Oscar time! Nine movies have been nominated for Best Picture this year, and as a last-minute attempt to help the Academy voters, I have put together small synopses/reviews of each film. The kicker is that I have seen exactly zero of the following films, so please forgive any inaccuracies.
For those who arrived late, this is a little something I try to do each year. Unfortunately, I missed last year's award due to an unfortunate shanking in the mess hall and that asshole warden who threw me in the hole for three months. But don't worry... I'll survive. I saw "The Shawshank Redemption." That's the one about Burt Reynolds playing football, right? So I'm good...
As a bonus, I have added an interesting factoid at the end of each summary. Feel free to distribute those little nuggets of trivia throughout the internet until they become accepted by Wikipedia as the glorious gems of truthiness they are.
On to the Netflix queue... I mean the Academy Award nominations for Best Picture!
"The Wolf of Wall Street" - Finally, a horror movie nominated for best picture. This film focuses on lycanthropy in New York City during the 1990s. A threat no one saw coming, werewolves prey the alleys and dark corners of a very cliched urban landscape under ominous clouds and heavy-handed orchestration. However, when one younger member of the tribe, Scott, attempts to rebel during his teenage years, the mood of the film changes. We are transported to the local PS301 where Scott has his coming of age story told in day-glo detail. It isn't all werewolf pimples and guts though. Scott displays a superatural ability to help his high school basketball team win a state championship. So there's that.
*** Interesting trivia factoid - Last year's Oscar winner for Best Picture has a tie-in to this film. "Argo" was a retelling of the 1996 Coen Brothers' crime drama "Fargo," only censored. "Argo" was the same movie except all the swearwords were replaced with a sound of Richard Gere milking a Pomeranian named Pomegranate. And in an effort to teach Hollywood to go green, all of the instances of the word "fuck" were recycled into this movie's dialogue.
"American Hustle" - Do you know what is great about this movie? The acting. The writing. The costumes. The editing. The special effects. And the incredible work of the gaffer and key grip. The worst part of this movie? The music. Which sort of sucks since this is the rare musical set during the New York disco wars of 1977. When Gloria Gayner is booked in a hotel room adjacent to Donna Summer, only the collective efforts of the BeeGees and the Village People can distract enough people from the disco diva drama for the world to continue turning. Filmed entirely in the hallways of a Super 8 motel a mere thirty-eight blocks away from Studio 54, the semen-and-blood soaked carpeting serves as a metaphor for the overall ick of the entire production.
***Interesting trivia factoid - The song "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees is the most common song heard playing during murder-suicides worldwide.
"12 Years a Slave" - A touching and humorous tale of a troubled musician working his way up through the ranks of the back-stabbing folk scene in the early 1960s. In typical Coen Brothers fashion, the main character, Llewyen Davis, is good-hearted, funny, and a bit of a dim bulb. If you have seen any other Coen Brothers film, especially "No Country for Old Men", "The Big Lebowski", "True Grit", "Beethoven's 9th - Euthenasia", or their groundbreaking HBO series "Bosom Buddies - Girdles, The Return", then be glad because they are all better than this movie. The one redeeming scene in this movie is when Llewyen attempts to romance Joan Baez. The reveal of Bob Dylan bloodying Llewyen with a muskrat and an icicle is the hardest I have laughed in years. However, the ensuing 2 hours of Llewyen's induced coma is better served watching the tragically Academy-snubbed "Sharknado" for the thirteenth time.
***Interesting trivia factoid - The name Llewyen has two origins. In ancient Scandinavian, it means "He who is wimpy and deserving of ridicule." However, a more modern origin unveils its meaning as "Slavery is an unsettling subject so who would want to watch a movie about that for crying out loud."
"Dallas Buyers' Club" - This comedy delves into the seedy sports underbelly and gives it a wedgie. As such, it stunt casts Pete Rose and Jeff Gillooly as degenerate gamblers who bet everything on the Dallas Cowboys year after year. After enduring 18 straight years of mediocrity (which forces other despicable acts of comedy to be committed, including a tasteless recurring joke about batting averages and kneecaps), the duo is forced to come to terms with the fact that Tony Romo sucks and Jerry Jones is an idiot. Spoiler alert - the film does not have a happy ending. In fact, it just sort of ends in a very average manner, much like the Cowboys.
***Interesting trivia factoid - Jerry Jones funded the movie and refused to allow the filmmakers to hire an actor to portray him, insisting he play himself. The resulting performance is being hailed as "the greatest portrayal of a moron in recent memory" and won a special "Fingers-Crossed Future Darwin Award" from the people of Earth.
"Gravity" - Speaking of Earth, this movie is about Earth. Sort of. This movie stars astrophysicist and Real Housewives of Toledo watcher, Neil Tyson DeGrasse. After returning home from the most recent junior high school named after him, Neil turns to his antique Commodore 64. Using a state of the art 300 baud modem, the phone connection static reveals itself to be communication from an advanced alien race from 30 years prior. Neil is mesmerized by this wholly ancient and alien language and feels compelled to sit and send out several critical tweets about a new movie. It is almost as if some invisible force is keeping him in his chair so he doesn't float away. Something like...
"Her" - It is not often that second sequels get nominated for Best Picture. However, this movie deserves all the praise it is getting. The story ties back to Stephen King's "It," and this fine film continues that age-old trope - personal pronouns have murderous tendencies. Avoiding the histrionics of the straight-to-video gore-fest first sequel "You," "Her" allows the psycho clowns from your nightmares to bludgeon and dismember Scarlett Johansson completely off-screen. In fact, we only hear Ms. Johansson's disembodied voice throughout the film's 310 second running time. Chilling.
***Interesting trivia factoid - There are rumors about another sequel in the works. Using only those action GoPro cameras. The movie would star no one and be titled "Me."
"Nebraska" - Every year there seems to be an independent film which gets a lot of attention. This year, the indie darling is "Nebraska." Best described as the sensory equivalent of a yoga studio air-filtration system, this movie is a life-changer. This is the longest movie nominated this year, but don't let the time-suck discourage you. This movie feels much shorter than it is. In fact, it feels like you go in to the theater at 7:30pm and emerge at midnight like you just awoke from a long, refreshing nap. I will dispense with my normal spoiler alert system here since this film is too beautiful. When the lights fall in the theater, an image of a corn field comes on screen. For the next 4 hours and 29 minutes, you watch this corn grow while being serenaded by a voice-over collection of every time Peyton Manning said "Omaha" this football season. Art. Pure art.
***Interesting trivia factoid - "Nebraska" was actually filmed in Iowa next to an abandoned baseball field in the middle of nowhere.
"Philomena" - There is no doubt that the Academy Awards loves itself some of itself. And since that is the case, there is really no surprise that this movie has been nominated for a Best Picture award. Based on a true story, the focus is on Phil O'Meena, an Irish immigrant who sought fame and fortune in Hollywood in the early 1960s. Phil remains dogged in his pursuit of celluloid glory despite the challenges of being illiterate, ugly, and blessed with a voice that sounds like Popeye the Sailor Man. One thing Phil can do though is cook. In fact, the movie posits that his Oysters Rockefeller was the impetus for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton beginning their tumultuous relationship. As absurd as that tidbit might be, it does highlight the transition Phil O'Meena makes from a struggling (i.e. failing) actor to the king of the service table and and the undisputed greatest caterer of all-time. Be sure to come to this movie after a meal, or you might gnaw through the seat cushion.
***Interesting trivia factoid - The movie's title came about due to the director's completely insane and violent fear of apostrophes.
"Captain Phillips" - Tom Hanks plays Captain Wilson Phillips (named in memory of a dearly loved and lost volleyball), a lawyer from Philadelphia who conquers his fear of mermaids and returns to the sea to catch shrimp and find the secret Templar treasure so he can continue to pay for the never-ending repairs to his dream house. However, when the captain puts on a single red shoe, he regresses in age some 20-plus years and falls in love with a generic blonde woman (played by Meg Ryan, naturally) who he agrees to coach in an all-woman baseball league. An acting tour-de-force, the movie mercifully ends with a toy cowboy singing a sad, minor-key reworking of the 1990 pop mega-hit "Hold On."
***Interesting trivia factoid - Tom Hanks died in a horrible accident on the Disneyland ride "It's a Small World" while researching another role, one for which many people believe he would have finally been recognized as a decent actor.
And there we have it. Enjoy the show!