.5 million.
3. MAN OF THE HOUSE During the 77th Academy Awards this non-comedy about a Marshall charged with protecting a group of teen girls was cynically released. It finished #6, well behind Cursed in fact. For added irony, the “Man” of that particular house was onetime Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones.
2. CLUB DREAD The comedy troupe Broken Lizard failed yet again with this painfully unhumorous romp. Set on a Carribean island and starring Bill Paxton is was supposed to be something of a spoof. It became self-mockery as it was hit by the tsunami that weekend that was Passion of the Christ.
1. BOAT TRIP The rapid descent of Cuba Gooding Jr. from his A-list heights is well documented. This particular hate-crime of a comedy would just about ruin anyone’s good graces, let alone having its obvious faults become highlighted by premiering on Oscar weekend. This one was so horrendous that there was a proposal at one point to display during the Oscar’s “In Memoriam” segment a slide with Gooding’s career.