The year 2017 is over, and we’ve experienced arguably the best year for superhero movies. From the emotional roller coaster in LOGAN to the cultural moment that surrounded WONDER WOMAN. There was a superhero movie for everyone. However, all of that build up and release for each blockbuster is exhausting. Superhero fatigue has set in for most of us and what better way to take a rest from the genre than to indulge in Oscar Bait.

Sure Oscar bait movies are made for critics, but a lot them are pretty damn entertaining. They can unapologetically tackle social issues, give a voice to marginalized people, or expose us to something out of our comfort zone. Any way you slice it, these films offer a well-needed break from the fatigue we get from watching our favorite heroes on screen over and over again.

Yes, Superhero Fatigue is Real

Once upon a time, when a movie starring one of our favorite superheroes was set to debut the hype was real. No matter how good or bad the film actually was, the excitement over its release had fans buzzing leading up to the premiere. Personally, I remember being very excited for FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF SILVER SURFER, until after I saw it. I digress, 2007 produced only four superhero movies, and they felt like a rarity among Hollywood blockbusters.

The fatigued Avengers in AVENGERS Oscar Bait
The fatigued Avengers in AVENGERS

Fast forward ten years to 2017 and superhero movies are no longer a rarity. There were ten films this year if you count THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, and some of them were Oscar bait themselves. Hollywood’s made so many superhero movies that they’ve become a genre of their own and the new blockbuster for Hollywood. The sheer number of superhero movies planned for the future are saturating Hollywood, and there lies a problem.

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The saturation of superhero movies is beginning to wear on casual moviegoers and even some comic book fans. Nowadays studios create their own cinematic universe with each character starring in two or three films or sequels, and it’s a lot to keep up with. Sometimes fans just want to go to the movies and see a one-off. They don’t want to watch five movies just to be able to follow the story of a new release. Keeping up with multiple films in a franchise is tedious, and audiences need a break from it all. Luckily, Oscar season is here, and its specialty is offering viewers a number of satisfying, prequel-free films.

Not All Oscar Bait Movies Are The Same

Traditionally the stigma behind Oscar bait movies is that they are artistically niche, depressing, or made just for the critics. Recent Oscar nominees and winners such as MOONLIGHT, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, and LA LA LAND fit into these categories. So while many of the movies surrounded by the buzz of critical acclaim are snooze fest, don’t count them all out. Take a chance this Oscar bait season because not all Oscar movies are the same.

Mahershala Ali in MOONLIGHT Oscar bait
Mahershala Ali in MOONLIGHT

It’s no secret that Oscar nominations and wins are lobbied much like our politician’s votes. The awards are rigged exactly the way Adam from ADAM RUINS EVERYTHING says it is. Studios and production companies lobby Academy Award voters so that if their film receives a nomination, it can earn a wider release, longer stays in theaters, and more money. So technically there is no standard formula for what makes an Oscar bait movie good or not. But not all movies bound for Oscar gold are the same; a lot of them are actually entertaining.

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Believe it or not, Oscar movies do have a broad appeal for a wide audience. Take TOY STORY 3 for example, it has broad appeal, it’s fun to watch, and it’s an Oscar-worthy film. What made TOYS STORY 3 Oscar-worthy was its use of honest emotion and mature themes. At its core, the film deals with moving on, and death. By forcing us to love its characters, the film makes us imagine a scenario where they would cease to exist. TOY STORY 3 is as funny as it is emotionally moving.  So yes, comic book fans and casual moviegoers alike can get in on the Oscar fun in the upcoming months. It’s okay, they can be entertaining and emotionally mature too.

Some Movies You Might Have Missed

Edgar Wright’s BABY DRIVER blends a smooth playlist, high stakes, and well-choreographed set pieces in this fast-paced action movie. BABY DRIVER was one of those movies you really shouldn’t have missed its entertainment value is its selling point. Not to mention the performances by Jon Hamm and Ansel Elgort provide the film with great character work and storytelling. Other impressive action movies that came out this year like LOGAN LUCKY, ATOMIC BLONDE, and JOHN WICK 2 share some of the same filmmaking qualities as BABY DRIVER and some praise too.

Sci-fi movies also had a big year in 2017. BLADE RUNNER 2049 gave us some nostalgia feels along with its visually stunning cinematography. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES capped off a brilliant trilogy with both box office success and critical acclaim. However, OKJA deserves the highest praise for its vivid imagination and subtle use of social issues. OKJA doesn’t have the luxury of being nostalgic, but it still deserves the same notoriety as BLADE RUNNER 2049.

Daniel Kaluuya in GET OUT Oscar Bait
Daniel Kaluuya in GET OUT

One of the best movies in 2017 was Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, GET OUT. Like the other supernatural horror films in 2017, SPLIT and IT (2017), GET OUT was a cultural phenomenon that no critic saw coming. It had elements of American race relations, horror, well executed dark comedy, and brilliant use of symbolic imagery. GET OUT is one of those movies that you’ll hope gets an Oscar nomination and you’ll be furious if it doesn’t. It generates memes on the internet, nuanced conversations, and you take away something different each time you watch it. At the end of this year GET OUT is still one of the most talked about films of 2017.

Take The Oscar Bait With These Movies

Though a year of Superhero movie saturation in Hollywood has left fans fatigued, this year’s Oscar season has come ready with an antidote. Here are some Oscar bait movies that can give you a quick fix before superhero flicks return in 2018.

I, TONYA

I, TONYA is not your typical biopic about an inspirational person overcoming the odds to achieve success. It’s a film that looks at infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, in a WOLF OF WALL STREET sort of way. Like most infamous biopics, I, TONYA follows the rise and fall of Tonya Harding in the world of figure skating.

This film is great for two reasons; it’s character driven, and Margot Robbie is the star. Margot Robbie is remarkable in this film, her charisma really bring Harding’s larger than life personality to screen. I, TONYA is definitely worth your time, and it’s one of those Oscar-worthy performances you don’t want to miss.

THE DISASTER ARTIST

James Franco’s THE DISASTER ARTIST has cult obsession written all over it. It is a movie about the worst movie ever made, THE ROOM made by filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. THE ROOM is so bad the only reason people have heard about it, is because of how bad it is. Any theatrical success THE ROOM had is due to the fact that the film was sold on being awful.

THE DISASTER ARTIST is as funny as it is genuinely charming and James Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau is right on the money. Whether or not THE DISASTER ARTIST will get any award nominations is unknown, but expect James Franco to rack up some actor nominations because his performance was that good.

MOLLY’S GAME

By any chance did you ever watch THE NEWSROOM? How about THE WEST WING? Maybe you’ve seen STEVE JOBS, MONEYBALL, or THE SOCIAL NETWORK? Even if you’ve only heard of these works of art, you heard of them because of their excellent dialogue, storytelling, and character work. Also, because Aaron Sorkin is the magnificent writer behind all of them, and MOLLY’S GAME is no different.

MOLLY’S GAME stars Jessica Chastain in a role made for her acting style and talent. The film covers the true story about a former professional skier who was a part of the world of gambling. Chastain plays Molly Bloom, a woman entrenched in the financial dealings of athletes, business tycoons, celebrities, and the mob. MOLLY’s GAME is generating a lot of buzz with its Golden Globe nominations and because of Jessica Chastain’s performance and Aaron Sorkin’s writing. This film is definitely one you can have fun watching.

THE POST

THE POST could not be a more timely film. It’s the one movie this year that’s painstakingly reflective of an American President versus the media. Like the time the Pentagon Papers were released, we have a President opposed to the truth. THE POST is more about The Washington Post’s fight to get the truth out than it is about the corruption of the Nixon Administration.

The film spends its first half setting up the newsroom of the 1970’s. Once you get past the exposition of how journalists used to gather their information pre-internet, the real story takes off with its high stakes and character work. As usual, Meryl Streep lives up to her Oscar-worthy status and channels Kat Graham’s battle against powers greater than her own. THE POST is a lot like ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, but with acting performances from an all-star cast.

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Guillermo del Toro finally makes his mark on Tinsel Town with his masterpiece THE SHAPE OF WATER. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins. Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece blends Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Drama into a movie about being unfulfilled and tells a well-crafted story.

THE SHAPE OF WATER separates itself from that genre of monster movies and avoids the cliches of focusing solely on a mythical creature. The film shines with beautiful cinematography that is effortless to look at on screen and is its trademark. You’re not going to get a creature feature with THE SHAPE OF WATER, but the film is stunningly beautiful, character-driven, and fairly nuanced about human desires.

Here Are Some Honorable Mentions!

There are dozens of movies that don’t get their dues; I’m certain because a lot of them aren’t even mentioned in this article. MUDBOUND is an example of one of those movies, and this is partly because of its release on Netflix instead of in theaters. Also, films like THE BIG SICK, LADY BIRD, and DUNKIRK should also receive more praise for their artistry.

THE BIG SICK is a phenomenal film that is already getting overlooked this award season. Everything about it was great, from the drama to its cross-cultural themes, which contributed to its great storytelling and character development. The same goes for LADY BIRD, it’s a similar heartfelt comedy, but it’s a coming of age film. LADY BIRD stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf who give genuine performances that are so effortless it feels like you’re watching a documentary.

Kenneth Branagh in DUNKIRK Oscar Bait
Kenneth Branagh in DUNKIRK

And then there’s DUNKIRK. DUNKIRK is a war story whose action sequences and cinematography are amazing storytelling devices. Christopher Nolan underuses an all-star cast to tell a story about the spoils of war and perseverance instead of one character. Moviegoers watching this film experience an unforgettable sense of being immersed in a war.

While it might be difficult to not see the Oscars and numerous other award shows as pretentious (because they are), it does not mean films awarded, or nominated, reflect that same level of pretentiousness. You can and should enjoy every bit of the Oscar bait this award season without feeling like a snob. Feel free to be entertained by every bit of Oscar bait as you would by superhero movies, it’s fun without all of the draining energy from the hype machine.

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