Like last year, I am presenting the list of the ten movies you must try to watch before the Oscar Awards function to have a good sense of what's happening out there, to comment whether a certain winner deserved the trophy, and to generally have more fun watching the live show, that is to be held on our Monday morning of 3rd March. You have about six weeks to watch these ten movies. I am sure, like me, you must have already watched at least 2-3 of these. Click on the titles to watch their trailers:
1. '12 Years a Slave' (9 nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and three acting nominations) This is only the third feature by the British director Steve McQueen, after the Camera d'or winning debut 'Hunger' (2008), and the heartbreaking gem, 'Shame' (2011). I have watched 'Shame', am about to watch 'Hunger' and am eagerly waiting for '12 Years a Slave' to release in India. McQueen, in the last five years, has clearly emerged as the director to look for.
2. 'American Hustle' (10 nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and four acting nominations) Chances are you would have watched David O Russel's two films that preceded this: 'The Fighter' (2010) and 'Silver Linings Playbook' (2012). This year, it is the only film whose chances for the Big Five are still alive, an enviable distinction that only three films have achieved until date in the history of the awards ('It Happened One Night', 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and 'The Silence of the Lambs'). 'American Hustle' releases in India today and should not be missed.
3. 'Blue Jasmine' (3 nominations, including Screenplay, and two acting nominations) I am including this Woody Allen film in the list for two reasons. One, Cate Blanchett has already won a Golden Globe for her role and would be a serious contender for the Best Actress Oscar. And more importantly, its screenplay is in competition as well. The film, however, will not be released in India, after Woody Allen refused to add the "Smoking Kills" caption to its print. Guess, downloading it is the only option now. Sad, but true.
4. 'Captain Phillips' (6 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and three post-production nominations) When I had watched the press screening of this film, I wasn't expecting it to eventually earn a Best Picture nomination. Today I feel more thankful to the Sony guys for inviting me. This film, again by a British director (two 'Bourne' films, 'United 93'), was released in India in October last year, and is definitely a big-screen movie.
5. 'Dallas Buyers Club' (6 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and two acting nominations) Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have both won the Golden Globes for their performances in this film by the Canadian film-maker Jean-Marc Vallee. McConaughey has been the find of the year for me ('Mud', and the awesome two-scene appearance in 'The Wolf of the Wall Street'). I already feel my sentiments would back him for the Oscar. I am yet to watch 'Dallas Buyers Club' and hope it releases here soon.
6. 'Gravity' (10 nominations, including Picture, Director, and almost all technical awards) This 3D sensation is still playing. Watch it at Imax if you haven't yet. We were definitely expecting it to bag some of the technical awards, but Alfonso Cuaron's Best Director win at Golden Globes has also made him a favourite here. Will the Mexican director ('Y Tu Mama Tambien', 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' and 'Children of Men') finally and formally complete his win over Hollywood?
7. 'Her' (5 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and two music nominations) Spike Jonze's fourth film in fourteen years (after 'Being John Malkovich', 'Adaptation', and 'Where the Wild Things Are') has already earned him the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. He is also in the running for 'Best Song', whose lyrics he has co-penned. Waiting for its release in India.
8. 'Nebraska' (6 nominations, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor) Alexander Payne has already won two screenplay Oscars ('Sideways' and 'The Descendants'). If you add 'Election' to the list, 'Nebraska' is his fourth screenplay nomination. The film is yet to release in India, and hope it does despite not boasting of very popular stars, and despite being a black and white film.
9. 'Philomena' (4 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and Original Score) The 79-year old Judi Dench will be hoping for her first Best Actress Oscar in her fifth nomination (She won the Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 'Shakespeare in Love'). British film-maker Stephen Frear's 'The Queen' had won it for Helen Mirren seven years ago.
10. 'The Wolf of Wall Street' (5 nominations, including Picture, Director, and Screenplay) In all probability, Scorsese will lose the Director Oscar for the sixth time (he has won once for 'The Departed'). But will Leonardo DiCaprio finally win one? Arguably the most deserving mainstream actor yet to win an Academy Award, DiCaprio's chances are good after the Golden Globe win. The film is still playing at a theatre near you. I loved most of it. If you do not take your morals too seriously, chances are, you too will.
I will get up early that Monday morning to catch the Awards live. Seven of the above-mentioned movies have to be watched before that! Cheers!