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Cinema ian 2/24/2014

It is Oscar week at the movies so I caught another couple of the nominated flicks over the weekend. Both films are nominated for Best Picture and, in their own way, both worthy – but both probably destined to miss the Big Gong. The movies are Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle. Dallas Buyers Club is powerful, confronting, uplifting and highly recommended. American Hustle is a clever, energetic rollercoaster that is also highly recommended. Both easy to give four stars. With hindsight, Dallas Buyers Club is the tour de force it is because of Mathew McConaughey’s amazing performance and American Hustle works so well because of the ensemble performances – Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and a terrific cameo by Robert de Niro – for the short time he is on screen, he owns the movie.

There are nine movies nominated for Best Picture. The others are Her, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Philomena, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. That one is my pick to take out the award. It is also probably favourite for Best Actor with a good indication coming from the BAFTA actor award going to Chiwetel Eijofor – Other nominees for Best Actor are Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) – my pick is McConaughey for Dallas Buyer’s Club with Dern an outsider bet because of potential lifetime achievement sentiment.

Traditionally Best Picture goes hand-in-hand with Best Director but I have an inkling that Alfonso Cuarón will take that one for Gravity. While special effects made the movie visually stunning, it took a deft hand to make the technical spectacle the subplot. This is a difficult category to pick – Nebraska is stunning in black and white, Martin Scorcese (The Wolf of Wall Street) has a lot of Hollywood respect, Steve McQueen must be in with a chance for 12 Years a Slave and David O Nicholls pulled together great performances, and an unpredictable plot with a fabulous soundtrack in American Hustle.

Best Actress for mine is the much-already-gonged Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, despite the Woody Allen controversy. Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) are all terrific but Blanchett takes the audience on a raw, emotional journey, often in a single chameleonic shot.

The other supporting acting awards could be tight but I will go for Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle over Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Jill Squibb (Nebraska) and Julia Roberts (August: Osage County). Best Supporting Actor is even tighter. There’s Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Bradley Cooper and Jared Leto. While Leto is captivating as the transgender sidekick with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, Cooper’s comedy timing in American Hustle is superb. I’m going for Cooper.

I will also give American Hustle the Best Original Screenplay Oscar over Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska and Her… but it should fall short in the category of Best Costume Design – while the 1978 male fashion sense and female cleavage were sensational, surely nothing will come close to the glitz and tinsel that was The Great Gatsby. All in all, the 2013 cinematic vintage was a very good year.

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