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Steep competition among Best Picture Oscar nominees

[heading size=”25″ margin=”10″]Best Picture[/heading] [tabs] [tab title=”Wolf of Wallstreet”]

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Wolf of Wall Street

If cursing, nudity and blatant law-breaking bothers you, then do not watch The Wolf of Wall Street. However, if your maturity allows you to not cringe every time you hear the f-word, then you might find this movie enjoyable like I did.

Watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s accurate portrayal of Jordan Belfort’s unbelievably insane life makes this movie a must-see. The movie includes a cast of characters that you can’t help but like, even when they launder money and cheat on their wives. Parts of the movie are comical, like when Leo and Jonah Hill trip off of expired Quaaludes.

Parts of it are sad, like watching Leo’s first wife in the movie divorce him after she realizes he’s cheating on her. And parts of it are completely unbelievable, like when the stockers and Stratton and Oakmont throw midgets onto a Velcro bulls-eye. It’s hard to make money-grubbing thieves seem likable and mildly relatable, but The Wolf of Wall Street does that and more.

For me, the most enjoyable part of this movie was watching Leonardo DiCaprio. He is a truly talented actor, and this movie shows that very well. If Leo doesn’t win an Oscar for his incredible performance, then there is no hope for him or society.

By Madeline Kuligowski

What did you think of The Wolf of Wall Street?

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[tab title=”Nebraska”]

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 9.49.43 AMNebraska

Completely shot in black and white, I assumed this movie would be entirely bleak. It did have many sad moments, but also heartwarming and funny ones too. The colorless way in which it was filmed attests to the overarching theme of regret. Many of the characters, especially Woody Grant, display a dissatisfaction with their lives.

Woody, an alcoholic with a fading memory, wants to believe in the scam letter that alerts him to winning a million dollars. While his family tries to convince Woody that the letter is just junk mail, he refuses to believe it. He wants more than anything to be a millionaire who can buy a new truck and support his family well.

With dry humor and bittersweet scenes, this movie surprised me. Some of the scenes were absolutely beautiful, even if they were just of an old house in the mid-west or an expanse of farmland. Nebraska is a story that I think many can relate to. It thrives off of realism and a close look at family relationships.

However, I think this movie will have a hard time competing with some of the other movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, which featured big names and lots of action.

By Sophie Whyte

What are your thoughts on Nebraska?

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[tab title=”Gravity”]

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Gravity

Gravity is about two astronauts who try to survive after an accident sends them off to drift in space. It stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, two well renowned actors who, once again, did a wonderful job acting. Bullock and Clooney worked well together, adding something good to this not-so-good movie.

I was slightly disappointed in the storyline most, if not all, of the way through. It felt to me, like a very dry movie that I had seen before. Every movie set in space seems to be one disaster after another, with a somewhat bittersweet ending. Gravity was no different. It may have been all of the high praise that everyone around me gave the movie, or maybe I just went in expecting too much because of the trailers, but I wouldn’t say this was as great a movie as it has been rumored. In my eyes, the best part was the ending, because the movie was over.

This is not to say it wasn’t good, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and special effects.

The movie does a great job of making you feel like you are in space as well. A lot of the time, I found myself holding my breath because of the ‘lack of oxygen’ or sudden travesties. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend someone watch Gravity, but I wouldn’t trash it if someone decided to. For Best Picture, I don’t think Gravity will take the win against its competitors. The movie was good, but that’s it: just good.

By Renata Williams

What are your thoughts on Gravity?

[/tab] [tab title=”American Hustle”]

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 9.46.45 AMAmerican Hustle

Starting at the middle then shifting to the beginning, the plot was hard to follow and the storyline felt muddled. While it is clear con artists Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale, and Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams, are under the thumb of an FBI agent, it is difficult to understand how they got there until the very end. This film requires the viewer to watch every scene through to the end in order to understand the story as a whole.

While the plot of American Hustle left me mind-numbed and confused, the picturesque footage fed my hopes for some interesting scenes. Jennifer Lawrence’s episodes of insanity as Rosenfeld’s deranged housewife, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, reflected her performance in Silver Linings Playbook.

However, even Lawrence’s comedic presence couldn’t make up for the lack of a plot. Then ‘70s style cinematography provided a beautiful screen with great lighting, yet with no substance. If American Hustle wins Best Picture, it would only be for the quality of the acting and Hollywood’s ability to create perfection, not because it is a great story.

By Emily Franke

What do you think of American Hustle?

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[tab title=”Captain Phillips”]

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 9.47.42 AMCaptain Phillips

As soon as I knew Tom Hanks would be in this film, I knew I had to see it. Even though I only saw it because of Hanks, I was pleasantly surprised to find this film’s plot, filming and music to be incredible. It definitely ranks as an Oscar-worthy film.

A thrilling, action-packed film about a ship taken over by pirates may seem unbelievable, yet it is based on a true story. No, not pirates like Jack Sparrow, but rather true Somali pirates that threaten international shipping every day.

The cinematography, which often focused on the raw emotion of the actors’ faces, brought the film to life. I felt like I was on the ship with them, experiencing the fear and adrenaline in real time.

I generally don’t like action movies, since it often results in a lackluster plot or mediocre acting,  but Captain Phillips proved me wrong. Not only was Hanks amazing, so was the rest of the cast, particularly Barkhad Abdi, who had never acted before to my surprise. He is Somali, which is excellent since there are far too many movies where an actor is supposed to portray one nationality, but the actor has no connection to that nationality at all. It made the film that much more real.

I expect this film to be a frontrunner as far as Oscar nominees tonight.

By Sophie Whyte

What do you think of Captain Phillips?

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[tab title=”Dallas Buyers Club”]

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 9.48.36 AMDallas  Buyers Club

From within this collection of cinema is a movie that, while entertaining subject matter that may little relate to common lives, exhibits the often short, sad, and yet inspiring story of a dying man.

As a general rule, I dislike Matthew Mcconaughey, for reasons that should be apparent. However, alongside Jennifer Garner and Jared Leoto, the picture, though slowly at first, begins to form a trio that no movie-goer will soon forget. Initially grotesque, and very strongly bordering on offensive, the movie is real, as well as sad, and intense.

The film opens with the main character, Ron Woodroof (M.M.) copulating with a random woman against a fence at a rodeo. The woman and Ron are clear users, not of only people but also a litany of substances that are more than likely both FDA approved and not. Though professionally an electrician, Ron spends a large amount of time with his Texas rodeo friends, a prototypical representation of a circle of male friends on the lower end of life, and “It ain’t pretty.”

Yet, as usual, things must get worse before they get better.

Soon, after fainting in his own home, Ron is diagnosed with HIV, a new and emerging disease in the late 1980’s, and one that spells trouble for the extra macho and apparently mortal Ron. Rejected by his friends for being assumed homosexual by contracting the virus, Ron is left with 30 days to live. Quickly enough, Ron sobers up, does some research and consults his doctor (Jennifer Garner), to obtain experimental drugs to help lengthen his life span.

Within the course of this journey to obtain and spread the drug, (a moral conflict of J.G.) Ron begins to make a new him, along with new friends such as Rayon (Jared Leoto), a cross-dressing man that has also fallen victim to the illness. Alongside Rayon, Ron begins a business of selling the effective yet illegal drug to others who need it; all while traveling the globe in search of a steady stream of what is basically life for the ill.

Though it takes a while, the viewer is also entitled to the changing mind of Eve (J.G.), as she argues with her colleagues about the release of a potentially harmful legal drug, before enough testing had been done. Though she as a character never ends up as a center-piece in the drug ring Ron and Rayon create, her journey is one of reflection and acceptance that sometimes, two wrongs can make things right.

By Ross Parks

What do you think of Dallas Buyers Club?

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[tab title=”12 Years a Slave”]

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 9.50.06 AM12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave is an overwhelmingly devastating and overpowering film that tells a true story about an abducted black man forced into slavery. Every scene conveys truth in such a simple yet memorable manner. It’s a film that not only entertains, but educates.

The acting itself is phenomenal. These characters have you feeling like you are really watching from 2 feet away. In many instances, the movie had me emotional. Not often do I get to see the portrayal of one of America’s biggest sins done in such a classical, modern way. The ending brought tears to my eyes, but also had me angry.

Although 12 Years a Slave is depressing, I found it hard to look away or turn it off; it’s a beautiful piece of cinematography portraying an essential story that everyone should watch. It is truly brilliant in every aspect that a movie can excel in, not a piece of the movie is a waste. I really hope this movie wins the Oscar for Best Picture because no other film on that list had me as intrigued, disgusted, and enlightened all at the same time. If one film can do that in two hrs, then it deserves high recognition.

By Renata Williams

What do you think of 12 Years a Slave?

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[tab title=”Her”]

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Her

Few films make you think. At best, some leave you thinking while you leave the theater, maybe until the trek to the car. Even fewer make you feel. But out of the fraction of heartfelt films today, Her makes it in by a long shot. In a truly unique (and quirky) plot, the movie brings up challenging questions about what is means to be human and our growing dependence on technology.

Set in the near (and somewhat dystopian) future, Her chronicles the story of Theodore Twombly, a man who falls in love with his highly intelligent computer, or OS. At first, keeping it a secret, Twombly secretly begins to build a relationship with Samantha. Later on, as OS’ become more integral to society, Twombly and Samantha go public. The rest of Her depicts society and it’s relationship and wide acceptance (and dependence) of technology in place of previous mentalities.

If there’s one thing Her took the cake on, it’s picture. The cinematography was amazing, turning mundane shots into real pieces of art. I honestly could’ve just pressed mute and watched the entire film, savoring each and every scene. Throughout the film, neutrals and muted colors come together in Her’s interpretation of a dystopian world, and become another medium through which the story’s told. Along with a cast of relative knowns (Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix, to name a few) the film challenges the technological world we live in and our reliance on media.

One scene that really stuck with me (and that was a great depiction of the film’s message) was a shot of commuters on the street. Out of the dozens of people that walking by, every single one of them was interacting (talking, laughing, etc) with a piece of technology, instead of striking up any sort of real communication with their fellow pedestrians. These people had traded in real relationships for counterfeit ones. For me, the scene not only depicted the death of relational skills but also the sad reality of a future that isn’t all that far fetched. In other words, the scene was tragic. So, it was with quiet, nonthreatening scenes, that Her’s message was delivered.

But while Her was good, even great, Best Picture seems like a long shot. Maybe I’m biased because it’s not my typical genre of film, but I think other films are much more qualified and apt to win. Her was hard-hitting, a challenging film, but other nominees (12 Years a Slave) seem like Oscars’ royalty.

Either way, Her was still one of my favorite films of 2013. It was one of the few movies that managed a was quirky yet intelligent vibe. Ultimately, Her was a story that really hit home because it was applicable. While the other nominees, tell the story of an individual, Her tells the story of society, possibly our own, and it’s near future perspectives.

By Ashleigh Atasoy

What do you think of Her?

[/tab] [tab title=”Philomena”]

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 8.17.30 AMPhilomena

Quite simply put, Philomena is brilliant.

I think half the reason I love it so much is that it exceeded my expectations so assuredly. “Philomena” is a so-called quirky movie, and I’ve come to expect very little from quirky movies. In trying to be sparse and cool, nine times out of ten, they leave you unsatisfied and disappointed, without a sense of closure or that warmth that comes from watching a truly good movie.

Philomena is the rare one out of 10, the improbability I’ve come to not expect.

It has every component of a brilliant movie — incredible acting, a beautiful score, stunning cinematography, a moving storyline, tragedy and humor in equal parts and a sense of cohesion and ease.

Based on the investigative book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, Philomena tells the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench). She had a baby, Anthony, out of wedlock as a teen, and living in Irish-Catholic Ireland, was forced to give him up to a convent. She had been searching for him for 50 years since with the convent standing in her way, and Philomena is the story of her search once jaded political journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), comes to her aid.

Sixsmith and Lee are distinctive and entertaining characters, but the true charm of the film comes in their hilarious interactions and their ability to learn from each other. Their journey together across continents is alternatingly heart-wrenching and uplifting, but always unconventional, incredibly acted and told with the eye of a masterful artist and human being. Furthermore, the film does the service of bringing the widely unknown issue of convents blocking mothers from finding their babies to light in a way that humanizes both sides of the issue gracefully.

Of the Oscar-nominated movies I’ve seen, Philomena is by far the best, but regardless of whether it wins or not, it is a story that deserves to be heard.

By Urmila Kutikkad

What do you think of Philomena?

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