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Will these films win big at the Oscars?

January 16, 2014 18:24 IST

Will these films win big at the Oscars?

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Arthur J Pais in New York

With the awards season in full swing in America, we look back at the best movies of 2013.

The three films that are expected to dominate the awards shows are 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle and Gravity, and many others may win a nomination.

Mandela may get two best actor nominations, August: Osage County may get two for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as bickering family members, and Blue Jasmine may get some for screenplay and acting (Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkes).

A number of films that are struggling at the box office -- like Nebraska, Her and Inside Llewyn Davis -- will surely get some mileage from hefty nominations. And a film in the middle of its run, American Hustle, could see its box office receive a good jump.

Ditto for Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street that has already earned over $130 million worldwide (and like American Hustle is yet to open in many countries).

12 Years a Slave, a success with some $50 million worldwide, and Gravity, with an awesome $670 million worldwide, are ending their run. They will benefit from the nominations when their DVD/Blu-ray will hit the market within weeks.

Click Next to see the top 10 movies of 2013.


Image: Julia Roberts in August: Osage County


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12 Years a Slave

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A riveting but often painful story of man’s inhumanity to man, the film in the final reckoning is an affirmative story, a hymn to human endurance and triumph.

It is also a beautiful love story.

Suspenseful and dramatic in the best Hollywood tradition, and full of first-rate performances even from actors playing small roles, the film marks British director Steve McQueen’s biggest triumph.

You cannot take your eyes off Chiwitel Ejiofor, who along with co-stars Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o should be an Oscar nominee.

The film about a free man, who is kidnapped from New York and shipped to work as a slave in the South takes place in the fourth decade of the 19th century and yet it sounds very contemporary especially when you think of modern slavery across the world.

Brad Pitt, one of the film’s producers, plays a small but well written part.

 


Image: Chiwitel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave


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Gravity

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Gravity is also about survival.

A space thriller, with mind-boggling visuals and a stand out performance by Sandra Bullock, Gravity is an example of a tech savvy film that is also an achievement in story telling and intimate moments.

Director Alfonso Cuaraon worked on the film -- about a woman abandoned in space, who has to make her way back home -- over a period of three years. He was rebuffed by several major studios until Warner decided to let him make the film on a $100 million budget.

It has more than paid back its investment and with the Oscar buzz, it could also be a hot-seller on DVD and Blu-ray.

 


Image: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Gravity


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American Hustle

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A wild and bittersweet comedy, American Hustle was expected to do well at the box office and get good reviews, too. But the film is doing far better than expected.

Without even a single Oscar nomination, it is headed for a $180-$200 million worldwide run, a solid performance for a film that cost less than $50 million.

The briskly told often absurd tale about greed and duplicity has Christian Bale as a con artist with a bad hairpiece and rotund belly.

Bradley Cooper plays a hapless FBI agent and Amy Adams plays a former stripper.

Jeremy Renner is a crooked mayor who gets fooled by these three.

And let us not forget Jennifer Lawrence, who still makes time to do smaller films while earning a $10 million paycheck for her Hunger Games dark thrillers. She stars as Bale's onscreen wife.

Writer and director David O Russell has been on the A-list in Hollywood for several years but now with his biggest hit, he has a serious shot at the Oscars.


Image: A scene from American Hustle


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The Butler

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Not only a poignant and stirring film but also an insight into the Civil Rights movement in America, there is not a single dull historic moment here.

The film was made for about $30 million and has grossed over $160 million worldwide.

It tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades.

While Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey steal the show in the acting department, don’t overlook the formidable acting by Jane Fonda and Alan Rickman.

Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B Johnson, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan.

Oprah brings warmth and determination to her role as not only a witness to the changing history but also a part of it.

Director Lee Daniels was an Oscar nominee for his modest hit Precious.


Image: Forest Whitaker in The Butler


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Nebraska

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Despite being filmed in black and white, Nebraska is a story of colourful older people unfolded by a cast of terrific screen veterans.

The story of an old man trying to get from Montana to Nebraska to pick up prize money that doesn't exist has many stirring, sentimental and heartwarming moments.

Writer and director Alexander Payne gets best from two actors in particular, Bruce Dern as Woody, the old man, and Will Forte as David, his son but there are many other wonderful, insightful performances in this little gem.

After a very long time, we are seeing Dern who has been around for over four decades, turn out a memorable performance.


Image: Bruce Dern and Will Forte in Nebraska

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Her

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One of the most imaginative films of the year, this is an audacious love story between a man and his laptop. And it is so audacious and original that the mainstream audiences are finding it difficult to connect to the film. But surely it is going to be a cult hit, and could have a long life on specialised TV and in the ancillary market.

Her is the year's best love story,’ declared Huffington Post. ‘...It's not that simple, of course -- in the near future, laptops can sound like Scarlett Johansson and have personalities to match her voice -- which makes Her all the more poignant and dewy-eyed. Johansson has gotten a lion's share of praise for her voice-only work as the her of the title -- her Samantha is one of the year's most spectacular creations.’

But it is also Joaquin Phoenix’s film.

In fact, he comes out with one of the strongest performances in recent years, far stronger than his work in The Master, playing here a sad-sack writer.


Image: Joaquin Phoenix in Her

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Captain Phillip

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If anyone thought Tom Hanks had his career ended by such films as Charlie Wilson's War the pirate sagas which celebrates courage and fortitude should change that thought.

A gripping and haunting film about modern day piracy, it has become a surprise hit of the season. The movie cost about 45 million dollars and it has grossed a hearty 210 million dollars worldwide.

This is one of the films that has a second half far more gripping than the first half and the British director Paul Greengrass has imbued the film with tempo and a strong pulse.


Image: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillip

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Wolf of Wall Street

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Some people might find this story of greed and flamboyant living over the top, loud and kicking but there are plenty who are convinced that is exactly how the director Martin Scorsese wanted it to be. And the film is yet another box office hit for the director who is in his mid 1970s.

‘Opinions about Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street will be -- how can I put it gently? -- volatile,’ wrote The New Yorker.

The movie, with a riveting performance by Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role is based on a memoir of the same title, by the Wall Street scam artist Jordan Belfort, who cheated his clients out of tens of millions of dollars, betrayed his friends, and was indicted and jailed for securities fraud and money-laundering.

It is a three hour long gamble but Scorsese has won it!


Image: Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

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Inside Llewyn Davis

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This quirky movie is one of the most acclaimed films in America, and was also a hit with the critics at Cannes but the latest film by Coen Bros is not connecting well with the mainstream.

Since the film was made for a modest budget of about 25 million dollars, it could still recover its investment through ancillary markets.

The joyous and poignant film from Joel and Ethan Coen has plenty of lovely music in it and wonderful performances especially a star-making turn by Oscar Isaac, who plays the title character.

This film is a loving tribute to New York of the 1960s and the offbeat music coming from its streets and clubs.


Image: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis

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The Past

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One of the best films I saw last year, The Past, which was quite well received at the Toronto International Film Festival, has been shut out of the Oscar foreign films list.

That surprised many since the well-made, gripping psychological family drama with a lot of suspense and tenderness, is from the Iranian writer and director Asghar Farhadi, whose A Separation had got the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

The Past -- Farhadi’s first film in French -- is a complex film but there is not a moment that fails to engage a smart viewer, and the shocking end is very neatly developed.

There are luminous performances by every major character in the film, especially the teenage girl and two younger children, and the terrific Berenice Bejo as the confused and conflicted mother. Bejo won the best actress award at Cannes for her work here.

The film starts with Ahmad returning from Tehran to Paris to finalise his divorce with his wife Marie (Bejo). The two had lived together in Paris but have been separated for several years. There is still some emotion connecting them but Marie has gone from one man to another and does not know how to mend fences with Ahmad.

She wants to move on by marrying Samir (Tahar Rahim), a laundry owner who is haunted by his own traumatic, unresolved relationships: his comatose wife and traumatised son.

The older of Marie’s two daughters from another marriage, a teenager, resents her mother’s new plans and her anger and frustration sets in motion unexpected events that are calamitous. They are revealed in flashbacks that give the film a Hitchcockian aura.

The Past is the kind of film that needs to be seen again to get fully behind its many layers and admire the way writer and director Farhadi has been able to combine intense emotions and suspenseful moments.


Image: Berenice Bejo in The Past


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