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DVD Talk Looks at the 2014 Oscar Nominees
On March 2, 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hold this year's famous award ceremony. It's that time of year for DVDTalk reviewer Jeff Nelson to cast his votes for his favorite of the nominees, so here are the results.



Best Motion Picture:

The Nominations: "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Gravity. It wasn't easy for me to decide between this and 12 Years a Slave. Not only are the films entirely different, but they both absolutely succeeded in what they were trying to get across. However, Gravity is the film that I've been talking about since my press screening back in September. This is a marvelous piece of cinema that had me on the edge of my seat and left me gasping for air. Nearly every aspect of the motion picture comes together in order to create a truly awe-inspiring film that will absolutely stand the test of time. However, even Gravity isn't my absolute favorite feature of the year, but this is what I believe should win based upon what has been nominated. If it was up to me, Blue is the Warmest Color would not only be nominated, but it would take home this top prize.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

The Nominations: Christian Bale, "American Hustle"; Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"; Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"; Matthew McConaughey "Dallas Buyers Club."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street. There have been numerous phenomenal performances given this year, but none of them match the perfection that is DiCaprio's unforgettable representation of Jordan Belfort. Even though the character is written to be so unlikable, DiCaprio is so incredibly charming and witty, that you can't help but stick with him. He has never starred in a role such as this, and The Wolf of Wall Street wouldn't have worked if it was without this essential performance. DiCaprio is this film's heart and soul. He's certainly the most deserving of this year's award.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

The Nominations: Amy Adams, "American Hustle"; Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"; Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"; Judi Dench, "Philomena"; Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. This is yet another extremely impressive performance from this wonderful actress. Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue is the Warmest Color got absolutely snubbed here for a nomination, but Cate Blanchett is still very deserving of the Oscar gold. This performance could have easily been overacted, but she maintains a convincing representation and has created numerous layers that would not have been there otherwise. Even if you aren't a Woody Allen fan, it's worth seeing Blue Jasmine for this performance alone.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

The Nominations: Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"; Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"; Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"; Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. Since the beginning of awards season, Leto has been receiving a lot of praise for his supporting role alongside Matthew McConaughey. Fortunately, the performance lives up to the hype. Not only is he believable, but Leto pulls you in and makes you care deeply about his character. This didn't feel like a simple performance, but more like he become the person. Acting might not be his primary focus as far as a career goes, but he's extremely good at it. Hopefully we're able to see him more often on the silver screen.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

The Nominations: Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"; Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"; Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"; Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"; June Squibb, "Nebraska."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave. It's rare enough to find extraordinary performances that keep us entirely invested in the characters, but it's even more difficult to find those that get under our skin and eat at our soul. That's exactly what Nyong'o has done in Steve McQueen's newest motion picture. This is a heart-wrenching performance that left me with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. She might be new to the acting scene, but this is a masterful representation that goes far beyond her years and is most certainly the strongest of this year's nominees.

Best Director:

The Nominations: David O. Russell, "American Hustle"; Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"; Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"; Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"; Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave. If we're trusting the buzz, Alfonso Cuarón is more likely to win, but McQueen managed to get a slight edge for me. Hollywood gets movies about slavery every so often, but they all seem to blend together. They have their own formula that are meant to attract the Academy, but they don't feel authentic. McQueen has created something so daring, raw, and emotional, that I'm not sure if I want to watch this again. I have been a huge fan of this director since he released Hunger and it's about time that he received the recognition that he deserves. He directed several unbelievably stunning performances from his cast and pulled together an exceptional piece of cinema.

Best Original Screenplay:

The Nominations: Eric Warren Singer, "American Hustle"; Woody Allen, "Blue Jasmine"; Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, "Dallas Buyers Club"; Spike Jonze, "Her"; Bob Nelson, "Nebraska."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Spike Jonze for Her. How often do we get films that are not only well-crafted, but also are able to correctly execute an original concept? This has become increasingly difficult to find these days. Well, Her is magnificently crafted, as the plot itself digs its hooks deep into its audiences rather quickly. The pacing is exceptional and it will never lose your attention. The lead is incredibly likable and the dialogue is marvelous. You'll experience several emotions throughout the film, and a large part of that is due to the screenplay.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Nominations: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, "Before Midnight"; Billy Ray, "Captain Phillips"; Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, "Philomena"; John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"; Terence Winter, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight. Linklater's entire trilogy has been criminally underrated during each awards season. He is an expert storyteller and a master of dialogue. With help from his co-writers and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater's final act of the trilogy is an absolute masterpiece. This screenplay can be read or heard, and it will still grab ahold of your attention and won't let go. Everything about this screenplay feels so natural. It's such a shame that Before Midnight hasn't received very much attention, but it most certainly deserves the Oscar for its screenplay. This is my second favorite film of the year, so I'm glad to at least see it nominated for something.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Nominations: "The Broken Circle Breakdown," "The Great Beauty," "The Hunt," "The Missing Picture," "Omar."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: The Hunt. After watching each of the foreign language nominees, Denmark's submission impressed me the most. The plot could have easily turned out to be overdramatic and tacky, but it's ultimately a captivating and largely investing motion picture that keeps viewers engaged. This film is powerful throughout every one of its well-crafted layers. It also features yet another outstanding performance from Mads Mikkelsen as the lead character in this must-see motion picture.

Best Animated Feature:

The Nominations: "The Croods," "Despicable Me 2," "Ernest & Celestine," "Frozen," "The Wind Rises."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: The Wind Rises. This year hasn't been a very strong year for animated films, although Hayao Miyazaki's final motion picture is the strongest of the bunch. It's much more of an animated movie for adults, as it's a slower-moving character study that deals with mature themes. The animation is beautiful, as Miyazaki brings back the style of his that we have fallen in love with. At the same time, it's a bittersweet ending, as his legacy has come to an end. However, this is a final film that's well-worth rewarding.

Best Documentary Short:

The Nominations: "CaveDigger," "Facing Fear," "Karama Has No Walls," "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life," "Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Karama Has No Walls. It seems like whenever I turn on the news, there happens to be yet another horribly violent incident occurring at a peaceful protest. This happens around the world and the media downplays these incidents, but Karama Has No Walls puts it front and center. This isn't easy to watch, but it's absolutely crucial for the times that we're currently in. Director Sara Ishaq takes footage from a specific event in Yemen's 2011 uprising. Not only are we watching the real footage of what occurred, but Ishaq interviewed people who were there, as well as those who were related to the individuals who were killed or injured. This is an immensely powerful documentary with a critical message. Karama Has No Walls is an absolute must-see.

Best Live Action Short Film:

The Nominations: "Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)," "Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)," "Helium," Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)," "The Voorman Problem."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything). This one might not have as much buzz surrounding it as some of its fellow nominees, but it's certainly the most gripping out of the bunch. It treats viewers as intelligent individuals, as many full-length features forget to do. The information isn't spoon-fed to audiences and it doesn't waste a second of its running time. This had me sitting at the edge of my seat more than expected, as I continued to try and guess what would happen next. There are a few strong nominees this year, but this stuck in my mind more than the rest due to its well-crafted tension and ability to entirely immerse its audiences in such a short period of time.

Best Animated Short Film:

The Nominations: "Feral," "Get a Horse!," "Mr. Hublot," "Possessions," "Room on the Broom."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Mr. Hublot. Disney's Get a Horse! is much more likely to win this one, but I connected to this non-dialogue short from France much more. The animation is absolutely stunning and the story works on numerous levels. It incorporates some more serious messages, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. The humor works incredibly well and it manages to connect viewers with Mr. Hublot and his new pet insanely quickly. It's unlike any of the other nominees and can easily be appreciated by both children and adults, and it accomplishes this without using a single word of dialogue.

Best Original Score:

The Nominations: "The Book Thief," John Williams; "Gravity," Steven Price; "Her," William Butler and Owen Pallett; "Philomena," Alexandre Desplat; "Saving Mr. Banks," Thomas Newman.

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Gravity - Steven Price. Even though there have been some rumors about a supposed "Silent Space" Blu-ray edition for the film where the score is completely taken out, I found it to be entirely captivating. After watching the motion picture, I found myself listening to the entire score by itself a few times. Steven Price's pieces stand incredibly well on their own, but they're even more immersive in the context of the feature. For example, when the debris hits, he took an already intense sequence and transformed it into what could easily be noted as the most intense scene in the last few years.

Best Original Song:

The Nominations: "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2," Pharrell Williams; "Let It Go" from "Frozen," Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; "The Moon Song" from "Her," Karen O and Spike Jonze; "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen.

Jeff Nelson's Vote: "The Moon Song" from "Her" for Karen O and Spike Jonze. All of the hype is surrounding "Let It Go" from "Frozen," but "The Moon Song" simply captured the entire motion picture in a single song. This is an emotional piece that hasn't been receiving as much attention. Even though it's unlikely to win the award, this nominee easily gets my vote.

Best Production Design:

The Nominations: "American Hustle," "Gravity," "The Great Gatsby," "Her," "12 Years a Slave."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch. Baz Luhrmann's big-screen adaptation might have been mediocre, but the same cannot be said for the film's production design. Whether we're going through the party sequences or watching Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby having a conversation, the sets and the overall production value are awe-inspiring. This is one of the most eye-striking motion pictures to be released in the past year, and it deserves to have this win.

Best Cinematography:

The Nominations: "The Grandmaster," "Gravity," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska," "Prisoners."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki. This category continues to get more difficult by the year, since it's becoming tough to distinguish cinematography from visual effects. Perhaps the Academy should have separate categories. This is why I was having an internal battle as to who really deserves the Oscar gold this year. Purists will hate me for this, but I have to give it to Lubezki for Gravity. After giving it a lot of thought, the cinematographer is responsible for the look of the film, including lighting and whatnot. This motion picture may be almost entirely computer-generated, but the lighting and overall look of the film wasn't created by itself. Lubezki accomplished a sense of lighting and an overall feel that comes across as being entirely realistic. With Gravity looking as convincing and real as it does, it earned my vote. Otherwise, my pick would have been Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis.

Best Costume Design:

The Nominations: "American Hustle," "The Grandmaster," "The Great Gatsby," "The Invisible Woman," "12 Years a Slave."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin. This film made by Baz Luhrmann is "showy," as many of his features are. Catherine Martin won the Academy Award for Moulin Rouge!, so we already know that she can pull off that look. In this adaptation, not only is every costume shown on screen absolutely magnificent and fitting, but the sheer volume of costumes needed for the party sequences is quite impressive. The costumes aided in bringing the environments to life and brought some more personality out of the characters. The Academy definitely loves the "showy" type of display in this category, so it stands a pretty good chance of winning the Oscar, but American Hustle might take home the gold, as well. It's too bad that the The Great Gatsby itself couldn't be a stronger film.

Best Film Editing:

The Nominations: "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "12 Years a Slave."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Captain Phillips - Christopher Rouse. The editing is such a large element of this film, and if it was not edited correctly, it could have lost a large amount of its tension. Christopher Rouse doesn't just ask for your attention, but he demands it. This is a fast-paced motion picture that screams with its urgency and never lets up. There was such a massive amount of content to have edited, and Rouse did so extremely well in a cohesive and fluid fashion.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

The Nominations: "Dallas Buyers Club," "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," "The Lone Ranger."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Dallas Buyers Club - Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews. There are only three nominated films in this category, and it surprises me to not see releases such as The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug here. Out of the nominations, my vote goes to Dallas Buyers Club. The costumes and makeup has clearly aided in bringing these characters to life, especially for Jared Leto's representation of Rayon. The health status of each character is brought forth incredibly well through the make-up, as well.

Best Sound Editing:

The Nominations: "All Is Lost," "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Lone Survivor."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Gravity - Glenn Freemantle. There are such subtle sounds that have been created for this film, yet they manage to remain in our memories for quite some time. You remember those scenes at the beginning of the film with the light vibrations created by Dr. Ryan Stone's tools before the first debris hit? It's such a subtle effect that feels as if we're in the silence of space where we're only able to hear the person next to us talking in their suit, but feel the vibration of the tool. This is one of many examples where Freemantle has utilized sound editing is brilliant ways.

Best Sound Mixing:

The Nominations: "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Lone Survivor."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Gravity - Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, and Chris Munro. Not only is the creation of sounds absolutely impeccable in this film, but so is the mixing of it all. A huge part of it also has to deal with the absence of sound. This is a film taking place in space after all, so we shouldn't be hearing explosions or anything. Well, the sound mixing is absolutely jaw-dropping. An example is during the debris strike, as Dr. Ryan Stone is about to be detached. You hear Sandra Bullock's hyperventilating, with George Clooney's dialogue masterfully incorporated, hearing nothing other than dialogue and the incredible score. This aids in creating one of the most intense sequences to hit the silver screen in years. This brilliant use of sound mixing deserves to have this award.

Best Visual Effects:

The Nominations: "Gravity," "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Iron Man 3," "The Lone Ranger," "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Jeff Nelson's Vote: Gravity - Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, and Neil Corbould. You guessed it, Gravity earned my vote in yet another technical category. I rarely vote for the same film in so many categories, but this motion picture deserves each and every one of them. It utilizes each category in such an incredibly realistic fashion. The visual effects pull everything together. If you've seen Gravity, then you know that the majority of the film is digitally created. The imagery is absolutely marvelous and every second of this film looks beautiful, yet it never distracts from the intensity that it delivers. All of the nominees this year have managed to display an outstanding use of visual effects, but Gravity is the most impressive.

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