Hunting for an Oscar: Will Smith, Collateral Beauty And The Siren’s Call of an Academy Award


There are two big stories that are relevant this week. Star Wars: Rogue One is the more fun one, as it’s the first time we see a big budget Star Wars film that is canon, live action and not an “Episode” of the series. Seeing what Gareth Edwards can do with essentially merging Star Wars with a proper war film is fascinating but not that fascinating.

Will Smith’s seemingly bi-annual “GIVE ME AN OSCAR” bait, this year in the form of Collateral Beauty, is the thing to look at, I think. Mainly because actors looking for that final form of validation (for lack of a better word) to their career is always eminently fascinating to discuss.

Edwards is essentially crafting his own Von Ryan’s Express onto the framework of Star Wars; it’s like taking a Chevrolet Camaro and making it into a monster truck. Even if it ultimately doesn’t work the sheer balls of tackling something like this is worth watching. It’s going to make an ungodly amount of money, mainly because there aren’t many quality films coming out now coupled with the film being a proper blockbuster in a year where they’ve been in short supply. What’s in big supply this winter?

Oscar Bait!

Will Smith, one of the handful of genuine movie stars still standing since 1996, is after his very own Oscar. The question I always have, though, has been “Is it really worth it?” It’s understandable why so many high-profile actors go for Oscars so hard at points in their career. Jim Carrey ended his reign as the biggest drawing comic actor of his era with a handful of choices that were blatantly Oscar bait. Bill Murray transitioned from aging comic actor to dramatic leading man, landing himself in Oscar conversations on a regular basis ever since. Mark Wahlberg’s career took a different direction when every principle cast member of The Fighter (the passion project he spent five years of his life prepping for) was Oscar nominated but him.

It’s like they lined up everyone who worked on that film and said “Step forward if you’re Oscar nominated” and only Marky Mark stood still. You kind of half to feel bad for him that way; the film’s star, the one who willed the film into existence, was snubbed while the rest of the main cast all earned the spoils of a successful film. All he has left is to pursue the Ward/Gatti trilogy, something The Fighter never even covered and a promised sequel was supposed to look at (but never did). If anything those 30 rounds of hell will wind up on the ESPN 30 for 30, leaving Wahlberg’s “Give me an Oscar film” as notable for other actors giving key performances in.

Deadshot Arkham Origins

The Oscar is the ultimate measure of success as an actor, it seems, and winning one sets your ultimate legacy on a different path. Look at Smith’s legacy right now. It’s kind of crazy to think of everything he’s done and how profoundly, wildly successful he’s been at nearly everything. No modern entertainer has reached the heights he has as a musician and actor.

He’s arguably the biggest actor of his generation, a movie star in an era where movie stars are a thing of the past. Smith dominated summer box offices like no one else; even his misfires were unconscionably large box office successes. If he walked away from cinema right now his ultimate legacy is that of a genuine movie star who was able to bring in audiences because he had the sort of charisma and presence you can’t teach. Throw in a substantial music career, and a massively popular television show, and “The Fresh Prince” is a first ballot Hall of Fame type talent in the mythical “Film Hall of Fame.”

What would be the best way to put that final feather of his cap? An Oscar. It’s an award in art, which is more subjective than objective, which it makes it all the more interesting to see him (and others) pursue so hard.

Smith has done everything you could ever want as an actor, it seems, from the outside looking in. He’s one of the biggest box office grossing actors ever. He’s opened films without needing a gimmick like a superhero to well over $100 million when that was much more difficult. Smith even played a superhero for kicks, headlining one of the year’s biggest films in Suicide Squad. But you don’t take a film like Collateral Beauty because it’s going be something that earns you $100 million when all is said and done.

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Scott Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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