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  • You know, I've always wanted to star in an Oscar-nominated feature... and after carefully

  • reviewing all nine of this year's Best Picture nominees... I think I discovered a sure-fire

  • formula to grab that little gold statue. So here goes...

  • Sir, we've just received your lab results. // Was this med-school drop-out an accredited

  • physician? Absolutely not! // I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you've tested positive for AIDS.

  • Also, you're being sold into slavery tomorrow. // Nooo.... // *It's okay Jon, I still love

  • you.* This is Movie Night!

  • Hello and welcome to the fourth annual Movie Night Oscar Special, I'm your host, Jonathan

  • Paula. As with previous installments, this is the biggest and most ambitious project

  • I produce each year - so if you enjoy any or all of it, please LIKE this video, add

  • it to your favorites, or share it on social media. And it goes without saying, don't be

  • afraid to leave a comment or two, as I always, I will be reading them all. Let's get down

  • to business though... this year's group of contenders is a familiar lot of unambitious

  • movies. Of the nine nominees for "Best Picture", six are based on true events, five are period

  • pieces, and only a couple actually impressed me. Tonight, we'll be examining each of them,

  • followed by my predictions for which ones I think will win during the 86th Annual Academy

  • Awards that air live on March 2nd on ABC. Beginning in alpha-numerical order, let's

  • review "12 Years A Slave".

  • Produced on a budget of $20 million by director Steve McQueen - this historical adaptation

  • of Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir of the same name has grossed over $90 in profit since

  • its November 8, 2013 release. Filmed on location around historic antebellum plantations in

  • Louisiana, we follow the heartbreakingly painful true story of Northup, a free black man who

  • is kidnapped and sold into slavery. After declaring, "I don't want to survive. I want

  • to live", he suffers through is captivity... constantly hoping for salvation. Chiwetel

  • Ejiofor is positively remarkable as the imprisoned, but well-educated slave, deservedly earning

  • an Oscar-nomination. Even if playing a beaten down slave is sort of a "gimme"-role. A long

  • time character actor, it's great to see Ejiofor truly shine in a lead role that explores the

  • depths of perseverance, and refusing to be victimized. Meanwhile, Michael Fassbender

  • is extraordinarily evil as the violent slave-owner, taunting his "property" just for sport. The

  • breakout performer here though is Lupita Nyong'o. Although she doesn't have much screen time

  • in her film debut, she bears her soul in the picture's centerpiece: a single, unbroken,

  • five-minute shot that has her being whipped against a post, constantly crying out in pain.

  • It's an unsettling sequence that's masterfully filmed from a hand-held camera, aided by Hans

  • Zimmer's moody score. Extremely talented individuals like Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Brat Pitt,

  • and Paul Dano are relegated to criminally minor roles. The slow-moving 131-minute film

  • shows us that even the polite white people are still ignorant racists. Littered with

  • uncomfortable, but period-accurate language, the lush land of the deep south is vividly

  • brought to life with beautiful cinematography and impeccable costumes and art-design. One

  • major flaw, is that outside of its title - the film does a poor job of indicating the passage

  • of time. We never see evidence that Ejiofor was enslaved beyond a season or two. Objectively,

  • I can't deny that this film is extremely well-made, but remove the "kidnapping twist", and this

  • R-rated story is an extremely familiar one - drawing many parallels to "Roots", "Shawshank

  • Redemption", and "Glory" - and in each instance, the original did it better. When the depressing,

  • bittersweet ending finally arrives, this picture left me applauding the artistry of those involved,

  • but otherwise indifferent. "12 Years A Slave", "Derivative story, but wonderfully presented."

  • Here are your thoughts now from the YouTube comments.

  • A NINE and a SEVEN for "12 Years A Slave". You felt the depiction was brilliant, especially

  • the acting and subject matter, rating this an AWESOME. Technically speaking, I completely

  • agree... I just can't shake the feeling that this story, these performances, have all been

  • done before. I'll give it a strong COOL. Our second film is "American Hustle".

  • This David O. Russel crime-comedy-drama film was released on December 13, 2013, and quickly

  • quintupled its $40 million dollar budget. Inventively narrated by two separate characters,

  • the sprawling 138-minute plot is loosely based on the FBI "ABSCAM" operation of the late

  • 1970's, as we follow a pair of con-artists forced to cooperate with the elaborate scheme.

  • Including Russell's previous effort, "Silver Linings Playbook" this R-rated picture is

  • only the 15th in history to receive acting nominations in all four categories. And indeed,

  • the performance of the colorfully dressed leads really is the main attraction here,

  • with the director even rebuffing criticisms about the largely improvised story, "I hate

  • plots. I am all about characters, that's it." Unfortunately, that's also the movie's biggest

  • weakness: the haphazard narrative has too many moving parts, and is far more convoluted

  • that it needs to be. Gaining over 40-pounds for the role, and adopting a bad comb-over,

  • Christian Bale is totally seamless in the lead. Practically falling out of her low-cut

  • dresses, the beautiful Amy Adams contributes a delicate and varied performance, aggressively

  • complaining to Bale that, "You're nothing to me until you're everything." Complete with

  • an unsightly perm, Bradley Cooper is a perfect foil for the bickering couple, energizing

  • the plot with his amusing charisma. Jeremy Renner plays a slick, but honest politician

  • while Jennifer Lawrence is featured in a few powerful scenes as Bale's unpredictable Jersey

  • housewife. She is as incredible, and gorgeous as ever - making everyone around her that

  • much better, especially in a funny sc ene where warns against the dangers of Bale's

  • new "science oven". In a rare dramatic role, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. works perfectly alongside his nominated

  • co-stars. However, the great Michael Pena is absolutely wasted in his minor role, as

  • are the talents of another big-name actor who has a surprise cameo. The costumes, editing,

  • and camera work are all top-notch, but the film's inconsistent tone eliminates any tension

  • in the confusing plot. Danny Elfman's original score takes a backseat to the 70's-era pop

  • sounds of Chicago, Steely Dan, and even an Arabic version of "White Rabbit" - that bolster

  • many scenes. Repeatedly focusing on themes of lies, deceit, and what we "want to believe",

  • this picture is worth watching for the characters, but it's ultimately an underwhelming experience.

  • "American Hustle", "Incredible acting doesn't outshine problems." Here are some of your

  • comments now.

  • Here's our scores for "American Hustle", an EIGHT and a SIX. While many agreed the plot

  • was overly involved, you absolutely loved the acting, grading this a GREAT. I was very

  • disappointed by this picture. With a tighter-script, and a more sensible ending, this might have

  • been worthy of its ten nominations. Sadly, it's overrated, I thought it was GOOD. Our

  • third film tonight is one we've already reviewed, but here again - if only for completion's

  • sake - are my thoughts on "Captain Phillips".

  • Based on the true events of a 2009-hihacking at sea in the Indian Ocean, this picture has

  • already quadrupled its $55 million dollar budget, and scored six Academy Award nominations,

  • following its October 11, 2013 release. Veteran A-lister Tom Hanks stars in the title role

  • of this suspenseful 134-minute picture directed by the talented Paul Greengrass. Hanks brings

  • his absolute best, showcasing a marvelous performance that'll having you rooting for

  • him the whole way - especially in his finale scene, where his emotions are pushed to the

  • brink, overcome with shock at his circumstances. Sticking to what he's known for, Greengrass

  • relies heavily on a handheld cinémarité style, which works well to illicit a documentary-feeling,

  • but becomes noticeably claustrophobic by the picture's end. Another trademark is populating

  • the cast with no name participants, and this film includes a breakout role from Barkad

  • Abdi as the lead pirate, who sternly warns Hanks after taking over his cargo ship, "I'm

  • the captain now". His nominated performance is not only terrifying, and believable, it

  • also manages to be relatable. The remainder of the cast is largely inconsequential, including

  • Catherine Keener, who is featured as Hanks' wife, but is gone after only three minutes

  • of screen time. Breathlessly tense throughout, the adversarial relationship between Adbi

  • and Hanks showcases all the cunning strategy of a chess match, with each player positioning

  • himself to come out on top. The

  • subtle score from Henry Jackman is used sparingly, instead dropping out entirely to allow for

  • the actor's own anxiety to carry each scene, especially during the stressful bridge-takeover

  • sequence. Although it takes a while to really get going, and many portions are repetitive,

  • if for no other reason than historical accuracy, the movie is - thankfully, incredibly realistic

  • - with production taking place on an actual container ship, on the open ocean, with actual

  • Somali actors playing the pirates. The PG-13 rated experience doesn't make any political

  • statements about the heroism or sensibility of the massive rescue operation, nor does

  • it ever escape the small physical confines of its story, leaving everything feeling very

  • immediate, but unfinished. However, as a believable and dramatic thriller, it certainly accomplishes.

  • "Captain Phillips", "Captivating portrayal of harrowing events." Here are some of your

  • thoughts now from the comments.

  • A double EIGHT for "Captain Phillips", while praise was obviously unanimous for Hanks'

  • outstanding performance, criticism over the length, and familiar hostage-scenario theme

  • resulting in you rating this a GREAT. I have to agree... definitely an enjoyable time,

  • I too thought it was GREAT. Now for tonight's poll question: what's your pick for 2013's

  • "Best Picture"? Leave your response as a comment below. Next up, let's review, "Dallas Buyers

  • Club".

  • Grossing over $30 million against its meager $5 million dollar budget, this biographical

  • drama film quickly wowed audiences after its November 1, 2013 release. Based on the true

  • story of an AIDS patient turned pharmaceutical drug smuggler, the original screenplay by

  • Craig Borten had been kicked around Hollywood for the better half of two decades before

  • director Jean-Marc Vallée was finally able to get it finished. Following the turbulent

  • life of a homophobic rodeo cowboy diagnosed with AIDS, the 116-minute story is a fascinating

  • look at the struggles faced by HIV-stricken individuals during the 1980's. The R-rated

  • film is anchored by a landmark performance from Matthew McConaughey, who physically transformed

  • himself for the part - and truly gives it his all, especially when he accepts his terminal

  • illness, screaming to himself in an empty car. But later, it's his determination that

  • makes him a powerful figure worth rooting for, defending risky decisions by yelling,

  • " I prefer to die with my boots on." Following years of shamlazty-rom-coms, it's great to

  • see this talented actor finally get a vehicle where he can really showcase his immensely

  • emotional talent - his best actor nomination is very well-deserved. Alongside him in a

  • marvelous supporting-role is an unrecognizable Jared Leto as a caring transgender woman that

  • becomes an unlikely ally

  • to McConaughey. The always pretty Jennifer Garner is a welcome addition to the cast as

  • well, acting as a more rational observer to the proceedings. Expertly filmed almost entirely

  • with handheld cameras, sans traditional lighting setups... this cheaply produced picture is

  • as realistic as they get... the actors, environments, and diegetic sound pair together perfectly.

  • Exploring concepts of life, and fighting against the system, this is an inspiring story that

  • remains interesting without ever surprising. "Dallas Buyers Club", a "Sensitive, but dignified

  • portrayal of survival." Here now are some of your thoughts from the YouTube comments.

  • Our final scores... a double GREAT. While I feel like something was missing here to

  • truly put it over the top, the acting was obviously top-shelf. We both rated this an

  • EIGHT. Now for a shortened version of my earlier review of "Gravity".

  • Earning nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, this 3D-sci-fi epic would become

  • the eight-highest grossing film of the year, following its October 4, 2013 release.

  • The extremely ambitious action thriller is the latest effort from visionary director

  • Alfonso Cuarón. Using every bit of its $100-million dollar budget, this stunning space epic opens

  • with a single, 12-minute shot that defies cinematic conventions -- bringing to life

  • perhaps the most impressive shot in film history. Things quickly turn ugly when the dynamically

  • unbroken scene is interrupted by an incoming debris field that threatens the astronaut's

  • lives. George Clooney remains cool and collected during the terrifying ordeal, sarcastically

  • quipping to his fellow astronauts that they have, "Clear skies with a chance of satellite

  • debris". Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock does a magnificent job exhibiting a figurative roller

  • coaster of emotions, scoring her a well-served Oscar-nod. Virtually helpless in the deep

  • void of space, the rookie mission specialist silently prays to herself during an pivotal

  • point for the picture. Unfolding in near-real-time, this is a completely immersive and visceral

  • experience, especially when tensions are heightened during foggy POV shots, inside Bullock's claustrophobic

  • helmet. Tensions remain high, as a the perfectly paced 90-minute adventure isn't the type of

  • story where a 'happy ending' is guaranteed. Utilizing brand new technology specifically

  • built for this picture, the PG-13 rated drama is the most visually stunning movie since

  • "Avatar", and equally as groundbreaking. The effects aren't only seamless and realistic,

  • they're captivating and artistic as well... resulting in an absolutely gorgeous experience.

  • Composer Steven Price lends an inspirational and nail-biting original score that swells

  • in intensity at all the right moments. Although the narrative perpetually flirts with the

  • implausible, it is never outright unbelievable, maintaining an almost nonstop sense of danger

  • and urgency throughout. A realistic, exciting, and gripping journey certainly worth watching

  • again, "Gravity" is a "Visual masterpiece, with outstanding thrills." Now let's see what

  • you had to say about this space epic in the YouTube comments.

  • A NINE and a TEN for "Gravity"... while there was across-the-board praise for the remarkable

  • visuals, there were some criticisms, from the plot to the scientific accuracy of the

  • film, bringing your overall average down to an AWESOME. Hardly a flawless film... but

  • easily one of the best I've seen in ages, I thought it was simply AMAZING. More than

  • halfway done now, let's review "Her".

  • This intriguing Spike Jonze sci-fi romantic drama was released on December 18, 2013, and

  • has since grossed nearly $30 million. The slow-paced, 126-minute story shares the quirky

  • life of Joaquin Phoenix... a peculiar individual living in an idealized version of the not-too-distant

  • future who falls in love with a talking, learning, and sophisticated operating system, played

  • by the disembodied voice of Scarlett Johansson. As Phoenix spends a majority of his time basically

  • talking to himself, the weight of the picture's success rests squarely on his ability to carry

  • a scene: and fortunately, he's able to do so quite well. And while we never get to see

  • that bombshell body of hers, Johansson is appropriately incredible opposite him, poignantly

  • reflecting on their lives before they met, "The past is just a story we tell ourselves."

  • Really though, her programming is so advanced that there's no awkwardness between them - and

  • since their relationship is never really challenged by society, either from a moral or legal standpoint:

  • the only thing that sets this picture apart from traditional romance narratives is that

  • Scarlett is without physical form. Once you get past the unconventional circumstances

  • of a man carrying on a relationship with a computer... the story actually becomes pretty

  • familiar, and honestly - boring. While Phoenix confides to co-star Amy Adams that he's uncertain

  • his relationship is real, missing are the ethical dilemmas normally associated with

  • artificial intelligence - and nothing original ever develops from the unique setup. The R-rated

  • drama is filmed with slow, static shots, and it's depiction of the future is shaded with

  • an uncharacteristically warm filter. A quiet and somber score provided by the accomplished

  • rock band Arcade Fire, makes the picture all the more beautiful and intimate as it winds

  • from one scene to the next. With Shanghai unashamedly standing in for a futuristic Los

  • Angeles, Jonze paints a welcoming and utopian version of society that is as intriguing to

  • watch unfold as it is believable. More importantly, the subtle environment, utilized with minimal

  • special effects shots, never overshadows to the emotional story playing out front and

  • center. While it may not be for everyone, this is a delicate and nuanced experience

  • that weakens over time. "Her", "Poetic exploration of conventional identities." Strong opinions

  • on this one, so lets read some of your reviews now.

  • Looks like I was outvoted on this one, you scored "Her" a NINE, whereas I gave it a SIX.

  • You applauded the sci-fi twist on an original romance story, as well as the excellent acting,

  • scoring this an AWESOME. Despite the masterful artistry of all those involved, I didn't feel

  • like there was anything truly powerful or even new here. I thought it was GOOD. Now,

  • a friendly reminder to subscribe to the Movie Night Archive channel for an organized library

  • of all our past reviews, and my exclusive trailer commentaries - this week I reviewed

  • the new "Guardians Of The Galaxy" teaser. Our seventh review tonight will be for "Nebraska".

  • This 115-minute comedy drama film by director Alexander Payne made only a few million in

  • profit over its $12-million dollar budget following its November 15, 2013 release. 77-year-old

  • Bruce Dern and SNL-alumni Will Forte star as a father and son pair who embark on a curious

  • road trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim a non-existent sweepstakes prize. For reasons

  • that are never adequately explained in the R-rated story, they take an almost week-long

  • pit stop in Dern's old childhood neighborhood in the fictional town of Hawthrone, that later

  • morphs into a sort impromptu family reunion. From here, the interesting, but frosty dynamic

  • of the father-son relationship is put on hold while other quirky characters from Dern's

  • life float in and out of the story. As an old wandering drunk with few aspirations,

  • Dern is fantastic bringing his stubborn character to life while still keeping his emotions buried

  • inside - and was nominated for his efforts. In his first substantial role since 2010's

  • criminally underrated flop, "MacGruber", Forte constantly surprises with the depth and range

  • of his talent; perfectly portraying a loving son who is conflicted between pride and disappointment

  • for his aging father. A particularly somber moment arrives late when Forte is explaining

  • his father's condition, despondently admitting, "He just believes what people tell him." The