5. American Pastoral
Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut definitely has good intentions, but the general consensus is that it failed to live up to the source material. It’s hard to blame him though. Philip Roth’s novel is an incredibly complex piece of work that at times seems unadaptable. It turns out, if McGregor’s film is any indicator, that very well could be the truth.
Critics were mostly hard on American Pastoral because they believed McGregor failed to capture the emotional depth of the book.. Philip Roth’s novel is a harrowing, multilayered piece of work with an incredibly complex tone. This is what made the adaptation such an appealing Oscar contender. McGregor clearly knew this, but he wasn’t aware of how to replicate it.
Critics noted that McGregor’s work behind the camera was amateurish as a result of this being his first feature. The stale imagery combined with his inability to handle the actors made American Pastoral fall short.
Still, his passion is evident. He clearly has potential to grow as a director, but his first feature isn’t an instant slam dunk like many hoped. At the end of the day, American Pastoral is an ambitious failure, for better or worse.
4. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Before reviews started popping up, pundits had Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk pegged as a Best Picture frontrunner, and it makes perfect sense. Ang Lee’s movies have been nominated for a combined 38 Oscars. His last movie, Life of Pi, managed to take home four trophies back in 2012. An Ang Lee war drama with an all star cast seemed like a shoo-in for Academy dominance, but when the movie was released it was ultimately panned.
Most of the criticisms were aimed at the mediocre script from a first time screenwriter as well as the the experimental framerate, which proved to be a distraction. The cast, particularly Kristen Stewart and Steve Martin, still managed to earn recognition, but there’s too much working against the movie for either of them to earn any award attention. The disastrous box office numbers and competitive acting categories ensure that Billy Lynn will most likely fail to earn a single nomination.
It’s a shame because out of every film on this list, this one feels like the biggest disappointment. It’s certainly not the worst movie on the list, but it’s the movie that most obviously failed to live up to its potential. Ang Lee will certainly recover, but that doesn’t make Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk any less of a bummer.
3. The Sea of Trees
The Sea of Trees is an interesting concept that seems unique enough to pique voters’ interests but safe enough to keep them from avoiding the movie outright. With Matthew McConaughey as the lead and Gus Van Sant as the director, this could have been an awards season slam dunk. The Sea of Trees is more than just a movie that doesn’t quite live up to Oscar standards. It’s honestly one of the worst releases of 2016.
The film is overly sappy mush that exists solely to collect tears in a bucket. The cast and crew seemed to forget that in order to get an emotional response, the movie needs to engage the audience. The film’s cardinal sin is that it’s painfully dull. The script is a collective series of clichés that all build up to nothing, McConaughey looks like he’s fighting to stay awake, and the twists are laughably implausible.
The film bombed financially and critically. It was met with boos at its premiere and it made less than a million off its $25 million budget. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be too terribly difficult to see why it’s not threatening movies like La La Land.
2. Mr. Church
Mr. Church was supposed to be Eddie Murphy’s big comeback. Murphy’s first dramatic role in a decade looked like the type of movie that would inevitably earn all sorts of critical acclaim. The heartwarming premise and possibility of a comeback could have worked in the film’s favor if it were any good. Unfortunately, Mr. Church was heavily panned.
The good news is that Eddie Murphy does a decent enough job in Mr. Church. He once again shows that he’s more than capable of delivering an emotional performance in a dramatic role. The bad news is that the movie itself is a dud. The eye-roll inducing melodrama is jam packed with clichés that critics weren’t particularly happy with.
With a middling 15% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Mr. Church is a downright failure in terms of being an awards contender. Eddie Murphy may have done a good job, but the quality of the movie itself will surely prevent him from earning any recognition when the Oscars roll around. This may have look like an Oscar movie, but it’s missing the key ingredient – quality.
1. Collateral Beauty
After failing to earn an Oscar nomination last year for Concussion, people were up in arms. Despite earning mixed reviews, Will Smith earned continuous praise for his work in the sports biopic.
The next shot at impressing Oscar voters would be with the film Collateral Beauty. Directed by David Frankel and featuring an ensemble cast including Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren, this movie seemed factory made to appeal to Oscar voters.
It’s hard to fault an Oscar bait movie when it turns out to be legitimately good, but Collateral Beauty is sadly not a good movie. It has the makings of an Oscar winner, but it’s ultimately too shallow and empty-headed to be the emotional thinkpiece it strives to be. It’s manipulative in all the wrong ways, which leads to unintentional comedy rather than compelling drama.
Collateral Beauty is more than just failed Oscar bait. In reality, it’s just a failed movie. Even with the enormous cast of A-listers, there’s nothing worth praising. Everyone involved is capable of doing better than this. They inevitably will do better than this, so it’s best to just forget about this shoddy attempt at filmmaking and move on.
Author Bio: Justin is a paraprofessional teaching assistant and full-time film enthusiast with a degree in English. When he’s not writing about films, he’s probably watching them in his spare time.