November 23, 2014

Media Review: Wading into the Waters of Oscar Season

 

This year has fine films but one stands above the rest.

“They are who we thought they were!”

PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES 2013

Media Review: Wading into the Waters of Oscar Season

12 Years a Slave has been nominated for Best Actor,Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Film.

Dennis Green was talking about the Chicago Bears in his classic, YouTube-worthy rant, but really, it’s so much more appropriate about this year’s award season. Oscar and the NFL have more in common than you think. Award season is like the two-week drought in football between the conference championships and the Super Bowl…only longer. That window of hype to talk about storylines and uncover every angle until the main event is sometimes better than the real thing. It’s the time where all films are compared evenly and where all the films have a shot at winning some gold.

Except it’s not.

Three big award shows down and a few more to go until the Academy Awards. The set dressing, the presenters and the name of the award show may change but predictability has come to define this year as winners continue to win and losers continue their streak.

With the Oscars being pushed back to March (Yikes!) it gives the more relaxed movie fans time to do their homework leading up to the show. While you can let the films themselves tell you what they’re about, here’s a primer of where we are now along the awards trail and the Best Picture nominees.

The Wolf of Wall Street—Unfortunately, The Wolf is this year’s paper tiger with nominations galore but going home empty handed. Critics have pointed to its vulgarities as the reason for this film not winning much even though it’s more of a copout than truth. Is Martin Scorsese new? Did we not see that coming from a film about excess from the man who gave the world Travis Bickle? The only acting performance win is an outlier, so much so that Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t help but smirk at winning a globe that had the word “Comedy” attached. Oddly enough, any acting award should’ve gone to Jonah Hill for the magnetic and creepy Donnie Azoff. The film is what it is. It’s Scorsese in his wheelhouse that’s a little too long with some great actors doing good work. Jonah Hill and DiCaprio give you that old nostalgic vibe of DeNiro/Pesci. Let’s just enjoy it for that.

Nebraska, Captain Phillips, Philomena—This has to be the Miss Congeniality Division here. They have the same nominations across the board but nary a win among them. And there shouldn’t be because there are just stronger films and stronger performances. The fact that there probably won’t be any upsets is what sours the idea of expanding the Best Picture category to 10 films. These are nominees who are in great films with no realistic shot of winning. If the case is where strong films get participation ribbons, that’s cool but then why not fill out the whole list. Why not add one more film? Why not three? Fruitvale Station, Inside Llewyn Davis, or Lone Survivor perhaps! They’re not Best Picture nominees but go see them anyway.

American Hustle—Hustle is finally beginning to receive some of the backlash that it should’ve gotten all along.

Director David O. Russell is fantastic at getting the best from his actors (e.g. The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) and nominations in all four acting categories confirm that. But it also says what Hustle is about: performance, not story.

Dallas Buyers Club—This should be where American Hustle should be hype-wise: a good film that knows it’s being carried over the top by strong performances. A similar film in that regard is…

Her—Another film that knows its spot. A sure thing if there ever was one to win Best Original Screenplay, it will be nice to see auteur Spike Jonze get his credit. Also credit Critic’s Choice for putting Scarlett Johansson in the Best Supporting Actress category. It’s her best performance; she should get something.

Gravity—Since the Academy expanded to 10 films in 2010, there has been a better job of including genre films (District 9, Inception, and Django Unchained) and Gravity fits this year’s bill.

It also sort of fits in with the Miss Congeniality division in that it won’t win any of the major awards.

Director Alfonso Cuaron’s story about being lost in space is easily the most visually beautiful of the season. Its coronation is at the Sci-Tech Awards. The “Technical” Oscars, not the Oscars that everyone watches.

12 Years a Slave—Not only did Slave win an award at every award show, it had the most Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Lupita Nyong’o has come on strong with two awards, which is great considering she wasn’t expecting any wins. Initial word of mouth for the film wasn’t as loud as Wolf or Hustle but the strength of the film is continuing to speak for itself. Never mind the fact that it’s a strong favorite to win in its respective categories in Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Film.

When it comes to catching up on your prestige films, this year’s list starts and ends with 12 Years a Slave.