It happens every year around this time. As December 31st approaches and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences begin thinking about what they will nominate, we get more of what has come to be known as Oscar bait – those movies specifically designed to elicit a generosity of the awards-giving spirit. Not all of the Academy Award-winners will be Oscar bait, but a fair number of the nominees will fall into the category. These are pictures that feature characters or stories calculated in such a way to unfairly manipulate the viewer, so if you’re the type who avoids such tom-foolery, you have to be on your toes in the late fall/early winter. The Imitation Game should trip a lot of your sensors – high-profile portrayal of a tortured genius, war film, distributed by The Weinstein Company – but is it really just bait? Or does the film earn its gravitas?
The deck was stacked against Begin Again from the very beginning. As I sat down in my seat at the Arclight in Hollywood, my pen broke. Truly frustrating, especially for an habitual note-taker like myself. I mean sure, nothing broke that was essential to the pen’s designed purpose – I can still write with it – but come on. Then Don comes up to do his spiel. Don. Hah! Don is a joke, and he knows it. Acts like he owns the place. So I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not in the mood for a light-hearted music movie. Surprisingly, the latest film from John Carney (Once) went a long way toward cheering me up.