6. J. Edgar
“J. Edgar” was Leonardo DiCaprio’s desperate attempt to get ahold of the much awaited Best Actor trophy, but a great performance deserves an equally compelling script to shine, and the film’s screenplay was anything but. J. Edgar Hoover was the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a national hero, so his role offered DiCaprio enough scope for performance.
This aggressive lawyer first implemented fingerprinting, blood-typing in investigative procedures, and was also a covert homosexual. Veteran filmmaker Clint Eastwood couldn’t manage the overarching, eventful life of Hoover and the resulting drama is naturally insipid in attracting viewers. DiCaprio gave a tremendous performance as Hoover, but the plot presentation was so random that the viewer could never buy the story.
Like some other filmmakers on the list, it was difficult for Eastwood to choose between the fascinating private life of Hoover and the equally tempting story of the bureau surrounding him, and Eastwood never rises over this indecision. Apart from the struggling narrative, the dialogue was very average and a rare thing in cinema; the lighting of the film was also inconsistent as sometimes the viewer might wonder why more time had not been contributed to the color correction.
A film from Eastwood is a national award for some viewers, but here he disappoints everyone: the patriot, the fan, the apprehensive. The life story of an egoistic, verbal national hero and one of the greatest actors of cinema in the titular role is natural Oscar bait, but the humdrum drama singlehandedly sinks the picture in oblivion.
7. Collateral Beauty
In the hand of a European auteur, “Collateral Beauty” could have been a profound film where fiction and reality get blurred, but the almost absurd story wouldn’t suit anyone of less stature. The premise of “Collateral Beauty” is endlessly sugarcoated to assure a tear-jerking experience, but is equally illogical to believe at the same time.
Will Smith tries to bring back his “The Pursuit of Happyness” success with the story of grieving father Howard Inlet, who is struggling to cope with life after the sad demise of his six-year-old daughter’s death. At this stage of life, a man needs the support of his family and friends, which is absent from his life and the withdrawn man instead meets a personified time, death, and love, which is real as well as fictitious.
“Collateral Beauty” is a film of contradictions where the filmmaker’s bravest strategy was to mislead audiences with false information, but not to withhold information, which a decent filmmaker would likely do. Inlet’s friends were unreasonably cruel; his wife is behaving more strangely with him and the embodiment of love in his life is intermingled with the former duos. “Collateral Beauty” needs major imagination to think that such a crazy, lazy concept of cinema that depends upon its all-over-the-place sentimentality will sell to the Academy.
8. American Pastoral
Philip Roth’s popular novel “American Pastoral” was adapted by Ewan McGregor in his directorial debut of the same name. Roth’s novel was immensely difficult to conceive in film form and expectedly, the poetic lyricalness of the literature is lost in the final cut. The allegory of the American Dream and its shattering is cringingly explained by an end narration. McGregor took an impossible job and the irony of the novel is never established in the film.
The film also fails to hold the interest of the viewer with its lurid pace, and the direction is flat. It is easy to declare the film adaptation of a masterpiece novel in the hope of an Oscar, but is even more difficult to do justice to it. Phillip Noyce’s screenplay is equally despicable; he is equal to blame for the film’s failure.
9. The Front Runner
Just like the sudden sinking of Gary Hart’s political career, “The Front Runner” failed because of its gamble with the story. An infinitely ambitious presidential candidate and one of the most charming candidates in the history of presidential elections, Gary Hart’s overt smartness as he openly challenges the press to uncover any scandal in his life cost him heavily.
The story of the campaign was interesting enough to be told, but even with Hugh Jackman’s assured acting, the film only succeeds in covering what’s on the surface. The wreckage of Hart’s career was well known; what builds interest is the different viewpoint and analysis. Jason Reitman only dramatizes the already known story but doesn’t offer any new insights into Hart’s life. It borrows from the style of “The Newsroom” but doesn’t make up its mind about the true subject of the film. With the very average, run-of-the-mill production of the relationship between press versus man, “The Front Runner” missed its Oscar hopes.
10. The Mountain Between Us
“The Mountain Between Us” had everything: an internationally renowned director, two popular and strong actors, and the wide, vast landscape of High Uintas. With a premise of “The Grey” meets “Before Sunrise,” “The Mountain Between Us” falters for its lower than average treatment of the survival story and the unavailable chemistry between the two lead actors.
A better story could suit these two strong performers, but here Abu-Assad humiliatingly struggled to balance the story of survival and romance. The first act was promising, but then it slowly becomes repetitive and proves to be a random, mediocre Hollywood product.