Sunday, March 2, 2014

Annual Awards Nerdism: Ranking the Best Picture Nominees

I think I've done pretty well this Oscar season, seeing all but one Best Picture nominee - Nebraska - before Oscar time. And I must say, the quality has been high. Not 2010-2011 Oscar season level high, but pretty close to it. So here's my ranking of all of the films I've seen that are nominated:

8. American Hustle, Dir. David O. Russell
To be honest, American Hustle is probably the only Oscar nominee from this year that I didn't really like - it's skating someone in between a 2.5/5 and a 3/5. I just couldn't stand the sprawling nature of it and how the improvisation was so indulgent and distracting. Otherwise, it was fun enough and offered a few interesting insights, and had some stellar performances from Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper. There were parts of it that were great, and some not so great was a mixed bag that I struggle to understand how so many people loved it, but hey, everyone seems to love David O. Russell so that's cool. I do think that it'll end up going home without an Oscar to it's name, though.

7. Dallas Buyers Club, Dir. Jean-Marc Vallee
Now here's a film that would be nothing without the dedicated performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. It tells a fairly basic story in a fairly basic way (and yes, it could fall into that dreaded 'Oscar bait' territory) but it manages to be touching, relevant and actually worthy of the gold bestowed upon it because of the two central performances. I wouldn't say that it is particularly memorable and will have a loud, proud place on the hall of fame, but since it's here right now, it is worth celebrating a little bit.

6. Philomena, Dir. Stephen Frears
This seems to be the dark horse to the awards, since it just showed up and it's just there. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I wanted to make the trip to the cinema to see it, but I'm glad I did. I'm also glad that Stephen Frears is back in the fray, because his last few films - Cheri, Tamara Drewe and Lay the Favourite - slipped under the radar even before they came out. Philomena is a devastating little film, which shows film-making and it's most plain but most able to tell a good story. Which I think is an achievement in itself, because good, simple storytelling is often overlooked for so many other aspects. Oh and yeah, I cried throughout the entire thing.

5. Captain Phillips, Dir. Paul Greengrass
I'm still not at all over this film. I found the clip of Tom Hanks' final scene in this film and it is still as emotionally scarring as it was the first time I watched it. To say that the entire film hinges on that one scene wouldn't be a compliment to the rest of the film, but that final scene is probably the best acting I've ever seen on film. However, the rest of the film is so intense and expertly made, that it brings true meaning to cinema being an experience. Plus, there's the incredible debut from Barkhad Abdi, who has justly been earning his share of accolades. And it's also great how unpatriotic this film is. Had it been in the hands of anyone else other than Paul Greengrass, this film could have been a two hour lovefest towards America, the land of the brave.

4. Her, Dir. Spike Jonze
I only saw this yesterday but it already has a special place in my heart. Probably because it made me happy and depressed in equal measure. Is it a sweet film? Yes. But is it a sign of worrying times? Yes. It manages to be so many things at once, much like Samantha herself. It's really difficult to sum up this film, other than to say that it tells a strange story and makes it strangely relatable. Such an endearing little film with perfect production design. So much to love.

3. 12 Years a Slave, Dir. Steve McQueen
If 12 Years a Slave wins tomorrow, I'll be emphatically happy. Mostly because Steve McQueen is a perfect director, and while this film is my least favourite of his, it still warrants a 5/5 rating from me. I can't help but feel like this is our Schindler's List and much will be said about this film in the future. And honestly, Steve McQueen did an almost perfect job of making this film (I really wasn't a fan of the early editing and Hans Zimmer's score, but the rest of it was amazing), making an utterly brutal, unflinching portrayal of something most filmmakers would shy away from. It's so, so, so great. I can't wait to see Steve McQueen up there accepting the award.

2. Gravity, Dir. Alfonso Cuaron
Gravity is the other favourite to take the award and I wouldn't mind seeing this one win either. Mainly because it is another film that is pretty much our generation's phenomenon: we'll be talking about it for years to come. It is masterful filmmaking of the highest order, it has changed things in cinema, it has reminded us that cinema is alive and kicking...and when you think about it, it is part of a very select group. So if it wins, I'll be very, very happy. There's nothing between both 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which makes things ever so exciting.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street, Dir. Martin Scorsese
This doesn't have a shit show of winning (unless all the voters are on ludes, but we know they're all prudes, dude). But upon another watch this film became my favourite film of the year, and definitely a strong representative of our times. And, well, even though it is three hours long, every second is perfect. From the batshit crazy performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie (along with the amazing ensemble), to the wonderful screenplay, to the electric direction from Martin Scorsese, just...everything. This movie is probably scarier than all of the horror films from 2013 put together.

So, the big prediction:

Yessir, all bets are placed on 12 Years a Slave to take the big prize, with a little bit of competition coming from Gravity and (ugh) American Hustle. However, I doubt anything will be able to take down Steve McQueen's masterpiece.

What say you? Are you on the 12 Years a Slave camp? Guess we'll find out tomorrow!


  1. Cool list. Mine would be very similar:

    1. Gravity
    2. The Wolf of Wall Street
    3. Her
    4. 12 Years a Slave
    5. Captain Phillips
    6. Philomena
    7. Nebraska
    8. American Hustle
    9. Dallas Buyers Club

    1. Gravity and Wolf are so close in my opinion, it is really hard to choose between the two!

  2. Great list! I didn't see Philomene or Nebraska, so mine would end up being

    1)Wolf of Wall Street
    2) Her
    3) American Hustle
    4) 12 Years A Slave
    6) Dallas Buyers Club
    7) Captain Phillips

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