Based upon directing, writing and acting, AMERICAN HUSTLE gets my best 2 out of 3 votes. I’ve gone into detail in my review as to why. However, I really admire Spike Jonze’s original screenplay for HER. It is uniquely fresh and explores relationships in countless intuitive and insightful ways. Rarely have I experienced love and heartbreak so completely in cinematic terms.
12 YEARS A SLAVE is a film that a colleague said he could only bear to experience once. When I first saw it I too sat quietly as the lights came up, unable to have a conversation. I have put off reviewing it. An opportunity came up to see it again the other evening and enough time had passed making me feel brave.
It is even more disturbing the second time around. As I watched, however, I had sufficient perspective to mull over the flesh searing violence that Director Steve McQueen reveals compared with how Quentin Tarantino dealt with this in DJANGO. The whipping in the latter was unvarnished and raw and objectified its victims in the same way that pornography objectifies the anatomy of sex.
Director McQueen lets us meet and experience his characters and suffer with them as they experience unbearable physical and emotional agony. They are real people enduring horrific torture from entitled sociopaths that stretches contemporary understanding of our recent history in searing and visceral ways not easily forgotten.
I’m grateful and impressed that this film, the director and leading actor, Chiwetal Ejiofor, have all received nominations.
It doesn’t surprise me that AUGUST OSSAGE COUNTY and SAVING MR. BANKS scored weakly or not at all. Meryl Streep is a beloved icon and even her excessive overacting seems to have been forgiven. However, Julia Roberts is just imitating Mama Streep. Amy Adams will win Lead Actress. Tom Hanks, also much loved, was passed over for both his performances in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS and SAVING MR. BANKS. As I mentioned in both my reviews, nice guy that he is, he just didn’t manage to surrender to the paradoxes of each character that he was attempting to become. He ranges from nice to sort’a angry. But we really do love him anyway.
What will become of GRAVITY? It is an international box office phenomenon and it’s Sandra Bullock’s performance that humanizes the technological genius of Director Alfonso Cuaron. It is also life affirming in quietly spiritual ways that chill and shock us into a consciousness few movies manage to achieve. It is, for me, a masterful piece of filmmaking.
My sense is that it will surrender its pride of place to Best Director David O. Russell, Best Lead Actress to Amy Adams and Best Picture (all for AMERICAN HUSTLE).
Of the 5 directors nominated there are 3 who equally deserve the top award – Steve McQueen (12 YEARS A SLAVE), Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY) and David O. Russell as mentioned above. Alexander Payne’s direction of NEBRASKA is noteworthy and he skillfully handles the camera and his actors with great skill. But the competition is fierce.
It is Director Martin Scorsese who has disappointed me with his work on THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. That he is a master is without question, this being his 8th nomination. However, his endless 3-hour repetition of the sexual, drug and alcohol fueled excesses of his main characters ended up desensitizing me to the point that I started looking at my watch. At 2-hours it might have been intriguing, even humorous, but ultimately I left the theatre wanting a cleansing shower.
Let’s see, what else? Ah, Best Actor will probably go to Christian Bale (AMERICAN HUSTLE) although my heart belongs to Joaquin Phoenix in HER. He is so simple, evanescent and of the moment that I was with him every second. Jennifer Lawrence sizzles in AMERICAN HUSTLE and will walk away with the best Supporting Actress award. Jared Leto should win for best Supporting Actor, shaved eyebrows and all.
If there were an honorable mention award for Lead Actor I would want it to go to Matthew McConaughey (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB and WOLF OF WALL STREET). He inhaled both characters impressively and gave up his hunky good looks to stretch and grow into a dramatic and then comedic actor that caught many of us off guard. Bravo.
The Oscars 2014 | 86th Academy Awards
March 2, 2014