In which, not in an especially timely manner, I pick the Oscar for Best Picture based entirely on passing knowledge gleaned from a few end-of-year best-of lists, newspaper and television advertisements and things I might have picked up on the Internet, but mostly plain guesswork.
I can’t get past the title of this film. Is there any other kind of hustle besides an American one? National Lampoon’s European Hustle? Were they afraid that if they just called it The Hustle, viewers might think this was the long-awaited documentary about the disco dance craze? Instead, it’s a movie about a scandal that sounds like the sequel to Boogie Nights. Verdict: The Academy’s love affair with dramatic hairstyles goes only so far.
Also based on a true story. Facts, gross! It’s about pirates, except instead of Jack Sparrow you have Tom Hanks, who is slowly becoming a body with a squint on top. Just kidding, Tom, we love you. Verdict: It won’t be a theme park ride anytime soon.
Is this about Costco? Texas wholesalers? Matthew McConaughey goes full emaciated as he makes his grab for Serious Actor Greatness using the Charlize Theron Method (pretty person gets less pretty on purpose). Verdict: Based on another true story! Holy non-fiction, Hollywood, are there no imaginary stories left to write or rip off? Have you run out of superheroes?
It’s set in space and, um, things start to fall. Or maybe they stop falling. Or maybe gravity is just a metaphor for… Life. All I know is that I sure hope one character tells another character, “You fail to see the… gravity of the situation,” because that would be perfect. Verdict: In space, no one can see your hair.
This is the one about the guy who falls in love with the voice of his computer’s operating system. Joaquin Phoenix says, “Open the pod bay doors, Her,” and the voice says, “What is this? Gravity?” and Joaquin says, “I haven’t seen Gravity yet. Is that a joke?” and the voice says, “I’m an operating system. Operating systems don’t joke,” and Joaquin says, “Clearly you haven’t seen Windows 8.” Verdict: Spike Jonze is a genius but let’s not get out of hand. Besides, Joaquin Phoenix always seems to need a bath. Now, if Tom Hanks had played the role, that would have been a-door-a-bull!
Is it just me or are eight Best Picture nominees about three too many? Verdict: I want to listen to Bruce Springsteen now.
Based on a true story about philomena, a tragic disease that ravaged the method acting community in the early 1990s, causing them to lose weight when they wanted to gain weight, and vice versa. Liev Schreiber gives a tour-de-force-feeding performance! Nope. No clue. I do know there’s a dame in this movie, I think Dame Judy Dench. I’m going to cheat now and Google that… Yes!!! Dame, I’m good! Verdict: The Academy still thinks “British” equals “sophisticated,” but this isn’t the good kind of British; not enough butlers/striking coal miners.
Based on a you-know-what. Serious historical films like this help white Americans come to grips with the difficult realities of the injustices and mistreatment inflicted upon the black community. Thank goodness those days are over, amiright? Verdict: We have a winner. It’s a serious film about a serious American subject. Plus, the Academy passed on The Help two years, not to mention Django Unchained last year, and, really, the Academy has nothing against films about black people. Why, some of its best nominations are about black people.
Based on a ARE YOU SERIOUS! The original title of this movie was American Hustle but, well, you know what happened there. This looks like The Great Gatsby If You Can, Gordon Gekko. I understand it has a voice-over narration. I hate voice-overs. Anyone else with me on that? Also: Does Leonardo drown in this one? Asking for a friend. Verdict: Leonardo DiCaprio is to Martin Scorsese as Diane Keaton is to Woody Allen; it’ll end in tears.