Errant thoughts on Oscar’s best picture nominees

This year’s nine Academy Award nominees for best picture are exceptional films that envelope audiences with great acting, unusual story lines and distinctive cinematography. But who among us can say they have been so captivated by a great movie that no errant thought has strayed into their mind?

I have seen all nine (which may be more than most members of the academy can claim) and do not have a favorite. Each in this group of movies has such an individual look and voice that weighing one against another is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges.

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The stunning extraterrestrial canvas of “Gravity” is utterly different from the black-and-white, small-town portraits of “Nebraska.” The epic pageant of excess that is “The Wolf of Wall Street” is far from the quieter tales told by “Her” and “Philomena.” And which is more compelling, the brutal history lesson of “12 Years A Slave,” the wrenching realism of “Captain Phillips,” the quirky con men and women in “American Hustle” or the odd couple on the edge of oblivion in “Dallas Buyers Club”?


This year’s awards have offered up a fine crop of films and, though a single lucky one will be proclaimed the best, I don’t think any one of the nine stands out as the obvious choice for the honor

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Still, as good as they are, odd little thoughts crept into my head as I watched them. I couldn’t help worrying that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto may have done permanent damage to their bodies by starving themselves for their roles in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

I couldn’t keep from wondering if astronauts really wear shorts and tank tops under their spacesuits as I observed a weightless Sandra Bullock floating in her skivvies inside the capsule in “Gravity.” And I cannot have been the only one to be distracted by all the drugs Leonardo DiCaprio’s character ingested in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Could anyone function, let alone survive, after taking that many pills on top of all that booze?


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Yes, even as a movie pulls us into its artful fiction, a little piece of our brains cannot let go of the fact that Judy Dench and Jonah Hill and Bruce Dern and all of the rest are real human beings playing make-believe. When the camera gets so close to Joaquin Phoenix’s mustache that it is about five feet wide on the screen, it’s hard not to think of grooming habits.

All of this has inspired me to do a series of cartoons that can be seen in the gallery above. It’s a satirical rumination on what is really on our minds as we watch movies. Give it a look. Perhaps it will remind you of viewing “American Hustle” and the reaction you had when you first caught sight of Christian Bale’s belly.


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