Gangs of New York

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we will take a look at Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Daniel Day-Lewis. It is rated R for  strong violence, sexuality, and language.

In this Scorsese classic, we follow the Irish mobster Amsterdam Vallon as he navigates his way through the turbulent mid-1800’s. Amsterdam, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, attempts to avenge his father’s old Irish gang, The Dead Rabbits, by getting close to his father’s killer, Bill Cutting (Daniel Day Lewis). Amsterdam is soon forced to keep up a false identity and hold back his own feelings for Cutting’s lover, Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz). Along the way, Amsterdam becomes acquainted with New York’s seedy underground and the corrupted political figures who are run by it.

6.5 out of 10

I just wasn’t really feeling this film. I guess it was good, but then again I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that Gangs of New York really isn’t my type. But then again, I’m a fan of gang movies. So what is it that makes me feel so lukewarm towards this movie?

Hate to say it, but I wasn’t too impressed with Leonardo DiCaprio in this one. I can’t place the blame entirely on him though. Amsterdam Vallon is not very well written, as he’s got only two emotions: angry and angrier. The entire film he’s just annoyed, even when he’s getting it on with Cameron Diaz. He’s very one-sided, which hurts the film significantly since he’s the heart of the film. Cameron Diaz played her character rather blandly as well. She was a formidable female lead, but not one that I would fall in love with.

I would have been totally bored of the acting if not for Daniel Day-Lewis, who was electrifying. The first movie I had ever seen him in was Lincoln, and I wasn’t sure I could imagine him as anyone else. He just got so into his role, so much that he was permanently associated in my mind with Abraham Lincoln. So much for that. Daniel Day-Lewis is equally as immersed in his role as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. He is as brutal, evil and as cold blooded as any movie character I’ve ever seen in a while. It’s not quite Javier Barden as Anton Chigurgh or Heath Ledger as The Joker, but it’s still pretty damn impressive. He’s vocal and charismatic, while maintaining his detestable persona. He really drove this film. Fun fact of the day; He refused to take medication or wear a warmer coat after he caught pneumonia while filming. His reasoning: it didn’t fit the period. Jesus Christ.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis

I don’t have many more positive things to say, really. I thought the plot was skewed and out of focus. The movie was 2 hours and 40 minutes, and I can tell you that this was excessive. It’s not even like the typical Scorsese film, where it’s 3 hours long and has no plot. It had a plot, one that couldn’t decide when to end, and it just ended up building to an anticlimactic ending that we all expected. It couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be an estranged love story or a story about revenge, or both, and it struggled to find the happy medium. It was boring, confusing, and hard to follow, to keep it simple. It was just so unappealing.

I really felt shades of Goodfellas throughout this flick. The opening fight scene was infused with an upbeat hip-hop kinda thing, a bold music choice, but one that I didn’t think fit the period. I know it’s a pretty Scorseseish thing to do, but with the way the rest of the movie was scored, it just didn’t work for me. It was filled with traditional Irish tunes, so the upbeat hip hop was out of place and messed up the tone of the film.

Overall, I was not the biggest fan of this film. It was uninteresting and excessive, plot-wise and character-wise, which is obviously something you never want to see. Watch this movie for Daniel Day-Lewis but that’s it. Otherwise, you’ll just be disappointed.

9.5 out of 10

Why must Italians get all of the infamy?

Believe it or not, every ethnicity has its turn on the “dangerous minority” merry go round. And for, the majority of the back-half of the First Immigration Wave, Irish people got a long turn in the gangster seat.

Because immigration was no quick-fix as some make it out to be. It was a gruelling process that occurred concurrently with the rise of our nation that the Irish (Among many others) lagged in. In the race to prop up an American Way, people were soon labelled as “winners” and “losers”. The losers (Often poor immigrants who resorted to working as violent enforcers) were promptly forgotten or cartoonized (I must ask, which do you think is worse?).

Well, Marty Scorsese had a look in the history books and eventually entered that nihilistic Irish kick that began with Gangs of New York and ended with The Departed. Two very appropriate movies for the holiday. So stop drinking, actually look up from your beer and learn about my people through the culture of bloodshed and lawbreaking, darnit!

Like plenty of Scorsese’s films, Gangs is very obsessed with the role of fathers. Not just the role of the father, actually, the role of prestigiousness. If you were to watch Scorsese’s filmography, you’d notice that the past acts as a supporting character to a lot of these guys’ actions. Its not a series of events, its a model they must live up to. Fathers are vessels for those models. Living relics of the times they must live up to. So its no wonder why most of Marty’s main characters are estranged or left behind by their parents.

The main character of Gangs, Amsterdam starts off in this exact template. Amsterdam is clearly somebody who’s trying to fill some sort of void. This is where Scorsese drags violence into play. Its something tangible that these orphans can throw out there to impress their father figures. In fact, I can’t really tell if Amsterdam is trying to impress his passed father or his father’s murderer, Cutting, in some twisted way.

amsterdam vallon

Leonardo DiCaprio

And in the background of it all is the rise of America. Our model. That bloody one which we discussed a few paragraphs ago. Marty loves him some American backdrop. If you missed it all (I wouldn’t blame you. Daniel Day Lewis had one of his best performances that distracted me here too), this idealized time which we tend to skim through is still viewed as a time that was rife with bloodshed. We get a couple of corrupt leaders strewn here and there too to remind us that we inhabit a nation that was built on a lot of guts (Figuratively and literally). There was plenty of struggle to be had and Scorsese isn’t going to let you forget about it any time soon.

But we already have. This is an arc that was lost in that Antebellumish time between the Revolution and the Civil War along with all of those other things we forgot. There were still people, like Amsterdam, there though. Immigrants whose battle has been lost in the shuffle. Whether that makes their warring more pointless or our’s has to be left up to you.

I did say it was nihilistic, didn’t I?

IMDB: 7.5
Metacritic: 72
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

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The Lego Movie

Getting right back into it after the 86th Academy Awards, this week we’ll be looking at the surprisingly popular Lego Movie (sorry, we know it’s kinda late!). Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett (and many, many others). It is rating PG for mild action and rude humor.

The LEGO Movie is a 3-D animated film that follows the life of an everyday Lego mini-figure (for lack of a better word), Emmet, (Pratt) who is identified as “the most extraordinary person”, “special”, and a “master-builder” after an encounter with a mysterious girl, Wyldstyle (Banks). He is told that he is the only person who can save the Lego universe. With the help of Batman (Arnett), Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman) and other “master-builders”, Emmet goes on a journey to save the universe, but struggles with finding himself in the process.

8.5 out of 10

What a stupid movie.

Now let me explain. Yes this movie was silly. I mean, it’s Legos for Pete’s sake. If that’s not silly then I don’t know what is. But sometimes stupid and silly is good. And in The LEGO Movie’s case, a great thing. In a way, it’s The Expendables for kids. Stupid, mindless action (I guess) and fun. It’s just a fun movie to watch from beginning to end: a fast paced, endorphin releasing adventure. Hell, it’s got Batman, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings; everything.

There’s really not much to analyze, but I’ll do my best. The cast is star studded, featuring all sorts of big names including Arnett, Banks, Pratt, Freeman, Will Ferrell, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, and even Shaq. The voice acting is pretty good, and everyone seemed to actually put in effort. Hey, Will Arnett could probably do a better job as Batman than Ben Affleck! (I kid, I kid).

lego movie characters

The animation is very impressive. The work to make the fire, smoke, and water look like it’s actually made out of Legos was very cool. Every detail was so specific and careful, helping the universe look so good. The whole universe, both in terms of its myth and its physical attributes, is created to perfection. It’s not hard to imagine playing this story with your own Legos as a child.

Though I did say this movie is stupid, I will be the first one to admit how smart the script is. There are so many ambiguous references that are hilarious if you understand them. I remember being the only person in the movie theater that laughed when Batman says “he’s the boyfriend you deserve” (a reference to the end of The Dark Knight). They’re not afraid to make obscure references and sometimes tease cultural icons, making fun of Gandalf and Dumbledore at points in the film. The writing of this film is impressive and rich with pop culture references.

As depth-less as this movie may appear, its message is honestly pretty deep, especially for the young children that this movie is targeted towards. Not trying to force myself into analyzing themes of a film (especially a movie like this) but the fact that The LEGO Movie actually has a relevant, important message is pretty cool. Everyone is unique, even if all signs point otherwise. Such an uplifting movie. The ending gives you all kind of feels and if you don’t get emotional then you’re not human. It’s kind of like the polar opposite of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, if you’ve ever seen or heard of that.

I can’t finish without mentioning the song ‘Everything is Awesome’, which is, well, awesome. It’s catchy and fits the tone of the movie so well. You’ll be singing it for days. Overall, the entire movie is so much fun and features so many intelligent jokes that contribute to its comedy. There is no doubt that this a silly movie, but seriously, who cares? It’s awesome.

8 out of 10

Everything (About this movie) is awesome!

Seriously, logistically, this must have had Village Roadshow, Vertigo and all of the other producers sweating bullets. Yes, when kids see brightly colored Lego-versions of their favorite characters, they’re gonna flock to the movies (And shell out the extra $3.00 for 3-D to boot) but what about parents? And, if we’re shooting for the moon here, teenagers?

Well, that got me thinking of all of the times I dragged my parents to hour and a half long kid films as a child. Now, those were great times, they probably wouldn’t have seen Shrek 2, Toy Story or Wall-E without them but, then again, they also wouldn’t have seen Shark Tale, The Wild, or Home on the Range without them (There’s a bonus if you actually remember those).

What I’m getting at here is that animation can get pretty dicey. It’s a category rife with beautiful opportunities and untapped potential but it’s also rife with money-makers: half-baked, loud, watch-checkers that’ll keep your kid entertained for $11. And sitting at the tippity top of this category is an animated movie that’s based off of a specific toy or brand.

Lego Movie really didn’t go with that route whatsoever. It was not an 100 minute commercial, though probably did work just as well as one. No, Lego Movie actually had me laughing. It also had me physically shocked that I was enjoying it so well. I read that it was laugh-a-minute but that was totally wrong: I laughed about every thirty seconds.

Now, given that just last week we looked at some of the first-tier Oscar picks, this praise may sound ridiculous but I thoroughly enjoyed this. This movie blindsided me in plenty of ways. First of all, it may operate in a world of blocks and bricks but its a beautiful film. Attentively animated and really kinetic but not busy. Second, it gets all of these different characters and licenses together in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced.

And, most importantly, it has a lot of heart. Really, I was surprised that this movie had a thoughtful message. Did it completely go against everything Lego says? Yes, Lego does not want you to practice what it preaches apparently. But it executes it in a pretty darn mature manner without getting taking itself too seriously.

Emmet, voiced by Pratt

Emmet, voiced by Pratt

Aside from the lack of Mega-Blocks jokes (I thought they’d be a good sport if that happened), I really can not say much more about this movie except that I loved it. Even if you are a self-proclaimed adult, break down that steel age-barrier and see it, you certainly will not regret it. You just might enjoy it more than most kids will.

IMDB: 7.9
Metacritic: 83
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Our 2014 Academy Award Predictions

And here we are, the Oscars only a day away. Here are our (mostly) expert predictions in every single category. We start with the ones we admittedly know the least about to the ones we know a good amount about. Enjoy!

Best Documentary- Short Subject
Cave Digger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Save My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of  Private Jack Hall

These first few categories, I’m honestly putting in researched/random guesses.

Winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Save My Life
Runner Up: Couldn’t tell you
Personal Favorite: N/A

The best documentaries are ones that take us to places where we never thought we’d learn anything. In this case, it takes us to the last days of an aging man in a prison hospital.

Winner: Prison Terminal

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Documentary- Feature
20 Feet from Stardom
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square

Act of Killing is a pretty enticing name, so I’ll go with it.

Winner: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: No idea
Personal Favorite: N/A

It’s not like documentaries are unfamiliar with war but it is still a great topic. Dirty Wars gives the audience some honest insight into some questionable motives behind the violence caused by the “civilized”.

Winner: Dirty Wars

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Live Action Short Film
Aquel no era yo
Avant que de tout perdre
Helium
Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa
The Voorman Problem

Voorman Problem is the only one in English, and it has Martin Freeman.

Winner: The Voorman Problem
Runner Up: idk.
Personal Favorite: N/A

Nothing like another prison film. Films that explore psychology often lead us to ourselves. The Voorman Problem is no different.

Winner: The Voorman Problem

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Animated Short Film

Feral
Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room on the Broom

Get a Horse!

Get a Horse!

I’ve actually seen Get a Horse! but that’s the only one. So… yeah. That’s all I got.

Winner: Get a Horse!
Runner Up: Still drawing a blank.
Personal Favorite: Get a Horse! (by default)

Talk about back to basics for Disney. “Get a Horse!” is a classic return to subject.

Winner: Get a Horse!

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

Best Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

The Great Beauty won at the Golden Globe’s, so it has to have a good chance of winning. One comment I do have is that it is unfortunate and surprising that Blue is the Warmest Color wasn’t nominated.

Winner: The Great Beauty
Runner Up: Who knows? Not me.
Personal Favorite: N/A

The Middle-East provides a poignant environment that’s actually ideal for a tense set up like this.

Winner: Omar

Runner Up: N/A
Personal Favorite: N/A

 Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Frozen

Frozen

Here we go, finally getting into awards I know something about. Frozen has been super popular, and though I admit haven’t seen it, I’ve heard great things. It’s Disney and it’s critically acclaimed. Good luck to the other 4 nominees.

Winner: Frozen
Runner Up: The Wind Rises
Personal Favorite: Despicable Me 2 (only one I’ve seen)

Roger Ebert always said he loathed how “Animated” has become synonymous “Childish” in our culture and I really can’t help but agree. Why? Because of films like Frozen, that’s why. Just because something’s fun and light doesn’t necessarily mean it’s thoughtless and immature.

Winner: Frozen

Runner Up: The Wind Rises
Personal Favorite: Frozen

Best Original Score
The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

Music is such an important part of making a film, as it provides tone to each individual moment and scene. Gravity’s ominous, eerie and entirely original soundtrack does just that to improve upon the lonely feeling of space, while also aiding the intensity that some scenes have. I liked Her’s soundtrack more just because it was a bit more my type, while also fulfilling the job of a good soundtrack.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Her
Personal Favorite: Her

Simple and subtle, I remember thinking that Her’s score played very well to the events of the movie. The score conveys many of the emotions the film’s addressing at once. It’s also somewhat cold but so is the environment the film sets up.

Winner: Her

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: Her

Best Original Song
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela” Long Walk to Freedom

I loved ‘The Moon Song’. I thought it was really charming and fit the movie really well. It was a wonderful moment for the film. ‘Let It Go’ is no doubt a great song, and hands down the more popular one with Idina Menzel performing the song at the awards, which is why I think it will end up winning.

Winner: “Let it Go” from Frozen
Runner Up: “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Personal Favorite: “The Moon Song” from Her

It’s not easy to get on top of the iTunes top 10 when you’re just a song from a Disney movie but Frozen managed to do this and many more. A return to substance for Disney, “Let it Go” is somewhat representative of the heart Disney seemingly lost that we all missed.

Winner: “Let it Go” from Frozen

Runner Up: “The Moon Song” from Her
Personal Favorite: “Let it Go” from Frozen 

Best Sound Editing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Gravity

Gravity

In case you didn’t realize, Gravity is set to win pretty much all the technical awards. Sound editing is no different (BTW, to all the haterz, we know there’s no sound in space. Who cares?). Anyway, Gravity will this award easy. Captain Phillips has a shot, but it’s not likely.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Gravity

The Hobbit, like the films that preceded it, is a loud movie. My friend told me if I was to watch them for the first time that I should rent a movie theatre for Lord of the Rings. Sound editing is very hard work but I imagine when you see a character like Smaug come to booming life it must all be worth it.

Winner: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

Go back and read the last summary about Sound Editing. It’s the same story. However, of any of the technical awards, this may be the one that Gravity has the best chance of losing. Lone Survivor and Inside Llewyn Davis both have a chance. This isn’t saying much, and I do think Gravity will end up pulling it out, but there’s always a chance.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Lone Survivor
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Ditto on my prediction about Sound Editing.

Winner: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Production Design
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years a Slave

The Great Gatsby, with it’s lavish costumes and setting, has a pretty good chance of actually winning more awards than American Hustle. The setting is absolutely gorgeous, providing it with a very nostalgic, 20s feel. Really well done, I’ve gotta say.

Winner: The Great Gatsby
Runner Up: American Hustle
Personal Favorite: Her

Hustle had a feel to it that very few could match. It was an extremely consistent piece that gave its cast a beautiful backdrop to work off of. In fact, American Hustle is so absorbing it often feels like a scope to the seventies itself.

Winner: American Hustle

Runner Up: The Great Gatsby
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Jared Leto to Rayon

Jared Leto to Rayon

I think it’s hilarious that Jackass was even nominated, which is why I’m putting it down as my favorite. The makeup isn’t even half bad, either. However, there is no way in hell that Jackass or the universally panned Lone Ranger wins an Oscar. Dallas Buyers Club and it’s miniscule $250 budget takes the prize.

Winner: Dallas Buyers Club
Runner Up: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Personal Favorite: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

While Dallas Buyers Club may not fully rely on its makeup department to get the job done (Look at its budget, really, it’s unbelievable), this often plays to both sides’ favor. Using the few resources it has, Buyers Club creates a strong environment and assists its actors in their journey.

Winner: Dallas Buyers Club

Runner Up: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Personal Favorite: Dallas Buyers Club

Best Costume Design
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

American Hustle

This one is a matter of politics. I think Great Gatsby could easily win this one, but American Hustle needs a win somewhere. The Academy won’t shut it out after giving it 11 nominations. It could take either this award or Production Design. The costumes were pretty good too, adding to the smooth, nostalgic feel that the film should have had.

Winner: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Great Gatsby
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Same story with the Production Design, I view them as kind of similar anyways.

Winner: American Hustle

Runner Up: The Great Gatsby
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Best Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Again, I don’t really expect Gravity to lose a technical award. This is another one where it’s possible Captain Phillips pulls off the upset, especially because it was shut out in a few categories, but I think Gravity will end up winning this one.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Its tough to take what could’ve been a very slow plot and expedite it while also having some breathers. Gravity may take place in few environments but it never gets bored, always shifting to the next development.

Winner: Gravity

Runner up: Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Best Visual Effects
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger

Gravity

Gravity

Of all the technical awards, I have absolutely no doubt that Gravity will win this one. It’s not even close. It is a visual spectacle, with the stunning creation of outer space, among other things. If Gravity doesn’t win, we can officially say that the Academy has gone mad.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Doesn’t even matter.
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Peter Jackson is a very talented man when it comes to set pieces and creating a fantasy environment and he hasn’t lost that ability whatsoever. Jackson may have introduced new characters and cameras but he uses new effects to his advantage, to make it feel like we haven’t really left Middle-Earth in the first place.

Winner: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Cinematography 
The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

No doubt about this one either. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, and there is little chance that something else takes this title. Gravity both exploited the emotions of Stone while also capturing the silent beauty of space. It will take the title. Meanwhile, it is a monstrosity that 12 Years a Slave was not even nominated. If you want to see what I thought of that camera work, check out my review of it.

Winner: Gravity
Runner Up: Inside Llewyn Davis
Personal Favorite: Gravity/12 Years a Slave (I know it’s not nominated, but I. Don’t. Care.)

This is going to repeat a lot of the above but Gravity is a movie that tends to compact a very vast thing in a believable way that doesn’t feel like its evading its own setting. It’s a very streamlined and focused film which makes it all the more intense when atmosphere becomes so violent and chaotic. The environment provided by space somehow makes serenity feel like the cliff hanging over destruction.

Winner: Gravity

Runner Up: Nebraska
Personal Favorite: Gravity

Best Writing-Original Screenplay
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Her

Her

Here’s where things start to get interesting, as we start to get into the most important awards. I think this one could go either way, again depending on the rest of the awards. If Jennifer Lawrence wins for Best Supporting Actress, then Her will win Best Original Screenplay. If Lawrence does not win, then I think American Hustle will get this one. Personally, I thought Her was (far) more original, better written, and overall just the superior, more interesting film. Her deserves this, but with the way the Academy works, it’s possible Hustle wins.

Winner: Her
Runner Up: American Hustle
Personal Favorite: Her

When it comes Best Screenplay, it generally boils down to whether the actors are really using the words or whether they’re just a vessel to them. In short: how strong can the screenplay work on its own? Well, for me, Her was my first guess. It had a strong plot and premise with some clever dialogue but, eventually, Hustle took this for me. Mainly because Hustle could easily stand by itself while Her leans very much on its actors to do the deal. Hustle has some great comedy, drama and a clever premise under its belt which may just carry it to the Best Screenplay tier.

Winner: American Hustle

Runner Up: Her
Personal Favorite: American Hustle

Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years A Slave, adapted from Solomon Northup’s memoir of the same name, will most likely get this prize. Not only is it the best film, but it also has the best characters, the best story, and the best dialogue. Philomena was written well, but the characters were a bit skewed. The Wolf of Wall Street also has an outside shot, but this award looks to be going to 12 Years a Slave, and deservedly so.

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Runner Up: Philomena
Personal Favorite: 12 Years a Slave

Suspense is a very powerful tool and its a very hard feeling to evoke from the audience (Even more so while working in the bounds of an adaption) but Phillips manages to get the audience involved as if its part of the crew. Its somewhat topical yet distant enough for the audience to focus one the story along for better or worse. Though all of the action involving could have cheapened to a Somalian could’ve been cheapened to Peter Pan ft. Some Navy Seals the writers used monologues and breathers to let the audience just take in the situation.

Winner: Captain Phillips

Runner Up: 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Captain Phillips

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper in American Hustle
Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto provided us with the most interesting and impressive acting performance of the year. Playing a transgender with AIDS, Leto was able to transform every aspect of himself, both mentally and emotionally, to construct a person, not just a character, in Rayon. There are other impressive performances, notably Michael Fassbender as the angry, evil Edwin Epps, and Barkhad Abdi, who went from cab driver to Somali pirate. Both of them would be deserving nominees in any other year. Unfortunately for them, Jared Leto is just unbelievable in Dallas Buyers Club.

Winner: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
Runner Up: Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

One of the pleasures of watching a movie and the signs of a strong actor is that rigor mortis long after a film is over where you realize “That was THAT guy?!”. Without spoiling, Jared Leto was tasked with playing a cross-dresser in Dallas Buyers Club in a performance that many would have turned down. Comedic as it may sound, put yourself in a similar situation and you’ll realize it is actually a challenging task to step into that clothing and makeup while making sure it doesn’t totally consume the character and that you have space to interpret. Comedic, believable, and most importantly, somewhat tragic, Leto gave us a memorable character which readily deserves best actres-er-actor.

Winner: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Runner Up: Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Personal Favorite: Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts in August: Osage County
June Squibb in Nebraska

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Here is probably the most unpredictable award of any, and could shape various other awards. If J-Law wins, and I predict she will, then Hustle might come away empty in other categories. If N’yongo wins, then the Academy cannot shut out Hustle and that could change the outcome of some of the other awards (this is complicated and excessively convoluted, I know). Meanwhile, I loved June Squibb. I thought she was hilarious and was the most believable of any of the nominees this year. I hope she pulls off the upset.

Winner: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Runner Up: Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: June Squibb in Nebraska

Yay for politics! Look at the history of this character and you can easily see that star power as its fingers on the scale. Most recently, Anne Hathaway was able to take home the statue for her performance in Les Miserables and I don’t think this situation is entirely different. Lawrence is a rising talent who is a safe choice for the Academy given her previous victory. In this film, she was also endowed with a strong wardrobe department and a great cast to work off of. On top of that, she has some real talent to her that’s heavily comparable to a couple of the past winners.

Winner: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Runner Up: Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Lupita N’yongo in 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor
Christian Bale in American Hustle
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Another award that could go either way is the Best Actor award. McConaughey has been winning all the awards (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild) and rightfully so. He is tremendous as Ron Woodrow. However, Ejiofor is fantastic in his own sort. He takes on a very challenging role and kills it. Ejiofor could win this, but I have to go with McConaughey now. Meanwhile, I love DiCaprio, and though I didn’t see Wolf of Wall Street (only Oscar nominee I’ve yet to watch), I kinda feel bad for him. So many internet memes.

Winner: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
Runner Up: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

Not going to lie, this one’s pure politics. Remember what I said earlier about controversy? Well nowhere is this more relevant than the constant snubbing of Leo, poor guy. The Academy has taken a beating for rejecting DiCaprio so much and I do think there is an underlying desire to give him an award at some point when just the right film comes along. Wolf of Wall Street may not be the exact film they were looking for but, come on, do you really think the Academy would pass up a chance to award Leo right before his break from acting that they caused? That’d be so sadistic that it’d become hilarious.

Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Runner Up: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
Personal Favorite: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress
Amy Adams in American Hustle
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Judi Dench in Philomena
Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

Not too much to say about this one by the looks of it. I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine, but I’ve heard great things about Blanchett. She’s been winning all the other awards and it doesn’t look there’s a chance someone else takes the trophy. Poor Amy Adams… Five nominations and still no win (since Blanchett appears to have wrapped it up). She is quietly becoming the next Leonardo DiCaprio.

Winner: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Runner Up: Amy Adams in American Hustle
Personal Favorite: Amy Adams in American Hustle (I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine)

Bullock took home this award around four years ago (Plus a Razzie the night before) and something tells me she is going to take it once more. Bullock was tasked with carrying almost an entire movie in a completely isolated setting with almost no set to work off of (Green screened backgrounds are very hard to work in) and she put herself there whether it was panic or awe she had to convey. Bullock didn’t necessarily have to work off the setting, in fact, she had to be the setting to a degree and she carried the film very well. I know Cate Blanchett is supposed to win, but sometimes crazy happens.

Winner: Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Runner Up: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Personal Favorite: Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Best Director
David O. Russell for American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

Alfonso Cuaron

Alfonso Cuaron

Cuaron should win this one, as Gravity was an absolute gem of a film. A real spectacle. However, I wouldn’t simply hand it over to him. Steve McQueen did so many things in 12 Years that Gravity simply wasn’t capable of. McQueen used brutality and violence to show slavery in a light it hasn’t been seen on film ever. Both these films are extraordinary in their own sorts, and I actually I think McQueen was able to make a more memorable film (for me personally). However, Cuaron deserves it just as much, and I think he will end up winning.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Runner Up: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

It must be very challenging to make space an exciting environment much less a stage for some thematically complex events but Alfonso Cuaron shoots the film in such synchronization with the mood of the scene that it becomes it allows for the viewer to gently keep an eye on everything that’s happening without any distractions. Some of the film’s shots are a bit obvious and heavy-handed (The ending) but the film remains pretty consistent. Nice job, Alfonso, for making something that’s infinite and wide seem so claustrophobic.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

Runner Up: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Personal Favorite: David O. Russell for American Hustle

Best Picture
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave

Drumroll, please! No surprise here. 12 Years a Slave is a great film and it’s historic. That is Academy Award porn. There are so many things I can say about this film, but you won’t understand how good it is until you watch it. So far it is the only 10 I’ve given out, and with good reason too. Nothing against Gravity, it’s a deserving film as well, but I don’t see it pulling out the win. You may ask why my personal favorite is Her then. My initial reaction to seeing Her was lukewarm, to be honest. But once I let the film sit with me, I realize it’s something that I would no doubt watch it again. It is something that will stick with me for years, which is why it is my favorite of the nominees this year. Is it better than 12 Years a Slave though? Nah. That is undoubtedly the best film of the year.

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: Her

~Vig

Tough call this year for Best Picture (Has there ever NOT been one?) but my cinematic instinct leads me to 12 Years a Slave. First of all, the Academy tends to enjoy history as a base whether the focus is fiction or not (Argo, Titanic, Gandhi). Second, the Academy also loves it some controversy, which will continue to factor into my predictions. I’m pretty sure it gets off to a degree on being called a snub. Couple all of that with great production value, a strong cast and a touch of star-power (12 Years used its Get One Brad Pitt Scene card) and you have a strong candidate for Best Picture.

Winner: 12 Years a Slave

Runner Up: Gravity
Personal Favorite: Gravity~Zach

What do you think about the Academy Awards this year? Agree with us? Disagree with us? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below.