The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Mamamia.
I love movies. Movies of all kinds. Whether it’s a historical biopic about an unsung war hero, a speculative sci-fi posing questions about humanity or a guilty-pleasure rom-com inducing why-do-I-do-this-to-myself eye-rolls, a good movie can transport you through every emotion. Or, just allow you to escape for a few hours after a particularly rubbish day at work.
Being an avid movie-watcher, in the years since my progression from American Pie to American Beauty, the last few weeks of February have been characterised by a cramming reminiscent of my undergrad days. Yep, right before the cinematic day-of-days, I watch every single flick nominated for Best Picture at The Oscars.
Until now. Well, yesterday. It hit me in the cinema, while I was silently counting down the moments until blissful freedom would signify an end to the vacuous slog that was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Once conscious of the thought, a few questions came to mind. Why am I not enjoying this? Is it a lack of intelligence or cultural comprehension on my part? Am I the only one in here wishing I’d spent my money on Jumangi: Welcome to the Jungle, instead?
On my dejected walk from Hoyts to the food court for a remedial caramel sundae, I started milling over the reasons for my disappointment. Flat characters, disjointed storyline and unresolved plot points aside, the overarching symptom of my disdain was my unrelenting boredom. That’s when I realised it wasn’t an isolated incident.
Despite being a history geek, I found Darkest Hour overdrawn and tedious. I kept willing Sirius Black to just hurry up and defy the War Cabinet so I could get back to watching Black Mirror.
The Shape of Water was a similar story, with its only saving grace being Octavia Spencer who had about ten minutes of screen time.
Listen to: BTS with Margot Robbie in Australia for I, Tonya. (Post continues after audio.)
Ladybird seemed like a teen soap opera with indie cinematography. Seriously, if I’d known the chronicles of my high school days could result in an Oscar nomination… I’d have still not have done anything because it’s not interesting. All of these movies bored me, and I was clearly an ignorant plebeian.
Except maybe I wasn’t. And it appears I’m not alone. ‘Oscar Bait’ is a phrase that’s been in the pop culture lexicon since the 1940s, and refers to films that are deliberately downplayed and gloomy in an effort to appear profound and stir up Oscar votes.
Samuel L Jackson, aka everyone’s favourite on-screen badass, has expressed similar sentiments to me about these ‘Oscar Bait’ movies, saying that moviegoers would generally rather ‘escape in that big dark room’ and films such as last year’s critically-lauded Manchester by the Sea are ‘not inclusive’.
It appears that academia has also come to my defence, with a 2016 study by Poetics finding a correlation between individuals with above-average intelligence and the enjoyment of ‘bad’ movies. One of the academics involved in the study, Keyan Sarkosh, claims that low-brow movies “appear as an interesting and welcome deviation from the mainstream fare”.
I knew my unabashed enjoyment of The Room was a character strength.
So maybe I’m not culturally inept. Maybe they’re just bad movies, or movies that aren’t for me. But instead of forcing myself to enjoy them for some misplaced notion of cultural prestige, I’ll just stick to topics that interest me, narrative structures I can connect with and stories I can become immersed in.
If you did enjoy this year’s Oscar-nominated films, the more power to you. Movie enjoyment, like hobbies, romantic partners and sundae preferences is completely subjective and down to the individual.
Your money was well-spent, whereas I’m going to have to compensate for my lousy spending decisions by daydreaming about Netflix another day at the office.
What has been your perception of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies? Let us know in the comments below.