Total Recall

The 2014 Best Picture Nominees

In this special edition of Total Recall, we take a closer look at this year's contenders.

by | January 16, 2014 | Comments


Awards season is in full swing, and film fans everywhere are either debating their picks for who’s about to win or arguing over those who’ve already won. That goes double for us at RT, and to celebrate our annual embrace of Oscar fever, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s list to the films getting ready to duke it out for this year’s Best Picture Academy Award. With room for real-life stories, a little computer romance, some hard-hitting drama, and even some action and/or comedy, this year’s batch of nominees is certainly an eclectic bunch — so let’s take a look at them all, reminisce about how many we’ve seen, and then hit the comments section to weigh in on their odds of winning come March 2. It’s time for Total Recall!

American Hustle


Former enfant terrible David O. Russell has practically become synonymous with Oscar prestige of late. Both The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook were major award players (and acting trophy winners), and you couldn’t design a more Academy-friendly movie than his latest, American Hustle. It’s got period glam, a rollicking sort-of true story, and more big acting (and hair) than you can wave a SAG award at: Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale (Russell Oscar alums, both), Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper will make this one a favorite across categories. As Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell states, “It’s one of the year’s cleverest films, and also one of the best.”

Captain Phillips


If there’s one thing Oscar can’t get enough of, it’s America’s national acting treasure and most loved citizen, Tom Hanks. With dual acclaimed performances — as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks and the besieged captain in Paul Greengrass’s real-life thriller — it’s a good chance the multiple Academy Award winner will be revisiting the podium this year. He’s got solid support in this tense high-seas nail-biter, too: Barkhad Abdi gives him a run for his acting dollar as the desperate Somali hijacker, and Greengrass is in typical queasy faux-doco form. In the words of EW‘s Owen Gleiberman, “Greengrass keeps you off balance — he’s a jittery poet of reality.”

Dallas Buyers Club


Really, it doesn’t get any more Best Picture-friendly than this. Consider: the real-life story of a homophobic redneck (Matthew McConaughey) who contracts AIDS and has a change of heart while selling medication to the gay community. Consider: two straight actors (McConaughey and Jared Leto) either in states of emaciation or extreme drag, both catnip to Academy voters. Oh, and consider that the movie has actually been well-reviewed, too. “McConaughey delivers the performance of his career,” says Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post, “characterized not just by an astonishing physical transformation but by a wellspring of deep compassion and fearlessness.” The actors are locks for nods and odds-on for wins. Can the movie follow suit?



Alfonso Cuarón’s interstellar adventure came freighted with high expectations, and delivered both commercially and critically — making it the kind of all-round winner the industry loves to reward. Dazzling in its digital virtuosity, the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney starrer used the latest advancements in CG technology for the old-fashioned purpose of bringing audiences to the edge of their seats, where they dutifully remained, in thrall, for 90 minutes. “Cuarón brilliantly manages to create both awe at his glorious space vistas,” noted The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw, “and knuckle-gobbling tension at what’s happening in the foreground.”



It’s not often that a movie about a man who falls in love with his computer finds itself in the running for the Best Picture Oscar, but critics have flipped for Spike Jonze’s near-future romance between a lonely letter-writer (Joaquin Phoenix) and the sultry-voiced operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) inside his device. It’s a tender and comedic but also intelligent look into the way humans interact, told in a distinct voice that could only be Jonze’s. As Scott Foundas at Variety put it, Her is a “singular, wryly funny, subtly profound consideration of our relationship to technology–and to each other.”



Another year, another Alexander Payne joint rolls on in to the Kodak Theatre. The director behind Sideways and The Descendants has earned himself typically rave reviews for his latest road trip into the decaying heart of small town America, this time driven by a genuinely moving performance from veteran actor Bruce Dern. As a grizzled old coot squaring off against a vanishing landscape, Dern is the soul of the picture — and his acting nod might rub off on Payne. As Amy Nicholson writes, in the L.A. Weekly, the film “takes the heartland and strips the Norman Rockwell off it like cheap aluminum siding.”



Philomena was largely pegged as an outsider for a Best Picture nomination, but one shouldn’t underestimate the power of Stephen (The Queen) Frears in crowd-pleasing, comedic-but-heartstring-tugging mode. And in truth, he’s earned it, too, for Philomena is a handsome road trip that doesn’t overplay its potentially sentimental themes. Much of that can be attributed to the fine performances of Judi Dench (ever the Oscar fave) and a relatively unsung Steve Coogan, who does excellent work as Philomena’s righteously angry traveling companion. “The story touches on some of the thorniest issues of Catholic doctrine and tempers its righteous anger with a tone more sad than bitter,” noted J.R. Jones at the Chicago Reader.

12 Years a Slave


Steve McQueen’s harrowing adaptation of Solomon Northup’s memoir has been riding a wave of critical acclaim ever since it wowed audiences in Telluride and Toronto, so it’s no surprise to see it leading the Oscar frontrunners for Best Picture. And with good reason, too: the British director’s art-film pedigree lends this grim tale a chilly atmosphere, while the performances — Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o among them — represent powerful shadings of the human spirit, for good and for evil. As the Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turan observed, “When a director who never ever blinks takes on a horrific subject, a nightmare in broad daylight is the inevitable result.”

The Wolf of Wall Street


Always bet on Marty when it comes to the Oscars. Despite roundly snubbing him for all of his masterpieces back in the day, the Academy has been kind to late-period Scorsese, with wins for The Departed and a nod for Hugo, and now another — and a well-deserved one at that — for his tour de force takedown of fiscal folly. Plenty are calling this a return to the form of the man who made GoodFellas and — oh wait, that was the year Dances with Wolves won. Never mind. Still, this one’s got as good a chance as Scorsese’s had of late. As Todd McCarthy put it, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, it represents, “The wages of greed and excess portrayed in grand, operatic, often very funny style.”

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out all the nominees here.

Finally, here’s Bob Hope’s monologue from the 1953 Academy Awards ceremony — the first to be televised:

Tag Cloud

diversity golden globes war Winners Sundance Now Oscars sag awards canceled TV shows GoT Certified Fresh a nightmare on elm street Red Carpet Britbox spanish language cancelled Disney reviews spider-man toronto Women's History Month jamie lee curtis Tomatazos breaking bad Pacific Islander reboot Summer spy thriller Lifetime Christmas movies mission: impossible Fall TV Crunchyroll WarnerMedia cooking aliens Esquire zombie First Reviews Emmys Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stoner Marvel Studios HBO halloween LGBT concert The Witch The CW comics WGN Ovation 99% Netflix Christmas movies foreign 21st Century Fox movie American Society of Cinematographers Trailer zero dark thirty Warner Bros. AMC Sony Pictures Thanksgiving festivals Disney streaming service Premiere Dates psycho FX versus Crackle PlayStation child's play Set visit BET MTV IFC Films Logo Paramount boxing crime thriller San Diego Comic-Con HBO Go australia BBC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ITV Family BBC One Apple Song of Ice and Fire Showtime fresh video on demand supernatural First Look asian-american SXSW PBS series dexter quibi french Watching Series Cosplay children's TV laika Lucasfilm king arthur werewolf mcc police drama 90s screenings A&E cops travel space comic book movie cats elevated horror Discovery Channel comic book movies based on movie archives Chernobyl National Geographic streaming movies Avengers period drama MCU Superheroe animated independent cancelled TV series critics TV Land MSNBC Fox Searchlight young adult sports Calendar kids Wes Anderson Countdown Comic-Con@Home 2021 comic ESPN technology DC Universe trophy TV One Extras Marvel Television binge Paramount Plus marvel comics high school stop motion Reality Competition 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards boxoffice Mindy Kaling hist book nfl directors Acorn TV Star Trek 1990s FXX USA Syfy Best and Worst See It Skip It marvel cinematic universe casting IFC emmy awards Rocketman Valentine's Day Year in Review Adult Swim black comedy cults TCA Awards Netflix Nat Geo 4/20 Travel Channel target History crime drama basketball BET Awards X-Men Comedy Central king kong Tags: Comedy Lifetime video Hallmark debate unscripted zombies Universal Pictures batman rt archives Spectrum Originals Amazon Exclusive Video Emmy Nominations Star Wars new zealand black FX on Hulu Bravo Ghostbusters joker YouTube Red slashers Marathons latino cars italian political drama BAFTA RT History Awards singing competition true crime superhero historical drama Quiz Holidays Disney Channel Peacock Mary Tyler Moore cancelled television Interview Winter TV E3 Classic Film godzilla 79th Golden Globes Awards classics dark sequels Polls and Games El Rey venice Super Bowl 2021 award winner Broadway Shudder ghosts Toys Infographic Endgame spanish Paramount Network heist movie wonder woman cinemax crossover ABC Television Academy Turner christmas movies Spring TV Grammys Academy Awards cancelled TV shows Nickelodeon Black Mirror Shondaland New York Comic Con Arrowverse fast and furious CW Seed Columbia Pictures YouTube Premium DC streaming service scary movies Mary poppins Prime Video RT21 anime tv talk dramedy TCA Winter 2020 Freeform crime talk show live action transformers TNT Christmas obituary Baby Yoda olympics dc Food Network PaleyFest FOX Funimation TV renewals franchise universal monsters documentaries 2018 telelvision CNN Stephen King Pop TV popular social media Tarantino revenge documentary rt labs critics edition Binge Guide Masterpiece Music toy story Sundance TV posters nbcuniversal razzies Apple TV+ worst movies IMDb TV new york adenture YA TCA 2017 BBC America YouTube movies Photos blockbuster royal family Epix blockbusters CBS Lionsgate OneApp NBA theme song Elton John news genre CBS All Access south america GLAAD slasher scary book adaptation game of thrones VH1 festival lord of the rings E! Rom-Com Alien canceled prank Pixar CMT science fiction renewed TV shows miniseries Ellie Kemper 71st Emmy Awards Schedule kaiju Spike Cartoon Network superman cartoon Trivia rom-coms TIFF President Drama Rock Amazon Prime Video 20th Century Fox 2020 aapi chucky 2015 free movies Reality 2019 Sci-Fi TCM television facebook jurassic park VICE medical drama halloween tv Awards Tour gangster Sundance Country OWN Creative Arts Emmys harry potter TBS dceu spain finale mutant DGA mob parents Tokyo Olympics docudrama feel good Holiday sequel ID The Arrangement new star wars movies Disney Plus Video Games Vudu Election Sneak Peek biopic Hallmark Christmas movies Black History Month comic books romantic comedy Hollywood Foreign Press Association ViacomCBS international justice league robots GIFs criterion art house spinoff romance Mudbound psychological thriller Neflix pirates of the caribbean sitcom japan indie 24 frames disaster Tumblr Fantasy thriller The Academy monster movies 2017 Fargo Biopics Television Critics Association Superheroes anthology Heroines Podcast Image Comics TV movies DC Comics The Walt Disney Company Western spider-verse dreamworks TCA worst films LGBTQ screen actors guild Action action-comedy sopranos Pop hollywood Walt Disney Pictures Instagram Live twilight ABC Family DirecTV composers TruTV Teen streaming Brie Larson HBO Max Film Festival Rocky TV dogs Mary Poppins Returns Amazon Prime Animation HFPA natural history biography Pride Month Dark Horse Comics 45 Fox News trailers leaderboard serial killer Comics on TV Hear Us Out Apple TV Plus critic resources stand-up comedy witnail Cannes Comedy what to watch ratings hispanic heritage month Marvel green book SDCC SundanceTV blaxploitation Musical women comedies 93rd Oscars Horror 2016 Nominations doctor who dragons vampires remakes Writers Guild of America Mystery adventure Kids & Family Legendary 73rd Emmy Awards Musicals Opinion discovery USA Network name the review kong APB Trophy Talk adaptation Universal Box Office teaser know your critic 007 vs. mockumentary docuseries satire james bond Martial Arts scorecard suspense Pet Sematary japanese hidden camera Disney+ Disney Plus Captain marvel nature saw Character Guide The Purge VOD die hard 72 Emmy Awards rotten movies we love football legend NBC rotten Anna Paquin Pirates ABC Signature comiccon NYCC The Walking Dead all-time Starz best live event scene in color richard e. Grant Turner Classic Movies AMC Plus Comic Book A24 Tubi rt labs politics game show TLC strong female leads Film Hulu deadpool indiana jones Amazon Studios hispanic golden globe awards