Nine – 2009
Ah, such hope for this one. Director Rob Marshall had been nominated for the Best Director Oscar seven years earlier with the musical Chicago, and after a less successful dramatic turn with Memoirs of a Geisha, he was returning to the song-and-dance world with six Academy Award-winning actors in tow, including the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis. With that kind of pedigree, everyone assumed Nine would be one of the major players in the coming awards race. Then the reviews came in. Critical reception to Marshall’s 8 ½ twist was poor with the film only nabbing a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie did go on to earn four Oscar nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress nod for Penelope Cruz, but it was wholly absent in the rest of the major categories. Considering everything the film had going for it—including a Hollywood-centric plot—Nine was quite the disappointment.
The Lovely Bones – 2009
While director Peter Jackson’s first follow-up to his Oscar sweep with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the commercial-friendly King Kong, it appeared that he was headed into more dramatic territory with his next film The Lovely Bones. With beloved source material and a natural blending of his fantastical and character-driven sensibilities in tow, hopes were very high for this one, but unfortunately the resulting film was somewhat lacking. Though undoubtedly ambitious, not everyone was onboard with how Jackson went about mixing the world of the afterlife with the world of the living, with some calling the effort too sentimental. The picture nabbed just one Oscar nomination—Best Supporting Actor for Stanley Tucci—and pulled in a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Failing to cross the $100 million mark despite its effects-heavy visuals, audiences also didn’t take to Jackson’s adaptation.
The Soloist – 2009
Director Joe Wright’s 2007 film Atonement was a big hit with Oscar voters, earning seven nominations including Best Picture. For his follow-up project, Wright moved out of his period piece comfort zone and tackled an Oscar bait-ish drama that ticked off a number of Academy favorite categories: based on a true story, lead character with mental health issues, uplifting ending. Even with Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and the newly hot Robert Downey Jr. in the leads, The Soloist was a bit of a mixed bag and not at all the awards contender many had pegged it to be. Though the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 56% isn’t a total failure, it didn’t catch on with audiences at the box office and nabbed zero Oscar nods. Perhaps the April release date should have been a giveaway.
Amelia – 2009
After winning her second Best Actress Academy Award for her work in Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank had failed to find the same success in her follow-up projects. The Academy loves a good biopic though, and with Amelia Swank looked to be in line to possibly recapture the awards attention. Unfortunately, not even director Mira Nair or co-star Richard Gere could help make the film exciting, and Amelia was dubbed an instant dud when critics first got a look. With a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and a mere $19.6 million at the box office, Amelia is one of the bigger Oscar flops in recent memory.
What about you, dear readers? Were there any other films over the years that seemed to you like surefire Oscar contenders that failed to land any significant awards praise? Sound off in the comments below.