The Oscars are finally here, and, as always, they present a difficult decision for Academy members and movie fans alike.
All of the pictures nominated this year are top-notch films, and the race becomes even closer given the almost extreme variety of the films nominated. How can you compare the sublime decadence of “The Wolf of Wall Street” with the harrowing history of “12 Years a Slave”, or the moving humility of “Nebraska” with the sweeping sci-fi visuals of “Gravity”? How can you choose Bradley Cooper’s cocky FBI agent over Jonah Hill’s hilariously twisted Wall Street player, or honor Spike Jonze’s sci-fi romance screenplay over Woody Allen’s fresh interpretation of playwright Tennessee Williams?
Difficult decisions face any moviegoer attempting to narrow down a winner. Ah well, that’s the beauty of Oscar season. Indecision be damned, here are are my predictions.
BEST PICTURE—“AMERICAN HUSTLE”
If you want historical accuracy, sit through “12 Years a Slave” again, and hope that Steve McQueen’s brutal and brilliant picture goes down easier a second time. Director and co-writer David O. Russell isn’t shooting for historical reality; “American Hustle’s” reinterpretation of the ABSCAM scandal takes a lot of creative license, but Russell’s enthusiasm is infectious, creating a wondrously watchable study on American ambition and reinvention. The dialogue is snappy and hilarious. The 70’s style—from Amy Adams’ boob-baring blouses to Bradley Cooper’s perm—is absolutely spot-on, and the cast is one of the best ensembles in recent memory. Each actor is at the top of their game, giving the film their all. American Hustle not only reinforces David O. Russell’s title as one of Hollywood’s best directors, but also shows anyone just how much energy and passion one film can provide.
BEST ACTOR—LEONARDO DiCAPRIO (“THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”)
It’s about time, Academy. After a distinguished twenty-year career and numerous Academy snubs, DiCaprio’s nomination for Best Actor for “The Wolf of Wall Street” is undoubtedly his most deserved. DiCaprio’s performance is the opposite of subtle, a bombastic portrayal of a Wall Street crook that fiercely attacks corporate greed while recognizing its inescapable allure. DiCaprio is a perfect combination of funny and scary, as we watch his character Jordan Belfort descend into madness as his net worth climbs. C’mon Academy. For this kind of balls-to-the wall performance, Leo absolutely earns his award.
BEST ACTRESS—CATE BLANCHETT (“BLUE JASMINE”)
More than sixty years after the original “Streetcar Named Desire,” who could have guessed that Woody Allen would write a modern remake? And who could have guessed that Cate Blanchett would be the actress to reimagine the downward mental spiral of the protagonist, here renamed Jasmine, as she loses her CEO husband and Manhattan socialite lifestyle. Blanchett nails Jasmine’s every nervous tick and haughty comment. She’s a revelation full of wit and arresting vulnerability.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR—JARED LETO (“DALLAS BUYERS CLUB”)
After taking a few years off to focus on his band 30 Seconds to Mars, Jared Leto sneaks up on us in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Portraying an HIV-Positive transgender woman, Leto’s performance is addictive with half wicked sass, and half emotional vulnerability. You want more of his character. In a film full of strong performances, Leto deservedly holds the spotlight.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS—JENNIFER LAWRENCE (“AMERICAN HUSTLE”)
Want to avoid typecasting? Follow Jennifer Lawrence’s lead. Her portrayal of an agoraphobic housewife whose loose lips could ruin her husband’s FBI sting operation guarantees that she won’t have the stigma of being Katniss Everdeen for the rest for her life. She’s hilariously wigged-out, and her second Oscar win shouldn’t surprise anybody.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY—SPIKE JONZE (“HER”)
Let’s admit it; Spike Jonze’s boy-meets-computer love story succeeded in ways that none of us saw coming. Jonze’s script was clever, subtle, and surprisingly moving. Not only is “Her” one of the most original films in months, it has an emotional impact that most human romance films can’t seem to manage. Watching the happy formation and slow rifting of Theodore Twombly and his operating system Samantha’s love will render any viewer an emotional wreck by the final scene. Really. It hits you that hard.
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