Ranking this year's Oscar best picture nominees

Posted at 03/02/14 11:27 AM

A scene from "Gravity"

With the Oscar Awards coming this weekend (March 3 morning Manila time), it is time to make my fearless Oscar predictions. Here is how I would rank this year's nominees for Oscar Best Picture based on my own opinions when I first saw these films. I note that I liked the nominees for Best Picture more this year than last year's.

1. GRAVITY (10/10)
Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers

Director Alfonso Cuaron has created a masterpiece that knows when to move for excitement and when to stop for meditation. We enjoy the breathtaking ride through the dangerous outer frontiers. We also get to look inwards to the essence of our own minuscule humanity in stark contrast to the vastness of the universe. I am betting this would win Best Picture with Cuaron getting Best Director. As much as I'd like Sandra Bullock to win Best Actress for her practically solo performance, I will not argue that Cate Blanchett might win for her neurotic role in "Blue Jasmine." I also expect "Gravity" to romp off with the technical awards: Cinematography, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Sound and Musical Score.


Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, Producers

If you like great camp, this is the film to catch. Everything about this movie is overblown and over the top. I enjoyed watching this film about con artists out- conning each other. There was so much fun watching their out-of-this-world hair and clothes. The extreme over-acting of each of the main cast was so unlike anything we have ever seen them in -- it was just so downright entertaining. The four main actors (Bale, Adams, Cooper and Lawrence) all earn nominations. I feel Lawrence had the best performance of all, and is in a 50-50 battle with Lupita Nyongo for the Supporting Actress crown. She just won Best Actress last year though, so this might work against her favor.


3. NEBRASKA (8/10)
Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers

This film by Alexander Payne is about folks in the heartland of America, but I guess characters like this exist everywhere on earth, and we can relate to the story about a son finally getting to know his father as he slowly turns senile. We will all get touched by the time the ending comes. So well set-up, that ending! Made the whole film worth watching. Bruce Dern gives what could be the greatest performance of his career, so fully deserving of the Oscar nomination for Best Actor. His portrayal of the deluded Woody Grant was subdued and quiet, but it was most magnetic and dignified.


4. HER (8/10)
Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers

With "Her," Spike Jonze succeeds to create an atmosphere of romance in what may seem to be a soulless concept on paper. This film will make you reflect and reassess your addiction to your gadgets vis a vis the people around you who love you. As writer, Jonze used words which were very poetic, even bordering on mushy. There are many quotable romantic lines here which lovers will be borrowing in days to come. I believe that its original screenplay should win the Oscar. Joaquin Phoenix plays lonely so heartbreakingly well. Scarlett Johanssen's voice makes the whole absurd concept of falling in love with a computer operating system miraculously work.


Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

While this film seemed like it was celebrating the crime Belfort was perpetrating, director Martin Scorsese told it in a very frenetic and entertaining way. The structure of the film was odd though, as the first two hours plus was about the scandalously wild lifestyle Belfort and friends had in the lap of luxury. It was fun, yes, to the point of annoyance. Leonardo diCaprio faces strong opposition in the Best Actor race from Matthew McConaughey, but many believe this is his time to win. Jonah Hill is just lucky to be nominated.


Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers

This Paul Greengrass film is a different sort of adventure drama, with a topic not too commonly tackled in a mainstream film. It brings us right in the middle of a mid-ocean piracy situation in progress. We will feel the desperation and the frustration of being trapped in the middle of the open ocean with no help immediately forthcoming. If you are up for such a realistic harrowing experience, then this film is for you. Tom Hanks was snubbed from the Best Actor race, but the field is really very tight. Barkhad Abdi should be thankful for his Supporting Actor nod for his role as the lead Somali pirate, though his chance of winning is slim.


7. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (7/10)
Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers

This Steve McQueen film brings back those sordid days of suffering indignities and torture while forced to work in those cotton fields in the American South. For me, I felt the scenes depicting these horrors of slavery were not really different from what we have seen in the past. The level of violence was just amped up. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a dignified performance as Solomon Northup and Michael Fassbender is a sleazy Master Epps, but it is newcomer Lupita Nyongo who has the best chance of bringing home Oscar for her heart-rending turn as Patsey. It also has a big chance to win the Adapted Screenplay prize.


8. PHILOMENA (7/10)
Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers

This film by Stephen Frears is basically a film by two actors: Dame Judi Dench (as the lady searching for her long lost son) and Stephen Coogan (as the journalist assigned to write about it). They acted off each other very well. The way the film showed the progress of their search and its eventual outcome was very riveting and very touching. The anti-religious slant at the end came on a bit too strongly for me. Ms. Dench does very well as Philomena, but for me it is not unlike the way she had played her other movie characters in the past. It was pretty much her signature style. It did not really stretch her acting muscles too much, I felt.


Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers

The film itself is well-made by director Jean Marc Vallee, with disturbing images of Woodroof's raunchy homophobic lifestyle contrasting with his crusading work among AIDS patients later in life. For me, it went a bit too slowly paced and seemed repetitive at points. But this film is really all about Matthew McConaughey and his growth as an actor. His performance as Ron Woodroof is the main attraction of this film. Jared Leto is a cinch to win Best Supporting Actor in his portrayal of Rayon, a transvestite who became Woodruff's unlikely partner in his business. The Make-up and Hairstyling prize should be in the bag (though I was surprised "American Hustle" was not nominated in that category.)


This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."