04.19.14 | Ryan Darbonne
When I was tasked to write about the Oscar® nominated films that played AFF in 2013 I jumped at the opportunity. I love the Oscars®. I love all things Oscar. Oscar Wilde, Oscar Meyer, Oscar Micheaux…you get the idea. As a kid I was enamored with the glitz, glamour and whole gaudy shebang of the Academy Awards®. As an adult, the experience of watching the event with a room full of like minded cinephiles (i.e. nerds) is both frustrating and fun. We laugh. We argue. We cheer when our favorite films win and cry when they don’t. It’s our Super Bowl. The cinematic equivalent of the World Cup. It’s a communal experience serving as a microcosmic reflection of the art form we love.
This year marks the 86th Academy Awards® and I was honored to have had the chance to program a handful of the nominees for the 2013 Austin Film Festival. From soul crushing dramas like 12 YEARS A SLAVE to comedic odysseys like NEBRASKA these films represent our dedication to the art and craft of narrative storytelling. If you haven’t seen the following films I suggest you watch them now. Trust me…you won’t be disappointed.
12 Years a Slave
Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Directing, Film Editing Costume Design, Production Design, and Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Adapted for the screen by John Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a heartbreaking depiction of the American south pre-emancipation. The film follows Solomon Northup (Oscar® nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor): A free black man who is drugged, abducted and sold into slavery. McQueen’s uncompromising imagery and refusal to fall victim to flashy Hollywood tropes give the film a brutal honesty destined to spark much needed conversation. Coupled with incredible performances by Michael Fassbinder, Lupita Nyong’o and Paul Dano (to name a few) the film is bound to take home a few awards.
August: Osage County
Nominated for Actress in a Leading Role and Actress in a Supporting Role
After the disappearance of Beverly Weston the family matriarch, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep), calls upon her family for support. However, her constant verbal abuse leaves a wake of emotional destruction in its path. As the family goes through a series of ups and downs (mostly downs) throughout the film the ensemble cast display an antagonistic chemistry that resonates throughout each scene. Every actor in the film feeds off one another effortlessly. Writer Tracy Letts (who adapted the story from his Tony and Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name) and director John Wells manage to bring a balance to the slew of award worthy performances resulting in a darkly comic portrait of an all American family.
Dallas Buyers Club
Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling and Writing (Original Screenplay)
Hometown hero, Matthew McConaughey is on a winning streak. With TRUE DECTIVE currently airing on HBO and the new Christopher Nolan film on the way the world has gone McConaughcrazy! (I know…I know…). His performance in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is a far cry from the glory days of DAZED AND CONFUSED. Based on a true story, McConaughey plays a homophobic good ol’ boy by the name of Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed with AIDS. Told he only has 30 days to live, Woodroof does anything he can to combat his illness which includes a trip to Mexico to score drugs not approved by the US. As his health regenerates, he gets the idea to sell the drugs and starts a Dallas buyers club charging a fee for a monthly membership. Parenting with a transgendered juggernaut (Jared Leto) the two provide an ample supply of non-approved drugs to the needy (much to the chagrin of the FDA). The film features two incredible performances from its male leads making it a strong contender for this year’s awards.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Cinematography and Sound Mixing
As an undisturbed fan man of the Coen Brothers I was happy to see INSIDE LLEYWN go above and beyond my expectations. Replete with their trademark wit and penchant for crafting strong dialogue, the film is a love letter to the Greenwich folk scene of the early 60’s. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a talented musician whose self-absorption and nomadic lifestyle teeter on the verge of being sad. Oscar Isaac, in a testament to his talents, recorded all the music live on set. The film’s production design and attention to detail help create an incredible glimpse of days past.
Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Directing, Cinematography, Writing (Original Screenplay)
Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA is a flawless film. Shot in beautiful black and white, the film is about the complex relationship between fathers and sons. Bruce Dern and Will Forté travel across a desolate Midwest landscape in order to collect a million-dollar prize package from a generic sweepstakes. The results are funny, heartbreaking and always on point. Writer Bob Nelson does an incredible job at never undermining or condescending to the people of Nebraska. Instead, he presents the audience with an honest insight into those that inhabit the state.
Nominated for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role, Music (Original Score) and Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Adapted for the screen by Steve Coogan and directed by British auteur Stephen Frears, PHILOMENA is a true story about a woman’s attempts to find a child she was forced to give up for adoption. Featuring two pitch-perfect performances from dynamic duo Coogan and Judi Dench, the film tackles sociopolitical issues never coming across as didactic or preachy. Funny, sad and incredibly charming PHILOMENA is a fantastic look at two people who bond over the injustices of the world.
Throughout the years, AFF has showcased a wide variety of Oscar® contenders alongside smaller independent films. I’m excited to see what 2014 brings and I hope to see you there! Our 2014 Film Pass is currently only $50. That’s 8 days of film, including future Oscar contenders for only $50! Join us this October, get yours here.