Friday, February 28, 2014

Do the Oscars mean much anymore?

'12 Years a Slave' 
With awards shows more frequent than actual new shows or movies, it's easy to be jaded at this time of year when the Oscars roll around.

And yet, the Oscars do shine a worthy light on films that are not box office champs.

I'm looking forward to Ellen DeGeneres as host of the Oscar show. Her humor isn't mean-spirited. She just enjoys what she's doing and she's good at it.

This Sunday, nine films will vie for Best Picture in a category that was expanded to 10 a few years ago.

Why nine instead of 10? Who knows. There were apparently other noteworthy films out there, like "Frozen," but the Academy chose just nine.

With so many nominees, it's easier than ever to not have seen most of them by the Oscar show comes around, which was moved up about a month to avoid award-season fatigue.

But, I did see "Gravity," and "American Hustle" at the multiplex and they were good.

The other nominees for Best Picture are: "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Philomena," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "12 Years a Slave, "her" and "Nebraska."

Judging by what happened at other awards shows, "12 Years a Slave," has a good shot to win.

Even though I applaud the filmmakers for bringing this harsh story to the big screen, I wasn't in the mood to watch cruelty inflicted on fellow Americans. An Oscar win would be worthwhile since we live during a time of irrational hatred, based mostly on race, of President Obama.

The only other nominee that has a "big screen" wow factor is Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street." But, a film celebrating the excesses of the folks who destroyed our economy seems a bit excessive. Another Netflix rental.

"Captain Phillips" was made by the great director Paul Greengrass, but I had read about the ship hijacking off Somalia and the dramatic rescue in such complete detail that I didn't feel I needed to see the film.

"Philomena" stars the great Dame Judi Dench and the story of teen pregnancy/adoption in Ireland many years ago has great potential. I'll definitely catch it on DVD.

"Dallas Buyers Club"  about the AIDS epidemic in Texas 30 years ago seems like a film out of time that would have been groundbreaking years ago when the script was written. Still, just seeing clips of Jared Leto as a transvestite makes the film worth watching on DVD.

"Her," the tale of a man who falls for the voice on his computer operating system, by the quirky Spike Jonze is definitely first on my list to catch on Netflix. His work is always worth checking out.

I definitely want to catch "Nebraska" on DVD because the director, Alexander Payne, and Best Actor nominee Bruce Dern, seem like an unbeatable combination.

The pick: "12 Years a Slave."

Best Actress: Nominees include Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Sandra Bullock for"Gravity," Judi Dench for "Philomena," Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County" and Amy Adams for "American Hustle."

An incredibly tough category as it is in most years. There are usually better performances, in any given year, by women than men. They're just better at the craft.

The pick: Blanchett. I did see "Blue Jasmine" and she was brilliant. Of course, the award should be called the Meryl Streep Best Actress award since this is her 18th overall nomination. I liked Adams' performance, but she seems playing against type. She could win, though, since Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress for "The Aviator."

Best Actor: Nominees are Christian Bale for "American Hustle," Bruce Dern for "Nebraska," Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street," and Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave," and Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club."

The pick: While AIDS is always popular for Academy voters, McConaughey is just too good-looking to win. Same with DiCaprio. Bale is a favorite among his fellow actors but he's already won a Best Supporting Actor for "The Fighter." Ejiofor has an outside chance for "12 Years a Slave," but I'll have to go with Bale.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine," Jennifer Lawrence for "American Hustle," Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave," Julia Roberts for "August: Osage County," and June Squibb for "Nebraska."

The pick: While Lawrence is quickly becoming the Streep of her generation and she was great in "American Hustle," she won last year for "Silver Linings Playbook." I'll go with Nyong'o.

Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi for "Captain Phillips," Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle," Michael Fassbender for "12 Years a Slave," Jonah Hill for "The Wolf of Wall Street," and Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club."

The pick: Leto.

Original screenplay: "American Hustle," "Blue Jasmine," "Dallas Buyers Club," "her," and "Nebraska."

The pick: Another strong category. Jonze's script for "her" would have been the favorite before a recent lawsuit. I don't think "American Hustle" should be in the this category since it's based on actual events. So, "Nebraska" by Bob Nelson could steal the statuette.

Best Director: David O. Russell for "American Hustle," Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity," Payne for "Nebraska," Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave," and Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street."

The pick: Gotta go with Cuaron since "Gravity" is such an astonishing visual achievement.

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