Finally. I haven't been lapped by the Academy (the next year's nominees have not been announced yet), but it's getting close. Here's my just-for-fun ranking, top to bottom, of the Best Picture and Best Animated Feature nominees.
1. American Hustle.
Reviewers wanted to compare this to GoodFellas, but it's really more like The Big Lebowski: There's not a scene in the movie that isn't aimed toward entertainment–mostly laughs. And to those who say 129 minutes is too long, I say, Really? Because the first scene to be cut from that length would probably be the “Live and Let Die” scene, and I am not willing to let that one go.
I splurged on this one–saw it in 3D IMAX. Best amusement park ride ever, and quite a good movie. Ambitious filmmaking, simple story.
3. Dallas Buyers Club.
A heavy topic, covered with a light touch, loaded with audience-pleasing character arcs, and a key film of the McConnaisance. Someone should market a collection of True Texas Tales, which would include this film, Bernie, and I Love You Phillip Morris. Oh, and perhaps The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.
4. Captain Phillips.
This very solid story has fine performances from Tom Hanks and first-time actor Barkhad Abdi. The American captain's resourcefulness is heroic but he is always human; the Somalis are not so much villains as tragic figures.
5. The Croods.
Perhaps the title of this movie lowered my expectations, but I had a lot of fun with this. The animation is lively, the vocal performances (by Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, and others) are pleasing, and the story stays fresh most of the time.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street.
This tribute to the American genius for larceny gets caught in a repetitive rut–I'll raise the Too Long penalty flag on this one–but it features a very funny, relaxed performance by Leonardo DiCaprio.
7. The Wind Rises.
Even though we're taken inside the dreams of Jiro Horikoshi, the engineer who designed the Japanese Zero, the character is still a bit opaque; perhaps there's not much there there. It's a beautiful, imaginative film, though.
8. 12 Years a Slave.
You! Must! Witness! The Horror! Of Slavery! High-class Brussels sprouts for everyone.
This feels like an incomplete draft of a musical; songs will surely be added to the second half when the story is staged on Broadway. Luckily it does include the obligatory award-grabbing tune. Overall, professional. Entertaining. Not enthralling.
This film is all right, but what on earth is it doing with a Best Picture nomination?
11. Despicable Me 2.
Very heavy on Minions (and we are promised a Minions movie next summer). Yes, the Minions are cute and funny. But moderation, people.
12. Ernest & Celestine.
This is a beautifully animated story of mice and bears, pitched to young people. Very young people. It's sweet, and your five-year-old will love it.
I took a dislike to the script–there was an early bit of dialogue that was way too expository–and I could never shake the bad feeling. It all felt arbitrary and unreal, and by the time we got to June Squibb at the gravesite, I was: Oh, yuck.
Sterile idealism. Didn't feel the least bit real. Or rather, the entire movie seemed to fit into one person's mind, with enough room left over for table tennis.