Inside the Best Picture Nominees: A deep dive into 'Captain Phillips'

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Image Credit: Jasin Boland

Name: Captain Phillips

Release Date: Oct. 11, 2013 (wide)

DVD Release: Jan. 21, 2014

Run Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

Box Office: Opening weekend, wide release: $25.7 million; domestic total: $106.9 million; international total: $110.7 million (as of Feb. 23)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93 percent Fresh

Movie Math: (Black Hawk Down + Pirates of the Caribbean + Contraband) – the eye candy

Tweetable Description: After an unarmed container ship is boarded by strung-out Somali pirates, the American crew, led by Tom Hanks Captain Phillips copes with an increasingly volatile situation.

What Owen Gleiberman Said: “Phillips must guard his crew, negotiate with the pirates, and keep his own fears in check, and Hanks acts with a minimalism that speaks volumes: We’re wired into his every glance. Phillips sends the pirates on a wild goose chase throughout the massive ship, and Captain Phillips becomes a gripping life-or-death chess game: Who will survive? Who will outwit whom? But in the second half, when Phillips is forced to board an enclosed lifeboat along with the pirates, the film’s suspense begins to ebb. It’s not that Greengrass’ electrifying style fails him. It’s that the movie, tethered for close to an hour to the strategies and tensions aboard the lifeboat, keeps giving us things to observe, but maybe not so much to discover.”

Number of Oscar Nods: Six nominations in total for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi), Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray), Best Film Editing (Christopher Rouse), Best Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney), and Best Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro).

Movie’s Oscar History: Tom Hanks is an Oscars veteran with two Best Actor trophies at home, but he got the cold shoulder in the noms this year. Producer Scott Rudin also has a trophy for Best Picture from No Country for Old Men. Director Paul Greengrass was nominated for Best Director in 2007 for United 93, but lost to Martin Scorsese for The Departed. Otherwise, everybody else is new to this Academy Awards business.

What it has won thus far: The film was nominated in all the big categories at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guild Awards — yet it has been passed over for its flashier peers American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity. The biggest winner though is Barkhad Abdi, who stepped out of his life as a chauffeur and into a Hollywood blockbuster. Abdi snagged himself the Best Supporting Actor trophy from BAFTA. The movie’s only other major wins include Billy Ray for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards and Movie of the Year from AFI.

Why it should win: Unfortunately, Captain Phillips has 12 Years a Slave to contend with in the race this year, because both of these movies do a beautiful job conveying the failures of Western Civilization’s imperialism. But only one can take the top slot, and odds are in favor of 12 Years a Slave. Captain Phillips deserves credit for telling a tale that is more timely, controversial, and pertinent to current world politics. As Owen Gleiberman says: “We know we’re seeing a clash of two cultures: the privileged Western world, with its power and bounty (all symbolized by the vastness of that ship), and the desperate quarters of the Third World, locked outside the loop of technological progress and hope.”

Why it shouldn’t win: Even though the actors delivered excellent performances and a nail-biting brush with pirate hordes off the coast of Africa — a classic movie experience and a great time — Captain Phillips just doesn’t shine like its fellow nominees. The film lacks the heart-wrenching emotion of 12 Years a Slave, the philosophical musings of Her, the nuance of Gravity, or the depth of character presented in Dallas Buyers Club. A stellar movie about an amazing true-life story, but just not quite a Best Picture.

Vegas Odds: 100/1, according to Las Vegas Sports Betting

Best line: “$30,000?! What am I? Do I look like a beggar?”

Worst line: Captain Phillips kicks off negotiations with an armed pirate with this line,”You said this was business. Is this how you do business?” Err…he’s a starving fisherman whose taken to piracy. That was the best you could think off to defuse this situation?

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