Ellen Degeneres. Pure awesomeness, my favourite Oscars host ever. She really proves that you can be silly and funny at the same time without all the sex jokes and raunchy humour. Seriously, I LOVED the pizza delivery and the selfie gigs, they were just brilliant!
Anyway, what a year for films and performances! I’m very happy to watch all the films and performances this year, and it’s a great end to celebrating them.
So it’s time for my simple, humble opinions on some of the major categories this year.
Best Picture: What a great lineup! My top 2 are masterpieces, but the rest are great too. In fact, some of them would have made very worthy winners in the other years. Only one didn’t fare so well with me, but I was entertained by it, so no issues there! You know it’s a great year when you are fine with the winner even if it is not your pick. It’s one of the rare few times (the other 2 being last year and 2007) I watch all the nominees because they all seem so interesting. And they are! In fact, even though I loved last year for the overall originality and uniqueness of the films (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook), I’d actually give this year the edge in terms of quality.
1) Gravity (5/5): I’m not going to go into why this film resonated so well with me. It pushed me to go on during a stressful school period, but objectively speaking, a human drama set in space that is not science fiction? What a marvellous concept! Of course, it’s understandably not loved by everyone and has its share of haters, but I’m not one of them. LOVED IT. I have no issues with some of the imagery and metaphors employed, it didn’t feel as pretentious as some other films (in fact I thought they were outstanding).
2) 12 Years a Slave (5/5): Very deserving winner. Bravo!
3) Philomena (4/5): Ok fine, it was really the element of unexpected surprise that influenced my judgement here. Probably swap it with The Wolf of Wall Street after the surprise dies off.
4) The Wolf of Wall Street (4/5)
5) Nebraska (4/5)
6) Her (4/5): It’s a great film, I’m just not particularly crazy about it.
7) Dallas Buyers Club (4/5)
8) Captain Phillips (4/5): I’m a bit less enthusiastic about it now, but it’s still a solid thriller with very good performances.
9) American Hustle (3/5): The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. It could have been a BRILLIANT film, but instead it turned out to have some really some missed opportunities, like with uneven storytelling, pointless character arcs and standard acting. Still, it’s a good and entertaining piece that I liked for what it is.
Best Director: Not really going to go into details here. 2 outstanding works that are deserving, 2 great (yes, even Alexander Payne), and 1 okay.
1) Alfonso Cuarón
2) Steve McQueen
3) Martin Scorsese
4) Alexander Payne
5) David O. Russell
Best Supporting Actress: This wasn’t an outstanding line-up, but far from horrible. The performances didn’t really jump out at me. My winner is probably the least popular, but I don’t really care; she made me laugh out loud, and she moved me at the same time, despite her rather shaky lines (not her fault of course). Nyong’o and Lawrence cancelled each other out for me. Jennifer plays the kind of role and performance that I personally love (guilty pleasure): the crazily funny wife/mistress with vulnerable moments (Hello, Penelope Cruz). However, her performance was a bit shaky. Like I said, she did seem a little lost at times and her first scene was quite overacted at times. But she had some really, really strong moments that I’m not going to deny, like the microwave (Yeah, yeah, I loved it, so what) and the “I don’t like change”. Lupita, on the other hand, gave an incredibly haunting performance, and I really can see that she elevated the material. Unfortunately, her role is just waaaay too limited to impress me. She felt a bit like a plot device to me, rather than a character. It didn’t even have to be exceedingly complex; maybe just focus a little bit more on her naivety, or something simple about her personality (other than making it entirely about her suffering) that can make us love her even more and feel strongly for her. I really felt she was overshadowed by her strong film and Ejiofor’s performance. Still, I have zero issues with her win, and her recent Ellen interview just made me root for her even more. One can see that she is a beautiful (that face! that body! that dress!) and very talented actress (to make such a strong impact with only 2 scenes of dialogue? Wow!) with an awesome personality that I really love. So eloquent too. I hope that this win would propel her to juicy and complex roles that can blow us away.
1) June Squibb in Nebraska (4/5)
2) Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle(3.5/5)
3) Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave (3.5/5)
4) Julia Roberts in August: Osage County (3.5/5): I really struggled with her placement. She was once my pick, then my second and now my fourth. And it’s probably going to continue jumping around. I can see the issues that people have with her: She really brought out the bitterness of the character, and I felt her. But I think there were other aspects that can be explored too, other than the fact that she’s a bitter woman with a whacked out family. Still, it’s a good, solid performance.
5) Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine (3/5): Eh, her performance is really true to its name: she was there to support the development of the main character and the plot. Still, her last scene was very strong, especially the “I’m like this, because you married the biggest loser of all” line (or something like that). I know I am very unfair, but Kim Hunter’s outstanding work in Streetcar has totally distorted my judgement. I also felt that the tension between her and Blanchett was a bit lacking.
Omissions: Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street, and I guess Amy Adams in Her although I’m not crazy about her work there. Update: Sarah Paulson in 12 Years a Slave
Best supporting actor: With Jared Leto being one of my favourites winners in this category ever, I now have no complains. Michael Fassbender would have been very worthy in another year.
1) Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club (5/5): Nuff said.
2) Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave (4.5/5): Although I prefer complex and evil geniuses, he really bought all he could to this role and made it very chilling.
3) Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips: (4/5): I liked him a bit more than I initially did. Some people have said that his acting is amateurish, but I think we tend to forget that even if that is true (guy never acted before), it really fitted his character and brought out the traits: an uneducated, simple Somali pirate who only has a simple goal of robbing the ship. He even added extra layers to the character. I try to imagine how calculated a trained actor would be, trying to portray the simple and educated aspects of the character. I even think that it’s remarkable how he added the extra layers to the character.
4) Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street (3/5): He was appropriately disgusting and funny in his movie, and didn’t come off as annoying as number 5.
5) Bradley Cooper in American Hustle (2.5/5): Even if I managed to convince myself that the character is supposed to be very annoying (which I disagree, look at how Hill balances the obnoxious and the annoying aspects), I just couldn’t buy that he was from the FBI. I mean really? He was so…coked up. Still, a good effort I guess, and I’d also blame the writing.
Omissions: Stacy Keach in Nebraska, Jeremy Renner in American Hustle, haven’t seen Matthew Mcconaughey in Mud.
Best actress: It’s a really strong category, even better than last year (which I loved for its uniqueness, rather than the quality of the acting). I usually go for brilliant, complex roles, but I decided this time to follow my heart and go for the emotionally transformational one. But I have no issues with Cate Blanchett winning, that performance is a masterpiece.
1) Sandra Bullock in Gravity (5/5): *Ducks for cover* From the initial quiet pain about her personal tragedy, to the giving up of hope, to finding hope, to the ending…I don’t care, I loved her perfomance. It’s one of the rare few times where the performer doesn’t get overshadowed by her fantastic film (what I feel a little about Kate Winslet in Titanic), and it’s also one of the rare few times I am actually impressed with the physical aspects of the performance.
2) Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (5/5): What happens when Blanche Dubois comes to the modern world? Voila, you get Cate Blanchett as Jasmine French, a performance that is so masterfully complex, brilliantly calculated, and highly original without feeling like a rip-off of a legendary performance. One of the best winners in recent years.
3) Judi Dench in Philomena (4.5/5): It’s the kind of ordinary, non-flashy performance that people think that a nomination is enough…but not me! I think this is a very strong, I daresay powerful performance by one of the greatest actresses ever. Even a “typical” Judi Dench performance is at least “very good”, so go figure.
4) Meryl Streep in August: Osage County (4/5): While I am a hardcore Meryl Streep worshipper, I have to admit that her acting style isn’t one of my favourites (Focusing on technicals, mannerisms and accents). Still, Marvellous Meryl can always turn the most unlikely roles that don’t fit her into something gold. A few overdone mannerims, or Meryl-isms, but still a strong and at times heartbreaking performance by this great actress.
5) Amy Adams in American Hustle (4/5): She actually grew on me. Honestly, it’s not a bad performance at all, and sometimes I even feel that she is the only one (and Bale) among the cast making a conscientious effort to do some serious acting, to create a character. Unfortunately, her movie’s writing made her seem sooooo pointless! Like when I’m watching her scenes, I feel like I’m watching a separate movie altogether: The life of Sydney Prosser, or Lady Edith, and her adventures with one of the stupidest FBI agents on screen. Her shaky accent didn’t bother me: I think the woman was never the master (yeah, I had to reference that role) that she thought she was, and for a con artist she is especially full of insecurities and confidence issues. Amy depicted all these very well. Personally, I’d have loved it if she attacked the role like Sharon Stone in Casino and went full throttle with the over-the-topness, but her approach is good, probably better than what I suggested (guilty pleasure).
Omissions: Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks (Over Amy Adams), and Zhang Ziyi in The Grandmaster, cause why not? She was great in that film. Update: Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Colour, my personal pick.
Best actor: Considered one of the strongest set of nominees ever, and I’d agree. ALL of the performances are solid, and the first 4 would have made worthy very winners, especially in years like 2009 & 2010 (with no disrespect for Mr Firth and Mr Bridges intended).
1) Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (5/5): The rebellious side in me wanted to go for DiCarprio, but honestly, even I can’t deny that this is one of the most powerful and complex portrayals ever. Very deserving.
2) Leonardo DiCarprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (5/5): Honestly, I usually hate such performances (very shallow character), but DiCarprio managed to depict the rise and fall of this master douche in such a masterfully hilarious fashion that I loved it. I wished such performances get recognised more often. It is a very demanding role, I think. How do you prevent yourself from overdoing it? Well, watch him here.
3) Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (4.5/5): Like Judi Dench, he’s given a somewhat simple character, but he added so many layers and pure, honest emotions to it that the result is a masterpiece. Bordering on 5, and in fact, I might just give him a full 5 for that last scene alone.
4) Bruce Dern in Nebraska (4.5/5): He was not just an old man playing an old man, seriously.
5) Christian Bale in American Hustle (4/5): It’s good on its own, it just pales in comparison to the other nominees.
Omissions: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix in Her, Daniel Bruhl in Rush (it’s a leading performance, please!)
That’s all! Feel free to agree, disagree and declare that I have no tastes in movie, I don’t care. My opinions are harmless!
Ok, and while I enjoyed Frozen…hmm, really?