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‘KWTD’: Film critic Josh Bell breaks it down (by ‘it,’ we mean the Oscars, of course)


Francois Duhamel / Sony-Columbia Pictures / AP

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence star in “American Hustle.”

The Kats Report Podcast

Previewing the Oscars

John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to Las Vegas Weekly film and TV critic Josh Bell about this year's Oscar nominations.

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This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sandra Bullock in a scene from "Gravity." The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2.

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Camila Alves and Matthew McConaughey with the award for best actor in a motion picture - drama for "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards NBC/Universal/Focus Features/E! Entertainment/Chrysler After Party on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 in Los Angeles.

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Amy Adams and David O. Russell, winners of Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical, for "American Hustle," celebrate in the press room at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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Cate Blanchett is magnetic in Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine.'

One of our favorite guests in the three-year run of “Kats With the Dish” has been Las Vegas Weekly film and TV critic Josh Bell. This is because co-host Tricia McCrone somehow finds a way to bait Bell into an argument. Most recently, the point of contention has been the series “Breaking Bad,” of which Dish is an avid fan (joining millions of others), while Bell gives the show only restrained praise.

Bell, whose column is unambiguously titled Josh Bell Hates Everything, was back for the show that aired Friday at 9 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM The Source. When not debating “Breaking Bad,” we talked of Academy Awards nominations in the lead-up to the March 2 Oscars telecast at 4 p.m. on ABC.

The highlighted chatter from Mr. Bell:

On the nominations for Best Film:

All of these films have been fairly successful at the box office, but other than “Gravity,” which would have been nominated anyway, these are not blockbuster movies. I think that “12 Years a Slave” or “Gravity” are the two top contenders, but, ultimately, I think that they’ll go for the movie that comes off the more serious film, “12 Years a Slave.”

My favorite among these films might be “American Hustle,” which I also think has a relative chance of winning. It’s one of those movies that most people liked “well enough.” I think that sometimes with the Oscars, if enough people put it as their No. 2, and no one is going to leave it out, that can rise to the top. The acting is excellent.

I like “Nebraska” a lot too. It is a much smaller-scale film, but I thought it was really well made.

I did not like “Philomena.” I felt that it was so disingenuously sentimental. I didn’t buy into it all. The true story of it is compelling. I probably would have appreciated a documentary about the story more so than the film they made out of it.

On the nominees for Best Actor:

I think that Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” has the momentum going in, and he’s had this huge career renaissance over the last couple years. A lot of times, these awards go to someone they think is sort of due for whatever reason. Even though this isn’t necessarily the best performance he has ever given, he has conducted his career in a way that the industry appreciates and has cumulated in this strong role, so they are going to give him an award. He was really good in “Dallas Buyers Club,” but I liked him better in “Mud,” which he’s not nominated for.

This category is kind of close. I thought Bruce Dern was great in “Nebraska.” He’s been a working actor for 40 or 50 years. I don’t think he’s ever gotten an Oscar before, so they might look at it that way. Chiwetel Ejiofor from “12 Years a Slave” gives a really intense, difficult performance. He might not go through the same physical transformation that McConaughey did, but it’s definitely a very physical role. I think all three of those actors were all even in terms of how impressed I was with their performances.

On the nominees for Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett is definitely going to win this award for “Blue Jasmine.” I really didn’t like “Blue Jasmine,” but I think she is a really good actress. I personally loved Amy Adams from “American Hustle.” She plays those layers really well. She would be my favorite of the nominees. I also think that Sandra Bullock was really strong in “Gravity.” I do think that Cate Blanchett is going to win because she’s won virtually every single award leading up to this. I think it would be a shock if she didn’t win.

On the nominees for Best Supporting Actor:

I think in this category, where I’m not crazy about most of these performances, Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club” is probably the strongest. There are some aspects of that role that are a little cliche or stereotypical, but I think he played it well even when those elements were there. He made it more human, and that is a mark of a good performance.

On the nominees for Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence I think is probably going to win this award. She’s really the one in “American Hustle” who’s gotten all of the attention. She is a really good actress, but in this particular movie, I think Amy Adams did a better job. I think Jennifer is great, but I didn’t look at it and think, “This is an amazing performance.” She was great in “Silver Linings Playbook,” which she deservingly won an Oscar for. She has that momentum.

June Squibb is very good in “Nebraska” and very funny, but the Oscars don’t usually go for comedic performances.

Lupita Nyong’o was very powerful in “12 Years a Slave” and there is sometimes that inclination to sort of give a coronation to some “new star,” but I think most likely Jennifer Lawrence will get it. Awards love Jennifer Lawrence.

On the nominees for Best Director:

I think Alfonso Cuaron is going to win this award because “Gravity” is such a technical achievement. Sandra Bullock is great in this movie in large part because the director is able to sit with her in this weird harness where she can’t see anything and help her create a character that understands the world she is in. Even if “Gravity” doesn’t win any of the other awards, I think he’ll probably win the directing award.

On what he believes were left out of the nominations:

Even though I don’t think it should have been nominated, but I’m surprised the documentary “Blackfish” wasn’t nominated for Best Documentary because I think the Academy loves documentaries that are more about pushing a message than they are about being good movies.

I’m surprised Robert Redford wasn’t nominated. He was fantastic in “All Is Lost” and really carries that movie on his own.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is another one that I thought was really left out. It got one nomination for cinematography, but Oscar Isaac was so good in that movie. His performance, the screenplay, the direction and the costume design were all great. That was a movie I expected to see all over the place, and it wasn’t. It’s disappointing.

I don’t think it was his best performances, but I’m surprised Tom Hanks wasn’t nominated for “Captain Phillips” or “Saving Mr. Banks.” He had two opportunities to get nominated, and he didn’t, which is very surprising for Tom Hanks.

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