Sunday, March 02, 2014

Who We'd Pick to Win the Oscars

Scott did the noble task of listening to this past Monday's podcast and listing all the winners we'd have chosen for Oscars if we had the power of the vote, We don't obviously, but it is fun to have a chance to defend what/who we really think are of the best of the year. I can guarantee many will be different than what wins tonight.

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If you did not manage to catch the Oscar edition of The Breakdown podcast, or want a refresher on who Chris and I believe should win some of the major categories, it is best to sum it up in print before the big show. While on the podcast we also made our predictions as to who would win, that is going to be left out.

When we recorded the podcast, it was just over two weeks before the awards, and a lot can change during that time and reflection can get the best of us, as we both have ended up making some alterations to what we had originally stated. So, here now are our thoughts on who should win tonight at the Oscars.

Best Adapted Screenplay

In this category, Chris went with the lovingly emotional story in Philomena, which is part condemnation of the Catholic Church, and part testimony to the graciousness of its followers. The movie creates a heartwarming couple between actors Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, making their odd paring feel special, memorable, and inspiring.

My pick goes to Before Midnight, a film written by director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The movie focuses on the state of every day mature love, what binds us as couples, how we can self-sabotage relationships, and the foundation on which love is based. The dialogue is a flowing art form which has an essence of truth and reality.

Best Original Screenplay

In this category we were united on the brilliantly penned Spike Jonze film Her, which is a smartly written love story set for an age when people already seemed married to their electronic devices. The story, while set in the future, gave audiences much to ponder on as far as how we connect with people in the present day. Many other aspects of the film were also captivating, but the underlying tale and its progression cannot be denied as something to behold.

Best Visual Effects

There was no disagreement here, as the easy choice was Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, a film that took years to make as they had to develop the technology needed to pull it off. Not only was it spectacular to look at and without fault, but the visuals also excelled in telling the story and creating tension in the audience as we felt like we were part of the experience. There were no crashes or explosions simply for the sake of eye candy, but a flowing visceral tale of adventure and vulnerability in space.

Best Supporting Actor

Showing unity once again, we both feel that the stand out in this category is the performance of Barkhad Abdi for his role as a Somali pirate captain in Captain Phillips. While he is a man of small stature (and certainly dwarfed by the physical presence of co-star Tom Hanks), he was able to project a terrifying personality that made us forget everything about his actual size. The scene in which he first crosses paths with Hanks is a classic, especially considering he had never acted in a movie before and had never even met Hanks before this scene was shot. He is able to dominate the bridge of the Maersk Alabama in a way that we will be remembering for a long time.

Best Supporting Actress

Division and debate arose in this category as I picked Jennifer Lawrence from American Hustle and Chris went with Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave. Lawrence was a scene stealer in David O. Russell’s ensemble movie, perfectly portraying her character who was able to manipulate her con-man husband. There was a lot of energy, emotion, and comedy that she brought to the table in this role where she sported some sweet garb from the 70s.

Nyong’o’s performance, on the other hand, was a much more touching role. She was able to bring out an innocence, strength, and beauty in a setting of despair, violence, and depravity. A lot of the soul of 12 Years a Slave was due to her ability to be a darling who we wept for, as we could only imagine the potential life she could have had if only she were born free.

Best Actor

Chris kept up his support of 12 Years a Slave, picking its lead Chiwetel Ejiofor who played a very talented and established family man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Ejiofor shows a wide range of emotions as he begins to be broken down by the helplessness of his situation. While we find him a character who is at first unwilling to give into his situation, he shows a mastery of craft in a progression that leads him further and further from hope.

My choice is Dallas Buyers Club lead, Matthew McConaughey who plays a rough redneck in Texas who is extremely bigoted. When he is diagnosed with AIDS, his world is thrown around as he has a journey of accepting his situation as well as a movement towards hope. He is captivating in his role, as we are quick to hate him but still find enough room in our hearts to desire to see him become a better person.

Best Actress


I am going with Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett on this one, as she played a woman who became a socialite through marriage and is forced to live without luxury when her husband is imprisoned for white collar crime. There are many layers to this character, as she deals with a mental breakdown and a faulty attempt to reclaim happiness for her life, all of it perfectly portrayed through Blanchett’s line delivery and posturing.

Chris, on the other hand, went for Sandra Bullock for her outstanding performance as Dr. Ryan Stone, a first time astronaut who comes face to face with the dread of the deep, black void that is outer space. Her performance delivers all of the franticness, panic, defeat, and resolve that is needed to bring emotion to the story. What makes her performance even more amazing is the fact that she delivered almost all of it while being secluded in a booth, with nobody to interact with face to face, no environment to play off of, and nothing tactile to assist her become her character.

Best Director

Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron was the choice of us both, as he was able to pull out what was pretty much a perfect tale of the struggle for human survival against all odds. While some may point out the fact that there is little script and the story is simple, neither of these elements detract from the experience.

What we get is a film that includes the audience on the journey, through the emotions, and develops an attachment towards the character of Ryan Stone, causing us to root for her outcome. Through camera work, lighting, and setting we are told a wonderful story without needing it to be explained to us through expository dialogue. Sometimes simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Best Picture

Chris stood by his love for Spike Jonze’s Her to the bitter end, and it really is a shame that he was unable to gain a Best Director nomination, because this is a truly special film. It is cast so well, and shows the process of bravery that is needed for a wounded heart to try to love again. We are treated to some outstanding performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, and Rooney Mara. Even though Johansson only act as the voice for Phoenix’s artificial intelligence operating system, we quickly feel like she is right there in the room with him, and the oddball concept of a man falling in love with software slowly and gingerly becomes less and less oddball.

My pick in this category is 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen. It is a beautiful period piece (by that I mean setting and wardrobe, not content) that tells the story of a twelve year ordeal of a free man who is brought into the world of slavery. Just like Her, it is outstandingly well cast, giving us top notch performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Michael Fassbender, and Benedict Cumberbatch, to name a few. It takes a pace that refuses to rush, allowing the desperation and terror of scenes to be emotions that audiences are unable to escape from, plunging our own resolve to the bitter depths. While it has dark nature to the story, it is a tale of triumph of the commitment to hold onto hope through all adversity.

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