The 2014 Academy Awards

 The 2014 Academy Awards

Here’s the somewhat annual disclaimer: I love the Oscars. It’s not that I am a “film buff,” it’s that I love brilliant filmmaking and unlike the Grammys, the Oscars generally successfully offer an authoritative take on what was the year’s best. For several years, I’ve tried to offer my piping hot Oscar takes before the awards are handed out, and not to brag, but when I’m allowed time to educate myself, I’m very good at it.

This year, I walked out of the final Best Picture nominee that I would see (“Captain Phillips”), got into my car, parked at my Southside apartment, walked across the street and got hit by a car. So I was never able to see “Nebraska” or “Philonema.” I did catch “Blue Jasmine” on DVD, whatever help that provided my judgement, and I also caught Oscar nominated “Bad Grandpa” on DVD. One of those movies was a made by a pervert.

So here’s my best effort. I wish I had seen more, but I suppose life happens.

Best Directing: I feel like David O. Russell, Alfonso Cuaron and Martin Scorsese were given the American League All-Stars in RBI Baseball and told to coach them against the Indians. And maybe Steve McQueen is playing this game with the Indians. 

All of that to say that Steve McQueen had the most challenging job. Sure, he had a can’t miss story to tell, but he wasn’t doing it with names like DiCaprio, Bale or Clooney, some of the most prolific actors of the last 20 years. So while 12 Years a Slave is going to clean house and make people that enjoy mindless “fun movies” roll their eyes, it deserves it. Winner: Steve McQueen.

Adapted Screenplay: Tough, because I didn’t read anything these were adapted from. And the film I want to choose came from a story that I was told was proven to be inaccurate. Still, I thought Captain Phillips was really remarkably well done, and this is the only thing I think it has a shot at winning. It’s like the greatest dad movie of all time. If your dad hasn’t seen Captain Phillips, it’s required. I think Captain Phillips should be included with every Banana Republic purchase of $30 or more. It’s sort of just me throwing a bone, but I’ll still stick with it. Winner: Captain Phillips.

Original Screenplay: I loved Dallas Buyers Club so much. So much. But I really thought about this one this year and couldn’t get past the word “original.” And there may have been no movie nominated in recent history more original than Her. I don’t particularly think Spike Jonze actually wins here, but he should. Blue Jasmine is up for this, and that baffles me. It wasn’t particularly good, despite being the best movie ever to star Andrew Dice Clay. 

Her had so many things going on, though. It was a romantic comedy, it was science fiction, it was tragedy. There’s a line in Her that struck me at a particularly transitional period of my aging process, and I’m carful with those words as there was no major change in my life really, just the natural act of getting older, where Theodore says: “Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” Wow. Winner: Her.

Actress in a Supporting Role: It has to be Lupita Nyong’o, right? I love J-Law as much as any red-blooded fella could, and I liked American Hustle a lot, but it never really felt like something powerful was happening. And, well, what Nyong’o did was the exact opposite of that. Not sure what “that” is, but opposite…is opposite. Winner: Lupita Nyong’o.

Actor in a Supporting Role: It’s Jared Leto. It’s Jared Leto. It’s Jared Leto. I knew it was Jared Leto when I watched Dallas Buyers Club last year before nominations came out. And with the victory, Jared Leto will become the first person to write a song used as the Auburn football tunnel entrance AND win an Oscar. 

I mean, let’s not let this pass without mentioning two-time Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill, the one time supporting actor in Grandma’s Boy. But, yeah. Winner: Jared Leto. 

Actress in a Leading Role: While there is a ton of star power in this category, I don’t feel like any of the work was especially captivating. But let’s hear it for Sandy Bullock, y’all! What the star of Speed did, largely acting against no one and, presumably, against a green screen, never made me doubt authenticity. So, yeah, Speed 2: Cruise Control star wins second Oscar. Winner: Sandra Bullock.

Actor in a Leading Role: This sucks. Three of my favorite actors in the same category. All of them were fantastic: DiCaprio, Bale, McConaughey. So, let’s do it this way – it isn’t Bale for the same reason it wasn’t J- Law earlier. And while DiCaprio was great, I feel like I’ve seen him play that character, and probably more than once.

What Matthew McConaughey did, however, was continue building on one of the more impressive career resurgences that he began with Mud and has since continued with HBO’s True Detective. Someone on Twitter recently mentioned that if you didn’t know what Matthew McConaughey had done the last 20 years, since A Time to Kill, it would all actually make a lot of sense. He’s got this thing. And I’m eager to see what he does next. Winner: Matthew McConaughey.

Best Picture: I WANT to see Wolf of Wall Street win it. I love Scorsese, I love Leo, I love Jonah Hill. But I’m afraid my favorite film of 2014 is going to be completely snubbed.

I doled a lot of my praise out throughout this blog, and as this has wound down, it seems like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity have become the front runners.

I liked Gravity. It was JUST FINE. But Gravity felt more like a visual achievement than a real cinematic masterpiece. While the visual part is important, would Gravity be in this discussion if it was relying on its writing, acting or storytelling? Was it important? At all? 

I will never watch 12.Years a Slave again in my life, but it was important. And yeah, it was about slavery TOTALLY sucking and you know that already, but slavery DID suck. I cried at the end. It was moving. And it is Oscar bait, for many of the reasons that Argo and The Artist were. This film feels like the one that is supposed to represent the year in cinema. Winner: 12 Years a Slave.


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