With only a couple of days until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces winners for the 86th Academy Awards, I was able to finally view the last of of the Best Picture nominees on my checklist and solidify my own predictions before those pesky envelopes are opened and all doubt is removed that I am not clairvoyant.
Most would agree that 2013 was one of the best years for quality films and performances ever, and it is reasonable to argue that many of the nominees would have been shoo-ins for their respective categories had it been a "normal" award season. That's why I think it only fair that since the bar has been set so high this year that losing nominees should at least be given little Oscars or their efforts. Statues about half the size would work, I think.
"The following movies/performances automatically get little Oscars because they were so good, but the big Oscar goes to..." sound the drum roll.
But because giving little Oscars is an idea probably too futuristic for today's Academy, I have to rely on an alternative measure to vote my amateur, inconsequential and mental ballot. It is a measure I keep for emergencies in case I come across multiple awesome nominees like I did this time around. Though I try to keep this rating measure under the radar due to potential ridicule from my friends and family, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the right thing. Yes, this year I had to pull out my cry meter.
The cry meter is simple, actually. When I have two or more choices that seem to be weighted rationally and technically the same, I choose in favor of the one that elicited a stronger emotional response from me. Basically, I pick the one that made me cry more. This doesn't mean the movie has to be sad. I am just as likely to cry when there are any strong emotions coursing through me such as happiness, pride, love, relief, hope, etc.
I guess this would be the point in this article where I remind everyone that real men cry when it's warranted and only try to quell tears that are naturally trying to get out of them if they are victims of a stunted sense of self-actualization. Coincidentally, I happen to be one of those "stunted" victims who try to hold back the tears until it becomes unbearable and someone actually catches me crying. Only then do I enthusiastically proclaim my liberation from macho stereotypes and participate actively in the "real men cry" side of the argument. Yeah, I'm kind of a hypocrite that way.
Anyway, this year has required I utilize the cry meter because I have found all nine nominees worthy of the Best Picture award at some level and at least seven of those nominees in a dead heat coming up to the finish (I automatically discarded Nebraska and Philomena because, though I liked them, I don't think they stand a chance for Best Picture against the other nominees). The Wolf of Wall Street had me laughing, offended and intrigued all at the same time. It was an amazing carnival ride. American Hustle tickled my nostalgic side and reminded me how skilled actors can transport me to vivid realities while I'm sitting in a dark theater. And Her shook me awake from my cinematic complacency with its originality and beautiful production design.
But there were only four movies nominated from 2013 that triggered my cry meter. Gravity got the pipes going right at that moment Sandra Bullock's character surrenders to the inevitable and expresses her love for her daughter. Dallas Buyers Club saw it rain a couple of times -- once during a time of loss and the other during a time of hope, resolve and appreciation. Captain Phillips even had the waterworks going for me when the good captain was in the naval ship infirmary and obviously in shock. This scene alone should have garnered a Best Actor nomination for Tom Hanks. He was robbed.
But it was 12 Years a Slave that opened the flood gates for me. I don't think I've ever made an emotional connection to a movie like I did with that one. Bold, true and hard to watch, this is the only movie that may have changed me at some visceral level. I was a different person after it was over. The movie as a whole is intense. It made me angry. It made me sad. It made me happy. It also may contain one of the most evocative scenes ever filmed with nothing more than an extended shot of the main character's face, his eyes expressing all that is needed for us to witness his dilemma as if it were our own. Awe-inspiring.
Yep, the cry meter redlined on that movie. Not only did the tears come rolling down, but I had to do everything in my power to hide the sobs rocking my body and my theater seat. It was the only movie I can remember ever going to where the mantra "hold it together, hold it together, hold it together" was scrolling through my mind as the credits were scrolling down the screen.
Of course, I didn't want my wife to know I was crying that hard, so I told her I was having a heart attack. She didn't fall for it.
You may have your own thoughts on all this, but my cry meter is pretty accurate. That's why I will be very surprised if this coming Sunday we don't hear "And the Best Picture, big Oscar goes to 12 Years a Slave."