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If We Were Members of the Academy: 2014 Edition, Part 5
Moviegoers casts its votes for who’ll claim Oscar Gold at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. This week we'll tackle best picture and what could be the year’s single worst nomination.

Ladies and Gentleman, the 86th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by comedienne and Emmy-winning daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres, air this Sunday on ABC starting at 7 p.m. CST.

For the past five weeks, Moviegoers bloggers Mack Bates and Tom Fuchs have cast their votes for supporting actor and supporting actress races, the original screenplay and adapted screenplay races, the best director and best animated feature races, and in the best actor and best actress races.

Four short days before the festivities get underway at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Mack and Tom will cast their vote for the big prize of the night: best picture.

Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Mack’s Pick: I think this boils down to a three-way race really. David O. Russell’s freewheeling take on the FBI’s ABSCAM sting of the 1970s in American Hustle is the talk of the town – not to mention the zeitgeist. Even those who have problems with it admire it in one way or another. British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s unflinching look at the brutality of slavery in 12 Years a Slave is a bold, thought-provoking piece of filmmaking that came out of left field and rocked a lot of people to their core. And Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity broke new ground in the art of filmmaking. It took us on a joyride into the great wild yonder like no other space-set film has, including my personal childhood favorite Space Camp (1986) with Kate Capshaw, Kelly Preston, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan and a young Joaquin Phoenix. But, I digress. As much as I admire most of this year’s best picture nominees, I only heart one of these three frontrunners and that would be…12 Years a Slave. McQueen’s cinematic triumph is 2013’s best narrative-driven film.

Tom's pick: Although only about a third of my year-end best of list is represented in the nine Best Picture nominees, I have very little complaint with the Academy's choices overall. I will continue to state that American Hustle is unworthy of such recognition, but everything else lands firmly somewhere on my liked to loved spectrum. But if it were up to me, I'd be giving the statue to Her, which I consider to be one of the best movies of this young decade, let alone the previous year. Much like Michel Gondry did with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Spike Jonze has crafted a moving portrait of the way we connect with one another and how those connections slowly fray and eventually come apart. He captures the peculiar rhythm of a long-term relationship so beautifully here, and the fact that the film definitively sticks its flag in the realm of science fiction by the movie's end is like a delicious genre cherry on top of what was already a wonderful cinematic desert. I don't think it's an understatement to say that with this and The Master, Joaquin Phoenix has taken the mantle of America's best living actor – taking a film that could absolutely crumble with the wrong leading man and making it soar. There's a very thin line with the premise that would’ve crossed over to creepy and uncomfortable if Phoenix's performance wasn't so massively empathetic. And Scarlett Johansson crafts an entirely believable character solely out of dialogue, making the OS Samantha come to life inside of our hearts and minds. It's a minor miracle of a motion picture.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

You Were Shafted: FrozenFruitvale Station, Inside Llewyn Davis, The World's End, Upstream Color, Short Term 12, Before Midnight, Stoker

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