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The 86th annual Oscars airs March 2 on ABC.

Oscar’s best picture nominees — the envelope, please

At this stage in the game, the 86th annual Academy Awards have become a predictable acting race with Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, and Jared Leto as locks for Best Actress, Actor, and Supporting Actor respectively. Even “12 Years a Slave” has all but secured Nyong’o as Best Supporting Actress after her SAG Award win — though the ever charming Jennifer Lawrence could possibly sneak in and swoop it up at the last minute.

The real action is in the movies themselves. While movies whose directors have been nominated are seen as more likely to take the top prize (see asterisks), my picks break a bit from that tradition.

9) Nebraska* — The everyman story of Nebraska brings father and son together as they journey to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim a sweepstakes prize that doesn’t exist. Shot in black and white, the film captures what it means to appreciate the things you have when others try to wrestle them away from you.

8) Philomena — The true story of a woman trying to reunite with the son taken away from her 50 years ago, Philomena comes to life with the outstanding acting of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Tragic and heartfelt, the story uncovers a truth that Philomena may not want to hear.

7) The Wolf of Wall Street* — “Greed is good” has resurrected its mantra amid a sea of profanity in Martin Scorsese’s latest though not greatest film. Wolf follows the rise and fall of real life stockbroker Jordan Belfort as he plunders the pockets of the little man and lives a grandiose life without remorse.

6) Dallas Buyers Club — When Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with HIV in 1986, he crosses the border into Mexico and learns about alternative treatments that could extend his life and that of scores of others. The story follows his embittered battle with the FDA to do the right thing. Powerfully delivered and affecting.

5) Captain Phillips — The mounting tension is tangible when American cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama is hijacked by Somali pirates in the fact- based Phillips story. Self control evolves into terror in the face of uncertain death. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Tom Hanks was robbed of that best actor nomination.

4) 12 Years A Slave* — A free man is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Director Steve McQueen’s film version of America’s shameful past. The star-studded drama stands as a disturbing reminder, if a bit heavy handed, of the cruelty that failed to see all men as equals.

The acting ensemble portrays the range of morality with exquisite depth.

3) Her — Say what you will but Her is one of the year’s best films. Brilliantly stylized by writer and director Spike Jonze, Her tells the tale of a man who falls in love with his computer’s operating system, showing that emotions and not physicality are needed to sustain a meaningful connection.

2) Gravity* — Alfonso Cuaron directs this film about a medical engineer and an astronaut caught in a tragic accident that destroys their space shuttle. Survival is only possible when instinct sets in and the breadth of their humanity guides at least one of them to safety. Gravity is thematically and visually breathtaking with enough adrenaline to fuel a shuttle pod.

1) American Hustle* — The Inception of deceit – a con within a con within a con. How deep it goes you will only know once you watch the captivating finale. For sheer entertainment value alone, Hustle cannot be beat.

The scripting is quick backed by stellar acting and costuming that knocks your socks off.

Dr. Tanya Feke is a family physician and guest columnist for the Record-Journal and Town Times. Check out more movie reviews at, Facebook page (Diagnosis Life), or Twitter (@tanyafeke).

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