I haven’t seen all the best picture nominees for 2014 yet, but I’ve seen most of them. Last night I watched American Hustle, which I think is by far the best of them.
There’s a certain type of movie that gets nominated for an Oscar. It needs to possess some gravitas, either in subject matter, the production/direction, or genesis. ‘Worthy’ films will always be nominated ahead of a comedy. Scorcese will be nominated ahead of an up and comer (or even a Christopher Nolan). Big themes will do better than small art house. And so on. For the most part the movies that get nominated are pretty decent pieces of film-making, but often times they’re predictable choices, and occasionally dull. For what it’s worth I can’t remember the last time I watched a best picture winner and thought ‘wow’.
12 Years a Slave won the gong this year. It’s a movie that ticks off a lot of the standard requirements. It’s worthy, it’s a bloody big theme, and has a serious subject. It was a movie that was always going to do will for sheer sentiment – the academy being a liberal organisation. None of that is wrong, or bad, and it’s certainly a good movie – just not as good as I expected it to be.
It’s powerful, and even shocking on occasions. It’s very well made, and well acted. And it’s a story worth telling, perhaps even a story that had to be told. I found it a tad episodic though, and that I wasn’t as engaged as I expected to be.
I’ve already passed comment on Gravity. Basically an entertaining crock.
The Wolf of Wall Street was another of the big title movies to be nominated. I know a lot of people who love this movie, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of the subjective when you rate movies. This was another expertly made movie, and it has some wonderful scenes and great characters throughout it. Well acted, etc, it has a good story to tell. I enjoyed it, but thought it was too long.
Of all these movies the one I’ve enjoyed most is American Hustle. For a start it has wonderful performances throughout it. You look at Christian Bale and you forget it’s him. It’s just so precisely real – Matthew McConaughey must have been marvellous in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Amy Adams is just great too, but every performance is top notch.
Then there are passages of film-making in this that make you just sit back and enjoy the rich and elaborate story-telling. There are sections of this movie that are just virtuoso. It’s a fascinating, entertaining story, and set in a fascinating era I have no real memory of, but can somehow relate to. It’s beautifully evoked.
Of all the movies this was the most fun, not to say that is really a measure when it comes to the top gong. But it also had the best performances, the most elaborate landscape, and, of these, the best directed I think (much better than the winner, Alfonso Cuaron, for Gravity).
Each to his own. Best in this case is purely subjective, but it’s nice to be awarded that.