A Look at Best Picture 2014

With the Oscar ceremony just a little over a week away, the Best Picture race is down to 2. GRAVITY or 12 YEARS A SLAVE . GRAVITY will be the first 3D and most CGI intensive movie to ever win Best Picture. 12 YEARS will be the first film about slavery since GONE WITH THE WIND to win the award. I am in the minority for choosing GRAVITY to win Best Picture and I could very well be wrong, but here goes nothing.

GRAVITY– Currently the film to beat for Best Picture. The DGA win for Director Alfonso Cuarón all but seals the deal. The movie has won 6 BAFTA’s, 7 Critics Choice Awards,  the PGA (tied with 12 YEARS A SLAVE),  AFI’s Movie of the Year and Best Film at the Boston Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics (tied with HER) more technical awards that are too many to name here. Statistically the winner of the PGA and DGA go on to win Best Picture. This is our best gauge at determining which film will win.  As Sasha Stone points out, “Best Picture is the movie that you can sit anyone down in front of and they will like it”.  This year that movie is GRAVITY.  The last 3 BP winners THE KINGS SPEECH, THE ARTIST and ARGO are all good films, but most importantly they are the least divisive. As with any front-runner there are some haters. People have been critical of the fact that there are only 2 characters and for most of the movie there is only 1. GRAVITY is like a theme park ride. You don’t enjoy them for their “plots”, you enjoy them for “the experience”.  In the case of GRAVITY, the only way to experience it fully is to see it in IMAX 3D. Years from now when it is only available to watch at home, some may wonder how it won Best Picture. But, with all that said GRAVITY is the future of movie making.  95% of the film takes place in zero gravity with the first scene being a 13-minute uncut tracking shot in space. This will go down as one of the greatest scenes in a movie ever. GRAVITY also remains the highest rated movie of 2013 with 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Put that together with all the precursor awards and you have yourself this years Oscar winner for Best Picture.


12 YEARS A SLAVE– An all around better film than GRAVITY, but just too divisive to win Best Picture.  Some Oscar voters openly admit to not even watching the movie. It is “too violent” or too depressing. One even calling it “torture porn”.  Sure 12 YEARS A SLAVE is hard to watch and reminds us that the United States wasn’t always the “home of the free” that we like to pretend it always was.  So goes why many of the old white guys in the Academy will choose to ignore it.  If Steve McQueen goes on to win Best Director he will be the first black Director to ever win this award, EVER! While I don’t think that 12 YEARS should win based on the race of the Director, it an  opportunity to award a great film and make history at the same time. No I don’t think Oscar voters are racist, but they like what they like and when they see it they all gather around like children to a pile of candy. I don’t that same passion around 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Sure it tied with GRAVITY for the PGA, but GRAVITY won the more important DGA.  12 YEARS A SLAVE needs full support to win the Oscar.  Remember 51% of Oscar voters have to have 12 YEARS A SLAVE as their number one movie of the year for it to win. (if it goes to a 2nd or 3rd round, it has to be number 2 or 3 on their list). But, It is not all bad news for 12 YEARS it did win the Best Film at BAFTA , Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, Best Picture at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and Outstanding Picture at the Image Awards. The movie will take home a few Oscar statues. It could win for Screenplay, Set Design and of course  Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress. (God help us if it is Jennifer Lawrence). Best Picture could be just out of reach for 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

AMERICAN HUSTLE-There still seems to be some support for AMERICAN HUSTLE.  I hated AMERICAN HUSTLE and I still don’t understand the awards attention.  It was the same last with David O’Russell’s other mess of a movie SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  The only explanation is the strong acting ensemble of Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. I am not including Bradley Cooper, he is terrible. The others are the only part that make this movie worth watching. The fact that it still could win Best Picture is beyond comprehension. This anticlimactic actors orgy does not know which direction to go. It is so quickly wound up at the end that I had no idea what just happened.  But, remember the Academy likes what they like and they like AMERICAN HUSTLE.  Especially Actors who make up a majority of the 6500 Oscar voters.  It’s possible that GRAVITY and 12 YEARS A SLAVE will not get the 51% of number one votes needed to win. If that’s the case they go to the number two votes and, god forbid, number 3. Number 3 would be AMERICAN HUSTLE. It still has an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and has won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, the SAG for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture ans Best Comedy and Best Acting Ensemble at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. All in all it received 87 movie awards nominations.  WTF!

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET– My personal favorite movie of the last decade.  Martin Scorsese brilliantly directs this fast paced epic about how low a wealthy stockbroker can go. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort is by far the best performance of the year. Sorry Matthew McConaughey even losing 46 pounds doesn’t outdo DiCaprio. But, WOLF OF WALL STREET is another film that is too divisive to win. Critics had lots of complaints. There was too much debauchery and it couldn’t possibly represent real life. Guess what?  It does.  It was called a soulless movie with nobody to root for.  Oscar voter Hope Holiday, an actress that hasn’t worked in 25 years called THE WOLF OF WALL STREET “three hours of torture” and yelled “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!”to Scorsese after n Oscar screening. If you know anything about Scorsese, you would understand that his intention was not to make a movie that sympathizes with Belfort.  He was purposefully portraying the maniac that Belfort was. Hope Holiday is the typical Oscar voter that we are dealing with.  Consequently GRAVITY, the least offensive movie of 2014, will win Best Picture.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB– Not many can complain about this film or the performance of Matthew McConaughey. He lost 46 pounds to portray the story of a man with AIDS and his courage to help others suffering the same fate. McConaughey worked 20 years to get this movie made.  So, the Academy will honor him with the Best Actor award and the mush deserving Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor.  In a competitive year like this, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB doesn’t have the support needed to win Best Picture.

HER– When trailers first cam out for HER it looked like a ridiculous premise. A guy falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. But then people started to notice that HER was different. Joaquin Phoenix believably played a guy in the future who could feel for the woman on his computer. It takes place in world where many are doing the same. Director Spike Jones composes one of the best looking movies of the year. The shots of futuristic Los Angeles, actually shot in Shanghai, could each stand on their own as photograph. The idea that someday we will all be wearing our pants well our above our waist is a nice subtle touch that could easily go unnoticed. HER has won every award that it has been nominated for. Mostly for Screenplay. It is another movie that can’t compete with the likes of GRAVITY or 12 YEARS A SLAVE, but this little film that could deserves a nomination.

NEBRASKA-Alexander Payne is one of the greatest Directors of our time. His passion for showing “real life” people doing “real life” things is extraordinary. His decision to shoot the entire film in black and white adds to the depressing feels of NEBRASKA.  BRUCE DERN plays an old guy trying to get to NEBRASKA to collect his $1million promised to him by Publishers Clearing House.  At the heart of NEBRASKA is man and his son trying to make sense of their life ahead as well as his past left behind. Will Forte has mysteriously been left out of acting nominations. Bruce Dern and the brilliant June Squibb are both nominated in supporting actor categories. NEBRASKA certainly deserves the nomination for Best Picture and there is still nothing wrong with a nomination.

PHILOMENA-At the time of this writing I have yet to see PHILOMENA. It started strong at the Venice Film Festival by winning 10 awards including the Golden Lion. It had 3 Golden Globe nominations, but didn’t take any home. It won the BAFTA for Best Adapted screenplay and now has 4 Oscar nominations. Judi Dench is the reason for most of PHILOMENA’s awards attention and there is nothing wrong with that.  None of the “Oscarologists” have PHILOMENA winning Best Picture, but of course it is an honor to just be nominated.

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