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Oscar Bait

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Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_content_3'); })You would think that a good movie is a good movie, and that good movies get Oscars for being good movies. But they don’t.
An Oscar is a big deal. It gets people to the theater, it boosts ticket sales, and it bolsters the studio's bottom line. As such, studios and producers try to engineer a film so that it can win an Oscar rather than be good in its own right. Typically, this meant a more serious, depressing, or "artistic" film. Such a film is called Oscar Bait, and the practice is also derisively known as "Oscarbation".
The trend started in the 1980s in the wake of the emergence of the Summer Blockbuster, and as New Hollywood ended. Before then, it was a pretty good bet that the most popular movies were also the best ones and thus the likely Oscar-winners. But as directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas hit their stride, they made beloved and well-received movies which were nevertheless seen as too "lightweight" to win the "important" categories (acting, direction, writing, and picture) if/when they were nominated. At the same time, the "serious" fare that did win those categories slowly became less popular. While into the mid-'90s it was common for at least one major, mainstream hit to make it to the highest categories when it came to Oscar nominations, and sometimes they even won (Rain Man and Forrest Gump were the highest-grossing films of their respective years, for instance), there was a growing focus from studios on targeting younger audiences with simpler Summer Blockbusters that didn't deal with realistic concerns of people over the age of 30. With fewer and fewer opportunities for "serious" films to get made and widely released at all since the Turn of the Millennium, what ones are made tend to focus on going for the gold and making their studios at least look like they care about True Art.
Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_content_2'); })Such films are usually depressing dramas, Glurgey inspirational films, and examples of man’s inhumanity to man – as such, an abnormally large proportion of Oscar Bait films are set during The Holocaust. There's also a big focus on mental illness or Inspirationally Disadvantaged characters. It's rare for a comedy film to do well at the Oscars (in fact, one of the biggest cliches of this trope is when a comedic actor stars in a heavy-handed drama to be Taken Seriously); sci-fi and horror don't do much better, and animated films were given their own categories once they flirted with pushing into the big leagues. It's not a hard and fast rule; you might see a Dramedy or Dark Comedy get a nomination, mostly because there’s still room for suffering.
Oddly, many Oscar Bait movies don’t do so well at the box office. A big reason for that is Hype Backlash and Hype Aversion; the heavy campaigning to win an Oscar can be a big turn-off. Furthermore, many Oscar Bait films are released around December or January (as a direct lead-in to the Academy Awards show in late February), so it’s easy to tell them apart from Summer Blockbusters. And they don’t even always win Oscars, perhaps because the Academy can actually tell the difference between a good, honest movie and an Oscar Bait attempt, and partly because sometimes they respect the general public’s opinion of a movie and will try to reflect that. (But when they don’t, that’s an Award Snub.) Another reason may simply be that no matter how genuinely good they are, let's be honest, depressing films about people suffering through tragedy, alienation, physical and mental disability and the horrors of the worst periods in human history don't often have the makings of a fun night out at the movies.
Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_content_1'); })The phenomenon isn't exclusive to the Oscars, either; on TV it's "Emmy Bait", on Broadway it's "Tony Bait", and in music it's "Grammy Bait". See also Death by Newbery Medal and Award-Bait Song. Contrast It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars.
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The first actor to win an Oscar for playing such a character was Cliff Robertson in 1968, for playing the mentally handicapped hero of Charly (an adaptation of the short story Flowers for Algernon), after a massive “For Your Consideration” campaign.
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The Shape of Water, from the same year as Get Out, is similarly unusual: it's a love story between a mute woman and a fish person. It won Best Picture and Director.
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The Artist won Best Picture in spite of it being a Silent Movie from 2011. It’s not often that Le Film Artistique (or something vaguely resembling it anyway) gets nominations beyond Best Foreign Film, but this one won the whole thing. It helped that it was also an unashamed love letter to Old Hollywood, which probably appealed to Academy viewers.
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Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind is a loose account of the life of John Nash, pioneer economist, Nobel laureate, and paranoid schizophrenic. The film controversially whitewashed some of the potentially unsavory details of his life (like his bisexuality) and suggested he was cured by The Power of Love.
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Late Night with Seth Meyers presents: Oscar Bait: Real Trailer, Fake Movie.
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The Lovely Bones was based on a critically acclaimed book about a murdered girl watching her family from the afterlife. It was directed by Oscar winner Peter Jackson and pushed to the end of the year into Oscar Bait time. The film was widely panned, and the only nomination it got was for Stanley Tucci for Best Supporting Actor.
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Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima are both set during World War II.
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The Naked Gun 33 1/3 includes a scene at the Oscar ceremony, where all the films were ridiculously High Concept, like “the story of one woman’s triumph over the death of her cat, set against the background of the Hindenburg disaster,” and “the story of one woman’s triumph over a yeast infection, set against the background of the tragic Buffalo Bills season of 1971.”
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Castle had a suspect who was an actor, who says he’s playing Matt Damon’s “half-wit father” because “it’s got nominations written all over it.”
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It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award”. It’s nominally about the gang trying to win a Best Bar award, but is actually a Leaning on the Fourth Wall commentary on the fact the show has failed to garner any recognition from the Emmys by having the bars stand in for shows. The gang is going up against a bar straight out of Cheers (with a Token Minority manager for good measure) where the owners make generic and inoffensive jokes, complete with a Laugh Track. The gang tries to model Paddy’s Pub after the bar that wins, such as by making sure they don't have too many black guys present so the judges won't think its a "black bar" and trying to create some Will They or Won't They? tension between Mac and Dee. Charlie even decides to write a song for the bar to help them win. Ultimately, as with everything they try, they fail spectacularly.
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The Simpsons:
Burt Reynolds describes his new film Fireball and Mudflap:
An an entry form for Best Documentary is shown to ask entrants to declare if they are “Holocaust-related” or "Non-Holocaust-related”.
When Marge Simpson attends the Sundance film festival, she discovers that all the films on display are extremely depressing (including themes like underprivileged transvestites, underprivileged hippies, and Chernobyl) and most of them have ironically upbeat titles.
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Johnny Belinda is Based on a True Story of a deaf-mute girl who gets raped, has her rapist’s baby, gets declared “unfit” to raise the baby and has to fight to keep it, and is put on trial for her rapist’s murder — all while struggling to pay the bills on the family farm. Jane Wyman won Best Actress for playing her.
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In Extras, Kate Winslet’s character plays in a Holocaust movie in an open bid to win an Oscar. Then in 2008, Winslet did it in real life in The Reader.
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Titanic was unusual in that it wasn’t meant to be Oscar Bait — just a dream project that was supposed to be committed to the screen. People latched onto it, and it won almost everything.
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Hævnen (Danish for “revenge”, but released internationally as In a Better World) had everything: a failing marriage, vicious school bullies and attacks, Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, dead parents, and a doctor in an African refugee camp terrorised by a man who cuts pregnant women open. It won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.
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The first fifteen minutes of In & Out are rife with references to this trope. Matt Dillon’s character wins an Oscar for playing a gay soldier unfairly discharged from the military, in a film that appears to be equal parts A Few Good Men, Philadelphia, and Forrest Gump. The actors he beat: “Paul Newman for Coot, Clint Eastwood for Codger, Michael Douglas for Primary Urges, and Steven Seagal for Snowball in Hell.”
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A The Kids in the Hall sketch shows the best actor nomination at an Oscar show. Three of the actors played Inspirationally Disadvantaged (ranging from being deaf to having a spike in their head); their characters give the exact same Rousing Speech with appropriate music. The fourth clip is of a guy playing Hamlet. They award the Oscar to “everyone but the Hamlet guy!”
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Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a sketch where Ryan Stiles has to report the weather as if it were a scene from an Oscar-winning film. He did so by ribbing host Drew Carey and referencing “A Very Special Drew”.
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In the third segment of Linkara’s History of Power Rangers series, he shows a clip of Bulk and Skull trying to save a bunch of kids from drowning in a lake. They run down the pier in slow motion with inspirational music. Linkara responds by putting "Oscar Clip" at the bottom of the screen. (And it turns out the lake was knee-deep and the children were just playing.)
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Kickassia has this in every scene regarding Spoony’s attempts to avoid “giving in to the madness” (i.e. his Enemy Within Dr. Insano). He even engages in Ham-to-Ham Combat with it.
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Mr. Show did a sketch about “The Dewey Awards”, which were specifically given to actors who played mentally disabled characters. One winner is a film called The Bob Lamonta Story, about a man who struggles with his own mentally challenged parents (only for Lamonta himself to show up and claim it was all Based on a Great Big Lie).
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Hawking, a biopic of famously disabled genius astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, was saturated with BAFTA Bait topics – and not just about Hawking struggling with his ALS or his efforts in science. It even managed to include a few Holocaust references; a supporting character had to flee Nazi Germany with his family as a child.
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At the end of Road to Morocco, Bob Hope's character has accidentally blown up the ship, leaving the main cast stranded on a raft. Hope chews up the scenery, acting as if they’ve been stranded there for weeks. Then the camera pans up to reveal the New York City skyline. Bing Crosby’s character tells him to calm down, to which Hope bitterly remarks that they’ve ruined his chance for an Academy Award.
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In season 4 of Arrested Development, Rebel Alley (Isla Fisher) discusses the possibility of playing Michael’s deceased wife in a movie. After learning that said wife died of a terminal illness, Rebel says that all she needs now is to have her be mentally-challenged as well, and she'll be guaranteed an Oscar for her performance.
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Animaniacs:
One short was an Anvilicious spoof of not just Oscar Bait, but also the animated awards the show could actually compete with. It started with saving a beached whale and went on from there. They didn’t win, and everything went to Hell after that.
In a Thanksgiving episode, Miles Standing is out hunting turkeys, while the Warners play Native Americans raised by turkeys. While Dot waxes eloquent over their hardship, the caption “ACADEMY MEMBERS VOTE NOW!” flashes on the screen.
During their "Jokahontas" sketch, a Take That! against Disney movies, the song "Same Old Heroine" has this line:
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Doubt started as total Tony Bait and moved into Oscar Bait with its film adaptation. It’s about the Catholic altar-boy pedophile abuse scandal, which was Ripped from the Headlines. The young victim is also the first black student in an otherwise white school, who may or may not be gay as well (and his father is not happy). It won multiple Tonys, including Best Play and Best Actress. The film version stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Meryl Streep — an Oscar-winning machine if there ever was one.
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Rain Man gets a lot of credit for kicking off the modern trend. The film won Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Original Screenplay in 1988, and Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor for his portrayal of the mentally handicapped protagonist.
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Married... with Children had at least one episode that ended with a heartwarming scene and the subtitle: “For your Emmy considerations.”
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The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a similar Darker and Edgier take than the typical Disney movie, adapting a historical classic and tackling themes like religious bigotry and justice for the oppressed. The songs were also written to be more pop opera in the vein of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. This became the only Disney film to get a Razzie nomination, and it was the only film of theirs in the 90s not to get any Oscar nominations.
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Changeling was a 1920s-era Period Piece conspiracy film about a missing child, which starred Oscar-baity actress Angelina Jolie.
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Holocaust-themed foreign language films that have won the Foreign Language award include The Shop on Main Street, the aforementioned Life is Beautiful, The Counterfeiters, and Son of Saul.
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In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time Abridged:
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Following his well-reviewed performance as Muhammed Ali in the 2001 biopic Ali, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Will Smith has taken to making these, from the biopics The Pursuit of Happyness and Concussion to glurge-filled Seven Pounds and Collateral Beauty. To date, Happyness earned him another Best Actor Oscar nom, but nothing more beyond that.
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Short films about the Holocaust that have won the Short Film prize include Visas and Virtue and Toyland.
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In a James Bond spoof, Roger played the role of Tearjerker, a villain whose Evil Plan is to make a film that’s such a tearjerker, it will kill anyone who watches it. That film, Oscar Gold, is about a mentally challenged Jewish boy driven to alcoholism by his puppy during the Holocaust, all while hiding from the Nazis in an attic like Anne Frank. And it’s Deliberately Monochrome. When that fails, he tries to go even sadder — six hours of a baby chimpanzee trying to revive its dead mother.
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The Dark Knight was the first comic book movie to win an acting nomination (for Heath Ledger) and only the fourth film based on a comic book or graphic novel to win an acting nomination.note The others, for those keeping score at home, were Al Pacino for Dick Tracy, Paul Newman for Road to Perdition, and William Hurt for A History of Violence. With the pervasiveness of serious Oscar Bait fare, the idea that friggin’ Batman can win an Oscar was unreal. Then again, Ledger may have had the advantage of sadly being dead.
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American Dad!:
Greg and Terry decide to film Stan as he searches for Oliver North's gold in "Stanny Slickers 2: The Legend of Ollie's Gold":
In a James Bond spoof, Roger played the role of Tearjerker, a villain whose Evil Plan is to make a film that’s such a tearjerker, it will kill anyone who watches it. That film, Oscar Gold, is about a mentally challenged Jewish boy driven to alcoholism by his puppy during the Holocaust, all while hiding from the Nazis in an attic like Anne Frank. And it’s Deliberately Monochrome. When that fails, he tries to go even sadder — six hours of a baby chimpanzee trying to revive its dead mother.
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The Nostalgia Critic gives a fierce Take That! to Selma, The Blind Side, 12 Years a Slave, and Django Unchained when Malcom refers to them as "White Guilt Oscar Bait movies" and points out the only reason he likes them is because The Critic always takes him out to dinner after they watch one.
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Mad Max: Fury Road is arguably one of the least Oscar-friendly movies ever made. It's the fourth film in a franchise that never saw any Oscar attention before. It's a loud, explosive, and unapologetic pure action movie. It has very little dialogue and is essentially a nonstop two-hour car chase scene. And it was released all the way back in May. But it got critical acclaim for its action sequences, Show, Don't Tell storytelling, and hidden themes and was regarded as one of the best movies of 2015, topping more official Top 10 lists than any other. It ended up being an unexpected Oscar contender, being nominated for ten awards (including Best Picture) and winning six, the most of that year.
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Wreck-It Ralph deserves special mention purely for the fact that it's basically a video game movie, in an industry not well known for producing quality video game movies. Beyond that, it's about a video game bad guy who wants to prove he can actually be good. No Oscar (it lost to the more Oscar-baity Brave), but several other awards and nominations anyway.
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On Midnight Screenings, Brad Jones says he thinks calling a film Oscar Bait is an overused criticism. But he says he thinks it fits at least the trailer for the film of The Book Thief.
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Get On Up stars Chadwick Boseman as James Brown, in a musical biopic/dramedy about the musician’s complicated life and career. It bombed at the Oscars, in spite of observers feeling that at least Boseman’s performance should have gotten him a Best Actor nomination.
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12 Years a Slave, a visceral depiction of a man tricked into slavery in the South and the abuses he faced there, was also prime Oscar Bait material. It won Best Picture in 2014 (although it lost many others to Gravity). This was seen as so inevitable that Ellen DeGeneres addressed this at the start of the ceremony:
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Big Hero 6, which won in 2015, heavily touches on death and revenge, two very common Oscar Bait themes... and it's still a superhero movie where one of the main characters is a huggable robot. It ended up the first Marvel-related movie to win any major non-technical category.
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In Tropic Thunder:
One of the fake trailers at the beginning of the movie shows Kirk Lazarus and Tobey Maguire playing Irish monks who fall in love with each other in a clearly Oscar-baity film, Satan’s Alley.
Action star Tugg Speedman reflects on the failure of his Oscar Bait film Simple Jack, in which he plays a mentally-challenged farmhand. It was a total Box Office Bomb and called one of the worst films of all time. Kirk Lazarus explains that it’s because people who won for playing Inspirationally Disadvantaged characters never went “full retard”:
Lazarus has a lot of experience with these, as he himself is a spoof of Oscar Bait actors. He's a five-time Oscar winner, and that's before Satan's Alley. He mentions having played Neil Armstrong, ticking the "based on a true story" box. His third Oscar was for a Chinese film called Land of Silk and Money, which he prepped for by working eight months in a textile factory. According to supplemental material, one of his five Oscars is for Best Actress, having apparently tackled a Cross-Cast Role, going Up to Eleven with the usual Oscar-worthy physical transformations. In the movie itself, he's attempting that again, having undergone "pigmentation alteration" surgery to play a black man, a move which has generated more in-universe controversy than Oscar buzz. He never breaks character, despite realizing very early on in the film that production is ruined. As the icing on the cake, Robert Downey Jr. actually received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Lazarus.
At the end of the film, the Oscar for Best Actor is presented. The stills of the nominees include Tom Hanks winning a race in a wheelchair and a blind Sean Penn learning braille.
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In Bowfinger, black action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) weighs in on the trope:
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Dreamgirls was designed to be Oscar Bait, and it got nominated for eight awards (including three for Movie Bonus Songs) — but failed to get nominations for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, or Director. On the big night, it was shut out in many of the categories it was nominated in. It’s often speculated that Eddie Murphy would have won for Best Supporting Actor, were it not for the poor timing of Norbit coming out two weeks before that year’s Oscars; the film was a major Creator Killer for him. Just as astonishingly, it didn’t win Best Original Song either (although having three nommed songs might have split the vote). In the end, the only Oscars Dreamgirls won were for Best Supporting Actress and Best Sound Mixing.
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Zootopia, another winner for Disney, is a hard-hitting look at racism and prejudice... that's also a buddy comedy set in a World of Funny Animals.
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War Horse, a 2001 film by Steven Spielberg, was widely accused of being Oscar Bait — even on the sole basis of its bombastic, overwrought trailer, which basically resulted in massive Hype Backlash.
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The French Connection, the 1970 Best Picture, is a gritty and suspenseful genre film with a nihilistic tone. But unlike most Oscar winners, it has a morally ambiguous protagonist and an ending where The Bad Guy Wins and most of the other villains receive a Karma Houdini. Some speculate that the Academy gave the win to a film this dark to distance itself from the saccharine musicals that won in The '60s.
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Invictus had Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela, trying to unite South Africa after The Apartheid Era with The Power of Rugby.
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The 2008 film Defiance is one of the most shameless Oscar grabs in recent memory. It’s Based on a True Story and follows a community of Belarussian Jews hiding in the forest from the Nazis. It has a brooding Anti-Hero (played by frequent winner Daniel Craig) who is forced into cruel, angsty moral dilemmas. It took a page from Schindler's List and ended with a Photo Montage of the real-life survivors and their descendants as a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. And it totally bombed at the Oscars, only getting music nominations.
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J. Edgar was a Biopic of famous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, as played by Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his many unsuccessful bids at an Oscar.
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Bugs Bunny has been known to occasionally shill for Oscars with overwrought “dramatic” performances:
In The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, Bugs pleads with Elmer Fudd to let him into his house, complaining in a very dramatic fashion about the cold. He suddenly perks up and says, “Hey, this scene oughta get me the Academy Award!” Then he finishes “dying”, complete with mournful violins.
In What's Cookin’, Doc?, he’s so enamored with his “acting” that he crashes the ceremony to demand his Best Actor award.
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Star Wars broke out of the Sci Fi Ghetto and got Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness), and Best Screenplay. It didn’t win any of them, but it showed that a hugely popular sci-fi film might catch the Academy’s attention. It opened the door for such films as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Avatar, Aliens, and District 9 to get nominations as well, and even non-sci-fi films in the same vein (like Raiders of the Lost Ark). That said, the fact that they didn’t win anything big suggests that there’s still a ghetto that has to be navigated with the Academy.
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Four years later, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse repeated the trick, having themes of loss and redemption, though its main achievement is its impressive artstyle. It earned Sony a well-deserved Oscar among many other accolades.
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CollegeHumor made a video on this topic titled 21 Steps to Making an Oscar Movie, including: high-contrast low-saturation lighting, suspenseful piano music, period clothing, disability, drug addiction, low camera angle, suicide, and a lot of other clichés.
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The Drew Carey Show parodies Emmy Bait with its fifth-season finale “A Very Special Drew”. It includes: a homeless woman giving birth; Kate dying of a terminal disease on her wedding day; Drew battling his heretofore unheard-of lifelong illiteracy; Mimi battling her also heretofore unheard-of obsessive-compulsive disorder; Lewis snapping at people and reflecting on why out lout to the audience; Oswald taking up theft to be closer to his imprisoned father; Drew and Lewis volunteering to get shot so that they’d have a good death scene; and Mr. Wick developing an eating disorder. And a Littlest Cancer Patient, who gets the emmy.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a sketch where Ryan Stiles has to report the weather as if it were a scene from an Oscar-winning film. He did so by ribbing host Drew Carey and referencing “A Very Special Drew”.
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From the Road to ... series:
At the end of Road to Morocco, Bob Hope's character has accidentally blown up the ship, leaving the main cast stranded on a raft. Hope chews up the scenery, acting as if they’ve been stranded there for weeks. Then the camera pans up to reveal the New York City skyline. Bing Crosby’s character tells him to calm down, to which Hope bitterly remarks that they’ve ruined his chance for an Academy Award.
In Road to Bali, Crosby finds the Oscar Humphrey Bogart won for The African Queen. Hope points out that Crosby already has an Oscar, snatches the trophy from him, and begins making an acceptance speech. (While Hope was never nominated for a competitive Oscar, he did win four Honorary Oscars and hosted the show a recorded fourteen times.)
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Serena is a bleak Period Piece set during The Great Depression, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (fresh from the success of Silver Linings Playbook) as a morally dubious timber tycoon and his increasingly unstable wife. It bombed critically and commercially and sat on the shelf for a year and a half.
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Shrek was a subversive, Toilet Humor-involving Fractured Fairy Tale released when most animated movies were Strictly Formula. It was warmly received by critics and not only did it win the inaugural Best Animated Feature Oscar, but it also managed to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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Spoofed in The Boondocks episode “The Color Ruckus”, where Uncle Ruckus tells his depressing life story to Robert, Huey, and Riley, who can’t help but listen because it’s so sad.
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The Imitation Game was a biopic about Alan Turing, famous World War II-era codebreaker and later computer scientist, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It had the one-two punch of Turing being a genius, Inspirationally Disadvantaged, and gay in an era when that was very bad. It got plenty of nominations, but only won one Oscar for Best Screenplay. Ultimately, people pinned this on Artistic License – History and the choice to exaggerate Turing’s mental problems and downplay his homosexuality.
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Mock the Week lampshaded the hell out of this tendancy.
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The film adaptation of Jersey Boys, itself a multiple Tony-winning musical, was a biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with an All-Star Cast.
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The Hurt Locker, other than being a Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie, had very little going for it on the Oscar front; it had a low budget, no big stars, no big studio to promote it, and not even a political message. It wound up winning Best Picture in 2010, in spite of having the lowest box office numbers of any Best Picture winner ever. One thing that did work in its favor was the narrative of Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first female director to win Best Director — over her ex-husband James Cameron. (But some suggest that this was why she wasn’t nominated for Zero Dark Thirty a few years later.)
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The West Wing episode “The Long Goodbye” was painfully obviously designed to score Allison Janney an Emmy nomination. It did so by omitting most of the regular cast to show her character battling her father’s Alzheimer’s disease. This was particularly strange because Janney won four Emmys on her own over the course of the series, so she didn’t need a weepy Emmy-bait episode.
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Game Theorist Matthew Patrick on his second channel Film Theory spends fifteen minutes discussing the formula yielding the highest statistical chance of winning an Oscar.
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In Wayne's World, Wayne gives a dramatic, teary-eyednote He didn't actually cry, he just splashed water in his face speech, while the words “Oscar Clip” are emblazoned over the shot. He even finished it off by claiming to be illiterate, which he then admitted wasn't true after "Oscar Clip" stopped flashing on the screen.
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The Iron Lady, a biopic of Margaret Thatcher, is clear Oscar Bait, and not just because Thatcher is played by Meryl Streep. It didn’t shy away from controversy, addressed Thatcher’s struggle with dementia, is technically a Period Piece, and its initial release was in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York on December 30, 2011 — barely meeting the requirements to be eligible for the next year’s Oscars. Observers joked that the Academy must have had a whole box of Oscars with Streep’s name on them and was looking for an excuse to give them to her.
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Annie Hall won Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. It was unusual in that it was a comedy (although one with a Bittersweet Ending. It beat out Julia (a biopic about sticking it to the Nazis) and Star Wars to Best Picture as well.
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The 1934 film It Happened One Night was a small, low-budget romantic comedy Road Movie, in an era when Oscar Bait meant elaborate musical and dancing showcases. It gained a cult following and swept the “Big Five” awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), and Best Screenplay. This has only been done twice more in all the years since: by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs in 1992.
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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of only three films to win all of the “Big Five” Oscars (Picture, Screenplay, Director, Actor, and Actress).note The other two, for those keeping score, are It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs Oddly, though, the acting awards were given to actors who played non-mentally ill characters.
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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has the Warren G. Harding biopic starring a wax sculpture thereof and Oscar-nominated actors.
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Black Swan is a horror movie, and the director never denied that. (The producers, on the other hand, marketed it as a “Psychological Thriller”). It also features a lesbian sex scene, just to get eyeballs on it. It still got five Oscar nominations and was regarded as one of the best films of the year.
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Forrest Gump won four of the “Big Five” (Actor, Director, Screenplay, and Picture) plus two more in 1994, and it centered around a mentally handicapped man. It’s considered a textbook example of how to win an Oscar because of its historical setting and social commentary.
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Argo was Very Loosely Based on a True Story of a group of American diplomats who escape the siege of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Ben Affleck plays a CIA agent who smuggles them out by having them pretend to be Canadians making a fake movie. It won three Oscars in 2013, including Best Picture.
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Million Dollar Baby is about a disadvantaged woman who makes a place for herself in a traditionally male-dominated occupation — boxing. It has Morgan Freeman as the Narrator and stars Eastwood himself as a character who faces an intense moral dilemma near the end. It won four Oscars in 2004, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Hilary Swank, and it was also a sleeper box office hit.
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Hamilton, which centers around the titular character during the Revolutionary War, and has the special honor of being one of the only shows with an entire cast made up of people of color. It won 11 Tonys, and had 16 nominations in total. Basically if you weren't Hamilton in the 2016 Tonys, there was no point in showing up.
Special note that both of these shows were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
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Selma is a 2014 biopic of Martin Luther King Jr., depicting Dr. King’s march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 in support of the Civil Rights Act. It was released in the fallout from 12 Years a Slave and tried to tick the same boxes. But the Academy didn’t take the bait; it won only Best Original Song, and it was nominated for but didn’t win Best Picture.
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The Help checks many boxes. It’s a Period Piece set in The '60s whose main character is a white female reporter who helps out black maids, and it’s also based on a best-selling novel.
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The Mask has a shootout sequence where the Mask, after dodging a ridiculous number of bullets, turns into a cowboy and allows himself to be shot — so that he can give several Final Speeches (all Shout Outs to award-winning movies) and die in another character’s arms. Then the audience cheers, and he gets up and tearfully accepts an award. Even the mobsters shooting him check their hair and straighten their suits as if they were on TV.
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Tiny Toon Adventures:
In "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow", when Buster pretends to suffocate in the cage Elmyra put him in, Hamton shows up to give him an award for "Best Death on Daytime Television".
In another episode, Meryl Streep receives an Oscar for "Best Ordering in a Restaurant". She puts it in a purse full of many other Oscars.
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John Mills won Best Supporting Actor in 1970 for playing a mentally deficient, mute, and crippled character in Ryan's Daughter, baffling his costar Sarah Miles.
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In Blazing Saddles, villain Hedley Lamarr announces to his gang of thugs near the climax:
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Black Panther, the eighteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a solo film about one of the most popular black superheroes. At first glance, it still feels like your typical superhero movie and the plot is about the hero inheriting the throne of his kingdom only to be challenged by an adversary who wants to lead a global revolution, which is not a common topic for an Oscar Bait. But Black Panther had an edge over the other solo superhero movies because the film touches on social and political issues that have significant cultural importance to the African and African-American community. It earned many accolades and became the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. And like Get Out, it was also released during the dump month of February.
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Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
From "A Very Special, Award-Winning Episode of Zorc & Pals".
In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time Abridged:
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Get Out is a horror movie about a black man in a white suburb and was released in February. It earned acclaim for not only its storyline, but its hidden social commentary, and was nominated for dozens of movie awards, winning quite a few, including the Best Screenplay Oscar, and in doing so became the first horror movie to win a Big Five Oscar since The Silence of the Lambs (see above).
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Gran Torino was a film about a bigot’s redemption, starring Eastwood himself. It didn’t get nominated for an Oscar, but it did win Eastwood a special Palme d’Or at Cannes.
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The Soup had a trailer for a fictional film called The Oscar Movie, with a voiceover discussing almost every Oscar Bait cliché using clips from that year’s actual Oscar nominees. These include: “women distraught, crying, and/or screaming,” comedians in serious roles, Meryl Streep (mentioned at least three times), and “Johnny Depp doing something weird.”
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Millennium Actress is a unique anime take on Oscar Bait. It's a weeper movie that opens with an old woman recalling her past through flashbacks, heavily features Been There, Shaped History-type period piece, and has a tragic ending. It failed to receive any nominations, even in Best Animated Feature, which had only three nominations that year (though it would have likely lost anyway to Finding Nemo).
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The Chaser's War on Everything sketch “Oscar Bait” spoofs many of the common elements of this trope. It’s a fake trailer for a film about a gay, disabled, artistic Jew who’s thrown in a concentration camp during World War II, trying to tick as many Oscar boxes at once. The lead actor even apparently killed himself after the film to invoke Dead Artists Are Better.
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The Great Ziegfeld, Best Picture winner of 1936, was three long hours of big Broadway musical and angsty melodrama. This lavish Biopic starred William Powell as the producer whose name, four years after his death (depicted in the film’s last scene), was the most legendary in show business.
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An interesting trend is to subvert the typical Oscar Bait film by creating a "quirky" independent film - some success stories in this field include American Beauty, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine. These films always feature “hip” dialogue, eccentric characters, and many a Snark Knight. The problem here is that such films rarely completely leave the Oscar Bait sphere; they're still often commentaries on the pointless emptiness of modern society and those who inhabit it, and they strive to appear edgy and radical without ever actually being edgy and radical. In recent years, however, independent films that subverts Oscar Bait trends are now more positive, realistic, and down-to-earth with less snark and emptiness, such as Lady Bird and The Florida Project.
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In Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, after parodying one of the dramatic scenes from Boyz n the Hood, the main character tells his girlfriend that he’s trying to win the Best Black Actor at the Soul Train awards.
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The Deer Hunter was a game-changer. After a disastrous preview screening, the studio brought in Allan Carr as a consultant. He didn't expect much but loved the movie once he saw it. Still, he knew that it was so grim and depressing that people would only watch it if they had heard that it had been nominated for Oscars. Before then, it was the other way around — films (usually) got Oscar nominations based on their popular reception. Carr turned the system on its head and gave the film only a short run of screenings in New York and Los Angeles near the end of 1978; the audience was mostly limited to film critics and Academy members. The former raved about the film, and the latter nominated it for multiple Oscars. Only then was it put into wide release to the general public.
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Green Zone is a Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie which tried to have an Anvilicious anti-war message but only really proved that Truffaut Was Right. It starred Matt Damon and was directed by Paul Greengrass, so it had the star power, too. But it got pushed back and was panned by critics when it was released.
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In the Heights centers around an inspirational Fourth of July where impoverished immigrants in Washington Heights win the lottery and struggle with issues of college debt, gentrification, and American identity. The characters angst over everything, including (but not limited to): boatloads of Unresolved Sexual Tension, the hypocrisy of The American Dream, the expenses of living in the heights, and the death of a beloved community member. Sprinkle in some modern, catchy infusions of hip-hop and salsa music, and you have a Tony-winning musical. It was nominated for thirteen categories, winning four (but none for writing).
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Honest Trailers mocked Anne Hathaway's role as Fantine in Les Misérables (2012) as this, crediting her as "I Really Really Really Wanted To Win An Oscar".
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "The Body" is a massive tearjerker episode where the cast deals with Joyce's death and seems to be pushing all the Emmy Bait buttons. It didn't get a nomination, but the No-Dialogue Episode "Hush" did.
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The Fast Show spoofs the trope with the film Cute Disabled Man, which wins an award for “Best Portrayal of a Disabled Person by a Fit and Healthy Young Actor Who Wants to Win an Oscar”.
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Family Guy gives us the self-explanatory title: emmy-winning episode. Peter and his family spend the 20 minutes trying to copy the clichés of the emmy-winning shows the in an attempt to for once get an emmy.
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Nerd To The Third Power host Dr. Gonzo swore up and down that Precious would win Best Picture (based on his belief that Oscar winners were always the most depressing movie on the docket), because “it's about an underprivileged black rape victim who gives birth to an incest baby with down syndrome. I haven't even seen the movie and I already want to kill myself! It has to win!" (It didn’t; The Hurt Locker did.)
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The Departed was gritty, violent, and serious, but it was also not a war movie, very profane (relative to most Oscar Bait), and otherwise didn’t touch on Oscar-baity subjects. And it won Best Picture. It was directed by Martin Scorsese, who had previously whiffed on the more baity The Aviator and Gangs of New York — although this led some observers to believe that its win was a “lifetime achievement” Oscar to make up for Scorsese not winning for previous line of work.
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American Sniper was a rather controversial Biopic which starred Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal noted for racking up a high kill count during the Iraq War.
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The Lord of the Rings is a strange case; although it is fantasy, it was also adapted from one of literature’s most important and ground-breaking fantasy works, and it was also a huge spectacle that changed the game in epic filmmaking. But what was truly unexpected was for Return of the King to sweep its Awards — perhaps its wins were meant to be for the trilogy as a whole (they were all filmed at the same time and released over three years), but that is still a phenomenal accomplishment for a fantasy film series.
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Beauty and the Beast, against all odds, found its way out of the Animation Age Ghetto and wound up being nominated for Best Picture in 1991. It didn’t win, but this in itself was an incredible feat (which Disney would futilely try to replicate). It is the only animated feature to ever get nominated from when the field was five movies (Toy Story 3 and Up got nods after the field was expanded to 8-10 movies).
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Pocahontas had begun pre-production and was planned to be a mostly historically accurate retelling of Pocahontas meeting John Smith - with Pocahontas actually being twelve as she was in real life, speaking Powhatan for the majority of the film and learning English the normal way. Jeffrey Katzenberg had the filmmakers turn it into a tale of Star-Crossed Lovers, muting all the talking animal characters to make the story more serious and tackling themes about xenophobia and racism. Critical reception was So Okay, It's Average and the only Oscars it got were for its music.
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The following is a list of statements referring to the current page from other pages.

 Oscar Bait
processingCategory2
Ghetto Index
 Pocahontas / Disney / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Film: A Mighty Heart
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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type
Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
 Chocolat / int_acedb8f5
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Oscar Bait
 Cinderella Man / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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type
Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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type
Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
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Oscar Bait
 Film: King of Devil's Island
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Man on the Moon / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Film: My Left Foot / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 My Week with Marilyn / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Rain Man / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Road to Morocco / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Film: Secretariat / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Seven Psychopaths / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 The Deer Hunter / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 The Great Ziegfeld / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Film: The Oscar / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 The Wrestler / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Titanic (1997) / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Walk the Line / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Wayne's World / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Film: Young At Heart
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Young@Heart / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Haiyore! Nyarko-san / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Literature: A Single Man / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Literature: Crazy Heart / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Literature: How I Became a Famous Novelist / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Mommie Dearest / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Literature: Ordinary People / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Literature: The Hours / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Literature: The Reader / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 A Single Man / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Anime Theme Song
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list. Anti-Sue
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Ben Hur / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Bile Fascination
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 make a to do send a pm add to watchlist drop watch go to watchlist Bio Pic
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Boston Legal / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Bright Star / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Cinderella Man
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Cinderella Man / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Crazy Heart / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Erin Brockovich / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Hawking / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 How I Became A Famous Novelist / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Hulks Law make a to do send a pm add to watchlist drop watch go to watchlist your profile
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Contributor's Page make a to do send a pm add to watchlist drop watch go to watchlist Lanthorn
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Meryl Streep
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Mr. Show / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Period Piece
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 make a to do send a pm add to watchlist drop watch go to watchlist White Man's Burden
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 make a to do send a pm add to watchlist drop watch go to watchlist Wayne's World / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Rachel Getting Married
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Rachel Getting Married / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Revolutionary Road / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Seven Pounds / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Summer Blockbuster
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 The Best Years of Our Lives / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 The Future 2011 Movie
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 The Green Mile / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 The Pianist / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 The Soloist / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 There Will Be Blood / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Walk the Line / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Baywatch / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Made in Canada / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Married... with Children / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Power Rangers Time Force / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 The Chaser's War on Everything / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 The Colbert Report / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 The Comeback / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Theatre) / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Theatre: 9 / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Sunday in the Park with George (Theatre) / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever (Web Video) / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Web Video: Endless Saturdays / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 History of Power Rangers (Web Video) / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Midnight Screenings (Web Video) / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Webcomic: Angband - Tales from the Pit / int_eef82a92
type
Oscar Bait
 Batman Beyond / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Western Animation: Finding Nemo
seeAlso
Oscar Bait
 Over the Garden Wall / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 The Boondocks / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Toy Story 3 / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 Om Shanti Om / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait
 In & Out / int_acedb8f5
type
Oscar Bait