Often the term ‘Oscar bait’ is thrown around in reference to films that fit within a certain criteria, created by observations of past Oscar winners and nominees. It’s frequently used as an insult to attack a film as opposed to the Academy, used in an attempt to delegitimise success.
It presents the idea that films are made purely to win Oscars…that they follow a formula, a recipe, in order to craft a product that is sure to get the Academy’s attention. Concepts that are usually deemed ‘Oscar bait’ include true stories, characters overcoming disabilities or discrimination, or films that seem an ode to Hollywood itself. These films are seen to guarantee awards attention, as well as, often, profitability.
This could only really be true if studios manufactured all films from beginning to end with this in mind. If someone writes purely for a gold statue, its unlikely they’re going to get that far anyways.
So ‘Oscar bait’ can’t really be a thing…at least a thing used to delegitimise how genuine a film’s intentions are. If anything, it can be a sign of the Academy’s repetitive taste. If anything is called ‘Oscar bait’, it should really be seen as a comment on the Academy and not the film. So it shouldn’t be used as an insult towards the films.