The Golden Steve nominees: the thinking person’s Oscars

The biggest movie maven I know is my nephew Steven, who seems to know everything about movies, directors, and actors. I once asked him, on the spur of the moment, if he realized that Edward G. Robinson was Jewish. He not only answered, “Of course,” but then gave me the man’s real name: Emanuel Goldenberg.

Steven watches movies compulsively, often while consuming gallons of Mountain Dew and pallets of Doritos. His opinions are almost invariably sound—although I have to say that we nearly came to blows over the dreadfully pompous movie “The Tree of Life,” which he thought was fantastic. He writes about movies sporadically at his website “Truth at 24,” whose title comes from Jean-Luc Godard’s statement, “Cinema is truth at 24 frames per second.”

At any rate, Steven annually announces his choice of nominees for the best movies, actors, directors, etc. of the year—his equivalent of the Oscar nominations. But his “Oscars” are called, with his characteristic modesty, the “Golden Steves”. With more of that admirable modesty, he describes the purpose of the awards and when the winners will be announced:

Far and away the most coveted of motion picture accolades, Golden Steves are frequently described as the Oscars without the politics. Impervious to bribery, immune to ballyhoo, unswayed by sentiment and riddled with integrity, this committee of one might legitimately be termed “fair-mindedness incarnate.” Over 160 of the year’s most acclaimed features were screened prior to the compilation of this ballot. Winners will be announced Saturday, March 1, 2014.

The nominees for the Golden Steves (six per category) were announced on Friday.  I’m putting below his nominations for best picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor, and supporting actress, but to see the rest (screenplay, animations, foreign films, song, etc.) you’ll have to go to his site.

I’m ashamed to admit that, because I’m writing a book, my moviegoing has been terribly sparse this year, and the only “best picture” nominee I’ve seen is “Before Midnight,” which was a creditable end to the Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy trilogy, though I admit that I saw it only because I’m in love with Julie Delpy. But you can trust the nominations below: any movie Steven recommends is worth seeing—except “The Tree of Life.”

Best Picture
Before Midnight
Blue Jasmine
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Past

Best Director
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Ethan and Joel Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Asghar Farhadi, The Past
Spike Jonze, Her
Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
Jeff Nichols, Mud
Best Actor
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Robert Redford, All Is Lost
Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Suzanne Clement, Laurence Anyways
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emilie Dequenne, Our Children
Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color
Best Supporting Actor
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Andrew Dice Clay, Blue Jasmine
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Rutger Hauer, Il Futuro
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Sam Rockwell, The Way Way Back
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Scarlett Johansson, Her
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Vanessa Redgrave, Unfinished Song
Lea Seydoux, Blue Is the Warmest Color
June Squibb, Nebraska
All this has inspired me to take a few hours off and go to the movies today: Doc Films (the campus movie society) is showing the highly-rated “Enough Said.
Feel free to add your own favorites of the year; the list of Os**r nominations can be found here.


  1. gbjames
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen any of these movies except 12 Years a Slavee which Steve only nominates for Best Supporting Actress. I guess I should see some of these before making my own list or arguing about these.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      (Oh.. and Best Actor, too.)

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sophisticated enough re: movies. I like going to action, science fiction & comic book hero movies. I have a friend who is a movie connoisseur. He is a movie editor for a living and he’s working on his own movie. I’m sure I’m a complete Cretan to him. 🙂

    • Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Similar here. Also animated movies. What has been a pleasant surprise for me (maybe low standards on my part) is I liked the Superman movie despite the heavy religion and Midwest value tone, and I also was surprised that I liked The Lone Ranger.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        Those are on my to-watch list. I recently watched Thor 2, Elysium & The Hobbit (2). I enjoyed an older dark comedy called, It’s a Disaster with David Cross. OMG he was so funny in this.

        • Posted January 19, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          I have not seen that. Had to see The Hobbit twice. Fun, but what a bloated movie!

          • gbjames
            Posted January 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

            Bloated is a mild adjective. If Jackson had exhibited some self control and left out totally extraneous bits (like all the Orc stuff) he would have ended up with only two movies, but they would have been better movies. The only reason I wasn’t disappointed is that I entered the theater expecting what I got.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 19, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

              The second one was better. Mostly action.

              • Posted January 19, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

                I liked the dragon. Learned that the voice for the dragon is the actor who plays Sherlock Holmes in the current BBC series ‘Sherlock’. And Bilbo Baggins is played by the the actor who plays Watson in the same series.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 5:20 am | Permalink

                Smaug is fine. He belongs in the movie. But have of the film is just more of Jackson’s giant over-the-top Orc battles. They were over-done in LOTR, but at least they belonged in the story. The are out of place in the Hobbit. Also out of place… a lot of that Council of Elrond footage. Jackson couldn’t keep himself from repeating plot elements from LOTR into The Hobbit. It adds nothing and messes up the storyline. Self-indulgent special effects moviemaking. It wears thin.

                (Like too little butter spread over too much bread.)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

                I thought the spider scenes were well done.

              • darrelle
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

                Though I enjoyed the movie I was somewhat dissappointed in The Hobbit II. Mostly because it could have been so much better. Jackson had all of the ingredients for a great movie, but he over-cooked them. This fetish in action movies for taking over-the-top to ridiculous proportions just really turns me off.

                Prime example from the Hobbit II. Melting tons of gold in seconds? Rafting down a river of molten gold on a shield? Filling a mold the volume of an olympic swimming pool with it? Break the mold open and the molten gold holds that shape for awhile before suddenly acting like water? WTF? None of that crap was needed, which by itself doesn’t make it bad, but it was so moronic that it was indeed a bad thing. And there were many moments like that. Too bad because there were many good moments too.

                And Jackson’s depiction of Beorn? WTF? I am not one who thinks that movie adaptations must cleave to the book or else, but Jackson’s depiction of Beorn’s personality, the tone of the dwarves encounter with him, and even his physical appearance, were very different from the book. Certain aspects where opposite the original story. Like I said, that in itself doesn’t spoil it for me, but Jackson’s interpretation here sucked. Just my take on it.

              • darrelle
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

                Mark Sturtevant,

                Ahh, I had not noticed that before. Cumberbatch is his name I think, correct? I noticed him for the first time in the second Star Trek reboot movie where he played Kahn. Really liked him as an actor all around in that, but his voice. I found his voice to be mesmerizing. I could listen to him talk all day long.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

                darrelle, I had forgotten the rivers of molten gold. I completely agree, the moronic over-done BS would have ruined it for me, except that I went to the movie with low expectations based on the first Hobbit movie.

                The tragedy is that the basic story is excellent and there’s no reason this couldn’t have been an excellent movie… or pair of movies. Making a trilogy of The Hobbit is absurd, though. And nobody is going to do the book justice in film now in my lifetime.

              • gbjames
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

                My objection to the spider scenes, Diana, is not as great as to the Orc BS. But I think the story called for less Shelob-ish gigantism. It could have been perfectly terrifying had they been a little less grandiose. But overall, I was OK with them.

              • darrelle
                Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink


                You have explained very well why I am disappointed in the movie. Almost was very good, could easily have been with all the resources and talent applied to it. And now it is very unlikely that any one else will make another attempt in my lifetime.

                Like I’ve said I really don’t mind changes from the story, it just depends on whether they are done well or not. But I don’t understand the compulsion for stupid silly action stuff crammed in everywhere and the additional story tangents that are so poorly done they don’t seem to have any purpose whatsoever. Is the original story lacking in some way? Would it be too boring for people these days? I seriously doubt it.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      You’re from Crete?

  3. Jeffrey
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen a movie since The Stagecoach, with John Wayne. After I saw that I figured no-one could ever make a movie to match it, so I’ve never bothered.

    • Posted January 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing you didn’t see the John Wayne movie either, since it’s just called “Stagecoach”.

    • Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      It is the search, ‘the dance’ that matters. If you like westerns, then I suggest you try a list of highly rated western movies like Best Movie Westerns. On that list the one that stuck with me was Unforgiven, which I thought was terrific. Surprised to see 2007 version of 3:10 to Yuma on the list. I thought that was among the worst westerns ever made.

  4. Merilee
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    12 years a Slave was the best film I’ve seen in a long time ( and I see a fair humber of movies). Chiwetel Ejiofor was superb in it. I think that picture and actor deserve the Oscars.

    As much as I usually love Woody Allen, I was disappointed in Blue Jasmine, except for Kate Blanchett’s and Sally Hawkins’ fantastic acting ( loved Sally in Happy-Go-Lucky, too).

    Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are great togethet, but that trilogy i think is fun but not brilliant.

    Generally like Judi Dench, but found Philomena forgettable. Everyone in Nebraska was great!

    Still waiting to see Inside Llewyn Davis and Dallas Buyers’ Club.

    Btw, Jerry, Tree of Life was much less pretentious than Mallick’s later To the Wonder, which we saw at TIFF. I think I’ve had it with Mallick unless my bf drags me…

    Since you asked…:-)

    Ps. So why Os**r? There’s almost a cat hiding in thete!

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      I also heard that To the Wonder was far more flawed than Tree of Life.

      I thought Tree of Life was a bit too heavy-handed and was marred by several momentary lapses into a sort of saccharine New Agey sentimentality, but I wonder if a script doctor could have fixed this. Still I liked its quirkiness nonetheless.

  5. Merilee
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Please let us know how Enough Said was. I love Gandolfino and was heart- broken that we lost him so young.

    • Philip.Elliott
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Thoroughly enjoyed Enough Said, Gandolfini will be missed.

  6. Suri
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    The Tree of Life was awful!

    For those who love cine the IMDB app is a must.

    • Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      I saw it, and I did not get it. Just now I read the Wikipedia description, which explains the inner meaning behind the different characters as forces of nature. If I had read that before I saw the movie I might have enjoyed it. Maybe movie buffs see those inner meanings by instinct.

      • Suri
        Posted January 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

        I thought it was about god and going to heaven….awful anyway and Pitt is so overrated, can’t stand him.

  7. Comrade Carter
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is missing.

    Surely Ben Stiller is missing as best actor AND producer?

  8. Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The Steve nominees are substantially the same as everyone else’s, if you looked at the various critics organization noms, the Globes, SAG and Oscar picks.

    It’s still nice to have a movie nerd around you can talk to in person.

    The only film with pre-nomination “buzz” I thought deserved more attention was “Saving Mr. Banks”. Nominators who have spoken objected to the altering of historical facts in this “movie movie” about the making of Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, over the resistance of the book’s author. It’s a deeply moving film, with an extraordinary, nuanced performance by Emma Thompson.

    “Argo”, “Lone Survivor”, “American Hustle”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, heck I can’t think of a single movie adaptation that didn’t fudge the facts heavily in favor of crafting a better story. Maybe Steve knows one.

  9. Wowbagger
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad there’s someone else out there who doesn’t rate American Hustle that highly – don’t get me wrong; I thought it was a good film, just not a great one.

    • Merilee
      Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Agreed on American Hustle. Fun movie, but not memorable. Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful, though. ( and Christian Bale’s comb-over could compete with The Donald’s.)

      • Lianne Byram
        Posted January 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        I really enjoyed American Hustle – particularly Christian Bale’s performance. It isn’t often that I’m inspired to root for the ethically challenged 🙂

  10. John K.
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Nothing at all for The Wolf of Wall Street? That was one of the best movies I have seen in a decade, not that I would call myself a diligent moviegoer . . .

    • Kurtis Rader
      Posted January 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an exuberant movie and Leonard DiCaprio gave a performance that at least warrants consideration for best male actor of the year. But compared to so many of the other movies of 2013 it barely makes my top ten list. Had it been made a couple of years ago it would have ranked higher.

    • Posted January 20, 2014 at 3:35 am | Permalink

      I just saw Wolf of Wall Street & thought it was funny & painted an amazing picture of exuberant greed.

  11. kelskye
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    In any given year, I tend to watch the films of the previous years. So nominations like this are creating my “to-watch” list over the coming months.

    Besides, it’s all about the TV this year, Breaking Bad in particular.

  12. Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I am rooting for these nominations by Steven: Inside Llewyn Davis for best film, Rutger Hauer for best supporting actor, and the Coen boys for best director.

    Nothing like catching a film on Sundays. 🙂

    Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Can someone tell me why, when I tick both boxes to subscribe to a thread, it only works maybe 20% of the time?

    Sent from my iPad


  14. Moarscienceplz
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Over 160 movies this year? Does Steve even know what the word outdoors means?
    In any case, I am glad to see that Gravity did not make his lists. It was a pretty movie to look at, but that’s it. Personally, I wish I had spent that 90 minutes watching jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I can’t understand its award nominations.

    • Merilee
      Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Love those jellyfish in Monterey ( and the sea otters). I have no desire to see Gravity.

      • Posted January 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Gravity was implausible, but awesome to watch on the big screen. The trick for me was to understand that it was really science fiction. I enjoy Star Trek movies, so what the diff.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 19, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          Yeah it was one of the few movies where I actually found the 3D made the movie better instead of coming of as gimmicky.

    • Posted January 20, 2014 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      I agree about Gravity. Too lightweight for me, and when it ended, I was sitting there in the dark waiting for something else to happen. It could have used another 1/2 hour of something deeper and more Clooney.

  15. John Dentinger
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Inside Llewyn Davis was a fascinating experience: I really despised the guy after “the cat in the car” part, but Mr. Isaac was so good that I couldn’t walk out. Truly this was a guy that I loved to hate, and an Oscar–(or Steve–)worthy performance.

    • Posted January 20, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      I just saw a trailer & got the impression the cat is a major character…?

  16. Dan
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I saw Her a couple weeks ago and it was phenomenal, certainly the best movie I’ve seen in theaters in the last few years. It was funny, smart, and thought provoking.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Out of the Furnace, since a large part of it was filmed where I spend a lot of time. (And my green Ford Ranger appears in the background of one scene.)

  18. Stephen Barnard
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I wonder if you would consider asking Steven for his top ten picks available on Netflix streaming.

    • harrylime
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      It’s me, the eponymous Steve! I’m largely Netflix-dependent too, but their instant archive leaves much to be desired. (Ex: They have only one film by Hitchcock. ONE! Admittedly a great one, The Lady Vanishes. Let’s start the list with that.)

      Some other favorites:
      -Double Indemnity
      -The Lady Eve (makes a brilliant Stanwyck double bill with the above)
      -Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton’s masterpiece, barely 40 minutes long)
      -The Bicycle Thief (one of the jewels of Italian Neorealism)
      -Days of Heaven (Whatever your thoughts on Tree of Life, this is Malick at his best. Jerry credits it with the best color cinematography of all time.)
      -Raging Bull
      -12 o’Clock High (easily one of the top five WW2 movies, perhaps the most underrated)
      -A Fish Called Wanda (my pick for funniest movie of the last 30 years)

      You can also stream four of my documentary nominees — The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, The Square, and 56 Up, though please note the latter is eighth in a series (all available on instant and essential viewing).

  19. Kurtis Rader
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I average two movies a week at a theatre. I consider myself a cinephile. Three movies a week is truly impressive.

    Steve’s list is pretty close to mine. I would replace “Blue Jasmine” with “The Stories We Tell” for best picture. And as others have noted Gravity was a feast for the eyes, and as such deserves a nomination for cinematography, but doesn’t really deserve the attention it’s getting for an Oscar.

    I also don’t understand the dislike for “All is Lost” I’ve seen elsewhere. I’ve sailed off the coast of Oregon and Washington (traversing from Portland, OR to Vancouver, BC and back). The movie was unbelievably realistic. More importantly Robert Redford gave a gripping performance portraying the experience of solitary sailor not just when the shit hits the fan but also when things are on an even keel.

  20. Stephen Barnard
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t been to an actual “cinema” in at least three years, and probably never will again. By the time the prizewinners get to iTunes or Amazon or Netflix I’ve forgotten the titles.

  21. Posted January 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    I like when you write about your nephew, since he and I share an interest (I’m so-so at science, but have an MFA in film). But I agree about Tree of Life, which I found mildly insufferable until it killed my Blu-ray player (so I have yet to finish it). But Malick’s follow-up, To the Wonder, which I did finish, was even worse.

    I want to see 12 Years a Slave, but Steve McQueen has yet to demonstrate to me he can film a compelling narrative with his previous two pictures. Shame was, thematically, about the most PG NC-17 movie I’ve seen.

    The best movie I’ve seen so far in 2014 was made many years previous: The Browning Version.

  22. jwthomas
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    “Upstream Color” was the only inventive, fascinating and hypnotic film I saw this year. Everything else was just commerce.

  23. Kurt Helf
    Posted January 19, 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I’d be interested to know how you liked “Enough Said”. Excellent movie IMNSHO.

    • Posted January 20, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      Good but not great. Good acting, even by Julia Louis Dreyfus but esp. by Gandolfino. Some really good moments (when they look at each other’s teeth). Plot a bit contrived, esp. the inevitable happy ending, but all in all much better than the usual fare of romantic comedies.

  24. Posted January 20, 2014 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    It must be just me, but I balk at seeing any Woody Allen movies, ever again.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      I just don’t get Woody Allen, never have, haven’t yet. I am pretty sure the deficiency is in me and not Woody Allen because many people whose opinions I respect assure me that at least some of his stuff is special. I feel like I am missing out on something but, oh well.

      • Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        I do feel like I’ll be missing out on Blue Jasmine, as I’ve been told it’s good. However, I don’t want to help feather the nest of someone who has too many compelling questions about his integrity.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted January 20, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          There are both a lot of legitimate questions about Woody Allen’s integrity, but he is also the victim of a lot of disinformation. Many folks think he co-adopted and helped raise Soon-Yi which simply isn’t true. WA and Mia Farrow never lived together and WA’s first verbal exchange with Soon-Yi took place when she was 21 and a first year grad student.

          • Posted January 20, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

            It’s the recent ‘revelations’ by Dylan that I’m more concerned about. Too many questions about WA.

  25. Don Quijote
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I have to wait for the DVD’s to come out. Everything here in Spain is dubbed. It realy annoys me to hear great actors who’s voice is their trademark speaking in some Spanish actors vioce. Often the translation doesn’t work.

    I once saw an old John Wayne film where he bellys up to the bar in a salón and says. “Gimme a shot of redeye.” Translated it came out as. “Dame un chupito.”

  26. Daoud
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Tree of Life IS fantastic, particularly its use of such diverse and gorgeous music. It was the film’s use of music which really got me. But I’m a music guy, if you’re not…

  27. towlesda
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Count me as someone who loved Tree of Life, although Days of Heaven is my favorite Malick film. I took my wife to it while we were dating and feel lucky that we remained together (:

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