Anyone interested in film, doesn’t need reminding that the Oscars are airing Sunday, March 2nd, 2014. In fact, even those who aren’t interested in film must know this, as you simply cannot escape it. Everyone is talking about it and writing about it; it’s on the news, radio, in print and streaming on every other post on whatever your flavour of social media. While I do love film, I’ve not before had the occasion to say that I have seen all of the films nominated for best picture leading up to their particular Academy Awards show. This year is no exception. There are nine of them, after all, and though I made an honest attempt, who has the time to consume that many films in such a short period of time while maintaining some semblance of a productive working and domestic life? Having said that, I have seen more than half of them already and could probably manage to squeeze the rest of them all in before Sunday. I have read a great deal about all of them, including those that I have already had the pleasure, and in some instances pleasure-not, of seeing. As is usual, the contenders comprise a strange and eclectic slurry of subject matter. Some, I wonder why they share this category with others. However, I suppose they all have their merits. And until I have watched them all, I cannot say this with any authority. Furthermore, having seen them all or not, movie-taste is in the eye of the beholder.
Without further ado, the nominees for best picture are: Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Philomena, Her, Captain Philips, Nebraska and Gravity.
The following are short synopses of all of the 2014 best picture nominees based on those that I have seen, as well as what I have read about regarding those that I still want to see, those that I have no particular desire to see and those that I would rather not see at all (and, rest assured, no spoilers lie ahead):
Those that I have seen: Dallas Buyers Club is captivating with a powerful message. In 1985 Dallas, an electrician/hustler works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he himself is diagnosed with the disease. The performances by both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are exceptional, and they keep you going through its poignant subject matter. 12 Years A Slave is a fact-based, incredible true story of a man’s fight for survival and freedom in antebellum United States, when he, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. The actors could not have been better cast in this historically significant dramatic piece, including: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson and Lupita Nyong’o. The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese? Dicaprio? They really are a match made in heaven, aren’t they? To top that off, the cast includes Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey. It is based on the true story of a wealthy stockbroker who goes from living the high life to falling far into a life of crime and corruption. Cautionary note: yes, it is thrilling, but this ride lasts three hours. American Hustle, as those who may have read my blog a time or two may know, I have seen it and it goes without saying that I like it. It is clever, not without its ridiculous but funny elements, and the ensemble cast is enough of a reason to see it alone; Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro and more. American Hustle is set in the seventies, is brimming with over-the-top scammers and mobsters dipped in era-apparent groovy hair and fashion, all scored with perfect timing to an epic 70s rock-pop soundtrack. Her is a curious little work of genius set in a not-too-distant version of the future. If you can get your head around a-man-who-falls-in-love-with-his-operating-system-including-cyber-sex-that-seems-a-little-unlikely-and-icky-factor, it does make you look around at your own inventory of digital devices and our increasing reliance upon them for everyday needs in a new [no, I don’t mean romantic] light. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams, it is a mesmerizing and moving story.
Those that I haven’t seen, but want to: Philomena is next on my to-watch list. It is referred to as a heart-tugger of a story of a faithful Irish Catholic woman, Philomena Lee, played by Judi Dench, who as a teenager was ordered to give up a child she conceived out of wedlock. Later in life, as she wondered what happened to the beloved child that she barely knew, she enlists the assistance of a tenacious BBC journalist to help her find out. I have yet to see a [though I haven’t seen all] film starring Judi Dench that I didn’t like.
Those that I haven’t seen and am somewhat ambivalent about: Captain Phillips is the true story of the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama. It is said to be a pulse raising film with outstanding performances [no one ever expects less than] from Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi, as captive and captor. I am sure it is a nail biter, but is it one I really want to witness over again after seeing the original footage on the BBC? Nebraska is the story of an aging and booze-addled father making a road trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize. There is just something about a son-disappointed-in-his-alcoholic-let-down-of-a-father taking a midwestern road trip on a publishers-clearing-house-prize-winner-scam-quest, filmed in black and white, that sounds a little too bleak.
Those that I haven’t seen and don’t want to: Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, is the story of a medical engineer and an astronaut who work together trying to survive an accident that leaves them adrift in space. I am sure that the visual effects are stunning, as are Sandy and George’s performances, but listening to the dialogue between two people stranded, drifting into the oblivion that is outer space, doesn’t appeal to me.
Based on what I have seen and read about, my prediction(s)? The Oscar will go to: Dallas Buyers Club. However, it could also possibly go to: 12 Years A Slave. Wild card pick: The Wolf of Wall Street. My personal winner: American Hustle.