Best Picture Reviews

In preparation for our annual Oscar Party this year, here’s my thoughts on the movies up for Best Picture.

American Hustle

Plot: Two con artists are forced by an FBI agent to set up a sting operation on corrupt politicians.

My thoughts: The cast in this movie was phenomenal. It’s hard to believe how young Jennifer Lawrence is when seeing her perform; I expected her to slip up, given how relatively new she is to acting, but she delivers again, as does Bradley Cooper, her co-star from last year’s Silver Lining Playbook. Christian Bale is also amazing, which isn’t really surprising given how much he always devotes himself to a film. Amy Adams, who I tend to forget about as an actress, makes a name for herself in this movie as well. Frankly, I was much more interested in the characters, the costumes, and the setting than the plot, which I got a bit lost in and, honestly, a little bored with. Still worth a watch to see Bale with a toupee.

My score: 6/10

Captain Phillips

Plot: A captain is taken hostage after his ship is hijacked by pirates in the Indian ocean in 2009. Based on a true story.

My thoughts: Honestly, with words like “hostage,” “hijacked,” and “pirates,” I was expecting more of an action movie than Captain Phillips delivered. The story was actually really interesting and of course Tom Hanks was good, but I thought it was a lot slower and longer than it had to be. With a little more editing and a little more human interest, I think it could have been even better.

My score: 6.5/10

Dallas Buyers Club

Plot: An AIDS patient given 30 days to live smuggles unapproved pharmaceutical drugs to Texas to help fellow sufferers of the disease.

My thoughts: I’m not really entitled to score this movie since I only made it through half. If only I had my grandma’s appreciation of Matthew McConaughey. The movie does its best to make this homophobic, smarmy individual sympathetic, and I feel they may have succeeded by the end of the movie (had I finished it). Jared Leto does a great job playing a transvestite and the main character’s right hand man.

My score: 6.5/10

Gravity

Plot: A space drama film about an astronaut’s desperate return to Earth after a space shuttle’s unexpected destruction.

My thoughts: I only want to go to space if George Clooney is there. This movie was beautiful and terrifying, and I was surprised how it caught my attention considering it was only a couple people floating around in space. The visual effects are stunning, and Sandra Bullock once again proves that she can capture pretty much any mood when it comes to acting.

My score: 7.5/10

Her

Plot: A science fiction romance film centering on a young man who falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system.

My thoughts: This was definitely the strangest movie on the list and yet one of my favorites. Samantha (the computer operating system or OS) reminded me a lot of the Star Trek character Data in her quest to become more human, despite her intrinsic limitations. It was nice to see Joaquin Phoenix return to the screen, and Scarlett Johansson made the computer system come alive with only her voice.

My score: 8/10

Nebraska

Plot: An aging father makes his trip to Nebraska with his son in order to claim a million dollar Mega-Marketing prize.

My thoughts: This movie is definitely not for everyone, but I loved it. Filmed in black-and-white, it is a slow, true-to-life tale of a Midwestern family struggling to make ends meet. I couldn’t help but see my paternal grandparents as the main character and his wife, which made me appreciate it more. The part where the two sons steal a compressor from a barn was just priceless. This is the only movie in the bunch with a somewhat happy ending.

My score: 8/10

Philomena

Plot: The true story of Philomena Lee’s 50 year search for her son with the help of journalist Martin Sixsmith.

My thoughts: Like Meryl Streep, Judi Dench can pretty much do no wrong. Though the film didn’t end as a Hollywood film generally does, it still felt like a heartwarming film due to Dench’s genuine portrayal of a forgiving woman who manages to find delight in life despite her troubles. One of my favorites this year.

My score: 8/10

The Wolf of Wall Street

Plot: A young New York stockbroker starts his own firm and engages in security fraud and corruption on Wall Street. Based on the memoir of the title character, Jordan Belfort.

My thoughts: As usual, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a stellar performance that makes viewers nearly sympathize with an asshole. The plot definitely kept me engaged, although the constant sex and drugs made me a little nauseated. A scene where Jordan counteracts the effect of Quaaludes with cocaine to help him save his friend from choking left me unsure whether to laugh or cry. After finishing it, I immediately applauded Leo’s performance and then cursed Jordan Belfort for screwing people over and then making more money by getting schmucks like us to watch a movie of his sad, little rich life.

My score: 6.5/10

12 Years a Slave

Plot: A New York State-born free negro is captured and sold into slavery in the south, which he endures for twelve years before his release back to his family.

My thoughts: This movie made me sick. Not because it was bad, but because it was true and horrible. I felt a special closeness to the main character Northup as the actor had a prominent role in Serenity, but I couldn’t help but think as I watched the movie, “Will we ever wash the blood off our hands?” I can’t deny that the movie was incredibly well done with plenty of great, well-known actors showing up, but I couldn’t help but think that this has been done before.

My score: 8/10

Overall thoughts: One of my favorites movies of 2013 was 42, the movie about Jackie Robinson, which was not up for Best Picture. My picks never seem to make it to Hollywood. I thought the movies, for the most part, were terribly depressing this year, and I had a conversation with my sister about why Hollywood thinks movies have to be depressing to be profound.

Best Picture

What I think should win: Nebraska

What I think will win: 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor

Who I think should win: I honestly would be happy if any of the gentlemen up for best actor won, but I would like to see Bruce Dern win. It’s hell to get old, and he plays it well. Give him a medal.

Who I think will win: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Best Actress

Who I think should win: I’m torn between Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.

Who I think will win: Judi Dench. Meryl Streep has enough already (but she deserves them!)

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