Best Picture Nominee Round-Up

Since I have fortunately seen all of the newly-announced Academy Award Best Picture nominees, and since many of them did not get their own review, I am going to provide a short, one-paragraph review for all nine nominees in alphabetical order.

12 Years A Slave:

Excellent acting and a powerful story.  I don’t know if it’s the best movie about slavery ever, which is one thing I’ve heard others say.  It shows how bad slavery is, of course…but so have plenty of other films.  My biggest complaint is that for a movie with a time frame in the title, you get no sense of how much time is actually passing.  Still, very good in any context.  7/10

American Hustle:

I suppose it’s “good” in an objective sense.  There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, but it didn’t grab me.  The characters were well-acted, but made some odd choices.  A bigger downside for me was that none of them were very likable, except one…and nobody really got what they deserved.  Yes, that happens in real life all the time.  It just didn’t make for a satisfying movie for me in this case.  5/10

Captain Phillips:

I read this movie was somewhat controversial, and that the real Captain Phillips wasn’t as portrayed here at all.  That’s too bad, but I only evaluated this as a movie, and as such, it’s great.  Unique action, surprisingly emotional, and even informative about pirates and freight shipping.  I was impressed by nearly everything here.  8/10

Dallas Buyers Club:

No wonder this also got nominations for Lead Actor and Supporting Actor.  They’re great, and the physical transformation of Matthew McConaughey is astounding.  The plot is where this one kind of bogs down.  It meanders and you can’t really tell what it’s leading up to until it suddenly ends.  It’s interesting the whole time, and certainly an important topic (healthcare, sort of), but lacks a driving purpose.  6/10


A technical marvel.  It’s hard these days to find something you’ve never seen before, but Gravity did it.  What they pulled off is miraculous.  Luckily, the story is good too.  It’s very simple but maybe that’s part of the appeal.  Everyone can relate.  The rebirth metaphor is not very subtle, but it shouldn’t have to be.  A simple story told in a jaw-dropping presentation.  8/10


As quirky as you’d expect a Spike Jonze movie.  Actually, no, this is much more grounded than you’d expect.  It makes falling in love with a computer seem entirely plausible in the near future and touches on a lot of serious topics other than love.  Loss, grief, acceptance, technology.  I’m not sure I even got all the meaning that there was, but I appreciated that it was there.  7/10


Kind of a road trip movie, but stripped down to the bone.  Black and white, with just a few characters, this feels more realistic than most of the other nominees–even the ones based on true stories.  It’s easy to get invested in the simple quest of a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska when you are genuinely rooting for the characters, as I was.  8/10


Maybe the least-seen movie on the list, Philomena is very British and very good.  I’m glad Judi Dench was nominated for this; she plays a character unlike her usual roles.  But the real star is the story, also based on truth.  The Catholic church plays a major role, so its impact might have gotten to me more because of my Catholic upbringing, but I think anyone would appreciate the dedication of a mother searching for her son.  7/10

The Wolf of Wall Street:

Showing just how much debauchery and how little morality greedy corporate executives can have, the movie borders on unbelievable…except that sadly, you know it’s probably true.  It’s not really blaming the awful people on screen; it’s more blaming us as a society that pretty much lets them do it with little repercussion.  Way too long though, with plenty of fun but pointless extra scenes.  7/10


Overall, a good bunch!  There was nothing this year I rated a 9 or a 10, but it takes something that speaks to me personally to hit those marks.  Of this group, I gave three an 8/10–  Captain Phillips, Gravity, and Nebraska.  They’re all very good, and I would encourage anyone to see them, or any of the other on this list (except American Hustle).  If I have to choose my personal favorite of them, I would pick Gravity.  Perhaps because I’m a sci-fi/action fan, or perhaps because it brought something new to my eyes.  No matter the reason, it’s the one of these that I would most like to watch again.  Note that this is just my personal pick, and not what I think the Academy will choose!

Here’s hoping 2014 will bring one or more of those elusive 9’s or 10’s to a theater near you!

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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