In 2009 the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to a possible 10 nominees, mainly given that the idea was to share recognition of the high art of cinema to some of the smaller more independent films that get Oscar nominations in lesser categories. For instance the Original and Adapted Screenplay nominees, that are squeezed out of the Best Picture category by Weinstein and studio features, this years for example would most likely be pinned as CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis. This year, it’s safe to say that all 9 nominees would be strong Best Picture contenders in any given year.
As of now, close to a week before the Oscars, it looks like a two team race between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, with David O. Russell’s American Hustle lingering in their rearview window. If I were to tier the Best Picture nominations, Philomena and Nebraska would be on the lower end. Great films, but with not much of a shot to win.
Philomena just won Best Adapted Screenplay at BAFTAs with it’s moving true story of a woman (Judi Dench), whose baby is taken away by the Catholic Church, and her quest to locate her son 50 years later. At most, Philomena could win the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, but it has tough competition.
Nebraska is also a well written story of a one man’s quest to claim a million dollars from a sweepstakes he believes he won, and the ensuing road trip with his son to get it. You get a sense that the man, Woody (Bruce Dern), is on this journey for more than the million dollars. It’s a personal journey his small town life has been building up to. Discovering more about his friends and family along the way. Nebraska is up for Original Screenplay and Bruce Dern is up for Lead Actor. His first Leading Oscar nomination.
The next group of Best Picture nominees I would say have an unlikely chance to win, yet are very deserving and would be considered automatic winners in almost any other season. Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips, Her, and The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Dallas Buyers Club is based on the true life story of Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) and his attempt to find treatment for HIV he had contracted during the early period of the AIDS crisis. The AZT medication prescribed in the states was killing AIDS patients back then, and Ron uses his own means to locate remedies elsewhere that provide better results, all the while going up against the FDA’s ban on the ‘illegal’ prescriptions. McConaughey and Jared Leto, playing a transexual with AIDS befriended by Ron, are both exceptional in their roles, and will most likely go home with an Oscar each. McConaughey for Lead Actor and Leto for Supporting. They both have already won the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards.
! One of my favorite films of the year, Captain Phillips, has a very good chance of winning the Editing and Adapted Screenplay Oscars. It won both of the respective Guild awards for those (WGA, ACE Eddies). Unfortunately, Tom Hanks, with an astounding performance, was denied an Oscar nomination. I had this film as my Best Picture favorite up until the next film I saw on my list was Her.
While acknowledging that Her is a long shot to win Best Picture, I am going to be completely biased in my praise for it. It is definitely my favorite film of the year and I can’t wait to purchase the Blu-Ray when it comes out. It’s a very original story of a relationship between a man (Joaquin Phoenix) and his OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). On the surface you would think “What?” But it’s a very sad love story that questions what exactly is desired for the ‘perfect’ relationship and the lengths one lonely man will go to achieve it. A very creative original screenplay by Spike Jonze has already won the WGA, Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice awards. I predict that it will ￼also go home with an Oscar too. Not just for Screenplay, however. The Production Design of the not so distant future is gorgeous, and the Original Score by Arcade Fire is haunting throughout. I would give it Oscars for both. Joaquin Phoenix does a flawless job under Spike Jonze’s amazing direction, yet both were denied Oscar nominations. If it were up to me, Oscar night would be Her’s night. (sigh) Moving on…
The Wolf Of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, could possibly go home with the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for the true story of New York stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, and his path to corruption littered with drugs, greed, debauchery, and mostly, the ruined people who trusted him with their money. DiCaprio is great in this role, and should he win the Oscar it’ll be his first. He already won the Golden Globe for Lead Actor. Whether it was the abundance of sex and drugs shown in the film or the lack of moral judgement, which caused some divisiveness amongst viewers, that led to less support of this film as a Best Picture, we’ll never know. I feel the Wolf Of Wall Street was a tale of excess, and a not pretty one at that. I don’t see how some people believe Jordan Belfort was portrayed as a hero. Quite the opposite. I know I wouldn’t set foot on the path taken by him on his quest for ‘success’.
We are now left with the top three films that could win the Oscar unsurprisingly. The lesser being American Hustle. Personally, I would have it much lower down the totem pole, but I acknowledge it’s success as a Golden Globe Best Picture, Ensemble winner at the Screen Actor’s Guild awards, and various acting awards for Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. It also won Original Screenplay at BAFTA. American Hustle is a fun, entertaining film with superb acting, great directing, and an awesome soundtrack. Fun, but not a Best Picture in my opinion. As soon as it was over I forgot the story, yet remembered having a good time. I can’t argue with the praise, however, so it will have a very good chance of winning if it can get past the top two nominations.
The gap between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave is so close, that they even tied for Best Production at the Producer’s Guild Awards. I have been a big believer in a split for these films at the Oscars this year, with Alfonso Cuaron winning Best Director for Gravity and 12 Years A Slave winning Best Picture. Any mixing and matching of these categories is possible. The least likely being Gravity for Best Picture and Steve McQueen for Director. If McQueen gets called up for Best Director on Oscar night, then quickly bet the house that 12 Years A Slave will be a Best Picture winner too.
Gravity is a technological marvel. Alfonso Cuaron has already received Best Director wins in the Golden Globes, Directors’ Guild, and a dozen critics awards. The film has unprecedentedly tied for Best Picture in the Producers Guild with 12 Years A Slave. It also tied with American Hustle for Best Picture amongst the LA Film Critics. It has also won many tech guild awards for VFX, Cinematography and Sound. I expect to see repeat results come Oscar night. If Gravity were to win Best Picture, it would be a first for an effects driven film. Thus opening a door for a whole new genre to compete for Oscar.
While the Directing Oscar will likely go to Gravity, I think the Best Picture of the year is and will be 12 Years A Slave. Not only a great story, but an important story. A film about American slavery has never been told like this. Roots comes close, but that was a television mini-series from decades ago. Hollywood has never presented to us, on film, a raw honest look at slavery like this. Some shied away from it because of the ‘gruesome violence’. FIrst of all, the amount of gruesomeness is really only represented in the
￼whipping of Patsy (played by Lupita Nyong’o). I see more violence in action films that get pumped out in bunches every year. Maybe it’s facing the reality of slavery that some really wanted to hide from.
All roads are leading to 12 Years A Slave being the Oscar’s Best Picture of the Year. It has won the Best Picture in almost every critics’ circle. It won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and as I said earlier, it tied with Gravity for the Producers’ Guild Award. This in a year that has blessed us with so many wonderful films, all deserving their Oscar nominations and even many that missed the cut. I recommend that you not only see the Oscar winners this year, but every nomination on that ballot. All of their unique stories deserve to be celebrated.
About the Author
Brian Perry is an International Correspondent for TFM. Follow @Road2Oscars