We’re getting very close to the 2014 Oscars now. There’s only a couple of weeks to go until Ellen DeGeneres presents the glitzy Hollywood ceremony, allowing the stars to pat themselves on the backs and celebrate the successes of the year.
I’ll be doing a lot of coverage in the run-up to the awards, including predictions and information on the nominees.
But first, I’ve recruited a crack team of guest writers to argue the case for each of the nine films up for the big award of the night – Best Picture.
And I think I win the prize for having the only Oscars post named in the style of a primetime Channel 5 slanging match.
12 Years A Slave
Fans of British director Steve McQueen know that they should be prepared to accept intensity. But 12 Years A Slave, telling the harrowing tale of Solomon Northup, is on another level of distressing drama. This isn’t just a great film. It’s an essential one.
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s central performance is nuanced and powerful, supported by a director who clearly understands his star. Equally brilliant is Michael Fassbender, playing a character full of simmering evil, and vulnerable debutant Lupita Nyong’o.
With jaw-dropping cinematography (shamefully snubbed by the Academy) and excellent use of music to convey complex feelings, this is just as much a perfect deployment of the cinematic craft as it is an affecting, emotive drama about an incredibly important subject.
12 Years A Slave is the bookies’ favourite going into the 2014 Oscars, but it faces a tough battle to scoop the silverware. It’s a fight that it deserves to win, emerging as the definitive screen depiction of the slave trade’s dark realities.
American Hustle stands out as one of the contenders for Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars because of the characterisation David O Russell has created and the transformation that the film’s cast has undergone for their roles.
It’s trivial to argue that Christian Bale’s ability to grow a beer belly should earn him an Oscar, but the transformation he and the rest of the American Hustle cast committed to has resulted in a con caper that oozes glamour, drama and drunken sophistication.
American Hustle’s plot may be flawed, but that’s not what this film is about. It’s about characters and the convoluted and complicated relationships they share. The characters O Russell has created are played to perfection; particularly Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams who ignite tension in every scene they’re in, sometimes literally.
American Hustle is an acting masterclass, a tour-de-force in characterisation and a showcase for the greatest 70s hairstyles. For these reasons alone, it deserves to win Best Picture.
Captain Phillips, the compelling true story of the relationship between the eponymous seaman and the Somali pirate who kidnaps him, played on my mind for days after watching it. For that, it deserves to win at the 2014 Oscars.
Impactive and captivating, Tom Hanks gives the performance of a lifetime. An ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, he makes the role extremely identifiable to everyone who watches it. In his final scenes, you feel the relief as though it was your own father or grandfather in that situation.
In some obscure way, you feel slightly sympathetic towards Barkhad Abdi’s character, Muse, as he tries to take control in order to save face after being constantly knocked by those stronger, more aggressive and more powerful than him.
The signature shaky cam style of director Paul Greengrass immerses you in the reality of the story as though you are reliving the terror of this true, historical event.
Deserved of Best Picture through performance and technical style, Captain Phillips leaves you gripped. You don’t even realise how hooked you are until you find yourself awkwardly shifting in your seat – holding on to anything to settle your anxiety.
Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club is a raw and riveting cinematic experience, unlike any other true story I have seen on screen for many years.
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof is passionate in his fight for life against HIV. In addition, he portrays his struggles and human interactions with a realistic, vulnerable quality which is refreshing in light of the romantic roles he has tackled in recent years.
Jennifer Garner, as Dr Eve Saks, juxtaposes McConaughey’s anguish, bringing a glimmer of hope to his doomed existence. Her delicacy and empathy is used to great effect.
In addition, Jared Leto adds a humorous and glamorous touch to the film’s sombre issues as transgender woman Rayon. His character highlights the notion that life is for living and injects an element of fun throughout the plot.
Although the HIV epidemic is at the heart of the filmmaking, director Jean-Marc Vallée successfully portrays Woodroof’s raucous lifestyle, indulging in sex, drugs and gambling at his own leisure, providing it with a true Hollywood feel.
The film itself has been highly acclaimed by critics, and is extremely different in terms of content to the other films nominated for Best Picture, making it a stand-out choice. I would recommend this film to anyone with a lust for life and especially to those who relish a zero-to-hero success story.
Having missed out on the award for Best Film to Steve McQueen’s epic 12 Years A Slave at the 2014 BAFTAs, it would be easy to dismiss Gravity as an apt runner-up in the Best Picture category at the 2014 Oscars.
However, it would be appropriate to remind the British – and more importantly, American – public that Gravity is very much an English film, just as 12 Years A Slave arguably is.
Wouldn’t it be great if us Brits had a double victory this awards season? I’ve removed the Golden Globes from the equation on moral and noble grounds; the film industry can be over-indulgent at times.
The fact of the matter is that Gravity should win purely due to its status as a cinema experience, even if only experienced once by the average cinema-goer. It’s a unique spectacle courtesy of visionary director Alfonso Cuarón and George Clooney and Sandra Bullock give enthralling performances, which do not detract from the beauty of what is seen on screen.
If Gravity is still showing in cinemas near you, I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen. It deserves it, and it deserves to win Best Picture.
To say I was sold on Her before even viewing it is an understatement. Directed by Spike Jonze, with music by Arcade Fire, featuring a cast consisting of Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, and boasting a plot straight from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, it was as if all of my favourite things had been cut and pasted together.
Theodore Twombly – wonderfully played by Phoenix – struggles to navigate his way through life clinging to the love of an operating system. If Where The Wild Things Are was childhood, then Her is adulthood.
It’s sexy. It’s terrifying. It’s fresh. Her is modernity in its very essence, but it plays with emotions that are as old as time. It equally taps into our curiosity and fear of both technology and love. Her directly questions where our reliance on technology leaves our position in the world. Are we losing ourselves, or making ourselves better? What defines the emotions we hold? Is love with an OS equal to that of a person?
Whilst all of the Oscar nominees are well-made films, only Her and 12 Years A Slave force their audiences to question themselves. As one looks back, the other looks forward.
So why should Her win over all the others? Well you try to look at the poster and say no to Joaquin Phoenix and those bright blue puppy-dog eyes.
Charlie Case is a second year journalism student, interested in music and film.
The film I think I would like to win Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars is the black and white family bonding story, Nebraska.
I really didn’t think it would be up there with the best after the first 20-40 minutes, because, I’ll admit, it’s slow to start. The reason I’d choose this film over the others personally, is twofold.
Firstly, the acting and the script come together in beautiful synergy to give some of the most heartfelt character portrayal I’ve seen. Bruce Dern, Wil Forte and June Squibb give sterling performances that let the characters grow until you realise that you don’t want the film to end.
Stacy Keach also gives an infuriating “bad guy” performance, unrivalled even by those in 12 Years A Slave for emotional content.
The second reason I’d choose Nebraska, is that despite its story, it’s very funny. Nebraska isn’t a film that needs any humour, and the humour that does come out of it (mostly dark, some slapstick), is fantastic. Most specifically, the lines delivered by June Squibb were hand-in-the-mouth hilarious.
I expect that 12 Years A Slave will win, and it’s a very good film, but for me, Nebraska is the one that left me with that good film feeling.
It might be the underdog at the 2014 Oscars, but Philomena is a heart-warming and touching story based on real events.
It’s one of those films where there is a perfect balance of laughter, tears and that nice warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Team that with the brilliant Dame Judi Dench and the witty Steve Coogan, and you’ve got a winning formula for the Best Picture prize, especially with the financial backing of awards goliath Harvey Weinstein.
I know the competition is tough but Philomena hasn’t only been ground-breaking in film, but it has had a huge impact on the lives of other Irish women who were forced to give up their children for adoption in the 1950s and 1960s. There is even a campaign to try and change the law in order to give these women greater access to files about their children.
In honour of the film’s influence and the real woman behind it all, it is known as the Philomena Project.
And that’s what a film does if it is truly great; it becomes an inspiration. Surely, even with the glitz and power of some of the other nominees, a sweet film with real world resonance deserves to win a golden statuette? I certainly think so.
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street almost certainly won’t win Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars, but it should.
It holds the record for most ‘fucks’ in a film, which will drive away the more conservative voters, but Martin Scorsese’s three hour examination of how stockbroker/arsehole Jordan Belfort illegally made his millions is full of an energy that none of the other contenders I’ve seen so far capture.
From the moment we see Belfort’s Ferrari change colour – a playful bit of fourth wall breaking – we plunge headlong into a world that will disgust some and excite others. The beauty of the film lies in Scorsese capturing the greed and excess of his central characters while leaving the viewer to fill in the moral blanks.
While American Hustle has the showier cast, The Wolf of Wall Street is packed with arguably better performances. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill find enough layers in their characters to avoid turning them into yuppie caricatures, yet manage to mine constant humour from what these people apparently did.
And one more reason? Jonah Hill’s fake penis. I’m sure that requires no other explanation.
If you’d like the chance to weigh in on The Big Best Picture Row, simply add your two cents to the comments section below. We’d love to know who you’re backing to win at the 2014 Oscars.