Which movie will win Best Picture? Reviews of three nominees

February 24, 2014

The Academy Awards will be presented March 2. Here are excerpts of reviews of three of the nine nominees for Best Picture in 2013. A review of a fourth movie, “Her,” is in another post.

“American Hustle”

“American Hustle” is a crime, comedy-drama film set in the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

Catonsville-American-HustleDirected by David O. Russell, this film stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as two con artists forced by FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper) to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (played by Jeremy Renner).

Everyone knows Bale as the legendary Batman, but seeing him as Irving Rosenfeld was a shocking but pleasant change. Know for his ability to immerse himself in a role, Bale gained significant weight to play this character. Rosenfeld, a con artist collaborating with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who poses as British aristocrat Lady Edict, takes money from unsuspecting loaners. They are caught in the act by Maso, who forces them to work for him in order to catch corrupt politicians. Rosenfeld has a friend who pretends to be a wealthy Arab Sheikh looking for potential investments in America. Using this scheme, the trio go on the hunt for corrupt leaders, tricking Carmine Polito, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey.

The actors really sold the story, and you can find yourself laughing numerous times. Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosalene, Irving’s wife, and continues to impress in this film, just as she has in so many others. Truthfully, I used to think Lawrence a mediocre actor, even if she did win the Best Actress Oscar award last year. Her performance in “American Hustle” clears up any doubts on my part. The tension between her and Prosser, Irving’s lover, is palpable, especially when Prosser confronts Rosalene in the bathroom. I thought it would end in cat fight but rather it ends in (spoiler alert!) Rosalene kissing Prosser and walking off with a haughty laugh.

American Hustle had a budget of $40 million, and grossed about $107,458,381. It received widespread critical acclaim for the movie and the cast’s performances, notably Adams and Lawrence. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 92% rating, based on reviews from 222 critics with an average score of 8.1/10. The site’s consensus reads, “Riotously funny and impeccably cast, ‘American Hustle’ compensates for its flaws with unbridled energy and some of David O. Russell’s most irrepressibly vibrant direction.” Metacritic gave a score of 90/100, indicating “universal acclaim,” based on reviews from 47 critics.

So get in the ’80s spirit and grab your tickets. With the glamorous dresses, excellent acting, and a crude sense of humor, American Hustle will definitely be worth a watch.

“Captain Phillips”

Tom Hanks has done it again. With another awe-inspiring performance, he has been nominated for the Best Actor Golden Globes award along with the movie that brought him to such excellence: Captain Phillips. Based on a true story, Captain Phillips portrays the events that occurred when Captain Richard Phillips commanded a U.S. merchant ship through the Indian Ocean, only to be hijacked by Somali pirates. A nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat action thriller, Captain Phillips has been receiving excellent reviews and recognition.

captain-phillips-poster1-595x881And really, it is much deserved. The movie stars Academy Award winner Tom Hanks (Richard Phillips) and Barkhad Abdi (Abduwali Muse), and is directed by Paul Greengrass. In the movie, the MV Maersk Alabama is sailing from the Port of Salalah to Oman. Phillips, wary of pirate activity as the ship sails along the Somali coast, orders security precautions. During one of these drills, Muse and his men board the ship and take Phillips captive while most of his crew hides. Hanks’s amazing charisma and professionality captivates the audience’s attention as they watch a sweaty Phillips lead the pirates through the ship. You find yourself cringing when the pirates go down in the engine room, where the men are hiding, and breathe a sigh of relief when the lights are cut off, saving the crew just in the nick of time.

The actors were phenomenal, scoring various awards and nominations, four of them being Best Motion Picture (Drama), Best Actor (Drama), Best Supporting Actor (Drama), and Best Director in the 71st Golden Globes. The movie has received widespread critical acclaim, one of them being the Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator, which reported a 95% approval critic response based on 220 reviews, with a “Certified Fresh” and an average score of 8.3/10. The site’s consensus reads: “Smart, powerfully acted, and incredibly intense, Captain Phillips offers filmgoers a Hollywood biopic done right—and offers Tom Hanks a showcase for yet another brilliant performance.”

Hanks was amazing throughout the film, but the best scene of the movie was in the end when he was saved by the US Navy and brought aboard to be checked for injuries. Phillips was obviously in shock, and Hanks portrayed this so well, that you find yourself cringing for the poor captain as he cries and thanks the navy men for saving his life.

All in all, Captain Phillips is a spectacular movie, and one definitely worth your time. Stop by the movie theater some time and take a seat. I promise you, you’ll enjoy cruising on the MV Maersk Alabama.

“Gravity”

Have you ever wondered what it is like up in space? Have you ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut and working on satellites and building cool rockets? Ever watched Chris Hadfield’s YouTube videos? And did you know that one of his fears was drifting off into space, into the unknown, into a black void where there is no oxygen, no sound, no people?

gravity-poster-595x879Enter “Gravity,” an astronaut’s worst nightmare. A 3D science-fiction thriller, “Gravity” stars Sandra Bullock (Dr. Ryan Stone) and George Clooney (Matt Kowalsky) as two astronauts whose space shuttle is destroyed, as well as their crew, leaving them alone and untethered in the great unknown.

The movie is directed, co-produced, co-written, co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, and has grossed a worldwide total of $642,535,785, making it the seventh highest grossing film of 2013. It has received critical acclaim and praises from the critics themselves and the audience, who applaud the acting, screenplay, cinematography, visual effects, production design, the use of 3D, and Steven Price’s musical score.

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 97% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 278 reviews, giving it a”Certified Fresh” rating, with an average score of 9.1/10. The site’s consensus states: “Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ is an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that’s masterfully directed and visually stunning.”

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four out of four stars, stating that “Gravity” was “more than a movie. It’s some kind of miracle.”

Hats off to Bullock for the amazing performance. As a first-time astronaut, Ryan Stone panics easily, which causes her oxygen level to deplete very quickly. You find yourself cringing as you hear her scream and pant, wishing that she could just get her head together and remain calm. But seriously, would you, when you’re drifting into space, into a darkness where one’s only option is a slow, painful death?

I never expected such a performance from Bullock; I always thought she was an actress meant for comedies, so it was a nice surprise for me. Clooney was amazing as always, despite him having a minor role throughout the film. Did you know that Clooney replaced Robert Downey Jr., who was to originally be filmed as Kowalsky?

A movie definitely worth your time, Gravity will not be a disappointment. So grab your glasses and buy some popcorn. It’s gonna be one hell of a ride.

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