by Jim Harris

We live in stressful times, but at least we have the movies to lift our spirits, right? Just like during the Great Depression. Shirley Temple and all that. Well, maybe not. It is my sad duty to inform you that the Good Ship Lollipop has been hijacked by Somali pirates. After watching The Oscars (“Overrated So-Called Artists Receiving Statues”) last Sunday, I came away thinking that the entire Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to get on Prozac because, judging by what they considered to be the best films of 2013, they must be seriously depressed.

Only two of the nine “Best Picture”-nominated films even finished in the top 25 grossing movies of last year, so clearly the public has different tastes than the esteemed Academy. Since Americans spend over $9 billion a year on movies (not including the black-market prices at the concession stand), I will here attempt to give a quick, cautionary synopsis of the nominated films in order to keep you, the consumer, from wasting your money.

I base all of my opinions on conjecture, intuition, and stuff that I heard people say in the checkout line at Acme. These are all excellent ways to judge movies, short of actually seeing them, and I certainly don’t intend to see any of them.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Colorful villains, sex, drugs and a pet chimp. Sort of like a soft-porn “Wizard of Oz.”

Nebraska: A grouchy, unlovable old coot thinks he’s won a lottery (he hasn’t) and decides to walk hundreds of miles to collect his money. Along the way, he meets other grouchy old coots from his past, and they argue.

Gravity: Also known as “Attractive Middle-Aged Celebrities in Space.” The real star of this movie is Space.

Her: The protagonist falls in love with his Smartphone. As a love story, it’s not exactly Doctor Zhivago, but it is a good indication of how goofy we’ve become as a species. It’s like that mythical Greek dude who fell in love with his own reflection. Good luck with that, pal.

American Hustle: Lots of sleazy characters from the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Everyone has way too much hair. It takes place in Camden, New Jersey.

Captain Phillips: Involves those Somali pirates I mentioned earlier. They are real scary and not in a quirky, Johnny Depp way but in an “I’m having recurring nightmares” way. Takes place on a container ship in the Indian Ocean, which is a somewhat drab setting, but at least it’s slightly cheerier than Camden.

Philomena: A young unwed mother is forced to live in a convent full of mean Irish nuns (even scarier than Somali pirates) who give her baby away without telling her. Caution, may cause panic attacks in recovering Catholics.

12 Years a Slave: Well, it’s at least it wasn’t 13 years. That would’ve been REALLY unlucky.

Dallas Buyers Club: A homophobic redneck gets a fatal disease. Are you beginning to sense a trend here?

In case you haven’t noticed, not one of these movies is fun or lighthearted. And six of the nine are based on true stories, which makes them even more depressing. All of them contain one or more of the following elements: corruption, bigotry, senility, regular suffering, HORRIBLE suffering, death and more death.

I know what you’re thinking, “Well, what kinds of movies does JIM watch?” Thanks for asking. I recently saw “The Lego Movie in 3D.” It’s a comic fantasy about a Lego figure who struggles to keep the universe from being covered in glue. Since I refused to wear those 3D glasses (you never know where they’ve been), and everything looked fuzzy to me, I’m not sure if the characters were real people dressed up as Legos or just some sort of computer-generated things.  But it was still good clean fun.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I already know that human history is full of atrocities, disasters, immorality and stupidity, so when I spend my time and money going to the movies, I like to put all that angst on the back burner and just enjoy life for an hour or two. That is, if that idiot in front of me would just GET OFF HIS DAMN CELL PHONE!