Best Picture: The Wolf of Wall Street
Mix drugs, money, and alcohol together and you have the recipe for one of the best movies of the year. In true Martin Scorsese fashion, The Wolf of Wall Street is every teenage guy’s fantasy. Whether it’s the fast cars, endless parties, or the unbelievably attractive women that grace the big screen, you’ve definitely filled the quota with this flick.
With the amount of drugs and alcohol being consumed and the number of profanities used throughout the movie, this is probably not the kind of movie you’d want to take your grandmother to see. I enjoyed this movie partially because of the almost unimaginable series of events but also because of the quality of acting. Leonardo DiCaprio perfectly portrays party-crazy billionaire Jordan Belfort, and he is backed up by incredible supporting performances from Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie.
The monologues display great character building and really give insight into their motivations. If you are looking for a dramatic and heart-wrenching masterpiece, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for the romanticized pill popping and extreme sex drive of a billionaire playboy, you will be beating your chest and aspiring to learn the ways of Belfort by the time you walk out of the theatre.
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Gravity could best be described as a beautiful visual experience. It’s a film that captures your imagination of space, throws you out into the abyss, and introduces the concept of the sheer terror of floating into nothing.
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock do a great job with both of their performances in the film, but it becomes clear that Bullock is the lead of this movie early on. The plot is pretty thin in comparison to the other Oscar nominees this year, so don’t expect this film to win anything in terms of its plot and storyline. That being said, I could see this movie doing extremely well in the special effects categories.
Gravity truly depends on its visual aspects, and it makes full use of them throughout the movie, delivering amazing sights. It’s difficult to describe any more of the plot without giving too much away, other than the fact that Bullock’s character is thrown from the safety of the space station and somehow has to find a way back to earth safely.
Gravity is more of an experience than anything, and depending on the viewer’s take on sci-fi movies it could be a thrill show, or just a panic attack waiting to happen.
Best Picture: American Hustle
With great performances by all its actors — as well as the most ridiculous hairdos — American Hustle is definitely a must-see before the red carpet rolls out, if not necessarily a contender for Best Picture. The dynamic plot keeps you guessing and the humour consistently hits its mark. That being said, something was missing for me while watching it.
The movie opens up nicely, setting the scene and doing a good job of explaining the significance of the characters to the storyline. The construction of the plot was great, with turns coming throughout the movie, and Christian Bale does an awesome job of portraying his character. It also has a good ending — solid and sound — but still it lacked something. The problem may have been all of the reviews, and to me at least, American Hustle did not live up to the degree of greatness bestowed on it by many of the critics.
It could have been the fact that I was a little disappointed with Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in the movie. It felt like she was just re-playing her previous role in Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley Cooper was very good in the movie, putting out a strong, but not Oscar-worthy performance. Amy Adams did her part and did it well.
Personally, I think that American Hustle might have fallen victim to bad timing, coming out in theatres almost at the same time as the The Wolf of Wall Street. Definitely a must-see this year as all in all it was a good movie, but I would try to avoid all the buzz surrounding it to better enjoy it.
Best Picture: Her
Her is a masterpiece that easily deserves to win Best Picture. Impressive world-building, superb acting, a heartbreaking plot, and an unexpected ending create an emotionally resonant sci-fi romance that never wanders into cliché.
Writer and director Spike Jonze transports the audience into a stunning near-future world and introduces us to Theodore Twombly, who is hopelessly in love with Samantha, his artificially intelligent operating system. The futuristic but recognizable setting Jonze creates is stunning, and his characters are flawed but sympathetic.
Interacting mainly with Samantha and shown in extreme close-ups throughout most of the film, Joaquin Phoenix does an impressive job of using facial expressions to convey loneliness and affection. The actor is fully immersed in his character and carries half the emotional weight of the film. The rest of that responsibility falls to Scarlett Johansson, who voices Samantha. Johansson projects fragile humanity without forgetting that her character is essentially a machine, radiating so much warmth, humour, and affection that the audience never doubts Samantha’s sentience nor her capacity to love.
Ostensibly about technology, Her doesn’t waste time explaining the technical aspects of artificial intelligence. Instead, like all great science fiction, it asks questions about what it means to be human.
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey
If most Golden Globe awards are any indication of what the Oscars will bring, Matthew McConaughey will undoubtedly take home Best Actor in a Leading Role for Dallas Buyers Club.
Breaking away from his romantic comedy typecast, over the years McConaughey has crafted a new reputation with more serious roles in such films as the The Lincoln Lawyer, Mud, and The Wolf of Wall Street.
His role as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club is persuasive and dark, but compelling. It’s easy to forget this is the same guy who starred in the ultimate chick-flick How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days a decade ago. For an actor with so much star power and heavy typecasting, McConaughey transforms into Woodroof flawlessly and we see him as a character with a compassionate story, forgetting to see him as McConaughey-playing-a-character-in-a-film.
The Academy also loves a good transformation. Much like his supporting actor Jared Leto, McConaughey went under a drastic physical change by losing almost 40 lbs., leaving him looking sickly and frail as he depicts a rodeo enthusiast diagnosed with AIDS. Like past Oscar winners Anne Hathaway or Charlize Theron who underwent similar transformations for their roles, it might be McConaughey’s luck to take home the award.
Best Animated Feature Film: Frozen
I think someone at Disney just tossed the princess manual out the window, and that person needs a thank-you in the form of an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Thank you, kind person.
With the creation of Elsa as villain, no longer is the witch on top of the hill a one-dimensional old hag. She now has a story and an inspirational power ballad about letting go of society’s expectations. We care about the ice witch and we aren’t rooting for her to fall off a cliff, which is new.
What is really amazing — Oscar-worthy amazing — is that Princess Anna is taught that the too-good-to-be-true love-at-first-sight Prince Charming is not who we think he is, and she is forced to face that true love doesn’t come from a duet. Instead, she learns that love comes from a relationship based on trust and teamwork. But most importantly, Disney has shown us that the act of true love to save the Princess’ life does not have to be a first kiss. It can be the love you have inside you that saves you.