Quest for the Best (Picture) Final Edition

Film ReelIn this final installment of thoughts from our unqualified but enthusiastic movie reviewer about the 2014 Best Picture nominees, I’ll provide thoughts about why each of the six pictures I saw could, should, or won’t win the Best Picture award.

In alphabetical order…

American Hustle – Great ensemble acting.  Any of the four principals would deserve an award.  And yes, I love anything that Jennifer Lawrence is in. Amy Adams is pretty amazing as well. But the story line doesn’t hang together for me. (When I read this NY Times article on David O. Howard’s filmmaking style, I realized why.) While American Hustle is one of the favorites, I think there are several better movies in the running this year.

Gravity After seeing this movie on the plane earlier this week, the Tina Fey line at the Golden Globes about the lengths George Clooney will go in order not to date any female his own age finally made sense!  Seriously, this is a terrific movie.  Clooney is Clooney. (These days, he appears to just be playing himself in most movies, like a latter-day Jimmy Stewart. And that’s okay. He’s very good.)  Sandra Bullock is wonderful. The visuals were stunning on a small screen…I can only imagine what this looked like in the movie house.  Gravity is another pre-awards-show favorite, but to me it doesn’t hold up as well against the three that I felt were terrific movies.

Her A very well-crafted, but somewhat spooky, movie (especially if you spend as much time in front of your computer as I do). Joaquin Phoenix was terrific, and we were lucky this year to get another dose of Amy Adams (and those eyes!).  I don’t see this winning, but I want that little earplug and the hand-held smart phone/computer now.

Nebraska The more I think about this movie, the more I like it.  The black and white photography is stunning.  The acoustic roots chamber music is haunting.  And Bruce Dern is pitch perfect.  I’d be very happy if this film won, in a shocker.

Philomena This Judi Dench tour de force is also one of the sleepers of the year. The story – which is true – is a real plot twister that ends up where it began. Another one of my personal favorites for Best Picture. Again, it probably won’t win because – like Nebraska – it is a movie for adults and doesn’t have the amazing technical achievement of Gravity and doesn’t boast of a fabulous ensemble cast of actors like American Hustle.

Twelve Years a SlaveI felt this movie should win the moment I walked out of the theatre, and I still have a strong bias in its favor.  But it may get the Lincoln treatment from last year – great movie, epic story, well told, but…perhaps just a bit too serious for Hollywood.  That would be too bad to see that happen two years in a row.

So, while I didn’t get to see Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Wolf of Wall Street, I feel as though I’ve seen the winner.  That sentiment was supported by the Times‘ “Carpetbagger” column. But only Sunday night will tell…so let’s do this already.

Thanks for reading, and more to come…


Quest for the Best (Picture), Year III

Film ReelYes, we’re at it again.  As has been the case the past two years, Candice and I are out to see all of the Best Picture nominees (or as many as possible) before the Academy Awards show.  We began this new tradition two years ago after we became empty nesters, and I have to say it  has raised my stock as a husband. One of my major failings in life before I came up with this brilliant idea was not making an effort to go to the movies. What can I say…

However, we got a late start this year.  (Once again, the “sure things” we went to see early in the year – I’m looking at you Lee Daniels’ The Butlerdidn’t make the final cut of the Academy.)

So here it is February 1st – with the awards show just weeks away, and we’ve only seen two.  However, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the winner.

If there is any justice in the world, 12 Years a Slave will win in a rout.  I don’t care what the other movies have to offer, this is a film that should win in almost any year.  It is difficult to watch, but 12 Years a Slave is powerful and compelling.  The violence of the slave life/economy is shown in all its horror.  As Candice said as we headed out of the AFI Silver Theatre and started our walk home –  (by the way, it is great to have such a wonderful theatre in our neighborhood) – “You hear about violence today, but it has always been a part of life in America.”  Yes. As a country we continue to pay for our original sin.

That’s the winner.  I’m laying down that marker now.

We’ve also seen American Hustle, which many of the media pundits see as the only film that can upset 12 Years a Slave.  The acting in American Hustle is terrific. Christian Bale has one of the great 1970s comb-overs of all time.  Amy Adams…oh my. I’m still in love with Jennifer Lawrence.  But…the film itself is disjointed.  And while I found it ultimately satisfying, let’s face it: this isn’t a “Best Picture.”  It is a vehicle for great ensemble acting, but the story isn’t compelling and it takes a while to sort it all out.  Sorry, I wouldn’t mind if this crew took two or three of the acting awards they are up for, but Best Picture…I don’t think so.

Now that I’ve been so demonstrative after seeing just two, we’ll head out again and try to get as many of the others under our belt this month as possible.  So we’ll see you at the movies!

More to come…