I don't post many reviews here mostly because I like to preserve my thoughts for my DVD reviews which appear Tuesdays on CinemaSight especially now that DVD releases are a lot closer to their film's theatrical runs than they used to be. I find when I review a film here first, it's difficult to come up with something fresh to say in my DVD review. My mini-reviews of The Wolf of Wall Street; The Great Beauty and The Past will post on CinemaSight this coming Tuesday, April Fools' Day.
This may be the last year in which I attempt to see every major Oscar contender prior to the Oscars. Film distribution has gotten to the point where it is almost impossible to see everything in theaters and let's face it, home video is the medium on which most people see or will see films anyway. Of course if I waited to see everything on home video that didn't play my local Cineplex this year I would still be waiting to see Philomena which doesn't come out on DVD in the U.S. until April 15th and Her which doesn't come out until mid-May. Of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Picture, only Captain Phillips; Gravity; American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street played locally. DVD distribution isn't much better. My local Costco, Walmart and Target don't carry Dallas Buyers Club or any of the foreign film nominees or wannabes. I haven't checked Best Buy, which may be the only exception. Thank the movie gods for Amazon and other on-line retailers.
The horrid state of film distribution might be what kept some of the films on this list off the Oscar ballot. While most Oscar voters rely on their screeners, films that do poorly theatrically are still at a detriment. Major film releases that do poorly at the box office such as Rush stand no chance. High profile independent releases like 12 Years a Slave and Nebraska will get watched anyway. What happened with Inside Llewyn Davis, I don't know. It was poorly distributed, but it was certainly high profile enough for Oscar voters to give it a spin.
I voted for Inside Llewyn Davis and the Coen brothers. Like Precious Doll and many others here, I have had a love-hate relationship with the Coens' films over the years, but this one is haunting in its simplicity and wondrous in its capturing of the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. It's sad where it needs to be and funny where it needs to be. If it lacks the gravitas of 12 Years a Slave; the wonder of Gravity and the originality of Her, it is nevertheless easily one of the year's four best films and deserved to be a nominee for Best Picture as well as for direction and in a slew of other categories. For shame, Academy.
Foreign language films are so seldom nominated for Best Picture that the three on this list, Blue Is the Warmest Color; The Great Beauty and The Past didn't stand much of a chance of being nominated in the top category, which is not to say that they shouldn't have been. They are all worthy of inclusion and I would have no problem if any or all of them were nominated in place of any but the four top films I mentioned above.
The others on the list would be more worthy in less competitive years. I have a particular affection for Saving Mr. Banks and The Book Thief which were unjustly ignored. Banks was poorly marketed as a paean to Walt Disney when it's actually a paean to P.L. Travers. The film is more representative of the 1985 film Dreamchild in which Alice Hargreaves revisits her childhood as the model for Alice in Wonderland than anything Disney ever put out. The Book Thief is along with 2008's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and 1943's Hitler's Children one of the three best films about the lives of children during the Holocaust.
Before Midnight was at least recognized by the Academy for its screenplay. Fruitvale Station sadly missed out on its only real chance at a nomination for Octavia Spencer's fine performance. All Is Lost is not a film I really liked, but for some reason it's haunted me ever since I saw it which might mean that's it really more profound than I thought.