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The Worst Reviews Of The 2014 Best Picture Nominees

Not everyone loves this year’s nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture.

12 Years a Slave

Fox Searchlight Pictures

“There’s never a sense of how these people, by and large distractingly (though not unimpressively) played by a who’s who of actors, live their private lives in between the very hectoring scenes that spotlight their public role in the history of slavery, and the effect is off-puttingly manufactured.” —Ed Gonzalez, Slant

“It’s a picture that stays more than a few safe steps away from anything so dangerous as raw feeling. Even when it depicts inhuman cruelty, as it often does, it never compromises its aesthetic purity.” —Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice

“It’s difficult to stay in the brutal reality with A-list movie stars around every bend.” —Gerald Peary, The Arts Fuse

American Hustle

Columbia Pictures

“It’s rarely as playful or funny or loose or hip as it hopes.” —Matt Pais, RedEye

“The filmmaker’s other obsession is the period and, I’m sorry, but someone really should’ve taken [David O. Russell] aside before shooting began and reminded him the decade’s been done to death. Maybe Ron Burgundy could’ve broken the news.” —Rick Kisonak, Seven Days

“To give many awards to this loose, wandering, and often monotonous movie is pitching [Russell] out of his own league.” —David Thomson, New Republic

Captain Phillips

Columbia Pictures

“Creating zigzag lines of screen conflict, [Paul] Greengrass floods the moviegoer’s eye with enormous amounts of assimilable detail. Those gifts are on offer here too, but in a scenario lacking in suspense.” —Richard Corliss, Time

“It goes from exciting to exhausting mighty quickly and the final act, involving a standoff between a lifeboat and three ships from the U.S. Navy, seems to go on and on forever.” —David Edwards, Daily Mirror

“As cinema it plays a lot like a knockoff of Zero Dark Thirty, without the same ambition and scale and with dramatically lower stakes.” —Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

Dallas Buyers Club

Focus Features

“Using the controversial and difficult nature of its subject matter as a facade for what is just half-baked product, it is everything cheap, shallow, and pandering about American independent cinema.” —Jay Antani, Cinemawriter

“Despite its good intentions and moxie-filled performances, Dallas Buyers Club is ultimately marred by its impulse to compromise its freewheeling humanity in favor of crowd-pleasing tropes.” —Nick McCarthy, Slant Magazine

“The movie adds vulgar emotional sweetener. It’s Erin Cockovich.” —Wesley Morris, Grantland

Gravity

Warner Bros. Pictures

“For all the complicated CG wizardry and ostensibly visionary gloss of Gravity, it is aesthetically and structurally regressive, a film different from its thematic predecessors only in how good the effects technology is.” —Jake Cole, Movie Mezzanine

“The gut-wrenching, immersive elements in Gravity are almost above reproach, but ultimately, the experience of watching Ryan grab for objects in space is more compelling than her grasping for significance in her life. It’s all effect and little affect.” —Nick McCarthy, Slant Magazine

“As [Alfonso] Cuarón spells out in his intro: ‘Life in space is impossible.’ So is forming any emotional attachment to Gravity.” —Erick Weber, Final Cut on Film

Her

Warner Bros. Pictures

“The story is too slender for its two-hour running time, and the pace is lugubrious, as though everyone in front and behind the camera were depressed.” —Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“We see [Joaquin] Phoenix in close-up after close-up blathering away, usually about his feelings, about which he never tires of talking. It goes on too long by at least 20 minutes. I’m sorry, but I was almost as bored by him as I was by Her.” —James Verniere, Boston Herald

“The movie has earned critical acclaim for capturing the zeitgeist of gadget-based narcissism, though it strikes me as the sort of thing made by someone who could use some actual problems to worry about.” —J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader

Nebraska

Paramount Vantage

“As an ode to fading small towns, and to the state its director once called home, it feels downright disingenuous.” —A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club

“You have to wonder, though, whether either Montanas or Nebraskans would warm to [Alexander] Payne’s group portrait, which veers between social satire and deadpan contempt. Released in black-and-white, the film suggests that the region is too poor, or the inhabitants too dour, to be shown in color.” —Richard Corliss, Time

“It’s hard to see much self-identification in the comedy he creates from these small-minded, materialistic rubes, and even if you accept the film as an exercise in self-loathing — hard to do, given the arch tone of [Bob] Nelson’s script — that doesn’t make its portrait of the middle-class Midwest any less condescending.” —Guy Lodge, HitFix

Philomena

The Weinstein Company

“The supremely gifted Judi Dench pulls a De Niro here, trading on her legend in the service of a profitable triviality. I’ve seen Lifetime movies with more artistic integrity than this adaptation of Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” —Rick Kisonak, Seven Days

“The film is a witless bore about a ninny and a jerk having one of those dire, heavily staged, only-in-movies odd-couple road trips.” —Kyle Smith, New York Post

“The film evinces obvious affection for Philomena, celebrating her simplicity and cherishing the surprises she provides, but it never comes close to understanding her complexities.” —Jesse Cataldo, Slant Magazine

The Wolf of Wall Street

Paramount Pictures

“A horrible mistake dressed up in juvenile gross-out drag — the worst writing [Martin] Scorsese has ever been associated with.” —Kelly Vance, East Bay Express

“Scorsese’s camera energizes all he can, in every way he can as a propulsive filmmaker. But around the 80-minute mark, the bullet train of a protagonist begins to run in circles, however maniacally. The movie’s benumbed by its own parade of bad behavior.” —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“Scorsese’s keyed-up, irreverent tone frequently fails to distinguish itself from the grunting arias sung by the oily paragons of commerce his film evidently intended to deflate.” —Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine

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