Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: Oscar Picks, Part 2

The 86th Academy Awards are fast approaching, and in this 2nd Part of Oscar Picks, this Blogger will look at the elemental categories of filmmaking. This is a very interesting year which should prove the theory that you don’t have to dominate every category to be a Best Picture, you just have to dominate the right ones.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Starting with the least-favored to win, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS was a palms-up action film with not much going on underneath, while WOLF OF WALL STREET had too much happening. PHILOMENA and BEFORE MIDNIGHT are dialogue-heavy films and worthy of a look, but 12 YEARS A SLAVE has the most human story. Plus, for an adaptation going through known history, it never ceases to surprise or amaze.

Winner: 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Best Original Screenplay

AMERICAN HUSTLE is the least original of this category; based on true events the writers had less to create. NEBRASKA is wonderfully written but could have used a better ending/climax. BLUE JASMINE and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB are both very strong character pieces, but HER shines above all here. It lives and succeeds around the most difficult aspect of screenwriting: dialogue…and HER has the best spoken words of the year; powerful and memorable.

Winner: HER

Best Editing

This is an often overlooked category when it should receive the most attention. Two-thirds of the 85 Best Picture winners have won this category, which includes six of the last ten. AMERICAN HUSTLE had a unique style, but this Blogger had a tough time finding its rhythm. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS required less work as an action flick, and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB was more about its performances. GRAVITY did the best job of creating tension, but 12 YEARS A SLAVE displayed the mature discipline that many filmmakers spend their entire lives trying to capture. Many films tend to over-cut, and 12 YEARS A SLAVE was smart enough to know when not to cut and let things evolve naturally.

Winner: 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Best Director

David O’Russell (AMERICAN HUSTLE) directed four people to acting nominations, which is impressive, but he did the same thing last year and could not take a win in this category…it seems his cast does most of the work for him. Alexander Payne did a wonderful job in NEBRASKA, but again, could have done better with the finale. Martin Scorsese’s WOLF OF WALL STREET is a great ride, but lacks the finesse this category tends to look for. Steve McQueen displayed the aforementioned filmmaking maturity which is an important point, but the grand vision of Alfonso Cuaron cannot be ignored. It is one thing to have a great idea and vision, but to actually pull it off with effect…that’s another. GRAVITY broke new ground, and it all came from one man’s mind. Also look for GRAVITY to clean house in the technical categories.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron

Best Picture

If you don’t get recognized for Best Editing, you’re highly unlikely to win the big tamale. That puts WOLF OF WALL STREET, PHILOMENA, HER, and NEBRASKA out of the upper-tier.  Looking at the rest…CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is too straightforward, and while AMERICAN HUSTLE and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB have a presence in all the right categories and will win some acting awards, they are both up against two superior films which stand at the top. Alfonso Cuaron’s GRAVITY is a grand technical achievement; a visual masterpiece which will change a lot of filmmaking techniques moving forward, but its light story is its one chink. That leaves the magnificent and moving 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Even if you don’t hold to the process-of-elimination approach, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is historically significant and required viewing despite its harsh content. Similar to Steven Spielberg’s SCHINDLERS LIST, this film boldly and effectively pulls back the curtain on an era the world would rather forget, but never forgets the human side of it.

Winner: 12 YEARS A SLAVE


The Oscars will be awarded March 2nd.

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