You might think you know what you need to see regarding good "Oscar-worthy" films this year, but there are a number that may have slipped through the cracks while you were out shooting Vines. Here are ten excellent underdog films that deserve Academy Award consideration.
Winner of 2013's Sundance Film Festival, “Fruitvale Station” follows the events of New Year's Eve 2008 and early New Year's Day 2009, the last night of Oscar Grant's life leading up to his death at the Fruitvale Station. Played by “Friday Night Lights” star Michael B. Jordan, Grant was shot by a transit police officer, and the film documents his last day visiting with friends and family, and an intense buildup of suspense and emotion. The film also stars Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray.
The Way Way Back
Another big splash at Sundance, "The Way Way Back," is a story about a bashful boy named Duncan during a summer vacation away from home with his mom and her boyfriend, played by Steve Carell. Duncan has difficulty coming to terms with his adolescence and current situation, but finds an unlikely friend in an older, immature water park manager, played by Sam Rockwell. This coming-of-age film sees the protagonist learn to come out of his shell and a thing or two about girls, as well. Rockwell should get a nomination for supporting actor.
A science fiction romance directed by Spike Jonze, "Her" goes strangely down the modern rabbit hole into a little tech-friendly romance I think we can all relate to. Having lost in a previous marriage, Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, explores the affinity between himself, a spirited man, and a seemingly compatible female computer voice - a Siri for the ages - voiced by Scarlett Johansson. As they grow closer, amazing events begin to unfold in this unprecedented love story.
Anybody who watched “The ‘Burbs” knows Bruce Dern is the man. He’s on the long list for hopeful actor nominations with “Nebraska,” the tale of a man after his fortune late into his years, traveling across the country with his son, played by Will Forte, and meeting with family, friends and people he owes money to on the road to his riches. The unlikely character piece follows an ordinary man in search of an extraordinary ending.
The Spectacular Now
Another favorite from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this coming-of-age romantic drama tells the story of a devil-may-care teen living the party life before taking an unexpected turn towards an unlikely girl who encourages him to change his ways and find his estranged father. The film was directed by James Ponsoldt, an intelligently realistic director, who captures the power of first love and teens on the verge of adulthood.
Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey takes on a compelling role as Ron Woodroof, an HIV-positive party animal bull rider from Dallas on the brink of death. Unable to beat the sickness using American prescriptions, Woodroof reaches to alternative out-of-country medicines to help cure him, starting the beginning of the Dallas Buyers Club, a drug-selling ring that helps fellow AIDS patients but procures him some unwanted attention. Oh, and Jared Leto is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Transvestite (Actor).”
All Is Lost
Robert Redford graces the big screen in his latest voyage aboard a solo sailing trip when he slowly becomes shipwrecked, forcing his survival instincts to keep him afloat. The suspenseful tale captures a man on the verge of capsizing both his boat and his life with the option to fold or take control. Redford delivers a powerful performance in the same way Tom Hanks delivered “Cast Away,” as a lone survivalist who uses what he knows to get creative and make it no matter what the cost.
The Book Thief
The story is based on the best-selling novel of a nine-year-old girl, Liesel Meminger, who moves in with new foster parents in Nazi Germany circa World War II and has to hide from the powers that be. The girl changes the lives of those she cares about with her newly found love for words and books, as the adapted film tells of the ability of books to carry people through difficult times -- in this case, one unique girl who didn’t know how to read during one of the most difficult times in human existence.
Tom Hanks, another star from the '80s classic "The 'Burbs," is back as the captain of an unarmed ship that is taken over by Somali pirates as ransom for a big payout. The film, which is based on a true story, has received unexpected notoriety as it follows the interaction between the pirate captain and Captain Phillips, who negotiates a deal to save his crew only to be taken hostage on a lifeboat. The intensity of escaping an imprisoned life at sea when left to one’s own devices is the theme of Hank’s latest great sea excursion, one worth 133 minutes of our attention. The final scene of the movie should be enough to get Hanks an Oscar nom alone.
Next: Bootleg DVD Covers Are Ridiculously Funny
The Kings of Summer
Another coming-of-age story of teen angst, summer hijinks and resourceful survival all in the vein of “Stand By Me,” the little known Sundance comedy “Kings of Summer” follows a rebellious boy who escapes his parent’s overbearing lifestyle and retreats to the woods with his two pals to build their own house and live off the land. This tale takes on everything from teen rebellion to summer love to living on one’s own terms all in one fun adolescent adventure.