REVIEW: Watching the 86th annual Academy Awards Oscar nominees

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"Gravity" directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Niki King Fredel, Staff Writer

Watch all nine of the Academy Awards best picture nominees for 2013, and you will feel like your perspective on the world has changed. Nominated for best picture in the 2013 Academy Awards are: “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle,” “Gravity,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Captain Phillips,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” and “Philomena.” From fighting AIDS (“Dallas Buyers Club) to the increasingly diminishing line between human and computer (“Her”), the themes of this year’s nominees span an astonishing range.

The film, “12 Years a Slave,” shows its viewers the reality of slavery in the American South. There are no disillusions in the movie and despite the fact that the main character, Solomon Northup, returns to freedom at the end of the film, viewers of “12 Years a Slave” won’t be able to forget the ramifications of slavery on the United States.

Urban students certainly are aware of the dark past of slavery in the U.S. “It (“12 Years A Slave”) was so much deeper, emotionally provocative, and culturally relevant than any other movie I’ve seen this year,” wrote Xander Beberman (‘14) in response to a Legend survey.

“’12 Years’ was made extremely well and captures the true essence of slavery. When the characters on the screen felt pain, the audience would feel pain. It is a very moving and thought-provoking film and is just too good for words,” wrote Aria Berluti (’15), in response to the same survey.

Another nominee, “American Hustle,” stars big-name actors such as Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale, and the film is a true tale of con men in the 70s. With a complex plot, unique humor, and outrageous costumes, this movie is smart and suave.

“ ‘American Hustle’ was an art piece. The dialogue, costumes, and imagery of the era were all beautiful. The actors did an excellent job (especially Amy Adams) and I loved that it pulled off comedy without distracting from the story and the reality of the harm the lead characters were inflicting on both each other and their victims. It was a love story but with a toxic twist, in my opinion, and that’s interesting to watch,” wrote Lena Galinson (’16) in response to the survey.

The film, “as well as being blatantly provocative, showed the depth and real complexity that forms itself when making extreme life choices. Plus Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Christian Bale are amazing actors,” wrote Emilie Morse (’15) in a response to the survey.

“Gravity” is a visual spectacle of two people free falling in outer space. The special effects are definitely first priority in this movie, meaning plot and character development were left behind.

“I think out of all of the big motion pictures this year, ‘Gravity’ was the most innovative. It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had watching a movie. I also thought the cinematography was cool and translated really well in 3d,” wrote Mariel Solomon (’17) in a response to the survey.

Another big name actor, Matthew McConaughey, plays a Texas cowboy struck with AIDS, who turns into an unlikely hero as a result of his determination to fight his 30-day prognosis in “Dallas Buyers Club.” The movie presents a raw and modern view of the ‘80s AIDS crisis and the stigmas attached to it. The movie may sit on McConaughey’s frail shoulders — he lost a reported 47 pounds in order to play the role — but it is an intriguing and touching chronicle of one man’s struggle to overcome AIDS.

With what seems like constant drug abuse, blatant spending of money, and what’s said to be the record for most f-words in a motion picture film, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is not a film for the light-at-heart. However there is no denying that the actors, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, are truly magnificent. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the American Dream gone wrong — the American Nightmare, accurately displayed in 180 minutes.

“The spectacular acting by Leonardo di Caprio, amazing plot, and a well-thoughtout storyline made this movie the best in my opinion,” wrote Ben Lee (’17) in response to the survey.

Another film, “Captain Phillips,” is based on the true story of the 2009 Somalian hijacking and rescuing of a large container ship, with help from the Navy SEALs and Captain Richard Phillips, portrayed by Tom Hanks. This nominee is an action movie that is smarter than your average Hollywood action flick. The characters — both the crewmembers and pirates — have dimension. Barkhad Abdi, who plays one of the Somalian pirates is nominated for best actor in a supporting role, telling us that “Captain Phillips” success is not fully contingent on the renowned Tom Hanks. The film is executed in a straight forward yet entertaining way.

Set in Los Angeles in the near future, “Her” is the story of a recently divorced man who falls in love with his operating system. The soundtrack is wonderful and the cinematography is stunning, but parts of the plot remain underdeveloped. “Her” is interesting and unique, but lacks something you just cannot put your finger on.

“Nebraska,” a film shot entirely in black-and-white, is a simple tale of what life is like in the American Midwest. A man promises to drive his stubborn and somewhat deranged father to Lincoln, Neb., in order to claim the $1 million that his father believes he won in a magazine subscription scam. “Nebraska” is character-development heavy, but lacks the pull offered by the other films nominated for Best Picture. Nevertheless, the movie is a beautiful exhibition of life in America.

The last film, “Philomena” is one of the rare feel-good movies based on a true story that does not feel completely clichéd. Judi Dench plays an older woman, Philomena Lee, who was forced as a teenage mother by nuns to give up her young son. Fifty years later, a recently unemployed journalist named Martin Sixsmith promises to help Philomena find her long lost son. A cynical and serious Martin is perfectly set off by warm-hearted Philomena in a movie that features wonderfully funny dialogue.

To tune in to hear which film wins Best Motion Picture, watch the 86th Academy Awards on March 2 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight time.