Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Enough Said Movie Review

Who knew the pairing of Tony Soprano and Elaine Benes would result in something this rewarding? Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said is a romantic comedy which employs relatively few of the clichés we’ve come to expect in the genre. There is one giant exception and it hinges on a fairly amazing coincidence between the picture’s central characters. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter much because this is a thoughtful, honest, often emotional, and incredibly well-acted movie.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is really only known for her TV work – “Seinfeld”, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”, and “Veep”. James Gandolfini played one of the most iconic television roles in history, but has had an impressive filmography as well. Putting these two together in a rom com doesn’t sound like an automatic recipe for success. It is.

Enough Said focuses on Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), a middle-aged divorcee and mother of one whose daughter is getting ready to go to college. Albert (Gandolfini) is a middle-aged divorcee and father of one who daughter is getting ready to go to college. The two meet at a party and begin dating. Eva is a masseuse who meets a new client (Catherine Keener) at the same party. It turns out later that she is Albert’s ex-wife and this complicates Eva’s view of her budding relationship.

The film is refreshing in its realistic dialogue. Its funny moments aren’t forced and feel natural. I particularly liked how many of the characters first question to Eva about being a masseuse is whether clients often become aroused. I have a feeling masseuses probably get that question all the time. There are some nicely developed supporting characters including Eva’s not so happily married friends played by Toni Collette and Ben Falcone. In a lesser movie, Eva and Albert’s exes might be portrayed as “bad guys”, but not here. Director and writer Holofcener seems to respect her audience and she gives us characters that are flawed, but also just good people trying to make things work out.

The screenplay is a huge plus and the last few minutes of Enough Said pack more emotional punch that I could’ve anticipated. Yet it’s Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini that make this film special. Louis-Dreyfus has proven a master of sitcom acting which requires different beats and style than movies. She is terrific here as well and I would love to see her continue to seek out roles on the big screen.

Sadly, we all know that Gandolfini died last year shortly before this picture’s release. Those of us who came to know him and love him and sometimes loathe him as Tony Soprano knew his intensity and brilliance at playing that character. His portrayal of Tony is legendary. However, he was so much more than that and capable of playing much different roles and that is evidenced here. We don’t see Tony Soprano in the character of Albert. We see Gandolfini brilliantly stepping into the part of a regular guy who gets a second shot at love. These two TV titans have been blessed with great writing on the small screen back in the day. They get another chance here in this.

And it gives an audience one more chance to remember the talents of a man who left too soon. Enough said.

***1/2 (out of four)