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27 February 2014

Our Choices for the 86th Oscars (2014) and our Review for Spike Jonze's "Her"

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Brun picks Spike Jonze’s “Her” to win Best Film. “Her” is new filmmaking at its finest and it is an example of a new way of storytelling. The underlying theme of the film is timeless but the presentation is revisionist, if not entirely new. The other nominated films may be excellent but “Her” is all about the future of cinema. Hollywood narrative is still popular and remains the benchmark of excellence in some circles but it has become passé. Fortunately, Jonze and his peers bring hope for the future.


Spike Jonze is a master of taking something mundane, a simple idea or an everyday item and he gives it a clever spin.  Originality is almost impossible to achieve these days in the arts.  There are no more true original ideas but an artist’s “fresh take” on an old theme is what matters now.
In “Her,” Jonze successfully infuses the mundane with the ethereal and profound.  The film is science fiction but the “science” is only a tool rather than the center of Jonze’s work.  As one resident critic of Brun stated during our round table discussion about the film,



“Jonze’s ‘dramatology’ is built on emotions and thoughts. He is able to bring into the screen, or translate into film language, the emotions of his characters.  The actions are also crucial but the emotional journey through words and visuals give viewers front seats to the inner life of the characters.”


Interestingly, you cannot often assign a specific decade in Jonze’s films.  The story may appear to have taken place in the distant future, but the characters resemble a mix match of different periods.  In “Her,” this is evident in the clothes and objects in the film.  The pants of the male characters in the film resemble our grandfathers’ trousers but they have also been altered to look new and relatively futuristic. Jonze picks the most awkward in one time period, and he uses them in his films, thus providing an overall appearance of timelessness, quirkiness and alienation. (Rating: 4.5/5)
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Our Choices for Best Performances:
Choosing the best performances for female and male actors in both leading and supporting roles is easy. Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o were engaging and taking their commitment to their craft to dangerous levels. Cate Blanchett is the clear choice for best actress, which is a hard feat considering she is competing with other great performances. Interestingly, Joaquin Phoenix and director Spike Jonze both were not nominated for best actor and best director respectively. If they were nominated, they would be our choices. Phoenix does not look like a romantic lead but he made us fall in love in “Her.” Spike Jonze’s Oscar is also very overdue. So far, he has given us “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” three of the quirkiest and most interesting films in the past decades.


Our Choices

Clockwise: Steve McQueen, Cate
Blanchett, Lupita Nyong'o, Jared
Leto and Matthew McConaughey
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BEST FILM: “HER” 
Runner-up: “12 Years a Slave”


BEST DIRECTOR: STEVE MCQUEEN, (12 YEARS A SLAVE)
Runner-up: Alfonso Cuarón, (Gravity)


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: SPIKE JONZE, (HER)
Runner-up: Woody Allen, (Blue Jasmine)


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: JOHN RIDLEY, (12 YEARS A SLAVE)
Runner-up: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)


BEST ACTOR: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB)
Runner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, (12 Years a Slave)


BEST ACTRESS: CATE BLANCHETT, (BLUE JASMINE)
Runner-up: Amy Adams, (American Hustle)


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: JARED LETO, (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB)
Runner-up: Michael Fassbender, (12 Years a Slave)


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: LUPITA NYONG'O, (12 YEARS A SLAVE)
Runner-up: Sally Hawkins, (Blue Jasmine)

P.S.
Last year, only one of my choices actually won an Oscar, that was Daniel Day Lewis for “Lincoln.” My choice for Best Film, “Amour,” was deserving to win but it was a long shot. This year, let us see if my choices match Academy voters. The Oscars award ceremony will be held on March 2, 2014.

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