It’s Oscar time and that means I have been in full movie-going mode! I have seen ALL the films that are nominated in the top 8 categories. So for my own entertainment (and hopefully yours too), I am going to share my thoughts on the 9 films nominated for Best Picture.
Here are my mini reviews, loosely in order of my least to most favorite:
While the visuals in this film are spectacular I do not understand all of its accolades. It is an implausible jaunt through space, action packed but lacking in depth. The premise of being lost and isolated in outer space held unlimited potential to explore existentialism and the quest to survive, but the film does nothing so bold. It is decidedly more Armageddon than Castaway, and for this I was left wanting.
The Wolf of Wall Street
This film had a serious “ick” factor which made it difficult to watch. Copious cocaine snorting, degradation of women, greed, pathological disregard for others, ick, ick, ick. I enjoyed the first 45 minutes as it was compelling to watch the rise of the title character. It almost appears like a feel good success story is about to unfold. But there is nothing “feel good” about it. The actors all did good work and I am happy to have seen it. It is not a bad movie, but as I walked out I felt like I had seen this all before. Stylistically is was more familiar than fresh.
When I first saw the previews I got very excited for this film, mostly due to the exciting group of wonderful actors! They all deliver but … I did not fall in the kind of love I had hoped for. I did fall in “like” and the culminating scenes were a pure delight. David O. Russel has a special way of telling stories that are equal parts grit and heart. I look forward to seeing more of his work and I’m guessing the four nominated actors from American Hustle agree. It appears he likes to hire them!
12 Years a Slave
Once in a while a movie comes along that feels important. 12 Years A Slave is such a movie because it is a chilling reminder of this country’s shameful history of slavery. Frankly, I was afraid to see it, and I know many who felt the same. It is upsetting, it is violent but I mustered up my courage and am so glad that I did. It is beautifully filmed and ruthlessly directed so that we bear witness, no holds barred, to humanity at its worst and in moments, at its best. This film contains several masterful performances and supporting actor nominee Michael Fassbender, who plays an insecure and torturous slave owner, stands out among them. There are many images that will stay with me, and they should. It is important that we not forget.
Delicate, honest, creative. This is an original story but it is not as “out there” as it sounds. Sure, a lonely man develops a romantic relationship with an operating system (ala Siri) but director Spike Jonze and his brilliant leading man Joaquin Phoenix play it real and the result is magical and heartbreaking. Just like love.
Dallas Buyers Club
This film tells a very compelling story of one man’s battle with AIDs and also with the Doctor’s and drug companies who have strict ideas of how to treat it. I thought is was excellent all around. The suffering and helplessness of those who are sick contrasts with the indignation of the medical and pharmaceutical professionals. Lending to the film’s credibility, no one is all hero or all villain. There are many injustices that take place and we witness an inspirational, if unconventional, fight to survive. But what moved me most is the honesty and vulnerability of Matthew McConaughy and Jared Leto and the characters they so exquisitely portrayed.
The story is haunting and yet unexpectedly charming. I was very touched by Philomena’s quest to find her lost son and enraged by what happened to her as a young girl. But the story is not maudlin. The two main actors have great chemistry as they embark on an unexpected journey together. I really appreciated how they affected one another. Their discussions of faith were as essential to the movie as the events that unfolded. Because of this, it has really stayed with me.
Can you say tension? Wow! Such a compelling, frightening adventure. Who cares if you know this story from the news? It will not make your blood pressure any lower while watching it play out before you on the screen. This is a GREAT movie! Tom Hanks gives quite possibly my favorite performance of the year, it is jaw dropping. (insert my rant about him not being nominated here. I will spare you but you can probably guess how it goes). I was riveted from beginning to end.
Meditative. Slice of life. Sad. Funny. True. This is my kind of movie. Is it better than all the others? Who can say? I just felt very altered by it, very engaged by this tale of a son and his father taking a road trip to an inevitably disappointing end. But in the end, it wasn’t at all disappointing. The characters all budged a bit from where they started. As in life, this is what moves me most. To see relationships evolve, to see people grow and be impacted by the events and people around them. In this film, as in life, the changes are subtle and may not be as grand as we all hope for. But they are there, and it matters. It is so quietly simple that it is intensely profound. I loved it.
Ok, now you tell me! What did you think of these movies???