On Sunday, March 2, the 86th Academy Awards, more commonly known as the Oscars, will take place, recognizing work in all aspects of film from acting and directing to costume design and documentary film making. American Hustle and Gravity received 10 nominations each while 12 Years a Slave came close to that with nine nominations. The 2014 Best Picture nominees seemed to gravitate toward “based on a true story” plots. All nominees are rated R by the MPAA with the exception of Captain Phillips, Gravity and Philomena, which are rated PG-13. Colt Nation advises both view discretion and parental consent before watching every film.
American Hustle is loosely based on ABSCAM, a ‘70s and ‘80s government plot to catch corrupt politicians. As the movie says, “some of these things actually happened.” Con artists Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams) are caught by FBI agent Richie (Bradley Cooper) and given a deal: their freedom in exchange for four other arrests. Kentucky native Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife is a loose cannon. She’s crazy-good at being crazy-insane. Bradley Cooper’s acting was almost as amazing as his tight curls (“we put 110 curlers in it and I sat underneath a heat lamp for 45 minutes”). American Hustle is nominated ten times, including every acting category, best director and, of course, best film. It’s a strong contender.
Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, the real life captain of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama during its raid by Somali pirates in 2009. Hanks fit the fatherly Phillips perfectly, his performance reminding me of the father he played in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Somalia native and cinematic newcomer Barkhad Abdi made a powerful first impression as the leader of the raiding pirates. He most recently won a BAFTA for his portrayal and he’s my personal pick for best supporting actor. The MV Maersk Alabama continued to sail after the 2009 attempted hijacking and still continues to be raided by Somali pirates.
Dallas Buyers Club is about real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey). In 1986, Woodroof was diagnosed with the then little known about disease and given only months to live. After trying FDA-approved AZT, he began doing his own research, traveling around the world and taking and selling the more effective remedies he found (“None of those drugs have been approved by the FDA.” “Screw the FDA. I’m gonna be DOA.”). Woodroof teams up with transgender HIV-positive woman Rayon (Jared Leto) to form the Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey has finally distinguished himself as an actor and if I wasn’t completely enamored with Leo DiCaprio, I would want him to win for best male lead. Jared Leto is also a strong competitor in his category, best supporting male, though not my top pick.
Gravity is tied with American Hustle for having the most Oscar nominees. It’s centered on a space mission gone wrong and stars Sandra Bullock and Kentucky-born George Clooney. To read more about Gravity, read first semester staff writer Hailley Stantz’s review on the Colt Nation website.
Spike Jonze’s Her takes place in a future similar to ours in all but one aspect – technology has evolved to the point of a new, sophisticated operating system (OS) that can interact with humans on a level Siri only dreams of. As weird as the premise may be, Her has cleaned up very well at multiple award shows including a Golden Globe for best screenplay.
Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants), is an original screenplay about an elderly man (Bruce Dern) and his son (Will Forte) who drive from Montana to Nebraska to collect the old man’s supposed $1 million prize. Forte has pushed beyond his Saturday Night Live days, giving an exceptional performance, funny and light when he’s supposed to be, exhausted and sick of it all when he should and just downright relatable. Bruce Dern’s character is like that old relative who, no matter what weird and insane things they do, you still love dearly, which, for Forte, means walking train tracks looking for a set of false teeth. I don’t expect Dern to win for best actor, but Nebraska is still a solid film nevertheless.
The BBC film Philomena is about real life journalist Martin Sixsmith’s (Steve Coogan) journey with Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) to discover what happened to Philomena’s illegitimate son to whom she gave birth to in an Irish convent. Without knowing it, Philomena’s son was adopted out by the nuns for money. After decades of being turned away and told that there were no records of her son’s adoption, Philomena and Martin travel to America to find out more about her son. The film has been criticized as an attack on Catholics, but there’s no sense in trying to deny or ignoring such a huge injustice, especially when Judi Dench is involved.
The year is 1841 and Solomon Northup is a free black living in New York State with his family. 12 Years a Slave documents Northup’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) 12 years held in slavery after being enticed to Washington D.C. under false pretenses by slave traders. The movie, based off of Northup’s book of the same name, does not sugarcoat any aspect of slavery, holding back nothing, including violent beatings, cursing and rape.
Martin Scorsese’s smutty The Wolf of Wall Street is based on corrupt Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort. The Wolf has been widely criticized since its release for its excessive use of curse words (it’s somewhere between 300 and 500+… Not even the Internet knows for sure), nudity, drugs and alcohol (“I am not going to die sober!”). Matured beyond the years of Titanic and Superbad, Leonardo DiCaprio leads and Jonah Hill supports. Both are nominated for their respective Oscars and I think this could be Leo’s year. The film is great, but I sincerely cannot stress enough how strongly viewer discretion is advised.
The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis only received two nominations: one for sound mixing and the other for cinematography. The cinematography and sound mixing were good, but I expected more recognition for the film, especially its stellar soundtrack featuring lead actor Oscar Isaac, supporting actor Justin Timberlake and the folk band Mumford and Sons.
Tom Hanks certainly got snubbed over this season, being completely ignored for his work in Saving Mr. Banks and not receiving a nomination for best actor for either Saving Mr. Banks or Captain Phillips. His acting was absolutely on par though, and I expected nothing less, so maybe the Academy was thinking along the same lines.