The nine films competing this Sunday for the Best Picture Oscar are some of the best of the year and very worth your while to check out if you haven’t seen them yet. But if you don’t have time in the next few days, just check out our short synopsis for each of them below with some links to some more in depths looks at the spiritual components of the films, because at A Spiritual Side of Cinema we like to discuss and review the more transcendent qualities of the movies, and we’ve done so this year with the two big frontrunners of the Oscar race, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, as well as many others…
12 Years a Slave, (click here to read our review): This film hurt. Emotionally, sometimes even close to physically, it was painful to watch … and that’s putting it mildly. The film pulled no punches when dealing with the harsh realities of America’s slave trade and the evil acted out by those who took part in it.
Gravity, (click here to read our review): A tense walk with Sandra Bullock through the worst space trip since 1979, presents itself as a sci-fi survivalist nightmare (think Open Water in orbit) wherein rookie astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and veteran spacewalker Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, absolutely stealing the show) are stranded among the stars and have to struggle to survive and make their way home to Earth.
American Hustle: More than one film this year deals with conning other people out of their money, and Hustle does just that with a lot of humor, a stellar cast, fantastic 1970s apparel, and a whole lot of hairspray.
Captain Phillips: Based on the true story of a shipping vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, this perfectly paced “real” action movie will have you on the edge of your seat empathizing with both hostage and hijacker alike.
Dallas Buyers Club: A look at the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980s through the eyes of a down-on-his-luck rodeo man and how he figures out a way around the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to help and heal victims, and make more than a few bucks at the same time.
Her, (click here to read our review): Don’t let the previews fool you about this one if you haven’t seen it yet. Her is an unbelievable modern love story that touches upon all sorts of themes not least of which is the question, when we fall in love, are we falling in love with the other person or ourselves?
Nebraska: Money, too, is at the heart of this journey of an old man seeking a fortune in his waning years, and his son who decides to accompany him on more than just a road trip.
Philomena, (click here to read our review): Faith as well as the Catholic Church come into play in this emotional and humorous journey of a mother searching for her son whom she was forced to give up for adoption many years ago.
The Wolf of Wall Street: Money, again, is the root of this controversial Martin Scorsese film about a 1980s stockbroker, his crimes, and the women, drugs and antics he loves.
For a look at all of the contenders in this year’s Oscar race, you can view/download our custom ballot right here.
And finally, here’s a few of our other reviews about films nominated in different categories:
Best Animated Film:
Frozen, (click here to read our review): There’s one thing I’m certain we’re going to see. Frozen is going to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Why? Here are three reasons: Music, Art, Story. And check out Andy Otto’s piece about the specific spiritual takeaways from the film.
All is Lost, (click here to read our review): Survival is a natural instinct, no matter what environment a person is stuck in. This adage is confirmed by the new movie All Is Lost. The film’s sole character, known simply as Our Man (Robert Redford,) is sailing on the Pacific Ocean when some debris makes a hole in his vessel.
Production & Costume Design:
The Great Gatsby, (click here to read our review): For all the things that The Great Gatsby has been, a good example certainly is not one of them. The way that the story’s characters embrace the wild lifestyle of the 1920s seems almost like a “how not to” guide for living your life. In fact, there’s a character or situation in Gatsby for practically all of the seven deadly sins that humanity is to avoid.
Best Original Song:
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, (click here to read our review): This film chronicles the life of political leader and revolutionary Nelson Mandela, particularly his struggle to put an end to apartheid in South Africa and reunite the nation peacefully.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, (click here to read our review): This film is nominated for three Oscars — Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects — and anyone who’s seen the film can attest to the fact that it deserves at least the nominations it’s received. But however blissful this “magic” may be for the audience, unfortunately it appears to not extend behind the scenes, at least not in nearly the same capacity.
Iron Man 3, (click here to read our review): Below the standard hero vs. villain standoff we’ve come to expect of a summer blockbuster, Iron Man 3 offers a glimpse at not only the psyche of a superhero, but also at a core challenge that we face all too frequently in life: How can we reconcile redemption and revenge?
The Lone Ranger, (click here to read our review): In The Lone Ranger, Texas Ranger John Reid responds to the death of his brother by trying to bring the men who killed him to justice. Tonto, however, in favor of protecting not only Reid, but the people he cares about, suggests that in order to do this, he put on a mask, and adopt a new identity.