The Oscar nominations came out on Thursday morning, and as of now, it's anybody's race. Some say 12 Years a Slave has it in the bag, while others think American Hustle will snatch the Best Picture trophy. There's no one way to know for sure — does the Academy weigh emotional impact? Flashy performances? The film's lasting message?
How about titles? Yes, you can tell a lot about a film by its title, and about its Oscar chances, too. We've compiled some handy data about each Best Picture nominee's title and what it says about the film's chances come time to hand out the awards. (You can also head over to BBC America to check out this fantastic infographic that predicts the Best Picture winner!)
Movies with the word "America" in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (An American in Paris; American Beauty) ...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (America, America; American Graffiti)
Movies whose titles refers to a crime or act of duplicity......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (Mutiny on the Bounty; The Sting)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 11 (The Racket; She Done Him Wrong; Imitation of Life; Libeled Lady; Grand Illusion; The Caine Mutiny; The Hustler; Mutiny on the Bounty; The Killing Fields; The Fugitive; Traffic)
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Movies with a main character's surname in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 10 (The Great Ziegfeld; Ben-Hur; Tom Jones; Patton; Annie Hall; Kramer vs. Kramer; Gandhi; Schindler’s List; Forrest Gump; Shakespeare in Love)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 45 (Disraeli; Trader Horn; Arrowsmith; The House of Rothschild; Alice Adams; Captain Blood; David Copperfield; Ruggles of Red Gap; Anthony Adverse; Dodsworth; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; The Story of Louis Pasteur; The Life of Emile Zola; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Kitty Foyle; Citizen Kane; Here Comes Mr. Jordan; Sergeant York; Mrs. Miniver; The Magnificent Ambersons; Madame Curie; Wilson; Mildred Pierce; Johnny Belinda; Julius Caesar; Mister Roberts; The Diary of Anne Frank; Elmer Gantry; Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Mary Poppins; Doctor Zhivago; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Doctor Dolittle; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Barry Lyndon; Prizzi’s Honor; Jerry Maguire; Good Will Hunting; Saving Private Ryan; Erin Brokovich; Capote; Michael Clayton; Lincoln)
Movies whose titles include a military rank......to win a Best Picture Oscar: o...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 6 (The Smiling Lieutenant; Captain Blood; Captains Courageous; Sergeant York; Saving Private Ryan; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World)
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Focus Features via Everett Collection
Movies with a city name in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 4 (Cimarron; Casablanca; An American in Paris; Chicago)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 18 (Hollywood Revue; Shanghai Express; San Francisco; In Old Chicago; The Philadelphia Story; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Casablanca; Roman Holiday; Peyton Place; Judgment and Nuremberg; Chinatown; Nashville; Fargo; L.A. Confidential; Gangs of New York; Munich; Letters from Iwo Jima; Midnight in Paris)
Movies whose titles seem like they should probably have a possessive apostrophe, but don't......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Boys Town; Kings Row; Dead Poets Society; Howards End)
Warner Bros via Everett Collection
Movies whose titles are a single intangible noun......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (Crash)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 8 (Alibi; Suspicion; Crossfire; Deliverance; Traffic; Atonement; Inception; Moneyball)
Movies whose titles end in "ity"......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (From Here to Eternity)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 3 (Double Indemnity; Atlantic City; Sense and Sensibility)
Warner Bros via Everett Collection
Movies whose titles are made up three letters or fewer......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Z; JFK; Ray; Up)
Movies that have the word "her" in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (Ben-Hur)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 1 (Hannah and Her Sisters)
Paramount via Everett Collection
Movies with U.S. state names in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (In Old Arizona; Mississippi Burning) *Note: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gangs of New York both refer to cities, not states, and the "Virginia" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a human woman.
We loved Nebraska, but this is really the only one we could think of for it. Sorry, Alexander Payne. Sorry, everybody.
Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
Movies whose titles are just a main character's first name......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 5 (Rebecca; Hamlet; Marty; Gigi; Oliver!)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 20 (Skippy; Cleopatra; Ivanhoe; Shane; Fanny; Cleopatra; Alfie; Lenny; Rocky; Julia; Norma Rae; Tess; Bugsy; Babe; Elizabeth; Seabiscuit; Ray; Juno; Precious; Hugo)
Movies whose titles were mispronounced by Leonardo DiCaprio on live television......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 0 (There can be only one Philomania.)
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Movies with numbers in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 6 (It Happened One Night; Around the World in 80 Days; The Godfather Part II; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Million Dollar Baby; Slumdog Millionaire)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 36 (Seventh Heaven; Five Star Final; One Hour with You; 42nd Street; The Private Life of Henry VIII; One Night of Love; Broadway Melody of 1936; A Tale of Two Cities; Three Smart Girls; One Hundred Men and a Girl; Four Daughters; One Foot in Heaven; 49th Parallel; Henry V; Miracle on 34th Street; A Letter to Three Wives; Twelve O’Clock High; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Three Coins in the Fountain; The Ten Commandments; 12 Angry Men; The Defiant Ones; A Thousand Clowns; Anne of the Thousand Days; Five Easy Pieces; Born on the Fourth of July; The Godfather Part III; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Apollo 13; The Sixth Sense; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; District 9; 127 Hours; Toy Story 3; Zero Dark Thirty)
Movies that refer to a unit of time in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (The Best Years of Our Lives; Around the World in 80 Days) ...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 9 (One Hour with You; Lady for a Day; The Yearling; The Longest Day; Anne of the Thousand Days; Dog Day Afternoon; Remains of the Day; The Hours; 127 Hours)
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Paramount via Everett Collection
Movies whose titles include mention of an animal......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 3 (The Deer Hunter; Dances with Wolves; The Silence of the Lambs)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 17 (Of Mice and Men; The Little Foxes; The Maltese Falcon; The Ox-Bow Incident; The Snake Pit; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Lion in Winter; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Dog Day Afternoon; The Elephant Man; Raging Bull; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Black Swan; War Horse)
Movies whose titles include the name of a street......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (The Broadway Melody) ...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 5 (42nd Street; The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Broadway Melody of 1936; Miracle on 34th Street; Sunset Boulevard)
Cast your bets, folks. Captain Phillips looks like it has this one locked down.
*Special thanks to Hollywood.com writers Julia Emmanuele and Jordan Smith for helping to compile data and entertaining the madness of this post, and to our CTO Greg Zimerman for recovering hours of work after my Word Doc crashed. You're a hero, Greg.
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In the last seven years Denzel Washington has paired with director Tony Scott on four hyperkinetic ultra-saturated feature films: Man on Fire Deja Vu The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable. When he strays from the time-honored action collaboration you'd think the man would take a break from the format. Not so—as Washington's new film Safe House clearly demonstrates.
Daniel Espinosa director of the acclaimed Swedish crime drama Snabba Cash shoots his espionage thriller with Scott-ian flair complete with rapid camera movement a palette of eye-scorchingly bright colors and fragmented editing. If Safe House was emotionally compelling the stylistic approach might make the narrative sizzle—but the script is as simple and familiar as they come: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent with a monotonous gig. He's a safe housekeeper tasked with maintaining a stronghold in South Africa in case the feds need to stop by for some…interrogating. After a year of begging for field work and keeping the joint tidy Weston finds himself embroiled in the investigation of Tobin Bell (Denzel Washington) an ex-CIA notorious for selling information on the black market. A group of agents bring Bell in to Weston's safe house for a routine waterboarding but everything is thrown into chaos when the lockdown is infiltrated by machine-wielding baddies looking to put a bullet in Bell's head. To keep the captor alive Weston goes on the run with Bell in hand…never knowing exactly why everyone wants the guy dead.
The setup for Safe House provides Washington and Reynolds two fully capable action stars to do their thing and to do it well. The two characters have their own defining characteristics that each actor bites off with ferocity: Reynolds' Weston is a man drowning in circumstance built to kick ass but still out of his league and just hoping to get back to his gal in one piece. Bell has years of experience boring into the heads of his opponents and Washington plays him with the necessary charisma and confidence that make even his most despicable characters a treat to watch.
But the duo fight a losing battle in Safe House contending with the script's meandering action and ambiguous stakes that turn the Bourne-esque thriller into a grueling experience. Much of the movie is an extended chase scene where the object of the bad guys' desire is never identified. It's a mystery!—but the lack of info comes off as confusing. Safe House cuts back and forth between the compelling relationship between Weston and Bell and a war room full of exceptional actors (Vera Farmiga Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepherd) given nothing to do but spurt straightforward backstory and typical "there's no time Mr. ______!" exclamatory statements. Caking it is Espinosa's direction which lacks any sense of coherent geography. The action is never intense because you have no idea who is going where and when and why.
Safe House is a competently made movie with enough talent to keep it afloat but without any definable hook or dramatic emphasis it plays out like an undercooked version of the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott formula. Which is unfortunate as four solid ones already exist.
What do you call a bunch of Australians tossed down a hole? A good start. I kid of course – “a mediocre movie” is more like it. And that’s precisely what you get with Alister Grierson’s Sanctum a 3D thriller in which a crew of cave divers struggle to survive after a monsoon-driven flood pins them thousands of feet underground.
Sanctum is set in Papua New Guinea but was mostly shot in the sprawling caves of South Australia. The cast is dominated by local actors many of whom will prove unrecognizable to moviegoers residing above the equator – which frankly isn’t all that much of a hindrance since the lot of them will be killed off long before the closing credits roll.
The cast’s lone non-Aussie – and the film’s most familiar face – is Welshman Ioan Gruffudd who plays Carl a gratingly cocky American industrialist whose wealth funds the whole caving (the word “spelunking” is never used much to my chagrin) expedition and whose extreme-tourist bent compels him to come along for the ride. He also brings his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson) whose strong-mindedness you just know is going to become a liability when the sh*t hits the fan.
The sh*t in the case of Sanctum is an apocalyptic storm that arrives days before it’s supposed to triggering an avalanche of boulders that effectively seals off all possible exits. With the water level rising and a near-zero chance of rescue the group’s hardened no-nonsense leader Frank (Richard Roxburgh) decrees that their best hope of survival lies in finding an alternate means of escape via an unexplored stretch of tunnels thought to lead to the ocean.
The situation grows gradually more desperate and characters succumb one by one to the hazards of the deep in fairly predictable disaster-flick order. (The aging female is first to go followed by the ethnic guy etc.) Sanctum cycles through a series of grisly fatalities – including one delightful bit in which a shock of hair caught in a climbing apparatus results in an impromptu scalping – until finally the last man standing is Frank’s son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) a moody 17-year-old who has heretofore spent most of the film acting out with childish spite toward his neglectful dad. Out of supplies exhausted but with his exquisite surfer-dude haircut thankfully still intact Josh must complete the remainder of the harrowing journey alone.
Director Grierson packs Sanctum with some truly breathtaking visuals. The underwater cinematography shot with 3D cameras Grierson spent six-plus years developing is particularly stunning. But the film’s script clearly didn’t receive as much care and attention as its cameras. The action is occasionally gripping but the story lacks suspense and its tone largely fails to evoke the gnawing claustrophobia that presumably festers in such a dark musty subterranean labyrinth. Moreover it’s littered with truly execrable dialogue made worse by ADR that sounds as if it were recorded in a cozy basement studio.
Executive producer James Cameron is featured prominently in Sanctum’s advertising campaign but the film itself bears scant evidence of his involvement save perhaps for the splendid underwater scenes. I half-suspect he viewed the project as a tool to develop and test his 3D technology in preparation for his amphibious Avatar sequel. He certainly didn’t use it to brush up on his storytelling skills.