Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Picture

This is it. The big one. The most coveted award in Hollywood. The one only the greatest of the great win. You know the ones I mean. The Artist, The King’s Speech, Crash, Chicago, Million Dollar Baby. Classics, all of them. It reads like a list of the best films of the 2000s don’t you think? Right? Yeah?

This year sees nine nominees up for Best Picture, and a whopping two thirds are films based on true stories. Perception is such that a basis in fact would be an advantage, but while playing real people helps actors win awards, only five films based on true stories have taken home Best Picture in the past two decades. I’m guessing this year will make six.

As has been the case since the Academy opened this category to more than five nominees, we once again have a field of players stuffed with titles well out of their depths (sorry Nebraska), so while there are nine titles listed, there are realistically only three contenders.

Keep reading for a look at all of this year’s nominees for Best Picture along with my predicted winner in red

American Hustle

Why It Was Nominated

David O. Russell’s latest is a big, funny film that tells a fast-moving story with zippy dialogue, a quintet of lively performances, and an affection for the losers of the world working so hard to become winners. Russell and his cast are on a bit of a roll these past few years, and this one seemed destined for awards from the moment it was announced. Hence its whopping ten nominations here.

Why It Might Win

This is Russell’s third consecutive film to be nominated for the top prize, so maybe third time’s the charm? It already won big at the Golden Globes (Best Comedy/Musical), and while it’s lost quite a bit of its initial luster, it has enough supporters that it may just benefit from a split in votes between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Plus, screw you guys, it’s a big, fun, engaging movie that I’ll re-watch far more often than I will a brutal slavery drama or technologically-amazing screen saver.

Why It Might Not Win

I’m not kidding about the film losing steam as awards season has played out. Golden Globes aside, the film seemed to become a punchline after winning Best Film at the New York Film Critics Circle and hasn’t recovered since. The consensus seems to be that it’s an incredibly messy movie with some sloppily entertaining performances, and while that’s apparently enough to earn accolades against other comedies, it just won’t cut it against this year’s top two contenders.

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Captain Phillips

Why It Was Nominated

Tom Hanks is Hollywood royalty, and while he’s been out of circulation for a short while he made a noticeable comeback with two features this year. This is the far better of the two thanks to his riveting central performance in a film that demanded viewers’ attention for a tension-filled two hours plus.

Why It Might Win

It won’t, but if it did it would be due to the emotional sneak attack that is the film’s final five minutes.

Why It Might Not Win

This is the least likely of the nine nominees to actually win the award, and it’s the clearest sign that maybe the Academy should reconsider capping the category at five again. It’s an enjoyable action/adventure, but its only real strength comes from a handful of tense scenes and Tom Hanks’ emotionally epic final five minutes of screen time. Plus, it wasn’t even the best hijacking movie of the year thanks to the conveniently named Danish film, A Hijacking.

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Dallas Buyers Club

Why It Was Nominated

Flawed protagonists make for ideal heroes, and this true story about one such man offers a glimpse into our own recent past and the beginnings of the AIDS crisis. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are both up for Oscars as well, for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor accordingly, and their combined performances (along with a nice, low-key turn from Jennifer Garner) have made this into a compelling tale.

Why It Might Win

It won’t, but if it did it would be due to the powerhouse performances and the film’s value as an important look back at a dangerous time in recent American history.

Why It Might Not Win

Quick, who directed Dallas Buyers Club? Who wrote it? Pat yourself on the back if you knew either of those answers off the top of your head because you’re in the 99th percentile and most likely not a member of the Academy. The acclaim here is for the acting on display and nothing else, meaning people simply aren’t thinking of this as true Best Picture material.

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Gravity

Why It Was Nominated

Director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest is an incredible achievement of craftsmanship and technical invention that combine for a cinematic roller coaster ride unlike anything we’ve seen before. The tale itself is a simple one of survival, but the means and methods used to tell it have left audiences wide-eyed and wondering how it was accomplished.

Why It Might Win

Regardless of any criticisms tossed at the film (see below) there’s absolutely no denying that it is one of the most impressive achievements of the past several years. New techniques were invented to make the movie, and viewers would be flabbergasted to learn how much of what they’re seeing is CGI. And in addition to the numerous awards it’s already picked up, this is also the highest grossing nominee by a wide margin.

Why It Might Not Win

The odds still favor 12 Years a Slave, and there’s always the chance of an American Hustle upset. Part of the reason why it isn’t so strongly favored is that for all that the film accomplishes it’s difficult to defend its script as anything but an overly chatty series of heavy-handed metaphors. For a film that acknowledges the silence of space right up front it goes well out of its way to never shut up.

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Her

Why It Was Nominated

Spike Jonze creates worlds with his films, and his latest is the best example of that yet. The film takes a concept that’s little more than an Electric Dreams reboot on its face and turns it into something beautiful and wise.

Why It Might Win

Jonze wrote the film as well as directed, and both feats are impressive accomplishments for a film ostensibly about a man falling in love with his phone’s operating system. The idea is ludicrous, but Jonze and his wonderful cast pull us into the slightly sci-fi world and deliver one of the year’s most human tales. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson are equally deserving of credit as they make for a compelling and believable love story.

Why It Might Not Win

Have you seen those ridiculously high-waisted pants? If this film wins those things may catch on with the general public, and then where would we be? Aside from preventing questionable fashion choices, though, the film also won’t win because not everyone is being wooed to the same degree here. Some viewers can’t make that final leap that allows them to accept the relationship on display as anything but goofy, and if that fails then the movie fails. Mostly, we just can’t risk those pants becoming a thing.


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