Jun 1, 2015
Earlier this year, Eddie Redmayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. At the time, my roommate passionately decried the Academy's decision to reward Mr. Redmayne the Best Actor award, calling the whole affair yet another example of the Academy's collective shortsightedness in awarding Oscar bait. Oscar bait, otherwise known as the pejorative term denouncing a film that appears to have been carefully calibrated with the sole intention of winning awards, particularly that golden Art Deco statuette awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To put it simply, critics of Oscar bait denounce films of that bent as products of pure naked pandering as opposed to true originality or creativity.
As a pretentious snob, I am practically contractually obliged to hate Oscar bait and their ilk. Therein lies the evils that gave rise to mediocrities such as Crash (ugh!!) and Shakespeare in Love (double ugh!!), both of which happen to be Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards in their respective years. And yet, and yet--there are some examples of Oscar baiting films/performances that I loved, or at the very least was impressed by. Charlize Theron was astonishing in Monster, for instance, and I found Schindler's List incredibly affecting (its sequels Schindler's Fist and Schindler's Pissed less so, however). Is Oscar bait inherently bad? Can pandering rise up above its desperation?
All this talk about Oscar bait (yeah, this is an old post) reminds me of one figure skating program this season that has been repeatedly been fingered as a program that has been specially conceived and choreographed to win titles this season, especially the World title: Weaver/Poje's Four Seasons. On its face, it really does seem like Weaver/Poje's Four Seasons has been calibrated to strike directly at the hearts of figure skating judges with its classical warhorse of a musical choice, relatively conventional choreography, among other factors.
I do not fully deny these barbed criticisms. But I also do not deny that I loved Weaver/Poje's Four Seasons, that I found the program technically complex and intricate yet beautifully choreographed to the music, (usually) skated with appropriate emotion and expression in a heartfelt way, a program with shade and light and real substance. And that ending--oh, that ending. People may legitimately prefer Ms. Weaver shaking her fists with the single dress strap falling down her shoulder in Je Suis Malade, and decry Four Seasons as judge bait. Admittedly, I do think that Four Seasons definitely was designed to be a bid for the 2015 World title. But I do not blame skaters or their teams for trying to appeal to those who hold so much sway over their destinies and earning potentials, especially when infamous instances of judges failing to appreciate masterpieces such as Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze's City Lights so easily pop into one's mind. This isn't a Weinstein-like situation here, after all.
Also, Eddie Redmayne's acting was great in The Theory of Everything! Though the less said about the actual movie itself, the better . . .