Oscars Preview 2014

The 86th Oscar nominations were announced last month, and it is looking to be a dramatic year with plenty to celebrate. With dozens of films nominated, it is simply impossible to watch them all, but here are a few stand-out films worth looking into.

Captain Phillips
Those familiar with director Paul Greengrass’s work (“The Bourne Supremacy,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “United 93”) expect intensity at the forefront of every film. “Captain Phillips” fits into the same vein, but still manages to surprise the viewer in its execution.

Following the true story of a Somali pirates’ hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, Greengrass successfully uses every tool from his box to capture the constantly rising action and keep the audience on the edge for over two hours. Connecting the pirates’ desperation with helpless Phillips and his crew, Greengrass uses the true story paradigm to its fullest extent without feeling contrived. While the “Bourne” series has plenty of its own deserved merits, “Captain Phillips” feels like a more important film worthy of Oscar attention, engaging both the heart and mind in meaningful ways under the guise of an action film.

Tom Hanks, though regrettably snubbed for a best actor nomination, sets the film’s course as the film’s tortured title character. Barkhad Abdi, however, is the real star of the show, stealing both the film and the ship as the leader of the Somali pirates. His best supporting actor nomination is more than deserved. I suspect that “Captain Phillips” will be overshadowed by other films for all six of its nominated categories, though it adds flavor to the best picture field with its unique high seas action.

Of the best picture nominees, “Gravity” has the shortest running time in the field. It certainly makes the most of its 91 minutes, however, taking the audience on a captivating ride through space in unparalleled fashion.

Science fiction films rarely gain traction with the Academy’s voters for mysterious reasons, but “Gravity” proves to be an exception as a formidable best picture contender. Director Alfonso Cuarón uses incredibly convincing visual imagery to paint a frightening picture of a space mission gone wrong. Sandra Bullock puts on a one-woman show as an inexperienced astronaut hanging on for her life. As Bullock’s character faces the seemingly impossible odds of her survival, the audience is forced to contemplate the value of a single human life that is held in the balance between rescue and certain death.

“Gravity” is pulling out all of the stops in its Oscar run, earning nominations for best director, cinematography, visual effects, score and even best actress for Bullock. As a well-hyped film well before the Oscar season even started, expect “Gravity” to clean house in several technical categories on Oscar night. It truly is a unique cinematic experience that commemorates 2013 as a quality year in film.

Blue Jasmine
Aside from controversies surrounding the film’s director, “Blue Jasmine” has been one of the buzziest films of the awards to not receive a best picture nod. The real magic of “Blue Jasmine,” however, is in the acting.

Cate Blanchett snagged her sixth acting nomination for the part of Jasmine, and her complex role is more than deserving. Externalizing the tension between regret and self-confidence, Blanchett’s turn as the ex-wife of a disgraced businessman works as a comedic but sympathetic protagonist. As she attempts to recover from her public humiliation, her old narcissistic habits clash with the good intentions of her loved ones, and everyone’s lives are affected by her personal downfalls.

Garnering a surprise best supporting actress nomination is Sally Hawkins, who portrays Jasmine’s compassionate sister Ginger. Along with solid performances from Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Bobby Cannavale, “Blue Jasmine” thrives on realistic characters within an inviting windowpane. I predict Blanchett will receive her second statuette on March 2, as she drives the film’s emotion in commanding fashion. In true Woody Allen fashion, it truly is an “actors’ film” that engages the viewer from start to finish.

Roger Gelwicks is a senior technical andprofessional communication major and an arts & entertainment writer for Cedars. He believes that honey badgers are vastly overrated and that a Komodo dragon could take one on any day.

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