I love the Academy Awards. It’s live TV and anything can happen on live TV. For example, I howled when Melissa Leo dropped her grateful F-bomb. And I still quote Sally Field, “You like me, right now, you like me!” I watch the Oscars for these spontaneous live TV moments. And also, I love movies.
The list of Best Picture nominees is lengthy this year but I managed to see all of them on the big screen (except Captain Phillips, which ironically, was a pirated version). I’m not into predictions, because that would mean I’d have to pay attention to Holly-politics and celebrity gossip, neither of which is of any interest to me. These reviews and prize awards are based on my own ignorant and biased opinions.
Let’s start at the top with American Hustle, my choice for Best Motion Picture. I love the irreverent, fast moving, and continual twisting of relationship skirmishes. This movie mesmerizes me: the characters, the pace, the costumes, the plot, the settings, the soundtrack, the hairdos! And I can’t take my eyes off Christian Bale; in my humble opinion, the Sir Laurence Olivier/Daniel Day Lewis of our time. I’m awarding Mr. Bale the Oscar for Best Actor.
Captain Phillips. Suspenseful and heart pounding but the usual dollop of USA propaganda spooned out by Hollywood. Some barbaric enemy, in this case skinny East African Muslims aka Somalis, have the audacity to rob innocent Americans transporting food relief and clean water. We know the Americans are innocent because isn’t that Walt Disney captaining the ship? These Somali simpletons never heard of ‘no man left behind’ and they sure get their come-uppance. Am I cynical? You bet I am.
I looked forward to Dallas Buyers Club because of the trailer, and the first half of the movie lives up to the promise. But then Matthew McConaghey steps out of his entirely believable and sympathetic character and right before my eyes becomes the arrogant, lizardly, sleaze ball I imagine him to be in real life. For me, the movie should end [SPOILER ALERT] when a certain character dies. Jared Leto, not to mention any names, shares my award for Best Supporting Actor.
Gravity triggers my fear of heights throughout, which makes for an exhilarating, on the edge-of-my-seat experience. So absorbed in technology as I am, Gravity reminds me of my lack of appreciation for the elemental stuff of life: water, human contact, love. The best part of the movie for me is Sandra Bullock’s big teardrops flying around the screen in 3D.
People say you either love Her or hate Her. Not true. I just find Her boring. The extended shots of pale Caucasian eyes and shots of Mr. Waistypants lying in his bed listening to an off camera voice, put me to sleep. Admittedly, I saw the late show on a full stomach, so who knows what my opinion might be at a matinee. The consciousness theme interests me mildly but requires too much speculation about what Scarlett Johansson is doing in the off-camera ethernet. Like the characters in futuristic Los Angeles, I feel manipulated (pun intended) by this movie.
Several movies this year sport the parent as alcoholic story line (see Saving Mr. Banks and August: Osage County). And in Nebraska Bruce Dern does a very good job of playing an alcoholic in denial. The film’s authenticity is smirk-smirk humorous and I award the Best Supporting Actress to the wonderful June Squibb as Bruce Dern’s long suffering wife. Shot in black and white Nebraska is artsy and ho-hum. Next.
I enjoyed Philomena very much. The story of a child ‘given up’ for adoption is intriguing and heart wrenching, and nun bashing is always an interesting subject to explore. Philomena is not going home with the golden statue but Judi Dench is! She’s superb. She eats up the camera. Best Actress 2014, mark my words, it’s the year of the old lady.
12 Years a Slave is so realistic I can barely stand it. The scenes seem deliberately drawn out so as a viewer I can feel the interminable duration of those long years of torture. I came away wondering, yet again, how could people have been so incredibly cruel? I hope no one can say they ‘enjoyed’ this picture. It is very good, great acting, cinematically accomplished, but oh so painful to view.
Debauchery. That’s a theme? What are we, ancient Romans? Word to the wise, do not see The Wolf of Wall Street, as I did, with your seventeen-year-old son. The endless parade of blowjob jokes, depraved extravagance, the joy of drugs, okay, okay, we get it, debauchery. I would be remiss if I did not take note of Leonardo’s inebriated crawl down the stairs of the country club to his car, simply the highlight of the movie. And he does do an incredible job appearing in every single scene of a three hour movie. A shared Best Supporting Actor to Jonah Hill who creates a complex and charming character. Wonderful job, Jonah.
And that’s it, folks. My Oscar preview reviews and awards. One thing before I go, as usual the Academy overlooked one of my favourite movies of last year, The Way Way Back. There are a few performances (Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell) in that wonderful flick that deserved Academy Award nominations. Boo, Academy. Let me know your opinion of this year’s contenders and about any other great movies the Academy missed in 2013.