…or how Ash and Fern watched Oscar movies for 10 hours in sweatpants.
If you recall, one of my new year’s resolutions this year was to watch ALL of the Oscar Best Picture nominations. Well, I’m proud to report: I did it! After a lot of hard work and effort, I made my goal…ok, more like after a lot of sitting and eating popcorn, I made my goal, but it’s pretty much the same thing.
It all started the way it usually does. Fern and I caught a few of the main ones we really wanted to see like Her; I talked my husband into seeing the one he would enjoy like American Hustle; I caught a few on afternoons that I had to myself like Gravity and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Then comes the lull. It happens every year. I start off really well, seeing the front runners, even a few that don’t end up in the final race, and then I get busy at work. Life doesn’t allow for my usual intake of cinema, and I think there’s no way I can fit them all in. This year, however, a hero came into the picture. That hero’s name is AMC Theaters. For those of you who don’t know, the past few years, AMC has had an event where they split all the best picture noms into two Saturdays and just have a marathon viewing session. Unfortunately, last year, our schedule just didn’t allow for it, but this year Fern and I were lucky enough to be able to spend over 10 hours in a theater having our emotions thrown over 150 years of time and space while taking in four of the pictures we hadn’t yet seen.
It actually started out really well. Philomena was the first movie up, and we were both really pleasantly surprised. Judi Dench was wonderful and extremely funny throughout as the mother looking for her long lost son. Steve Coogan was refreshing as her pessimistic, cynical opposite. It was a heartwarming picture without being too saccharine. There was just enough teeth and edge to it, not that the rest of the day was going to lack any of that.
Enter the emotional roller coaster part 1: Dallas Buyers Club. Oh, Jared Leto. Oh, oh, oh…Jared Leto. Don’t get me wrong. Matthew McConaughey was great and definitely earned his Oscar nom, but Jared Leto…wow. His character pulled at our heartstrings throughout the entire show, but for me the best acting came when his transvestite character forced himself into a suit and tie to go beg a favor from his high-brow, business father. Family tensions and drama at their highest, but the real dramatic tension came from an issue that is even more at the forefront of society now than it was then in the 80’s: America’s healthcare system. I was only a child in the 80’s, so I can’t say that I speak to how the public viewed groups such as the FDA, but I know that as a whole, my generation is extremely suspicious of how things really get done in such a politically fueled bureaucracy such as it. This movie does it no favors, showing exactly how low it would go when it came to giving out, and keeping in, approvals on products. A poignant piece, even 30 years removed.
Speaking of being a few years removed, but still stinging today, the next movie that was sat through was the oh-so-overwhelming Wolf of Wall Street, because nothing says movie-watching excess like a 3 hour long movie about…well, excess. I had already watched it once, but since it was wedged in the middle of the day and Fern hadn’t seen it yet, I allowed myself another look at Scorsese’s production on how the other half (or less than 1%) lives. And a production it is. I wouldn’t be surprised it someone had the idea to turn it into a big-band-number-filled musical complete with Leo tap dancing while he throws midgets and screws hookers. Think of the choreography and visuals you could have with showgirls throwing cocaine and dollar bills up in the air. I’m telling you, Neil Patrick Harris would kill this role on stage! P.S. If anyone steals this idea, I want in on the team. I’ve got million dollar ideas, I’m telling you.
Finally, our day wrapped up with 12 Years a Slave. I must admit, it was everything the reviews promised it would be. Historical, violent, and full of great performances. The way Chiwetel Ejiofor simmered with fury throughout while still holding his gentlemanly composure was incredible to me, and Michael Fassbender was as disgusting as possible. However, I was most impressed by the smallest performances in this movie, especially the females. Anyone who’s been following any press at all has heard about Lupita Nyong’o’s performance as Fassbender’s favored slave Patsey. It’s a quiet role, but that’s what makes it so gut-wrenching. Watching her eyes go dead as she is taken advantage of is almost like watching the horror take place in person. Her quiet, but insistant pleas for another slave to kill her might have been over done if any other actress were playing the role, but she does it in such a way that it’s not dramatic, but truthful.
Besides Nyong’o, I was impressed by the other women who played the plantation owner’s wives. Even in their frilly dresses and perfectly coiffed hair, you could see how well they portrayed these women who were hardened to this way of life and took their places in society seriously. Even Liza J. Bennett, who plays the wife of an understanding master, pulls off her ignorance to the society below her with amazing mix of grace and apathy. Finally, I think that Sarah Paulson has been overlooked for her role as a scorned wife. The simmering hatred of the slave that her husband favors more than her is enough to make everyone in the theater worried about her wrath. It also brings an interesting question of what public perception is of her character. Seeing that most reviews glazed over her, I can’t tell, but I would be interested to see if there are people who despise her because of her “racism” but would sympathize with her hatred if the other woman was of the same skin color.
At the end of the day, we were exhausted, my nails were all bitten down, my sugar intake was through the roof, and we slept well that night. I spent the next two nights renting Nebraska and Captain Phillips to round out the whole deal. At the end of it all, I came to two conclusions: Oscar nominees are exhausting, and movie marathoning isn’t for the faint of heart.
P.S. Here’s Ash and Fern’s picks for Oscar winners, and let us know if we win your pool! We will gladly accept any prizes!
Ash: This one is so close to me, it’s crazy. I think I’m going with my gut and picking Leo, not only for his performance in this movie, but it might be one of those “you really should have already won one” kind of things. My favorite performance however was Bruce Dern. If you’re from the heartland, you understand how well he hit the nail on the head.
Fern: Leo has had a special place in my heart since Titanic and I think he should have multiple Oscars at this point in his career. But while I will be THRILLED if he wins, I think Matthew McConaughey will take it this year. (And for the record, I think either of these guys would deliver an epic acceptance speech.)
Ash: Judi Dench, however I will admit I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine but I’m going to try to before Sunday. I’ll let you know if I change my mind for Cate, but I wasn’t as impressed with Amy Adams in American Hustle as everyone else was. I think she’s done much better work…like in Her.
Fern: Agreed. She nailed it, made Philomena a surprisingly enjoyable movie. She deserves the win.
Best Supporting Actor
Ash: Jerod Leto…duh
Fern: It’s unfortunate that Michael Fassbender’s super creepy performance had to come up against the perfection that was Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club. But here we are. This is the easiest pick of any category for me, and we will soon know what it’s like to live in a world where Jordan Catalano has an Oscar.
Best Supporting Actress
Ash:I really, really loved June Squibb, but I’m pretty sure Lupita Nyong’o has got this one.
Fern: We know the Academy loves some J-Law, but I think Lupita’s got this.
Ash: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. This was a hard category this year, but Cuaron’s vision and execution were exquisite.
Fern: Ok here is where I have to explain something. I haven’t seen Gravity. I get nauseous during the little roller coaster video that tells you to turn off your phone at the theater. I couldn’t fathom sitting through hours of someone floating in space. Also it sounded really boring to me. Maybe it’s awesome, maybe it isn’t. I’ll never know. So with that out of the running, I’m going with Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave.
Best Animated Movie
Ash: Didn’t see them all, but Frozen was just so good! (I might be a bit biased with my Disney love, though!)
Fern: The only one of the nominees I saw was Despicable Me 2 and the only thing I remember from that experience is the trailer for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. “There’s a leek in the boat!” Soooo…I’ll defer to Ash’s pick on this one.
Best Original Screenplay
Ash: Her. Period.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Ash: I feel bad giving an opinion on this category when I’ve never read any of the things the movies are based on, but I’m going to have to sayPhilomena on this one. Such great dialogue and interaction between the characters makes the story so entertaining and endearing.
Fern: I’m in the same boat. Reading takes patience I just don’t have. And takes up time when I could be napping or watching TV. But I’ll go with 12 Years a Slave since I’m picking it for pretty much everything else.
Ash: I can’t explain how much I want Her to win this, but I know that’s not going to happen. My gut feeling says Gravity will pull it out over 12 Years a Slave due to the whole “movie experience.”
Fern: I’m with Ash. I want Her to win more than anything, but I think that’s a dream. I think the buzz for Gravity peaked a little too early and 12 Years a Slave will take home the big one on Sunday.
And anything technical, we say just give it to Gravity. Anything else–we really don’t know what we’re talking about.
One final thought from Fern: The two best movies I saw this year were Her and Inside Llewyn Davis. Clearly I will never understand the politics behind the Oscars. I am glad Her got the Best Picture nomination it more than deserved and hopefully will at least walk away with a statue for Best Original Screenplay. Unfortunately Inside Llewyn Davis was all but ignored with only a couple of nominations in more minor categories. I know Best Actor is an incredibly tough race this year, but you’ll never convince me that Oscar Isaac doesn’t deserve to be on that list. And there was room for one more Best Picture nominee. I’m just saying.