Autumn to Winter is known as Oscar season - when studios release what they hope to be their best and brightest films to take home the gold statue come the following year. January and February are usually the months studios dump the trash they either didn't know how to market or knew would flop anyway. But October to Christmas? It's time to pander to the crowd.
There's plenty of controversy around Best Picture wins - most notably Ordinary People beating out Raging Bull, something cinephiles still can't seem to reconcile. But there are other movies, such as last year's Green Book, that were clearly out there to pick up a statue.
Green Book is probably one of the more in recent years - an indulgent magical African American stereotype featuring the usually talented Viggo Mortensen with a Vinny Boombatz accent designed to make white people feel good.
Sometimes, however, gambles like Green Book just don't pay off. Epics, historical dramas, big-budget, well cast works that appear to be made for prestige fail miserably. Hollywood, after all, is a cynical enterprise, and campaigning for an Academy Award can be downright shameless.
Let us honour such miserable failures.
By 1996, word was out: John Travolta, who had been toiling away in failures like Urban Cowboy since 1983, was back. Quentin Tarantino single-handedly re-invigorated his career in 1994 thanks to his 1970's nostalgia with Pulp Fiction. Even his hammier roles, like Face/Off, were being seen as triumphs. Twenty years of auditing and ridding himself of thetans were paying off, and it might even lead to Oscar glory.
So what dramatic role would finally grant Travolta the chance to make people forget Perfect, Two of a Kind and Staying Alive? It would have to be something phenomenal.
Enter Phenomenon, Jon Turtletaub's fantasy drama about a working-class mechanic suddenly gifted with telepathic ability and astounding intelligence. He can move things with his mind, checkmate you in three moves and even decode shortwave radio. The general public is somewhat fearful of his abilities, the scientists are baffled and amazed. Of course, all of this could have been over in ten minutes if Travolta had bothered to get a CAT scan.
Turns out it's just a deadly brain tumour, granting access to those oh-so-elusive parts of our brain we don't use. The twist is saccharine and silly, probably squashing any chance during award season. What could have been a fairly interesting examination into inexplicable events quickly took a sharp turn into bad soap opera