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Countdown to the Oscars 14’ – Best Picture Nominees (‘Dallas Buyers Club’)

Well, it’s all come down to this; the final week leading up to Oscar Sunday where new memories will be made. Now, for those new or those that have forgotten, this last week will feature the three nominated films that I feel were the best from a year ago. Meaning, it’s these three films out of the bunch that deserve winning the night’s top prize over the prior six. And yes, that six includes “Gravity,” who despite its late push this award season will fall short when the Best Picture winner is announced. If not, I might go out of my mind and have to reevaluate this whole column as it is. Because far better choices warrant that distinction, but that won’t mean “Gravity” goes home empty handed as I could easily see this sweep all the technical categories its up for. That being said, it did just win the Producers Guild of America Award, which usually means good things at the Academy Awards given the past nine out of 13 winners of this same award went on to win Best Picture. Problem is, it wasn’t the only winner this year, as “12 Years a Slave” also was given the honor, creating the first ‘tie’ in the history of that award. So, while “Gravity” might have some slim chance of proving me wrong, I would rather talk about films like “Dallas Buyers Club” that actually deserve to be here.

Jared Leto in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Jared Leto in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Focus Features

It’s anyone’s guess what the true reasons were to reward a film like this, but I don’t really care simply due to the fact it’s a story everyone should watch. And not just for the acting, which I will get to in a moment; no, this is worth seeing for the respectful history lesson it gives about AIDS and the time period it all was discovered in. That’s what sets this film a part from all the other nominees and probably why screenwriter Craig Borten never let go of his dream of bringing Ron Woodruff’s story to the big screen. Because he easily could have, given it was 1992 when he was first talking to Woodruff about this idea for a film. So, I give Borten a lot of credit for making sure this story was heard, because all too often ideas just like this never come to fruition in Hollywood. And his reward for that commitment is an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, which he shares with co-writer Melisa Wallack. Along with director Jean-Marc Vallee, they took the life of Ron Woodruff and put it on full display for everyone to see. And what’s crazy, it wasn’t just all about Woodruff and this movement he started back in the 80’s. Underneath that, was much more with the friendship between Rayon and Woodruff, the politics around the FDA and even people’s ignorance or prejudice of anyone who had HIV/AIDS given all that went with it. So, it’s definitely a lot to take in for 117 minutes, but I think that’s the point why I’m talking about it in this very column leading up to the 86th Academy Awards.

For those that like me that have never heard of Jean-Marc Vallee, don’t feel bad, because the first time I saw his name was at the very end when the credits rolled. Yes, I’m that uninformed when I sit down to watch these films, but by doing that, it opens up the door to really be surprised, which I was here. And while Vallee might not have been nominated, his impact is felt all over this film. Because showing this kind of drama is not easy, so to do it in a way that not only feels polished, but also true to life is an achievement in itself. Vallee’s a product of what makes this ceremony so special and why I still get into it each and every year. Sure, he was here before when “The Young Victoria” won for Best Costume Design back in 2009, but that was only to support his film. It’s a completely different feeling this year when he hits the red carpet, as his film could walk away with a few awards by the end of the night. I just doubt Best Picture will be one of them, as this film has not won a single award in that realm this season. It’s been nominated, but has yet to break through, making it easy for prognosticators like myself to look elsewhere when choosing the Best Picture for 2013. That said, it is up for Best Editing, which to be honest with you is always a toss-up given the range of winners over the past decade or so. Only most of those winners like “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (2011)” and “The Social Network (2010) didn’t have to go up against a technical marvel like “Gravity.”

Despite its six total nominations, the fate of “Dallas Buyers Club” at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony will fall upon its nominated actors. Because it’s there where it had its best chance at Oscar gold, something I never imagined would be attached to names like Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. But, that was before watching the trailer and that brief 3-minute montage of Matthew McConaughey bringing everything he’s got for this role as Ron Woodruff, which included him losing 47 pounds for. Now, that’s no surprise to his fans, but to those that think of him as some loose cannon, this nomination proves otherwise. This guy is great and here brought a lot of emotion and hard truth to his role, one I see being the winner come Oscar night. Because you believed every second of what his character was going through, which I think this film had to have. And supporting him every step of the way was Jared Leto, who clearly transformed into his character Rayon, supporting the nod for Makeup and Hairstyling. Playing a transsexual, Leto never once made you doubt his role underneath the clothes and makeup, which I give him all the credit for. Maybe that’s because he never broke character while on set or maybe it’s just because he’s a heck of an actor that a lot of people do not know. Either way I loved what he did and fully expect him to walk away with the Oscar as a first-time nominee alongside McConaughey. Between the two of them, they have racked up 49 awards this season, including The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, easily becoming a story to watch on Oscar night.

CLICK HERE to read my original, uncut review on “Dallas Buyers Club

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