Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Picture Nominee: The Revenant

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The RevenantDirected by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Leonardo DiCaprio
Tom Hardy
Domhnall Gleeson

I had a feeling before the Oscar nominations were even announced this film would be a Best Picture nominee. Even so, I wasn’t in a hurry to see it as it seemed much darker and more depressing than I usually like my movies. So I waited, though I was pretty sure I would need to watch it eventually, and I was right. I ended up enlisting my boyfriend to see it with me, as I really didn’t want to see this one alone in case it became too disturbing.

Birdman was possibly my least favorite of last year’s Oscar nominees, but I really appreciated what Iñárritu did with that film. The cinematography and the way the entire movie felt like one long continuous shot was fascinating. So what I was looking forward to most seeing in The Revenant was more of his style of film-making, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

The performances were terrific. I remember thinking partway through the film this may finally be the year DiCaprio takes home that trophy, and he would certainly have earned it. This film was brutal, and it couldn’t have been easy to put on this performance. Hardy was great as well, though his category has some pretty stiff competition and I’m not confident in his chances of winning. However, as despicable as his character was, he did a good job with it.

The cinematography was the thing that really blew me away with this film and is what made me really enjoy it. Nearly every shot of the movie was wonderfully composed and there was so much gorgeous scenery. It really was a beautifully shot film. Early on in the film, as the hunting camp comes under attack, some of those camera movements and follows reminded me of what Iñárritu had done with Birdman.

I feel it’s probably unlikely that Iñárritu could win Best Picture and Director two years in a row, which is a shame because this film is so much better than Birdman, but I really do feel like it would deserve at least one of those honors. The Revenant is still not a movie I would watch more than once – it’s absolutely brutal and several scenes are difficult to watch – but I definitely enjoyed it much more than I had expected to.

Rating: 9/10

Memorable Moment: There is one scene that will give you Empire Strikes Back flashbacks, only so much more disturbing.

1. The Revenant

And the Award Goes to…

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This is the first year I have taken the time to see all the nominees and pay close attention to the Oscar race. I love film, and this has been a fun experience. I think I’ll have to make this an annual tradition from now on. Not only do I actually have an informed opinion about who I would like to see win on Sunday, but I got to see several really good movies I probably wouldn’t have even bothered watching otherwise.

As promised, here are my predictions (or best guesses, anyway) for the winners of the major categories for the 2014 Academy Awards.

Best Supporting Actress

Oscars Jennifer LawrenceSally Hawkins
Jennifer Lawrence
Julia Roberts
June Squibb
Lupita Nyong’o

As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, I thought Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave was incredible and I’d love to see her win the Academy Award. However, I have a feeling voters may lean toward Lawrence. To be honest the only performance I’m ambivalent about in this category would be Sally Hawkins. I’d be happy with anyone else winning – but I have a feeling it will be Lawrence.

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi
Bradley Cooper
Jonah Hill
Jared Leto
Michael Fassbender

I love Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill, but I honestly don’t think either of them particularly deserve to win this category. Both were entertaining in their roles, but the other three in this category are so much more deserving. Barkhad Abdi was fantastic in Captain Phillips, and I would honestly like to see him win. However, Jared Leto was also excellent and Michael Fassbender was chilling as a cruel slave owner. Of those three I’m going to have to pick Leto for the win.

Best Actress

Amy Adams
Cate Blanchett
Judi Dench
Meryl Streep
Sandra Bullock

This is where the choices start getting more difficult. I think Sandra Bullock is the throwaway here. While her performance was powerful, I don’t see it having a chance against the other nominees. I would like to see Meryl Streep or Judi Dench win; I loved both in their nominated roles and they’re equally deserving. However, judging from the praise Cate Blanchett has received for Blue Jasmine I suspect she may end up the winner here.

Best Actor

Oscars Matthew McConaugheyChristian Bale
Bruce Dern
Chiwetel Eijofor
Leonardo DiCaprio
Matthew McConaughey

This is possibly the hardest category. All the actors nominated are deserving of this award. I loved Nebraska and Bruce Dern was wonderful, but I think he is the least likely candidate. I would like to see Chiwetel Eijofor win, but that could be my bias based on the fact that I loved his performance in Serenity. Leonardo DiCaprio gave a terrific performance in Wolf of Wall Street, however I think this will likely come down to Bale or McConaughey and between them I think McConaughey deserves the win.

Best Director

David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street)

I am much less equipped to judge directing than acting, so I wouldn’t trust my judgment in this category. As I’ve said before, I loved Nebraska – it’s one of my favorites among the nominees – but I don’t think it’s going to win any of the big awards. I think David O. Russell or Alfonso Cuarón are the most likely winners in this category. I don’t think Gravity has a chance of winning Best Picture, but I really think Cuarón just might walk away with Best Director.

Best Picture

Film Review 12 Years a Slave12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
Captain Phillips
American Hustle
Wolf of Wall Street

While each film, even the ones I didn’t enjoy as much as the others, had qualities that I enjoyed the top four films on the above list are my favorites. I know there’s been a lot of talk about American Hustle winning Best Picture, since David O. Rustle didn’t win for Silver Linings Playbook last year, but while I enjoyed the film I just don’t see why it’s an Oscar contender. The plot, though a fun ride, is very difficult to follow and at the end I was wondering what I had just watched. Wolf of Wall Street is just so insane, I really don’t see that one winning. Though I loved Philomena and Nebraska, I don’t think either has a broad enough appeal to come out on top – same for Her, which was probably my least favorite. Captain Phillips was a really good movie, but it just didn’t have that spark that makes it stand out from any other well-made suspenseful film. And as much as I loved the visual effects in Gravity, I just don’t see that one winning either (though as I stated above I think Cuarón has a good chance of winning Best Director). I think the race is really between Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave. I think either of those two deserve more than anyone else in the category, but I think 12 Years a Slave just has something more that Dallas Buyers Club was missing. For that reason I think 12 Years a Slave should win, but will it? I guess we’ll find out on Sunday.

Best Picture Nominee: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Wolf of Wall StreetCast:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Jonah Hill

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stockbroker who made millions through fraudulent stock sales.

For the first half of the movie I wasn’t sure whether I should be amused by what I was seeing or appalled by the behavior on screen. The characters of this film took debauchery to a whole new level; drugs, alcohol, prostitutes – and that’s all just in the workplace. About halfway through the movie there was a scene in which the main characters were discussing the hiring of dwarfs for some of their office antics ( throwing them against a velcro dart board, which is shown in the beginning of the film) and their conversation became so over the top and offensive (one line being not to think of them as humans) that it finally hit me – it’s SUPPOSED to be this awful. These people were terrible, and everything in this film serves to emphasize just how depraved their lifestyle was. Once I was able to view the film this way and not just an attempt to be scandalous or shocking, I was able to enjoy it much more.

The plot of The Wolf of Wall Street was much more linear and coherent than American Hustle, but the characters are not nearly as well-developed or likeable as those characters were. However, the performances were just as good. Dicaprio was excellent as Belfort, whether or not you found the character despicable. While I enjoyed American Hustle more overall,  between DiCaprio and Christian Bale I would probably pick DiCaprio as the better contender for Best Actor.

Rating: 7/10

Favorite Moment: After a delayed reaction to some extremely potent drugs, Belfort has to crawl and roll himself out of the country club and back to his car, then attempt to drive himself home. This scene was practically perfect.

Nominee Ranking:

  1. American Hustle
  2. The Wolf of Wall Street