Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Published 6 months ago by

oscar nominations 2014 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

We’re less than a week away from the 86th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, which shall (finally) bring the 2014 Oscar race to a conclusion and reveal which directors, actors, and technical artists are recognized by their Hollywood peers for having done great work in 2013. Whereas in recent years there’s generally been a Best Picture front-runner headed into the ceremony (see: Argo last year, The Artist in 2012), this year there isn’t a single film that’s swept the awards shows preceding the Oscars – and thus, gained enough momentum to really suggest that the Academy’s top prize is its to lose, at this stage.

Still, like we’ve done in previous years, we shall analyze and examine the 2014 Best Picture Oscar contenders in terms of their strengths and weaknesses as works of art, before looking at their Oscar prospects. Our breakdown of each film (listed in alphabetical order) will be as follows:

  • Why It Should Win (i.e. What’s good about the film?)
  • Why It Shouldn’t Win (i.e. What’s not-so-good about the film?)
  • The Bottom Line (i.e. What are its chances?)

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American Hustle

american hustle review 570x320 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Co-writer/director David O. Russell’s latest film uses the real-life ABSCAM sting in the 1970s as the spring-board for a funny (and loopy) con artist caper that examines American values and lifestyles. Intricate historical details and strong performances by Russell’s trusted acting troupe (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, etc.) make this movie the entertaining (and revealing) cinematic equivalent of a funhouse mirror.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: American Hustle, even by Russell’s standards, is a film with a sprawling narrative structure – one that can feel improvisatory to a fault. So much focus and attention is placed upon the cast’s performances that there’s (literally) little room left for much else, in terms of onscreen action and/or development.

The Bottom Line: American Hustle was recognized early in awards season (see: the Golden Globes), but has slowed down of late. Couple that with a backlash in popular opinion and its best chances at the Oscars might lie with categories like Production and Costume Design – not the top prizes (acting, Picture, etc.).

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Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips Movie Tom Hanks Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Director Paul Greengrass and writer Billy Ray use the ripped-from-the-headlines story that inspired Captain Phillips as the foundation for a white-knuckle drama/thriller – one which also doubles as an intelligent parable about the modern global economy and American militarism. Oh, and did we mention that the film offers yet another great performance by Tom Hanks (one that, at times, is arguably his most raw to date)?

Why It Shouldn’t Win: Captain Phillips often feels like a work of journalism, which is to say that certain elements of the story are explored in depth while others are short-changed. Similarly, the film is sometimes hurt by the docudrama approach, which doesn’t always allow for newfound insight (i.e. the kind only a movie can offer) on the subject matter.

The Bottom Line: Both Hanks and Greengrass were snubbed by the Academy, which is a sign that Captain Phillips probably won’t be recognized outside of technical categories (see: sound mixing, editing).

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Dallas Buyers Club

dallas buyers club movie review 570x294 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: In Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey delivers a show-stopping performance in a “inspired by real events” dramedy that offers a more intimate perspective on the U.S. HIV/AIDS crisis during the 1980s. Similarly, costars Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner offer excellent performances – ones which help to put a human face on, respectively, AIDS victims and the conflicted medical establishment at the time.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction on the film doesn’t exactly make a lasting impression, while the script written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack is a pretty straight-forward historical melodrama. Indeed, Dallas Buyers Club arguably is to the AIDS crisis what The Help is to African-American history – not in a good way, mind you.

The Bottom Line: McConaughey and Leto are both front-runners to win for their performances in Dallas Buyers Club, but the film is a dark horse candidate in the other top Oscar categories.

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Gravity

Gravity Returns to Theaters 570x320 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Co-writer/director Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity features more of his impressive long-take sequence shots, combined with stellar 3D filmmaking techniques and Sandra Bullock providing a great one-person show for much of the running time. The final result is a fantastic (meta-)physical meditation on spiritual rebirth, presented as a non-stop heart-pounding adventure to survive in space.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: The story by Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonás Cuarón is not on the same level as the rest of the film. Indeed, the digitally-created space environment is a key component of the storytelling, but has to make up for some less-innovative plot components (especially, in the third act).

The Bottom Line: Alfonso Cuarón may well be crowned Best Director for Gravity, while the film should clean-up in the technical categories (effects, and so forth). HOWEVER, this could well be the year that the Academy recognizes a 3D “event” movie as Best Picture.

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Her

Joaquin Phoenix in Her 2014 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Her – the latest creation from writer/director Spike Jonze – paints a semi-plausible (but still imaginative) portrait of the future, in order to tell a meaningful story about how people find, keep and/or lose love in a technology-heavy world. Joaquin Phoenix excels at serving as the strange, yet empathetic heart of the film, while Scarlett Johansson engineers (no pun) a rich character using only her voice.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: The marriage of Jonze’s idiosyncratic voice as a storyteller with a straight-forward relationship story is rocky, meaning there are parts of Her (again, no pun) that simply do not work well. Indeed, certain aspects that fall on the “twee indie” side are more likely to prompt head-scratching than anything else.

The Bottom Line: Jonze is a contender to win for screenwriting (he was passed over as director), but a Best Picture win is a real long-shot. Oh well, at least cinephiles seem to enjoy discussing Her as Jonze’s film about his breakup with Sofia Coppola.

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Nebraska

nebraska movie bruce dern will forte1 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Filmmaker Alexander Payne takes moviegoers on another funny, yet melancholic road trip with Nebraska - boasting Bruce Dern, June Squibb and Will Forte (all in fine form) as passengers. Payne’s direction and gorgeous black-and-white visuals capture the mood and feeling of a fading world, offering a compassionate look at Americans whose unflattering ways often make them the butt of jokes.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: Bob Nelson’s screenplay is thoughtful, but doesn’t stray too far from convention. The final result is a simple and steady-paced narrative, which gives rise to a film that is equally so – one that could also be taken as sluggish and condescending, depending on how you look at it.

The Bottom Line: Nebraska doesn’t have a lot of momentum in any categories, headed into the Oscar ceremony – which is to say, it could well go home completely empty-handed.

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Philomena

philomena movie review 570x294 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Director Stephen Frears returns with yet another solid work of social realism, featuring a very good headlining turn by Judi Dench (and nice support by co-writer/costar Steve Coogan) in Philomena – a worthwhile story that examines true faith, heritage, and forgiveness while carefully examining touchy political subject matter (like institutionalized abuse by the Catholic Church).

Why It Shouldn’t Win: Frears’ directorial choices sometimes give rise to a film that’s clunky in motion, in addition to being fairly standard on the whole. More importantly, the script by Coogan and Jeff Pope is somewhat philosophically at-odds with itself, striving not to be a “human interest story” when it kind of is.

The Bottom Line: Philomena appears to be a dark horse candidate in every Oscar category that it’s been nominated in – though, that’s not to say it could never manage an upset, mind you.

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12 Years a Slave

12 years slave movie review 570x294 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor offers a soulful performance (even while Michael Fassbender plays quite the unforgettable monster) in this drama based on the true story of free man-turned-slave, Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen portrays Solmon’s horrifying plight through meticulous editing and powerful imagery, so as to create a vivid portrait of slaves’ hellish existence in the antebellum South.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: McQueen and writer John Ridley examine the physical atrocities of slavery, but short-change others key elements – like the characters’ psychology or plot points that illustrate how the institution of American slavery functioned – resulting in a slavery movie that arguably doesn’t have all that much to say about its subject matter.

The Bottom Line: 12 Years a Slave costar Lupita Nyong’o may well be recognized for her acting, while the actual film is one of the more likely candidates to secure a Best Picture win this year.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

wolf wall street movie leonardo dicaprio 570x294 Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

Why It Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese reunite for a wickedly biting deconstruction of reckless alpha-male behavior in the financial sector, in the shape of The Wolf of Wall Street. Screenwriter Terence Winter adapted Jordan Belfort’s memoir into a grand spectacle of bad behavior and debauchery, brought to life through Scorsese’s technical finesse and DiCaprio’s fully-committed performance.

Why It Shouldn’t Win: Scorsese’s latest film plays out like an overlong gangster feature disguised as a Wall Street satire. Moreover, it’s somewhat guilty of making Belfort look wonderfully despicable before his fall, which results in a film that feels often less like a warts-and-all confessional – and (unintentionally) more like a grand boast.

The Bottom Line: Wolf of Wall Street seems pretty unlikely to walk away with a Best Picture win, but there’s a (slight) chance that DiCaprio might beat out McConaughey for the Best Actor win.

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The Bottom Line

Oscars Oscar 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Which Movie WILL Win and Which SHOULD Win

The 2014 awards season has been quite the roller coaster ride, with regard to the differences in which films have been recognized at the biggest pre-Oscars events (Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and so forth). That’s not to mention, the back-and-forth tide of public opinion towards the Best Picture nominees; whether it’s Captain Phillips being denounced for its inaccuracies or the controversy surrounding Wolf of Wall Street‘s naughtiness, almost every one of the films has experienced some amount of “backlash” at some point.

At this point in time, the two top contenders to win the Best Picture Oscar seem to be Gravity and 12 Years a Slave – which could mean that we see a split this year, where one wins for Best Director (Gravity, more likely) while the other is crowned Best Picture. We’ll have to see how the actual Oscar night plays out, but until then my take is:

What WILL WIN: 12 Years a Slave

What SHOULD WIN: Gravity

How about it, readers – which film you think will be named Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars ceremony? And which film do you think SHOULD be honored with that title?

[poll id="769"]

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The 86th Academy Awards ceremony will air on Sunday, March 2nd, 2014.

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TAGS: 12 years a slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, gravity, her, nebraska, oscars, Philomena, the wolf of wall street

33 Comments

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  1. Gravity was good but over hyped as sh*t.

    In my opinion, either Her, American Hustle, or Captain Philips deserve Best Picture.

    • For the love of God GET OVER GRAVITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Outside the effects (that honestly were not groundbreaking) the movie was not that great! The story and character depth wasn’t memorable and the acting was limited… I just don’t understand how someone could say that they thinks Gravity is The Best Movie of the Year!?

      Honestly I have felt like I am taking crazy pills since day one… I really don’t understand Gravity’s delusional fanbase.

      The movie was good, the effects were good, the acting (though there was little of it) was good and all of this added to making a good movie.

      But nothing more.

      • Oh man, i understand you in so many levels, i feel like Gravity is like watching Volcano but with better effects and a lot of hype.

      • You could have more easily and concisely said, “I don’t think Gravity should win Best Picture”, instead of going on a pointless rant that added nothing to the conversation, while also alienating the people that did like the film. Come on. Constructive arguments. We’re all adults here.

        • @beefalo
          You really did not read my comment did you?

          I clearly stated while that Gravity was good I consider it over hyped. I never once went out of my way to say Gravity was amazing or that it deserved best picture. I even stated the films I think deserve more so than Gravity.

          I agree with the points you made except the visuals. They were stunning. That in my opinion is the only reason the films I bring nominated for Best Picture.

          But next time bud, read someone’s comment thoroughly or just read it instead of seeing the word ‘Gravity’ and assuming the person is over-praising the film :P

          • is being* not I bring.

        • Over hyped …may be if we had a r
          Retake in gravity two with more story line and drama

      • Totally agreed. I went to the movies expecting something great and memorable. In the end, I found myself with a mediocre movie and nothing to remember. It was just another watchable movie that I won’t remember in two weeks after the oscar ceremony.

  2. Gravity or Her, in my opinion.

  3. At 692 votes Gravity, 12 Years, and Wolf are all tied. That’s about what the academy will be like too.

  4. Guilt is powerful.

    12 Years A Slave will win.

    • True a movie about slavery would obviously win because ‘they can’t be seen to not appear to care about slavery’.

  5. I imagine Dallas Buyers Club may win because it’s a US-based true story and they like that sort of thing, plus it’s the only option I’d vote for out of the nominations. Gravity wasn’t as amazing as everyone hyped it to be when it finally released in the UK and I caught 12 Years A Slave last weekend and didn’t think that movie was as good as the hype led me to believe either.

    Saying that, it’ll be between 12 Years or Dallas Buyers. McQueen will definitely walk away with Best Director.

  6. ’12 Years A Slave’ will win and should deserve to win. There is no doubt that ‘Gravity’ was the most groundbreaking film this year, but it wasn’t the best. Top Five for me no doubt about it, but ’12 Years A Slave’ was the most emotional film and had the best performances by far. I’m glad that ‘American Hustle’ lost steam, because thats the most overrated movie of the year.

  7. I’ve only seen Her, Hustle, Gravity, Wolf, and 12 yrs. Out of those ones that I’ve seen I would go with Hustle.

    Bear in mind however that these are all extremely good films (imho)! I would highly recommend any of them but Hustle would have to be my fave.

    • In terms of the awards though I would prbly agree that Gravity SHOULD win cuz what the hey, sci-fi right? Give that genre some love.

      12 yrs’ll likely take it though. It fits the bill on everything in the Oscar checklist. It’s a drama, it’s a HISTORICAL drama, it’s controversial but not too controversial, it explores racism, … the academy eats that stuff up.

  8. I still haven’t seen Nebraska or Philomena so I can’t comment on those but in all honesty they really don’t stand a chance anyway.

    It really comes down to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.

    Alfonso Quaron is a lock for Best Director and like Sandy says Gravity will clean up in the technical awards but over the years if a movie doesn’t have at least a screenplay nomination it’s chances of winning Best Picture are slim so that’s why Gravity will win the most awards of the night but 12 Years a Slave will win Best Picture.

  9. “What SHOULD WIN: Gravity”

    Oh man, that was one bad movie. Any other movie from the list deserves to win more than gravity.

  10. I don’t think a Martin Scorsese-like film like American Hustle should win when there is an actual Martin Scorsese film also nominated…

  11. Of the movies on the list, I’ve seen Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, and The Wolf of Wall Street (getting around to American Hustle VERY soon though). So I guess I can’t say much about ones like 12 Years a Slave or Her, but out of the ones I’ve seen I’d like to see Wolf of Wall Street pull out the most wins. IMO out of the nominees that’s the one that deserves Best Picture. Or else I’d at least like to see it win Best Acting for Leo or Best Directing for Scorcese.

    I don’t really want Gravity to win a whole lot. I loved the movie, but I only think it should win technical kind of awards (and maybe Best Directing for Cuaron). I unfortunately missed out on it in theaters, and so I have to say watching it on a TV screen was a little underwhelming. It highlighted some of the other problems of the movie for me (plus I’ve always hated Sandra Bullock) that I probably would have let slide if I got the theater experience. The visual effects are impressive, but the movie as a whole isn’t really a “Best Picture” type of candidate to me.

    Hoping both Captain Phillips and Dallas Buyers Club pull out some awards though at least, they were both great.

  12. the wolf of wall street and gravity are SOOO f*cking overrated… if dicaprio wins oscar for wolf, it would be an insult to his acting capabilities (he should have won in the past, yes, but this film is so not worth it)
    IMO, this category should be 12 years a slave against dallas buyers club

    • that’s just like, your opinion, man.

  13. Should definitely go to Her. I enjoyed it more than any of the others.

  14. Oh, and American Hustle bored me to tears.

  15. My humble predictions for Oscar 2014:
    Best picture : 12 years a slave or American Hustle
    Best Actress : Cate Blanchett
    Best Supporting Actress : J-Law
    Best actor : Matthew McConaughey
    Best supporting actor : Jared Leto
    Best Director : Alfonso Cuaron or Steve McQueen
    Best Foreign Language : La Grande Belezza ( Italians do it better)
    Best Song : that song from Frozen ( forgot the title )
    Best Animation : Frozen or Wind Rises
    Best Writing Original: Her or Blue Jasmine
    Best Writing Adapted : 12 years a slave
    The “Techies” Award : Gravity will dominate
    Best Documentary: haven’t seen any of them. Sorry.
    Best Costume & Makeup : American Hustle

    • I got 11 out of 13 right. Not bad.

  16. GRAVITY IS A TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT – thats it. its an amazing one at that, but NOT best picture material this or any other year.

  17. I hope something unexpected happens, best actors tough, I would love to see Ejiofor win but all them are just as deserving, I’m holding out for The Hunt too win best picture though.

  18. Best Oscar Snub : The Butler
    Best Comedy : Anchorman 2
    Best Action (non-comic book or Sci-fi) : 2 guns or FF6
    Best Horror : The Purge or Evil Dead

    • @Marvelboy, best oscar snub goes too Rush or Prisoners for me anyway.

  19. Gravity Gravity Gravity Gravity Gravity Gravity

  20. gravity is one of those movies you have to watch in the right environment the first time, hence a huge screen, loud surround audio, and very dark, or it will ruin the experience forever. and in my opinion when a movie is so over hyped than you expect so much that when you see it, it cant compete with your expectations. I had heard very little about gravity when I saw it and thought it was awesome, however I had heard so much about the lego movie and was a little disappointed. its all relative.

  21. Why on earth should gravity win as best picture? It obviously had innovative special effects that makes it a wonderful movie to see a few times in Imax/3D. 12 Years a Slave, Wolf of Wall Street, and American Hustle are in a extremely elite category over the extremely unique THRILLER that is Gravity.

    On the subject of 12 Years a Slave, this author completely missed the point of the movie and are extremely . There is nothing ‘short changed’ about the 12YAS narrative. The point of the heavy emphasis on the physical injustices of slavery, was that ‘physiologically’ human being were treated like property. For those that practice the study of the pre-emancipation south, the ‘physiology’ of the slavey owners was more accurately portrayed than any film made to date. For many of the less educated viewers the realistic visual images exemplify the films message. By refusing to spell out the message of 12YAS, McQueen says a lot more about the institution of slavery than this author suggest…

    Bottom Line: 12 Years a Slave should win. Wolf of Wall might win. and every other film on this list will be enjoyed by viewers much longer than Gravity ever will. (i.e. does anyone really enjoy the ‘amazing’ film that was avatar?)

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