We here at Awards Daily plan to walk the voters through this painful process of having to make a choice – and the even more painful truth that they have never, will never see all of the movies. Not to worry. AwardsDaily is here to help. We shall do our best to provide you with the best voting primer on the web starting with the hardest/easiest category of all: Best Picture.
For this category you have to have working knowledge of the preferential ballot. You will probably already have much experience with this, given that they changed that shit up in 2009 to usher in The Hurt Locker for Best Picture. Two years later, the solid ten became a random number between 5 and 9. You picked five, the Academy nominates more than five. For three straight years that number has been nine. So all that process of changing things up did was make for one less Best Picture contender in the race, and allow voters the luxury of only choosing five. Maybe the only five they saw all season.
Going in you have to know some things.
1) Rank your picks from the one you like the most to the one you like the least. If you want a film to do well but can’t bring yourself to vote for it as number one just make sure you place it higher on the ballot. Do not leave any slots blank or your ballot might get tossed.
2) If you don’t want to be a GHC (Giant Horse’s Cock) then you must never try to game the system, that is, vote against movies NOT TO WIN by ranking them lower on your ballot. If you want to be GHC, go for it. I’m sure that it might be fun to be that big, powerful and intimidating but in this silly little arena it is more like child’s play.
3) Don’t vote for Ralph Nader. You know what I mean by that. There are three films that have the best shot of winning right now. 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle. If none of those three are you favorite, just pick some other movie for the number one spot then rank these three in order of preference because sooner or later your ballot is likely going to count only for one of those three movies.
4) Don’t just pick one through five. Rank all nine in order of preference.
5) Remember what “Best Picture of the Year” is supposed to mean. You are voting for, supposedly, the highest achievement in film all year, something that will be remembered for years to come as what your industry rewarded as best.
Now, on to the choices.
What movies are ahead? What has won what? How much money have they made? What were the review scores? Let’s go through them.
Let’s start from the frontrunner on down.
12 Years a Slave
Metacritic Score: 97 / Rotten Tomatoes: 96
Budget: $22 / Box office so far: $48 million
#1 of 155 top ten lists
Audience Award – Toronto International Film Festival
Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Picture Winner – Producers Guild (tied)
Best Picture Winner – BAFTA
Best Picture Winner – Golden Globes
Best Picture Winner – Critics Choice Award
Best Director Winner – New York film Critics
Best Director Winner – Southeastern Film Critics
Best Picture Winner – Boston Film Critics
Best Picture Winner – Chicago Film Critics
Best Picture Winner – Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics
Best Picture Winner – Florida Film Critics
Best Picture Winner -Kansas City
Best Picture Winner – Las Vegas
Best Picture Winner -London Film Critics
Best Picture Winner -Phoenix
Best Picture Winner -San Francisco
Best Picture Winner -Vancouver Film Critics
Best Adapted Screenplay Winner – USC Scripter
How it will make history: It will become the first film directed by, written by and starring black filmmakers and actors to win Best Picture. Steve Mcqueen becomes the first black producer in history to win Best Picture. It will be the first film about slavery told from the point of view of the slaves to win Best Picture. It is the first film since 1939’s Gone with the Wind to get this close to winning Best Picture.
How it already has made history: Steve McQueen is the first black producer to win the Producers Guild. John Ridley is the first black screenwriter to win the Scripter.
Noise you should ignore: That it’s “torture porn,” it ain’t. Unless you consider Schindler’s List to be torture porn. We’re grownups last time I checked? That the ad campaign “It’s Time” forces voters to guilt-vote. Is anyone really that stupid voting for film awards? Even if the studio did think it was time, don’t you also think it’s time? Or do you want to wait another 86 years. Hey, let’s wait until it’s been 100 years maybe then it will be time? That it’s only about “slavery was bad.” Listen to those words, ONLY about. It’s not only about that – but it is a necessary component, clearly, to both our collective past, our present and our future. It is only about “slavery is bad” to people who aren’t paying close enough attention to the individual stories therein -mothers whose babies were taken from them, young girls who were made into sex slaves, free black men back then and that some of them were forced into slavery. How many Americans knew that before the film?
Major themes: An American hero, Solomon Northup, who was a free man but was forced into slavery because of the color of his skin. He lived to write a memoir and then go on to work for the abolitionist movement – all of this before the Civil War. It’s about atoning for our past by stripping it down to what it really was: crimes against humanity, a holocaust. It didn’t end when the slaves were freed and much of the repercussions exist today, 150 years later.
Metacritic score: 96 / Rotten Tomatoes 97
Budget: $100 million / Box office so far: $268 million
Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Picture – Producers Guild (tied)
Best Picture – Los Angeles Film Critics (tied)
Best British Film – BAFTA
Best Director – Directors Guild
Best Director– Golden Globes
Best Director – Critics Choice
Best Director – Austin Film Critics
Best Director – Central Ohio
Best Director – Dallas Fort-Worth
Best Director – London Film Critics
Best Director – San Diego
Best Director – San Francisco
Best Director – Toronto
Best Director – Washington, DC
How it will make history: It will become the first film directed by a Mexican to win either Picture or Director. It will be the first 3D technology driven film, the first film set in space, the first effects-driven film to win. It will also be the first film to win with so few actors. And finally and most importantly, the first film starring a woman — ONLY a woman (and one half Clooney). Best Picture winners usually have big casts with lots of actors.
How it already has made history: Alfonso Cuaron becomes the first Mexican to win the DGA/PGA.
Noise you should ignore: That’s it’s an amusement park ride. Lucky for Gravity there isn’t much negative that’s been said about it.
Major Themes: A woman lost in space finds the will to live and that drives her to do what’s necessary to get her feet back on the ground. It’s about appreciating what you have right in front of you.
Metacritic: 90 / Rotten Tomatoes: 93
Budget: $40 million / box office: $142 million
Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Picture: Golden Globes
Best Picture: New York Film Critics
Best Ensemble: Screen Actors Guild
Best Editing: Editors Guild
How it makes history: David O. Russell finally wins the big one.
Noise you should ignore: that it departs greatly from the true story, which it does. The film isn’t trying to tell the true story. It makes that clear from the first frame. That it’s just about wigs and tans. Clearly, there is more to it than that.
Major themes: We are all pretenders underneath it all. Corruption is artifice. But really it’s just a screwball comedy at its heart.
Metacritic: 91 / Rotten Tomatoes: 94
Budget: ? / Box office: $23 million
Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Picture: Los Angeles Film Critics (tied)
Best Picture: National Board of Review
Best Picture: Austin Film Critics
Best Picture: San Diego Film Critics
Best Original Screenplay: Writers Guild
Best Screenplay: Golden Globes
Best Screenplay: Critics Choice
How it makes history: It doesn’t, particularly, though it would be a total shocker if it won.
Noise you should ignore: That’s it’s somehow sexist.
Major themes: You should throw yourself into love, no matter if it makes sense or not. Even the most predictable relationship can sometimes surprise you, sometimes break your heart. But the important thing is to be open to love – to let your heart stay open. It has less to do with the technology of our time and more to do with being a cautionary tale about isolation from humanity through technology.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Metacritic: 75 / Rotten Tomatoes: 77
Budget: $100 million / Box office: $111 million
Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Actor: Golden Globes
Adapted Screenplay: National Board of Review
How it makes history: it would be an astonishing win with no major precursors heading into the race. It would be the only film to win after an Academy member shouted “shame on you” to badass Martin Scorsese.
Noise you should ignore: Almost everything negative you’ve heard about the film, starting with that it makes Jordan Belfort a hero. It makes him a “hero.” That’s a very different thing. That it’s misogynist. It’s ABOUT misogynists. That it glamorizes that lifestyle. It does anything but.
Major themes: No film has captured America in 2014 like Scorsese’s masterpiece. It’s about the pinnacle of gluttony and greed, of a people raised to take what they want no matter who they hurt or what debris they leave behind.
Metacritic: 86 / Rotten Tomatoes: 92
Budget: $12 million / Box office: $15 million
Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Actor: Cannes Film Festival
Best Actor: Los Angeles Film Critics
How it makes history: It is the first time Bruce Dern, in his long and rich career, would win Lead Actor.
How it already has made history: Bruce Dern’s first leading man nomination.
Major themes: Nebraska is about the American Dream gone wrong. You wake up one day and you’ve lived your entire life. The mistakes you made along the way you thought you’d get to do over. But they end up becoming the bricks that have built your life. What does it mean to become a millionaire? In the end, the money is the McGuffin. It’s really about the people in your life.
Metacritic: 83 / Rotten Tomatoes: 93
Budget: $55 million / Box office: $100 million
Top Ten Best Film: AFI
Best Adapted Screenplay: Writers Guild
Best Editing: Cinema Editors Guild
How it makes history: If it won it would be the second film since Driving Miss Daisy to win without a Director Nomination, and a back to back winner without one since last year’s Argo. Captain Phillips is one of the first films to equalize our relationship with our so-called enemies. The film depicts two captains from different parts of the world, different choices to make in life, and very different outcomes. It does this with compassion, indicating a changing mindset for America.
Noise you should ignore: That the real Captain Phillips wasn’t a hero.
Major Themes: heroism, compassion, survival.
Metacritic: 76 / Rotten Tomatoes: 92
Budget: ? / Box office: $30 million
How it makes history: The real Philomena Lee has been doing groundbreaking work by bringing awareness to women who lost their babies to the Catholic Church.
Noise you should ignore: Any nonsense that defends the Church.
Major themes: acknowledging the horrors many young women endured at the hands of the Catholic Church who forced many of them to give up their babies for adoption, then made it difficult for mothers to find and reunite with those babies. It’s also loosely about homophobia in the Republican party.
Dallas Buyers Club
Metacritic: 84 / Rotten Tomatoes: 94
Budget: $5 million / Box office: $24 million
Best Actor/Supporting Actor: Golden Globes
Best Actor/Supporting Actor: Screen Actors Guild
(and many more by critics for McConaughey and Leto)
How it makes history: It is the last film of Focus Features’ James Schamus. He leaves quite the legacy behind.
Noise you should ignore: that the film should be dismissed because it doesn’t tell the whole story of who Ron Woodruff was, that no homophobe should be celebrated. The story is bigger than that.
Major themes: exploring the impact of the way the FDA handles medication for profit, how difficult it was in the beginning for AIDS patients to get necessary treatment, how AZT was thrown at the problem, killing way too many people before they discovered it was too late. It is also about friendship, compassion, and allowing us to be an inclusive community banding together to battle a plague.
And there you have it. Your first primer for awards season. Everything you need to know about what films you have to choose from. Hopefully you have seen them all but even if you haven’t you can make a pretty good guess and rank all of the films accordingly.