Oscars 2014: Take our Best Picture poll

Nominees for Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards, clockwise, from top left: "American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "12 Years a Slave," "Philomena," "Nebraska" and "Her." CBS News

The Academy Awards will be presented, finally, on Sunday, March 2, with one of the tightest Best Picture races in recent memory.

Check out these CBS News interviews and features about the nine nominated films, and then vote in our poll below on which movie you think should take the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.


"American Hustle" (Columbia Pictures)

Director by David O. Russell ("Three Kings," "The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook") cultivates a disequilibrium that liberates actors, and captures the messy collision of self-interests at the heart of this tragic-comedy we call American life, said "Sunday Morning" film critic David Edelstein.

Based on the infamous Abscam sting operation, "American Hustle" stars Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, a fictionalized version of real-life con man Mel Weinberg. Rosenfeld gets hired by the FBI to help with one of their cases and partners up with agent Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper. Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence also star.

Many of the cast members have previously worked with Russell. At the film's New York red carpet premiere, Bale (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for "The Fighter") told CBSNews.com's Ken Lombardi that he leapt at the chance to work with Russell again.

"I like the turmoil. I like the spontaneity. I like the very creative chaos that is generated on all of David's sets," he said.


"Captain Phillips" (Columbia Pictures)

In April 2009, an American ship captain was held at gunpoint by four Somali pirates inside a lifeboat. The U.S. Navy was on the scene, but Richard Phillips did not see how they could possibly rescue him.

"I did not foresee a good ending," Phillips told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, "because I saw the determination that the pirates had, and they weren't going to give me up. I was hoping for a rescue, but I thought the chances were slim-to-none that that would be successful."

Paul Greengrass, director of the film "Captain Phillips," sees Phillips as the quintessential Everyman: "An ordinary man in an extraordinary situation, kidnapped on the high seas . . . Can the Navy get there in time? What's he going to do in a confined space with four men who are intent on taking him back [to Somalia], ransoming him to the highest bidder?

Tom Hanks, as the captain of a giant container ship, is up against a pirate captain played by Barkhad Abdi, an unknown Somali-American with no real acting experience. It's the haves of the global economy versus the have-nots.

"At the heart of this film is Tom Hanks coming face-to-face with a captain from another side of the world, and that trial of strength is really what the film's all about," said Greengrass.


Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

"Dallas Buyers Club" is based on the life of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic cowboy-turned-crusader after he finds out he's HIV positive.

How many times was the film turned down? "Hundred and thirty-seven times," McConaughey told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Lee Cowan. "That was the final tally."

Why was it such a hard picture to get made? "You read that one liner -- period piece, AIDS, drama with a homophobic hero -- those ingredients don't make anyone go, Oh I'm gonna really hear the change in my pocket. I'm gonna really be making money on that!" McConaughey laughed.

Jared Leto plays Rayon, a transgender AIDS patient with a drug habit, who partners with Woodroof to set up a business making drugs available to HIV-positive patients whose prospects were otherwise thwarted by the FDA approval process. Leto (who shed a whopping 30 to 40 pounds for his performance) has already won the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe, as well as a slew of critics' group prizes, and is a front-runner for the Oscar.

"I think it's great," Leto told CBSNews.com's Lauren Moraski about the critical acclaim surrounding "Dallas Buyers Club." "I've been part of a lot of films that haven't turned out as well as you [would have] hoped. You go in with good intentions. But when you make small independent films most of the time, they break your heart. So when they do survive, it's a wonderful thing to celebrate -- a film, a performance, a director."


"Gravity" (Warner Brothers)

The science fiction blockbuster "Gravity," filmed in 3-D in a seamless blend of stage photography and computer-generated graphics, is one of the rare movies that expands what's possible for cinema. Director James Cameron called it "the best space film ever."

It comes from the imagination of a father-son team of director Alfonzo Cuaron and his son, screenwriter Jonas Cuaron.

Alfonso Cuaron told the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts that he has been thinking about making a movie like this since he was a kid (growing up he wanted to be an astronaut), but for this film there was no existing technology to capture the story.

"So, we had to develop the technology," he said. "I think that technology and how we put it together is interesting, but I think, with all this technology, what really makes this film is Sandra's performance."

Bullock told "CBS This Morning" that she was not only "shocked" that the story of an astronaut stranded in outer space after a catastrophic event was written for a woman, but by how it was written as well.

"Usually, it gets very soft and ... girly. I love a girly moment, but it didn't have a place in this, nor did they put it in there."

Cuaron said that she was adamant that the character not have a "hint of damsel in distress."


"Her" (Warner Brothers)

Director Spike Jonze has wowed audiences with his hallucinatory tales of human emotions gone messily awry ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation"), and of innocents rejecting the contemporary world ("Where the Wild Things Are").

In "Her," the tendency of humans to become too reliant upon their technological devices is taken to a radical extreme, with messy emotional fallout. Despite its sci-fi trappings and quirky humor, it is one of the most perceptive tales about romance to come along to the movies in a very long time.

In the not-too-distant future, an operating system complete with artificial intelligence can become the user's personal assistant, confidante, motivational coach, BFF or lover. And when the voice of the computer program is that of Scarlett Johansson, it's not too much of a stretch to believe that Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) could fall head over heels for her ... uhm, it.

Jonze, who wrote the script, was inspired years ago by now-ancient IM software that is programmed to engage the user with normal-seeming responses. "Her" asks, how would a real form of AI engage with a person, and how might that AI (and the human) be altered by the experience?


Nebraska (Paramount Vantage)

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Paramount Vantage

In "Nebraska," Bruce Dern plays the cantankerous and not-so-gracefully-aging Woody Grant, who insists on walking across four states to claim sweepstakes winnings, which his son (played by "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Forte) says don't exist.

"I knew when I saw the script on paper that I had to play the role," Dern told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Lee Cowan. "I don't mean THEY wanted me to have to do it, but Bruce Dern had to find a way to be able to play this role."

The result: the Best Actor prize at the Cannes International Film Festival, and nominations for the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and the Academy Award.

Dern's co-star, veteran actress Juen Squibb, steals her scenes as his tart-tongued wife who, she says, has no filter: "Absolutely whatever she thinks comes out of her mouth."

Also, "She still thinks of herself as a sexy broad, even at the age she is."


"Philomena" (Weinstein Company)

Based on a true story, "Philomena" stars Judi Dench as an unwed Irish woman forced to give up her toddler 50 years earlier. Steve Coogan, the film's co-writer, plays the reporter who tells her story.

Coogan told the co-hosts of "CBS This Morning" that reading the story of Philomena Lee in the paper moved him to tears, and compelled him to write the screenplay "because, in some ways, Philomena could be anyone's mother, she could be anyone's grandmother.

"The two of them had been looking for each other for years, without each other knowing," he said.

Coogan's character, Martin Sixsmith, joins Dench on a journey to find Philomena's long-lost child. "In some ways, it's a road movie -- a buddy movie, an odd couple," he said.

"There's a lot of humor, a lot of comedy in the film, which I think people don't expect."


"12 Years a Slave" (Fox Searchlight)

"12 Years a Slave," by British director Steve McQueen, is based on a narrative published in 1853 by Solomon Northup, a married musician who awakened in the nation's capital in chains and at the mercy of slave traders.

Without papers to prove his free status, Northup was transported across the Mason-Dixon Line to the Deep South, beginning a wrenching odyssey that would have sent most souls to the pits of despair.

In short order, Northup experiences the degradations of a human being that is treated as property, whether from the mercantile interests of businessmen haggling over the prices of human chattle, to the arrogance of overlords bending slaves to their will, through the whip, the rope or the Bible.

What makes this story particularly noteworthy is the lack of sentimentality in its telling -- while it features brutality (beatings, whippings, lynchings, rapes), it also conveys the icy chill of power exercised without remorse, as when men and women of the landed gentry were complicit in separating slave mothers from their children, to maximize profit. The quiet desperation of the slaves turns into a strait-jacket, made all the more intolerable by the master's assurance that their emotional pain will ebb.

McQueen told "CBS This Morning," with regards to the film's violence, "There's not cutting corners here. . . . It's necessary. It's a huge part of history and a part of history that needs to be visualized, needs to be told."

McQueen could be the first black director to win the Best Director Oscar.


"The Wolf of Wall Street" (Paramount Pictures)

Leonardo DiCaprio was desperate to make "The Wolf of Wall Street," a vibrant and polarizing look at the greed and excess of the bull market of the 1990s -- especially one charismatic, almost cult-like broker named Jordan Belfort.

DiCaprio was intrigued by Belfort's autobiography, an unvarnished tale of drug abuse, and abuse of his clients, cheating investors out of millions, before going to prison for securities fraud and money laundering.

DiCaprio shopped the movie around for seven years, with no takers. Even director Martin Scorsese was reluctant at first.

Why so obsessed? "Because the world that we live in seems to be very surreal sometimes," DiCaprio told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Lee Cowan. "The incessant need for more is a part of our culture, and I see it all around me. And you know, doing this movie we wanted to put that darker nature of humanity up on screen."

His persistence paid off. His performance has already earned him a Golden Globe, and he's up for two Oscars -- his fourth nomination for acting, and also as the film's producer.


Oscars 2014: Best Picture

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