We can all agree that it's been a pretty great year for movies. But when it comes to this year's best picture Oscar race, that's probably where our accord ends.
At the moment, the critically lauded historical drama "12 Years a Slave" and the equally acclaimed box-office juggernaut "Gravity" head the list. Their Oscar nominations are secure. Likewise, the high-seas hostage drama
That leaves a crowded group of contenders vying for ... what ... four, five or six (if there are nine best picture nominees, as was the case last year) spots. Two films — Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and
What other movies might join them? Let's look at the arguments on both sides for some.
"Saving Mr. Banks"
Nominated: The behind-the-scenes story of "Mary Poppins" appeals to the thing Hollywood loves most: itself! An engaging cast — Emma Thompson and
Neglected: Hanks as Disney is the spoonful of sugar, but the earnest story might be a bit dull for those who like stronger medicine.
Nominated: Director Alexander Payne's last two movies,
Neglected: Black-and-white movie set in a fly-over state? Close-minded sorts may pass.
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
Nominated: Three of the
Neglected: Title character, a '60s Greenwich Village folk singer, has few redeeming qualities. Then again, many in the academy will likely relate on some level to this struggling artist staying true to his self-imposed artistic nobility while surrounded by rubes who just don't get how great he is.
"Dallas Buyers Club"
Nominated: Actors branch likely to be all in with stars
Neglected: Reviews have fallen just shy of ecstatic. Will it have the passion vote to put it in among the nominees?
Neglected: The movie's surreal aspects could be off-putting to those with more conventional tastes. If you don't laugh at
Nominated: The crowd-pleasing drama played great at Venice and Toronto, with audiences digging the salt-and-pepper pairing of Judi Dench and
Neglected: Won't arrive with much must-see buzz for hipster crowd. Commercial success as a Thanksgiving weekend counter-programmer would help its cause.
"Lee Daniels' The Butler"
Nominated: It planted its flag early, racking up $115 million domestically after its mid-August opening. Headliners
Neglected: Reviews were all over the map, with many asserting that its intentions surpassed its artistic merit.
"All Is Lost"
Nominated: Boasts a career-best turn from Hollywood golden boy Robert Redford. And the movie's pretty darn great too!
Neglected: Despite the critical hosannas for Redford's near-wordless, one-man show, commercial prospects for J.C. Chandor's thrilling survival tale appear murky. Will enough voters see it?
Neglected: Audiences could be unanimous on Blanchett but more mixed on the movie itself. Not nearly as loved as Woody's last best picture nominee,
Nominated: Writer-director Jason Reitman scored picture nominations for "Juno" and
Neglected: ... but his last movie,
"August: Osage County"
Nominated: Pedigree in spades: Adapted from a play that won the Pulitzer and Tony, headlined by perennial nominee Streep and past winner Julia Roberts.
Neglected: Some critics, reviewing from the
Nominated: A timely and, in the eyes of many, important look at a life cut short.
Neglected: With a running time of less than 90 minutes, it may feel a bit slight for the category.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
Nominated: Warmhearted and sentimental, it could fill academy's warm-fuzzies, "Little Miss Sunshine" slot.
Neglected: "Saving Mr. Banks" may have dibs on that slot. And the movie's mix of whimsy and visual effects could strike some voters as too lightweight to be rewarded.
"The Book Thief"
Nominated: Fox is throwing a promotional push behind the young-adult WWII story that touches on the Holocaust. The tone of the pitch is on the one-sheet: "From the studio that brought you
Neglected: Well-meaning, but the adaptation has its share of structural issues and the presentation is, at times, heavy-handed. Reviews are likely to be mixed.
Nominated: The familiar premise is delivered with ambiguity and ambition without losing any of its primitive punch.
Neglected: Many academy members will dismiss, sight unseen, a revenge tale revolving around missing children. Tough to watch and without the historical trappings of "12 Years" or the timeliness of "Fruitvale Station."