Oscars for Dummies: Your guide to this year’s Best Picture nominees

Oscars Piece

Going to an Oscar party but you haven’t seen all of the nine films nominated for Best Picture? We’ve got you covered.

We break down each movie’s chances to help you cheat your way through conversations (while pretending you actually know something about Hollywood’s biggest night).


American Hustle

What it’s about:

Two con artists are forced to work with an FBI agent who brings them into the world of Jersey’s power brokers and mafia scene.

What you need to know:

While the film received mixed reviews from audiences, both critics and filmgoers agree that It Girl of the moment Jennifer Lawrence was the highlight. It’s also worth checking out for Louis C.K.’s small, but talked-about role.

Why it could win:

JLaw is in this movie and nominated for Best Supporting Actress. She’s already won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for this role.

Hollywood also seems to worship the ground David O. Russell walks on, nominating him five times since 2011. However, he’s come out short each time. Could this be the year he finally prevails?

Why it won’t win: 

While the majority of critics have praised the film’s wit and performances, others have been calling it messy and overrated. Personally, the movie bored me and Bradley Cooper’s hair and Christian Bale’s pot belly was distracting. Lawrence’s acting also does nothing for me. While her character is supposed to be sassy and manipulative, her role just makes it seem like she’s playing herself.

 

Her

What it’s about:

A lonely writer played by Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his computer Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) and they begin dating, making us all fear that this is going to be the future.

What you need to know:

There was much debate over whether Scarlett Johansson should earn a nom for supporting actress. Also, this film has a strange obsession with tweed high-waisted pants.

Why it could win:

Spike Jonze is a genius because watching this film is like predicting the future. It’s also nominated for five Oscars including Best Original Screenplay and Best Song for Karen O. 

Why it won’t win: 

The movie’s concept may be too realistic and strange for some people to accept. And besides, looking at the film’s poster can get kind of creepy. Also, those pants.

 

Captain Phillips

What it’s about:

The guy from Cast Away is in trouble once again. But this time, his ship’s is under siege from modern-day pirates.

What you need to know:

Based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, the film’s shining star is Barkhad Abdi, the captain of his crew of Somalian pirates. Everyone loves a newcomer from humble beginnings. Formerly a limousine driver, how awesome would it be to see him take home the golden statuette?

Why it could win:

“Look at me. Look at me. I’m the Captain now.”

That quote pretty much makes the whole film, all thanks to Best Supporting Actor nominee Abdi. While the film’s second half makes you want to pull your hair out from stress, Captain Phillips keeps the viewer wondering what will happen next even if the ending is fairly obvious.

Why it won’t win: 

Its simplistic us-versus-them storyline is a bit problematic as the movie’s villainous portrayal of the Somalian pirates can come off sounding offensive.

 

Philomena

What it’s about:

Based on a true story, disgraced British journalist follows an elderly Irish lady on a journey to America to find her long lost son.

What you need to know:

Steve Coogan brought the real Philomena Lee to the Golden Globes to introduce the film during the telecast.

Why it could win:

As always, the talented Dame Judi Dench does not disappoint. With her charm and Steve Coogan’s sassy humour, the unconventional friendship between their characters is endearing and adorable.

Why it won’t win: 

Philomena who? Because there are nine Best Picture nominees, most people probably haven’t even heard of this film before. I think that’s unacceptable. WATCH IT NOW!

 

Dallas Buyers Club

What it’s about: 

A homophobic rodeo cowboy contracts AIDS and collaborates with a transgender woman to form an unstoppable partnership. Together, they start a “members only” club for distributing unapproved AIDS treatment drugs into Texas for other patients.

What you need to know:

Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto lost a ton a weight and act the heck out of their roles.

Why it could win:

Brilliant acting. Hands down. And Hollywood loves dramatic transformations. Both actors are favoured to take home a golden statuette having each already won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award.

Why it won’t win: 

The acting is being praised more than the story. It also doesn’t include Jennifer Lawrence.

 

The Wolf of Wall Street

What it’s about:

Documenting the rise and fall of a wealthy stockbrocker, the film’s basically a hilarious exploration of excess and its corrupting effects. The three hours are filled with drugs, swearing, corruption, and an offensive amount of naked people.

What you need to know:

Yet another nominated film based on a true story.

Why it could win:

Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for his fourth Oscar for what is likely the best performance of his career. This could be the year the Academy finally honours him, as he’s basically the anchor that makes the film so entertaining.

Why it won’t win: 

Martin Scorsese has already taken home statuette before for The Departed. And its heavy usage of drugs, alcohol, swear words and nudity may be too much to bear for Academy voters.

 

Gravity

What it’s about:

Things go from bad to worse for a rookie astronaut when she becomes stranded in space.

What you need to know: 

Along with 12 Years a Slave, this is the first film to tie for Best Picture at the Producers Guild Awards.

Why it could win:

The film is thrilling and wonderful from start to finish. In fact, its 3D visual effects are so realistic that it will probably diminish any ambition of yours to go to space.

Why it won’t win:

Every year, one film gets nominated for its visuals and artistry. Gravity is this year’s Avatar. Although the plot of Gravity is MUCH better than James Cameron’s sci-fi epic, this film isn’t the same if you make the mistake of trying to watch it on your phone.

 

Nebraska

What it’s about:

An aging alcoholic goes on a road trip with his estranged son to claim a million dollar prize.

What you need to know:

Director Alexander Payne has won two Oscars for screenwriting for The Descendants and Sideways. 

Why it could win:

The quality of acting here is top-notch. Best Actor nominee Bruce Dern gives the performance of a lifetime as a man who grows more senile as he ages. June Squibb, on the other hand, shows how it’s done as an 84-year-old veteran and steals every scene.

Why it won’t win: 

Thanks to the Academy’s decision to nominate the awkward number of nine movies for Best Picture, this one is buried among flashier features such as American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street.

 

12 Years A Slave

What it’s about: 

Based on a true story, the film follows a free black man from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years.

What you need to know:

The film’s producer, Brad Pitt, plays the heroic Canadian.

Why it could win:

It’s hard to find any negatives about this film as actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o bring their A-game.

Both harrowing and depressing, 12 Years delivers a powerful message and it’s exactly what the Academy loves. The heart and soul of the film is Ejiofor himself. In fact, he’s so good in this that he doesn’t even have to say a word. Just one look into his eyes reveals all the trauma his character is going through.

Why it won’t win: 

With scenes of brutal torture and sexual abuse, this film is not uplifting. But with the quality of acting and directing, it would be a huge mistake not to award this film with the night’s top prize.

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