It must be hard to win an Oscar for a memorable performance. If you’ve heard of the term “Oscar Bait,” it means something like a serious drama attempting to replicate a struggle including family dilemmas, drug addiction, abandonment, diseases, etc. One film in particular attempted to nab an easy win as an excuse to hire that ex-boyfriend of Madonna who went on to become a critically acclaimed actor, desperate to earn his merit badge, but didn’t, the film I’m referring to is “I Am Sam.”
I Am Sam was released in 2001. (same year Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone came out) The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics and it made enough green at the box office. By the way, this is Dakota Fanning’s (War Of The Worlds, Man On Fire, Coraline) big screen debut, prior to becoming a has-been. She is also one of my favorite actresses.
Update from 2020: Dakota is doing alright starring in “The Alienist.”
It’s one of those movies that tries to easily earn an Academy Award, (this is not a joke guys & gals) but this movie only had one nomination for Best Actor. Let’s see why it has a mixed reputation from both movie goers & critics.
This review contains big SPOILERS if you haven’t seen this movie, go ahead and watch it, if not, read at your own risk!
Yay & Nay Elements
Yay: The music on the soundtrack are songs by The Beatles which is Sam’s favorite band. The producers of the film managed to bring their own awesome mix (as in Star-Lord’s mixtape from Guardians Of The Galaxy) for this picture. By the way, The Beatles are one of my favorite bands. I had fond memories playing “The Beatles: Rock Band.”
The Cast of the film including Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laura Dern, & Dakota Fanning, all did a decent job for their respective performances. Sean mostly ad-libbed his scenes.
Sam reads Green Eggs & Ham to Lucy. Two Years Later, Dakota went on to star in that god awful live action adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat In The Hat,” also known as Satan’s kidney stone.
I’ll give this film an Extra Point for a scene with Sam & his lawyer Rita, watching Johnny Bravo (I grew up watching Cartoon Network shows during the network’s prime) in the waiting room. Those were the good ol’ days. Before “Teen Titans Go” damaged its reputation. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Lucy & Rita’s first names are references to “Lucy And The Sky With Diamonds” & “Lovely Rita.”
If you’re a huge fan of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Brent Spiner, (Data) makes a cameo appearance as a shoe salesperson.
My Favorite Line in the film is, “HI THIS IS SAM!”
Origamis are often displayed. Makes me wanna play the video game “Heavy Rain.”
I’m gonna give this movie credit for introducing me to Dakota Fanning. Again, she’s one of my favorite actresses.
Nay: At first, the opening scene begins with a pair of hands, as if Christopher Nolan often begins his films displaying a character’s hands performing an action, indicating every single audience member is gonna go on a voyage. Once the movie clocks into the 00:01:43 mark, Chris decides to call it quits as a cinematographer in favor of working with Al Pacino, Hilary Swank & Robin Williams in “Insomnia” upon realizing I Am Sam’s nonsensical narrative. A producer eventually hired an amateur cameraman addicted to energy drinks, causing the camera to suffer from a severe case of Shaky Cam.
A freeze frame randomly pops up. I tend to make fun of this cliché pretending to be a narrator in a television drama.
What’s up with Sam’s hair? Was he smoking “The Tree Of Life” with Kramer from “Seinfeld?”
Sam’s friends bring up “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” starring my archenemies Meryl Streep. Her movie is responsible for stealing Apocalypse Now’s Best Picture Award at The Oscars!
Sam’s disability is never specified. The closest thing is he’s mentally handicapped.
Poor editing. It’s as if The Editor has never been taking Post-Production classes or taught himself the craft of editing.
Lots of Product Placement as I call it, P.P. for short as an acronym. Brands spotted such as Starbucks, Pizza Hut, IHOP, Big Boy, Payless Shoestore, Tab, 7-11, Target & Porche.
The blue filter featuring scenes such as the court, felt out of place, it’s as if this movie turned into a neo-noir sci-fi psychological thriller like “Minority Report” In the trailer, blue filter wasn’t shown. Is Zack Snyder responsible for coming up with the blue filter in some scenes from “Man Of Steel?” If so, I demand answers right now!
The ending didn’t show Sam winning the custody battle in court. It just shows the foster mother giving the daughter back to him. Storytelling 101, if the reader/viewer is witnessing a major plot point for the first time, show the scene, rather than telling. Ever heard of the phrase, “Show Don’t Tell?” Imagine if The Battle Of Yavin in “Star Wars: A New Hope,” was only mentioned that Luke Skywalker blew up The Death Star rather than showing the gosh darn thing on how he managed to dodge obstacles in his way? Gonna have to Triple Down this con, because after everything we went through watching this movie, why didn’t we see Sam winning at the end?
The title of the film is kinda misleading, it should’ve been called “You Can Call Me Sam.” Which is a quote in the movie.
According to Roger Ebert, he pointed out that it’s difficult to depict who to root for, plus there is no bad guy in this conflict. So there’s the problem, The film lacked a compelling villain to go head to head on the protagonist.
I did not cry when Sam & Lucy were separated. “Boys Don’t Cry” & “Interstellar” made me shed several tears.
Final Verdict: D-
From my perspective, I Am Sam is a misguided failed attempt to become an Oscar winning classic. After watching the movie, scene by scene, the characters, dramatic moments etc. This is a personification of trying to manipulate viewers & critics to make this movie earn a truckload of critical acclaim, but it failed to take home the prize. Sean Penn got nominated but at the end, he didn’t, until later on, he became a two time Academy Award winner for his performances in “Mystic River” & “Milk.” If you wanna watch a movie involving The Beatles, I highly recommend “Across The Universe.”
This trend involving Oscar Bait related films, is gonna keep going on and on. In the meantime Hollywood, try not to make another type of movie to get people’s butts in theaters, make something more exciting, inspiring & hopeful with a teaspoon of making your audience relate to the characters caught in extraordinary circumstances. Ben Stiller did a jab on the trend in “Tropic Thunder,” by making fun of Oscar Bait films. Thank you Ben for making an absolute point on why your character Tugg Speedman from Tropic Thunder, is desperate to earn a massive boost to his career.
I’m also mortified that Daniel Radcliffe never earned an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor on his performance as “Harry Potter.” Thanks a lot Sam I Am for robbing Daniel’s golden opportunity to see if he would’ve become one of the youngest actors nominated for an Oscar!