Three days until the Oscar nominations are announced! And it’s that season again when last year’s outstanding films from Hollywood and around the globe are brought to the world’s attention. The best part for cinephiles? They can add these crème de la crème movies to their watch-list and enjoy the celebrated works of art as they become available for viewing.
And we are here to help! Here’s introducing the movies that are most likely to sweep the 2014 Academy Awards. Pick your own favorites before the showdown on March 2nd!
The front-running favorite this awards season is based on the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup – an African American man born in New York, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He endured 12 years in bondage before finally breaking free. Directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, the film received universal acclaim and was specially praised for staying true to Solomon Northup’s original account and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s acting prowess.
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Best Director: Steve McQueen
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley
After the sweet success of ‘The Fighter’ (2010) and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (2012), director David O’ Russell returned with this crime comedy-drama, loosely based on the FBI sting operations carried out in the 1970s and 80s to expose corrupt politicians. With an impeccable cast and their sharp comic timing, the film has received wide acclaim and is bound to pop up everywhere this awards season. Jennifer Lawrence will very likely be walking the red carpet as a nominee for the third time in 4 years.
Best Director: David O. Russell
Best Actor: Christian Bale
Best Actress: Amy Adams
Best Supporting Actor: Bradley Cooper
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Best Original Screenplay: David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer
Now here’s a truly fresh dose of American Sci-fi and its supposed possibilities may not even be too far fetched. Set in Los Angeles of the not-too-distant future, it tells the story of a lonely, introverted young man who develops a soulful relationship with a female voice generated by his new operating system. The voice has an artificial intelligence that is capable of learning and growing psychologically and can discuss philosophical subjects like love and life. A very present and fun idea, not to mention Scarlett Johansson’s sexy voice!
Best Director: Spike Jonze
Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze
Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson
This film about two astronauts stranded in space after their mission suffers a catastrophic fate, was loved and praised across the world for both its spectacle and its transcendent message. The film was largely seen as carrying the spiritual motifs of unusual resilience, clarity of the human mind and persistence of spirit when death is looking you in the face.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock
Best Original Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón
Can Leonardo DiCaprio’s jinx with the Academy Awards finally be broken with this film? For an actor of his caliber and gamut of work, he has been nominated for Best Actor only twice (for The Aviator and Blood Diamond) and was surprisingly ignored for ‘The Departed’, ‘Revolutionary Road’ and ‘J. Edgar’, to name a few. His dark portrayal of Jordan Belfort in this famous fifth collaboration with Martin Scorsese, has been widely praised as being one of his best works.
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill
Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter
Tom Hanks is an Academy favorite and even though this year will see a tough race, it is very likely that he will garner his sixth nomination for Best Actor (he has won twice previously – for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump). The film is a true-life thriller about merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean in 2009 and the famous rescue efforts of the U.S. Navy SEALs.
Best Actor: Tom Hanks
Best Director: Paul Greengrass
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi
Best Adapted Screenplay: Billy Ray
After the success of ‘The Descendants’ at the 2012 Oscars, Alexander Payne returns in top form as director. Like his earlier films, Nebraska’s themes revolve around family ties, their burdens, responsibilities and embarrassments. Bruce Dern’s portrayal of the drunken, senile father who will stop at nothing to collect his $1 million sweepstakes prize from Nebraska, won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
Best Director: Alexander Payne
Best Actor: Bruce Dern
Best Supporting Actress: June Squibb
Best Original Screenplay: Bob Nelson
Written and directed by the famous Coen Brothers, the film is about one week in the life of a struggling folk singer-songwriter in New York in 1961. Oscar Isaac who plays the talented and penniless Llywen Davis, performed all his own numbers in the film including guitar and vocals and could be in the running for top honors this year. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Best Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Best Actor: Oscar Isaac
Best Original Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Woody Allen is his own genre and his ingenuity and originality is a gift to mankind. He couldn’t care less if his latest work gets nominated or not (he won’t be coming either way), but we sure hope that the brilliant writing and Cate Blanchett’s compelling performance as the rich New York Socialite on a downward spiral, will get due honors. Unfortunately, the India release of the film was canceled because Woody Allen refused to have the customary scroll at the bottom for the smoking scenes as he did not want any changes in the reel.
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen
And here’s another potential nomination for Mr. Hanks – this time playing Walt Disney. Emma Thompson plays the author P. L. Travers, who was pursued by Disney for twenty years in order to acquire the film rights to her Mary Poppins stories. She is highly likely to grab a Best Actress nomination for her role as the sought-after writer who is unwilling to entrust her deeply personal work to the entertainment magnates, for fear of it being mangled.
Best Actress: Emma Thompson
Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hanks
Matthew McConaughey may have high odds of walking away with the Best Actor Oscar this year for his role as the true-life controversial hero Ron Woodroof. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallé, the film chronicles the remarkable story of the AIDS patient who smuggled unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into the United States when he found that they were improving his own symptoms and begins selling them on the street to other patients.
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
Best Original Screenplay: Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Few actors are gifted with the ability to hold the screen all by themselves for the entire length of a film. Robert Redford is one of those few. In this survival film where he plays a man lost in the Indian Ocean, he has no acting support (not even a Richard Parker or a Wilson) and almost no dialogue. And yet, critics watched spellbound as the 77 year old actor performed his own water stunts in this fight for survival film.
Best Actor: Robert Redford
Based on the real life of Eugene Allen, Forest Whitaker plays the White House butler who served there for 34 years. His job allowed him to witness significant historical events of the 20th century as Presidents came and went. He used his privileged position to champion equal opportunities for the black staff in the White House. Oprah Winfrey returned to the big screen playing the butler’s wife.
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker
Best Supporting Actress: Oprah Winfrey
Based on the Pultizer Prize winning novel, the film is directed by John Wells and stars cinematic powerhouses Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as mother and daughter in a strained relationship. With the highest number of nominations in the history of the awards, Streep could very well have her 18th one this year.
Best Actress: Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actress: Julia Roberts
After nearly two decades since they first met on a train in Vienna in ‘Before Sunrise’ and a decade after their second meeting in Paris in ‘Before Sunset’, Jesse and Celine are seen together again in Greece. Julie Delpy’s and Ethan Hawke’s beloved characters returned to the screen much to the relief of the fans and once again garnered widespread acclaim. Holding the audience only through their interesting conversations has been the hallmark of this charming trilogy.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater
BEST FOREIGN FILM
This Danish drama tells the story of a man who is wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a kindergarten child and becomes a victim of public hysteria. Mads Mikkelsen won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role as the ostracized man struggling to find vindication and proving his innocence to his community and loved ones.
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, this Belgian romantic drama follows the story of Didier – a banjo player and Elisa – a tattoo artist, as they fall madly in love with each other, despite their opposite personalities. Their lives are perfect when their daughter is born, but when she is diagnosed with a serious illness, their world is turned upside down.
The film is an ode to Rome which acts as a metaphor for the feelings of the protagonist, Jep Gambardella. An ageing socialite, he has been resting on the laurels of the one book that he wrote in his twenties – for four decades . In the time that has passed, he has lived a life of decadence – attending hip parties, romancing beautiful women and occasionally writing columns about celebrity culture and pretentious art. As he takes a walk around town, he reflects on the emptiness inside him.
Hungarian director János Szász creates this grim tale about inseparable teenage twin brothers, who have been dispatched by their parents to live with their cruel, abusive grandmother during world war II. Taking in unimaginable horrors everywhere, they realize that they only have each other and to cope with the external world, they carefully desensitize themselves to pain, suffering and even bodily injury.
Directed by internationally renowned director Wong-Kar Wai, this martial art film is perhaps the most high profile entry shortlisted for Best Foreign Film. It chronicles the life of the Chinese martial arts (Wing Chun) grandmaster Ip Man (his most famous student was Bruce Lee) from the 1930s in Foshan, his flight to Hong Kong after the second war with Japan, and the events leading to his death.
The unanimous winner of the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year will unfortunately not be eligible for a ‘Best Foreign language film’ nomination because it was released in France after the September 30th deadline. The film is a romantic coming of age drama about two young lesbian women in love and their deep heartbreak. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, It received wide acclaim for its spellbinding narrative and fearless performances of the two actresses.
Best Actress: Adèle Exarchopoulos
Best Supporting Actress: Lea Seydoux
It came as a surprise to many that this film did not make the Academy’s short list for Best Foreign film. From director Asghar Farhadi whose masterpiece ‘A Separation’ won the same award in 2012, this story too revolves around a broken family. An Iranian man returns to Paris after four years to meet his estranged wife and daughter, in order to finalize his divorce. The wife is now in a relationship with an Arab man of whom her daughter disapproves. The film was nominated for the Palm D’Or and Bérénice Bejo won Best Actress at the 2013 Cannes film festival.
Best Actress: Bérénice Bejo
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Hayao Miyazaki fans across the world were saddened when he announced that this would be his final directorial film. The inimitable storyteller with his extraordinary imagination deserves to be honored for his contribution to animation and film at large. The Wind Rises is a fictional biography of Jiro Hirokoshi, the designer of aircrafts that were used by the Empire of Japan in World War II. Miyazaki was inspired to make the film when he read Horikoshi’s quote: “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”
After being stolen of their Oscar for “Wreck it Ralph” last year, Disney Animation has churned out an almost certain winner this year. The heartwarming musical about the two princesses and their unconditional sister love is anything but cliché. Eye-candy visuals, foot tapping numbers and a great story gives it a strong edge over other films that are in the running this year. Look out for nominations for its music as well.
The Academy’s love affair with Pixar is well known and it will be a surprise if they decide to keep Monsters University out of the race this year. It did not measure up to the brilliant original, but that is a very high bar to set. The film still deserves to be recognized for all its strong points that is the Pixar trademark.
There are always the lesser known, and scarcely watched foreign animated films that are recognized by the Academy, although they have almost never taken home the prize. This film about the unlikely friendship between a young mouse and a bear is likely to fall into that category.
Although the story and execution is not anywhere close to its prequel, this film may simply get a nomination because the first one was snubbed. For their overwhelming popularity and universal appeal, the Academy might be looking to make it up to the minions!
See the final nominees here: Oscar Nominees 2014