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Countdown to the Oscars 14’ – Best Picture Nominees (‘Captain Phillips’)

It seems to happen every year, but there is usually at least one film that gets nominated for the top prize that you never expected. Granted, there are always a few that shouldn’t even be nominated for Best Picture, but when they get that nod, you’re not surprised. “Captain Phillips” is a bit of both making it a clear frontrunner to go home with nothing come Oscar night. That may seem harsh this early in the game, but as much as I liked this film, I can’t ignore the truth that faces it in a few weeks. Too much has to go wrong for this film to get into the mix, which is a shame considering how powerful of a story this was to watch unfold. Most remember the news of the Maersk Alabama being hijacked by Somali pirates back in 2009, but very few knew how it ended. This film covers both parts and does so with a certain edge to it that you never would expect. But, that’s Paul Greengrass, who also brought us the last two “Bourne” films and “United 93.” And quite frankly, I was surprised he was snubbed from the Academy Award for directing. He was nominated in virtually every other arena, so to not see him in this one seems odd.

A scene from 'Captain Phillips'
A scene from 'Captain Phillips'Columbia Pictures

Truth is, no matter what you might think of Paul Greengrass and his style, he truly is a great director; if not for his unique camera shots, for the realism that he shoots with. I like him and actually had no clue he was the director until the credits rolled. That’s right, I went into this film that blind apparently either forgetting he directed it or never seeing his name attached. And what’s funny is how I recognized the style, but could never put my finger on who it was. All I knew is I liked it, which is a great compliment for what Greengrass was able to do. He filmed big and small, using every part of his budget just as he did years ago with the aforementioned “United 93.” And when I say small, I mean within the small confines of the life boat, which really raised the level of drama as if you were right there. So, not seeing a nomination for cinematography was a bit shocking to me, especially when you start to look at the other films that did make the list. Maybe it wouldn’t have beat out “Gravity,” but it deserved to be in the conversation making me wonder if politics played a part. Meaning, with it being filmed in small spaces, like “Gravity,” was it too much to nominate them both and create that tough decision for Oscar voters?

These are the questions I have sometimes, fueling me each New Year for this month-long dedication to the Academy Awards. Having said that, maybe the real question we should be asking is whether this film as legitimate chance at winning the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay. Derived from the pages of Richard Phillips own 2010 book, A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea , this story is almost unbelievable when you see it play out like it did. But, that’s how a biopic should be, so I credit Billy Ray for handing this draft to Tom Hanks who signed on immediately. I think without him or director Paul Greengrass, he would have never seen his script nominated and have a chance to pull an upset on Oscar Sunday. And it could happen in a category that always seems to ruin one’s Oscar picks. Because while I think both “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “12 Years a Slave” are the leading candidates to win this category, neither of them have that “heroic” factor that is so prevalent in the story for “Captain Phillips.”

I remember seeing the trailer for this and thinking this would be yet another solid performance by Tom Hanks, in a long list that rarely deviates. But, after watching him interact with the Somalian’s in this film, I realized this was not your typical Hanks. He showed me something new in this role, something I never thought would possible after all these years. He was vulnerable in this role as the title character, which he played inside and out, ensuring you felt every emotion Phillips had while going thought this ordeal. It was neat to watch a veteran like Hanks sort of reinvent himself in this film and truly can’t believe he was snubbed from Oscar competition. His final scene after being rescued by the Navy SEAL’s was absolutely remarkable and utterly terrifying to watch. I mean, it was one of those scenes that define a performance and one that truly should have been on a ballot for voters. But, it wasn’t leaving me to question this entire voting process, which ironically did manage nominate a newcomer like Barkhad Abdi, who was among the 700 participant’s that tried out for a part in this film. And listen, he was believable in everything he did, but I just wonder if I would be still talking about him if he hadn’t played opposite a savvy vet like Tom Hanks, further cementing my point that Hanks was snubbed from what would have been his sixth career nomination.

CLICK HERE to read my original, uncut review on “Captain Phillips”

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