Now, nobody’s perfect, but some nominees of the 2014 Oscar race came close as they come, and maybe not the one that came out on top. The little golden man went home with ‘12 Years A Slave’ and Steve McQueen’s dream team, but that ultimate statue may have been cozy on the mantle of some others well deserving. Here are my ratings (0-5) of the films that stole Academy and public attention this year:
3/5: ‘Captain Phillips’ (Paul Greengrass)
Why- A more straightforward approach was not what I expected, but what I kept noticing. Generally compelling overall, the use of some non-professional actors (Barkhad Abdi, nominated for acting as well) help add some sparks.
4.5/5: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Why- For sincerity and transformation. Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey steal the screen of an already beautifully driven story.
3/5: ‘Gravity’ (Alfonso Cuarón)
Why- If you put the special effects aside, there’s Clooney as Clooney and Sandra Bullock killing it in a space suit. An impressive undertaking, it is surely more of a technical feat than a plot winner. Just start counting the awards it did take home: Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Original Music Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects.
4.5/5: ‘Her’ (Spike Jonze)
Why- This film is touching, and holds genuine romance and humanity on a virtual plane. The basics of personal connections, their necessity, define ‘Her,’ no matter how capable technology is. Thank goodness it left with at least one Oscar: Original Screenplay.
4/5: ‘Nebraska’ (Alexander Payne)
Why- A man, his son, a lottery dream- although slow and steady, the sprinkled joys, disappointments, and unembellished turns in this family story are a Payne gain.
2.5/5: ‘Philomena’ (Stephen Frears)
Why- Emotions carry the weight rather than events, the climax of which comes too soon and sudden. Despite its likeability as a whole and with flashback sequences that are both well acted and supportive, ‘Philomena’ is predictable in spots and paler than expected.
4/5: *WINNER* '12 Years A Slave’ (Steve McQueen)
Why- It carries you to the end. It makes a point to get the audience personally involved. I did leave wishing Brad Pitt would have kicked it up a notch during his short screen time, or that other slaves would have connected with Solomon’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) character more besides Patsey (Best Leading Actress winner Lupita Nyong’o) but all in all, you GET it, like a punch.
2/5: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (Martin Scorsese)
Why- One word: EXCESS.
BONUS- Wishful Thinking:
4.5/5: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Why wish it was nominated? Suckers for evoking folk music, eager Coen fans, and comics and cynics alike will enjoy this film. Oscar Isaac makes his acting and musical presence exceptionally known. And then there’s that adorable cat, adding one to the many small collaborative elements in the film that move it beyond the music.