Nine films are vying for the Oscar for Best Picture. As of tonight, I have now seen all nine.
My 2014 Oscar Ballot
Which film will win? My guess is 12 Years a Slave. Which do I wish to win? Nebraska. Just saw this film tonight. What a wonderful story with characters that cement themselves into both mind and heart. The black and white cinematography, by Phedon Papamichae, is breathtaking—reminiscent of Gianni Di Venanz's cinematography in Fellini's 8 1/2.
Here are the nine nominated films listed in order of preference from most favored to least. What are each film's strengths? What are its weaknesses?
Click film name to listen to Slate's Spoiler podcast with my favorite film critic Dana Stevens. *Notes Cultural Gabfest podcast with Dana Stevens discussing film, rather than a spoiler podcast.
1. Nebraska*—Strengths? The cinematography is stunning—should win the Oscar for Best Cinematography. The characters are lovable, quirky, layered, and hilarious. Great story. Heartwarming. Great acting by all. June Squibb should win Best Supporting Actress. Weaknesses? None. Really, none.
2. Gravity—Strengths? Thrilling. Wonderful ride from beginning to end. Engaging and thought provoking. Bullock is fantastic. Alfonso Cuarón should win Oscar for Best Director. Weaknesses? Some religious undertones and themes were off putting to this atheist.
3. Her—Strengths? Current, relevant, and completely plausible storyline—believe it or not. Scarlet Johansson's character, Samantha, is both sexy and loveable—brilliant use of voice. Weaknesses? Ending. Would have been more interesting in my opinion if Samantha and Theodore had continued with their relationship rather than it ending.
4. Philomena*—Strengths? Steve Coogan and Judi Dench—both masters at their craft—give excellent performances and have wonderful onscreen chemistry. Interesting characters, storyline, and thought provoking themes. Weaknesses? Can't think of any.
5. 12 Years a Slave—Strengths? Heartwrenching and moving story. Brilliant performances by all. Devastating. You will cry at the end. Weaknesses? None.
6. Dallas Buyers Club*—Strengths? Great performances by Jared Leto and Mathew McConaghy. Leto should win Best Supporting Actor for his lovable and masterful depiction of a transsexual character with AIDS. McConaghy also lost a tremendous amount of weight. Gives best performance of his career. Should win the Oscar for Best Actor.
7. Captain Phillips—Strengths? First half hour. Loved it. As soon as the pirates board the ship the movie takes a turn for the worse. Weaknesses? Jerky camera. Irritating. Wanted to fast forward to the end—which is pretty good.
8. American Hustle*—Strengths? Bale. Great costume and set design. Amy Adams in low-cut dresses. Weaknesses? Too much flash and no heart. Predictable. Felt like I have seen this film before.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street—Strengths? None. Should not be on this list. Horrible film. Weaknesses? Lacks a single sympathetic character. No heart. Too many more to list.