AMC Best Picture Showcase Weekend 2014

Another weekend has come and gone, and it's time to say good-bye to another year of Best Picture Showcase. I really didn't know what to expect with this years Oscar nominated films.

In previous years, I've come away from the marathon loving more than half of the selection. Unexpectedly, the picking was a bit slimmer than I expected, an offered range from intimate family relations to energetic insanity. Today, I'm sharing the other half of the Best Picture nominees - Nebraska, Captain Phillips, Her, American Hustle, and Gravity - and my favorite picks of the day! Enjoy!

Film Summary: A bad-tempered alcoholic father Woody (Bruce Dern) insists on collecting his $1 million lottery payout in person at an office in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately, the junk-mail flyer is nothing but a scam and everyone knows it. Humoring father's fantasy and wanting to share some quality time, David (Will Forte) offers to drive him, where inadvertently they encounter a family reunion and painful secrets are revealed.

Brief Review:  Mosey on down in director Alexander Payne's black and white motion picture and never really know where the road is going to take you. Interspersed with landscape shots and hometown life, the first hour juts along without a direct narrative. Woody is stubborn as hell, his whole family thinks he's crazy, yet David tries with all his might to try grow closer to his father who remains distant and cold. The timeframe lingers too long reaffirming how much of Woody's millions is a scam and the heartfelt tenderness David regards his father while others don't - especially his spitfire hellion mother Kate (June Squibb). The second half is where the story finds its footing. Driving through Woody's hometown and reuniting with long distant relatives, skeletons come out of the closet as wind of Woody's fantasy fortune grows into small town glory. A dry mixture of awkward performances and genuine character evolution, Nebraska grows into a film worth rooting for and seeing how father and son ride off into the sunset.

Best Picks of the Day: Best Supporting Actress June Squibb

Film Summary: Based on the true story, merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is taken hostage by Somalia pirates led by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

Brief Review: Captain Phillips could've easily been a movie not worth taken seriously. Director Paul Greengrass forces you to see differently in the first ten minutes. Both Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi give visceral performances in this thought-provoking thriller of claustrophobic survival on the open seas. Quite possibly my most anticipated film of the Oscar season, a seemingly simple hostage crisis morphs into a disturbing quest of two individuals colliding to showcase the very different ways they make their living. This could've been surface-deep Blockbuster, but the results take us beyond action and adventure to create a suspenseful and undeniably gripping nail-bitter where we end up pondering the meaning of survival.

Best Picks of the Day: Best Actor Tom Hanks, Best Supporting Actor Bakid Aldi

Film Summary: Set in an dystopian future, Thedore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) begins a romantic relationship with his operating system Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).

Brief Review: A dream world of pastel and retro boldness, Her is set in reality exploring and embracing the wondrous pros and cons of our ever-growing dependence with technology. Director Spike Jonzes' film explores the infinite and finite constructs of relationships between all sorts; person to person and person to computer. 21st century society increasingly creates worlds of seclusion via social media, video gaming, blogs, and so on. As a non-technological savvy or obsessed person, it was hard for me to identify humankind's love affair with machine. Grounded in Twombley's (or truly any person's) yearning for human connection through a relationship with an exuberant intelligent spirited operating system, Her crafts an unusual romance. Not exactly perfect yet not exactly full of faults, the film exudes as much as style as substance. And, it's one that I fear the jury is still out on which one radiates most.

Film Summary: Based partially on the true story of ABSCAM, conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to team up with FBI Agent Richie Demosa (Bradley Cooper) to convict corrupt politicians in order to avoid prosecution for their own cons.

Brief Review: Having previously seen American Hustle, I rescinded my expectations to non-existent so I could enjoy the movie with fresh perspective. Following two hours of side storylines, repetitive monologues and symbolism about cons, I felt satiated by what the 1970s "historical" film was trying to represent within the first half hour: double-crossing and duping others to con and rebuild your American dreams. Wrapped in dynamic performances by Bale, Adams, and Cooper, gorgeous production design and killer awesome soundtrack, Russell's work is durable for everything that doesn't involve his script or his characters' "loose" journeys. Lost in serving all sorts of scenes that make audiences feel warm and fuzzy (i.e. impromptu dance scenes, love triangles, and drug induced frenzies) without a clear resolution to the stakes, the biggest form of fluff is that the film is a crowd-pleaser....

Film Summary: On her first flight mission doctor Ryan Stone fights her way back home to Earth when she is left stranded after an unexpected debri storm swipes the space shuttle.

Brief Review: The Oscar race is about films' ability to set the bar with a passionate storytelling of life in its infinite scope. Quite a big piece to chew off, isn't it? Gravity succeeds. When you think everything has been said about the triumph and will of the human spirit on Earth, Hollywood launches us into the outer stratosphere to show that against the greatest odds we can still manage to make it.

Floating and reveling in space for two hours over life and death, it doesn't seem like such a thrilling spectacle. Yet the cast of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, to the special effects and script, fits together like a masterful puzzle. It's hard to be engrossed simultaneously in hope and terror as every frame shrinks you into your chair imposing Stone's challenges in space. Not just another mediocre Blockbuster, every element of this two hour not-exactly-an-adventure-thriller-drama flick made me think: I can't believe this is happening, I can't believe this is a real film. Walking out of the theatre, and looking up at the sky, I thanked every deity that my feet are planted on the ground, and for such a movie like Gravity.

Best Picks of the Day: Best Picture, Best Actress Sandra Bullock

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