Nebraska

Why It Was Nominated

Alexander Payne is no stranger to the Oscars, and his latest film speaks to a flyover audience often neglected by Hollywood. Its simple premise and father/son dynamic result in an alternately sweet and caustic look at people, family, and the expectations we place upon ourselves.

Why It Might Win

It won’t, but if it did it would be because the octogenarian Academy members want to reward a color scheme that speaks to them and their youth.

Why It Might Not Win

Like a few other nominees this year, the loudest praise for the film is focused strictly on the actors. Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and even Will Forte are all fantastic here, but it’s their performances that are memorable instead of the way in which their presented, captured, or told. Ultimately, it’s an incredibly slight film.

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Philomena

Why It Was Nominated

The bond between a mother and her child is an indelible one, and this true story of a woman searching for the child that was taken from her over half a century prior is an emotionally charged one. A sweet older woman, a cynical middle-aged man, and the potentially villainous Catholic church collide in a story about love and persistence.

Why It Might Win

It won’t, but if it did it would be because it’s cool to hate on the Catholic church, and too many viewers walk away with that myopic view as to what the film is actually saying.

Why It Might Not Win

Some voters may actually take offense at what they perceive the film says about the church while others may feel it doesn’t go far enough in its condemnation. Also, while Judi Dench and Steve Coogan both do fine work here the film lacks staying power in your heart or mind.

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12 Years a Slave

Why It Was Nominated

British director Steve McQueen’s third feature film is his most acclaimed, and it tackles a very American issue in a way few films have. You have to go back to 1977′s Roots television miniseries to find something that matches its reach, impact, and sincerity on the subject of slavery. It’s a true story, a heartbreaking one at that, and it comes to life through impeccable production design, an emotionally demanding script, and some of the year’s best performances.

Why It Might Win

The best argument as to why the film will win is in the stats. McQueen’s film is nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture, and it’s already won the top prize from the Golden Globes, BAFTA, AFI, BFC, OFCA, PGA, and several regional critics groups. Oscar “experts” and Las Vegas odds makers have the film as a heavy favorite as well. Beyond that, it’s possible voters may agree with 20th Century Fox’s ad campaign that “it’s time” to award a serious film about the black experience. The cynics out there might give some weight to the idea that Academy members will vote out of guilt, but all of this ignores one simple fact: 12 Years a Slave is a great and important film.

Why It Might Not Win

In a word, Gravity. Alfonso Cuarón’s film is the only real competition and has been dogging Slave‘s heels throughout award season. Cuarón has also been snapping up the Best Director awards left and right, and while that may only signify a Best Director Oscar for him it hints that Gravity has a healthy number of supporters.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Why It Was Nominated

Martin Scorsese has seen all but one of his six films since 2000 receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and with his latest film earning some of his best reviews and being his highest-grossing, there seems to be nothing stopping the 71 year old.

Why It Might Win

As mentioned, this is one of Scorsese’s most acclaimed films in a career filled with critically-lauded masterpieces. The vitality he brings to the story is an integral part of the film’s success, and while many of the nominees relate stories from the past this one has far more of a bearing on our present. And let’s not forget that the damn thing’s hilarious, too.

Why It Might Not Win

The film is not without its detractors, some of whom have called the film out for glorifying the decadent behavior it’s displaying. Viewers aligned with that perspective see the film as a reward to Jordan Belfort and all the white collar criminals like him, and adding an actual award to that would be an even greater travesty. Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, legitimate gripes remain including the realization that the film says nothing in well over two hours that it couldn’t have said in well under.

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What Should Win:

Of the nominees, Her is the one most deserving of Best Picture. Unfortunately, the two films even more deserving didn’t even rate a nomination. Upstream Color remains the year’s best film with Inside Llewyn Davis being a very close second.

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Oscar 2014


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