Best Picture

86th Academy Awards, Nominations Announcements

This year, one of nine nominated films will be inducted into an exclusive society of movies when it receives the Academy’s greatest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture.  Some of the films that this year’s winner will be joining include Casablanca, On the Waterfront, Rocky, Schindler’s List, The Departed, Argo, and many more; needless to say, this year’s Best Picture winner will be joining an elite collection of the world’s greatest films of all time.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Picture:

WINNER: 12 Years A Slave

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

3. American Hustle

4. Nebraska

5. Captain Phillips

6. Her

7. Philomena

8. Dallas Buyers Club

9. Gravity


Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 10 – Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips - BP

Captain Phillips is a film directed by Paul Greengrass, with a screenplay by Billy Ray.  The film tells the true-life story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama container ship off the coast of Somalia.  The film focuses on Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his courageous journey while taken hostage by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and his group of pirates.

Paul GreengrassCaptain Phillips is a pulse-pounding thriller, but I honestly did not expect anything less from Paul Greengrass—he directed both United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum, two well-made, award-nominated thrillers.  The filmmaking style in this movie is quite similar to that of United 93, and here, Greengrass has created another instant classic in cinematic history.  Each scene throughout this film is forceful in every way, and this terrifying tale receives a committed, marvelous exploration from Paul Greengrass.

Tom HanksAnother factor of Captain Phillips that warrants its place in my Top 10 is the superb acting performances, including remarkable performances from seasoned veteran Tom Hanks and from rookie Barkhad Abdi.  As Captain Richard Phillips, Tom Hanks brings his years of dramatic acting to the screen, and the result is something magical, even for a man with so many award-winning performances.  With every passing moment, you truly feel both the fear and composure of Hanks’s character, and his display of acting greatness fully immerses you into the hijacking in a way that will keep you on the edge of your seat—it sure did for me.

EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 - Winners RoomEven with a dazzling performance from Tom Hanks, the greatest part of this film was Barkhad Abdi’s portrayal of the real-life Abduwali Muse, the leader of the Somali pirates.  If you are not aware of Abdi’s story, he moved from Somalia to Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his family in 1999, and before auditioning for the film, he worked as a limousine driver.  Before the film, Abdi had absolutely zero acting experience, and that fact alone would make anyone fawn over his performance in Captain Phillips.  His character is menacing, yet weak at the same time, and Abdi delineates this character with such poise and refinement.  Abdi is considered a serious contender for the Oscar this season, especially after winning for Best Supporting Actor at the BAFTAs.

The film takes you on a wild ride, and I did not see another film in 2013 that put me more on edge.  It received six Academy Award nominations, which is definitely deserved, but I was surprised that neither Tom Hanks nor Paul Greengrass were nominated because this film is one of the highlights of each of their storied careers.  Captain Phillips is rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.

Captain Phillips trailer:

Academy Award nominations for Captain Phillips:

Best Picture (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca, Producers)

Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi)

Best Film Editing (Christopher Rouse)

Best Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney)

Best Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

11. Her

12. Philomena

13. Fruitvale Station

14. The Place Beyond the Pines

15. Dallas Buyers Club

Best Film Editing


The Oscar for Best Film Editing is awarded to a particular film for the finest post-production digital editing.  The award is presented to the film’s principal editor(s).  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Film Editing:

WINNER12 Years A Slave (Joe Walker)

2. American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten)

3. Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)

4. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger)

5. Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa)

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Fassbender

Last year, the actors nominated for Best Supporting Actor combined for six previous Oscar wins and sixteen prior nominations.  This year, there could not be a more polar-opposite assemblage of performers.  Three of this year’s five nominees have never been nominated for an Academy Award.  Only Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper have previously received Oscar nominations; however, these two actors combine for just two previous nominations.  Even though this year’s group is made up of novices in regards to the Oscars, it is nonetheless one of the most competitive categories of the entire Academy Awards field.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave)

In 12 Years A Slave, Michael Fassbender portrays Edwin Epps, a dark, menacing plantation owner in the pre-Civil War era.  Epps is a complicated man with fits of rage mixed in with his sexual desire for his top-producing slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o).  This Michael Fassbender 2year is one of the best collections of supporting performances in a very long time, and even though Jared Leto is stealing everyone’s thunder at nearly every award show, I believe Fassbender gave this year’s top performance.  His depiction of the slave-driving Epps is so incredibly multi-dimensional, and Fassbender performs in such a way that made me both despise and empathize with his character simultaneously.  For those of you that have not seen this film yet, there is a scene where Fassbender must discipline Patsey, the slave who is the object of his affection, and what transpires is a gruesome, but very authentic presentation that I believe justifies giving both Fassbender and Nyong’o Oscars.  Fassbender has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

2. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

In Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto plays Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman.  As many of you know, Leto is cleaning house at nearly every awards show for his Jared Letoperformance as Rayon, and honestly, it is all justified.  Leto is completely believable as a transgender woman, and he gives an emotionally dramatic performance that will rival any performance you may see for quite some time.  Even though nearly all of Leto’s scenes in the film are played as Rayon, the most heartbreaking scene in the entire movie features Leto confronting his father as Raymond, seemingly the man he used to be before his transformation.  In any other year, I would take Leto by a landslide; however, this year, his fantastic performance did not quite reach the level of Fassbender’s unbelievable depiction of Edwin Epps.  Jared Leto has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

3. Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

In Captain Phillips, Barkhad Abdi plays the real-life Abduwali Muse, one of the Somali pirates who overtook a U.S. cargo ship and held the captain hostage.  If Abdi were one ofBarkhad Adbi in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks. the most established actors in all of Hollywood, I would still think that this performance was wonderful.  But Abdi is not an established actor; in fact, this was his very first acting job of his entire life—this fact makes it even more evident that Abdi gave one of the year’s most acclaimed performances.  Abdi’s depiction of Muse was carefully constructed, and he delineates the character in such a way that I identified with him despite the fact that he is holding a gun to Richard Phillips’s head while taking him hostage.  I sure hope Abdi is able to find other work in Hollywood because he is clearly one of the brightest shining stars from 2013.  Barkhad Abdi has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

4. Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jonah Hill plays Donnie Azoff, the drug-addicted, stock-scheming sidekick of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio); Azoff is a character based on Danny Porush, the real-life associate of Belfort’s brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont.  If someone would have bet me $1 million in 2007, after my first viewing of Superbad, to say Jonah Hillthat Jonah Hill would become one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, I would have told that lunatic to get lost.  And yet, here I am today about to make that very proclamation: Jonah Hill is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood!  He has proven to be a comedic force in films like Get Him to the Green and 21 Jump Street, but his roles in both Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street have revealed his great acting depth.  His role as Donnie Azoff will forever be one of my favorites in film, and I only wish Jonah had a weaker group of competition this year so he could finally take home the coveted golden statute.  Jonah Hill was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moneyball (2011).

5. Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

In American Hustle, Bradley Cooper plays Richie DiMaso, a “go-getter” FBI agent who attempts to take down a group of corrupt politicians in New York City with the help from Bradley Coopertwo con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams).  Bradley Cooper continually takes on well-calculated acting roles and continues to find loads of success doing so; however, once again he has turned in a tremendous performance in a year that is packed with unbelievable acting talent.  I wish he could take home the award for his portrayal of the perm-hairdo-wearing DiMaso, but unfortunately, the cards are stacked against him this Oscars season.  Bradley Cooper was previously nominated for Best Actor for his role in Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

Actors snubbed in this category: Tye Sheridan (Mud), Daniel Brühl (Rush), Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12), Will Forte (Nebraska), and Jeremy Renner (American Hustle)

Fall Preview 2013: Honorable Mentions

Welcome back, movie fans!  Even though we are still 188 days away from the 86th Academy Awards ceremony, it is not too early to start getting prepared.  So far in 2013, a great batch of films have been released, but we all know that the bulk of the films that are nominated each year usually come out during the Fall Movie Season—September 1 through the end of the year.  To get everyone excited for the slew of award-quality films scheduled to hit your local theater very soon, I have compiled a list of my most anticipated movies of the season, and this list has manifested itself as my Fall Preview 2013.  Over the next couple of days, I will be releasing my Top 10 list, starting with films 10-6 and concluding with 5-1.  But for an introduction to my Fall Preview 2013, I am beginning with five films that just missed out on cracking my Top 10, so make sure to be on the lookout for these movies in the coming months.

About Time

In About Time, a young man, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson), receives a life-changing revelation from his father (Bill Nighy): the men in their family can travel through time.  Throughout the film, Tim must use this newfound ability to figure out what really matters in his life, especially love.  Before you start thinking this movie will be just another time-travel film, the director, Richard Curtis, actually states the opposite: “It’s actually an anti-time-travel time-travel movie.”  The movie appears to have chick-flick elements, but after watching the trailer, it looks like it has a lot more to offer than your everyday, run-of-the-mill romantic dramedy, and with Rachel McAdams starring alongside Gleeson and Nighy, it is sure to be a great movie.  About Time is set for a US theatrical release on November 1, 2013.

Director: Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill)

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina), Rachel McAdams (The Notebook), and Bill Nighy (Love Actually)

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is the true story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship by Somali pirates in April 2009.  The crew of the ship is held for ransom, and an unlikely hero emerges in Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks).  In preparation for the role, Tom Hanks consulted the actual Captain Phillips, and according to Phillips, he hopes the release of this movie will show everyone that “[people] are truly stronger than we know.  We can do more than what we think we can do.”  Another interesting point to draw about the film is in regards to the director, Paul Greengrass.  Greengrass is no stranger to films about real-life hijackings, as he directed the 2006 movie United 93, a film about the 9/11 attacks.  This story is sure to an intense experience on the screen, and given that Tom Hanks is the lead, it will definitely be a movie with award-winning implications.  Captain Phillips is set for a theatrical release on October 11, 2013.

Director: Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy)

Starring: Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan)

Don Jon

Don Jon follows Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a Jersey Shore-like, guido-esque bodybuilder from New Jersey.  According to the trailer, all he cares about in life are his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and his porn!  His love for that last item, however, is called into question when he meets the girl of his dreams, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who is obsessed with the love stories in modern rom-coms.  The film features a stellar cast that is bound to put on an incredible show, and the film is written and directed by its lead, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is rapidly becoming one of today’s biggest stars in Hollywood.  The trailer is fantastic, and anytime Marky Mark Wahlberg’s “Good Vibrations” can be included somehow, I know the movie is about to be a lot of fun.  Don Jon is set for a theatrical release on September 27, 2013.

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon is his full-length feature film directorial debut)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Looper), Scarlett Johansson (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Avengers), Tony Danza (Angels in the Outfield), and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right, Crazy, Stupid, Love)

The Fifth Estate 

The Fifth Estate is a biopic about WikiLeaks, a controversial online site that publishes classified information and secret documents by anonymous sources.  The film follows the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and his partner and friend, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl).  Although the production of the film has received significant criticism from Julian Assange himself, director Bill Condon disagrees with Assange on his outrage, stating, “this is not remotely an attack on him.  In its own strange, dark, journalistic-thriller kind of way, this is a buddy movie.”  Like most people in this generation, I remember everything surrounding the WikiLeaks controversy and how the government reacted to the scandal; recently, the site found itself back in the news after former US soldier Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his disclosure of nearly 700,000 classified government documents to WikiLeaks.  With the real-life story so relevant today, this film should captivate audiences all across the world, and I look forward to seeing everything play out on the silver screen.  The Fifth Estate is set for a theatrical release on October 18, 2013.

Director: Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1&2)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, Rush)


Gravity is a techno-thriller film set in outer space.  The film follows two astronauts: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), taking part in her very first Space Shuttle mission, and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), a seasoned veteran conducting his final mission.  When debris from a satellite destructively collides into their space shuttle, the two astronauts become stranded in space with no communications with Earth.  From the very first time I saw this trailer in theaters, my interest was instantaneously piqued.  The movie looks like a wild and crazy adventure that will undoubtedly leave every viewer on the edge of his or her seat for the duration of the film.  The sophisticated special effects and astonishing cinematography are already creating a massive wave of Oscar buzz, but with big players like Alfonso Cuarón, George Clooney, and Sandra Bullock involved in the project, there is bound to be significant attention paid to the intricate skills of the movie’s directing and acting efforts.  Gravity is set for a theatrical release on October 4, 2013.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth)

Starring: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Heat), George Clooney (The Descendants, The Ides of March)