LUMBERTON — The majority of this year’s Academy Award-nominated films didn’t screen in Robeson County. In an effort to make up for the lack of Oscar contenders at the local box office, Richard Sceiford, executive director for the Carolina Civic Center in downtown Lumberton, curated the “Best of the Year” film series.
“We have, for a number of years, run classic films, and I felt it was time to experiment with more recent movies,” Sceiford said. “I wanted to do high quality, which is why, starting off, I’ve gone with mostly Academy Award nominees or films which have received a lot of critical acclaim.”
The series kicked off June 19 with “All Is Lost.” Directed by J.C. Chandor, the film has virtually no dialog and stars Robert Redford as a captain struggling to survive while adrift in the Indian Ocean.
Like other films in the series, “All Is Lost” has been available on video for several months, but a couch is a poor substitute for a cinema, according to Sceiford.
“It’s important to see them on a big screen in the format they were intended to be experienced,” he said. “I think it’s also an added feature to see them in a beautiful setting like the historic theater.”
Following a three-week hiatus, the series will pick back up on July 10 with “Captain Phillips.” Another thriller set in the Indian Ocean, the film is a dramatized account of the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama container ship by Somali pirates.
Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips” garnered six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for first-time performer Barkhad Abdi.
“If no one has seen that one yet, the drama just builds,” Sceiford said. “It’s amazing.”
A double-feature consisting of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and its sequel, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is set for July 17.
Based on J.R.R. Tolken’s 1937 fantasy novel “The Hobbit,” both films were directed by Peter Jackson and serve as prequels to his massively successful adaptation of the author’s “Lord of the Rings” series.
Sceiford said he plans to expand the center’s concessions menu to include more substantial offerings for moviegoers sticking through the films’ combined six-hour run time.
On July 31, the center will screen “American Hustle,” an ensemble crime comedy directed by David O. Russel and starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams. Set in the late-1970s and inspired by true events, the film depicts a triangle of corruption between FBI agents, politicians and con artists.
“American Hustle” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The film also received nominations in all four acting categories.
“Philomena,” a Best Picture nominee that follows a disgraced government adviser-turned-journalist’s investigation into the whereabouts of a woman’s long-lost son, is scheduled for Aug. 7.
“All the films are just really good,” Scieford said. “But I’m particularity excited about ‘Philomena’ because the two leads, Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench, are my two of my favorites.”
Next up is “Dallas Buyers Club,” which is scheduled for Aug. 14. The drama stars Matthew McConaughey as a rodeo cowboy who, after being diagnosed with AIDS, begins smuggling unapproved drugs across the border to sell to other people suffering from the disease.
McConaughey nabbed a Best Actor statuette for his performance in the film, while co-star Jared Leto won for Best Supporting Actor.
The series will conclude on Aug. 21 with the Oscar winner for Best Documentary, “20 Feet from Stardom.” The film delves into the private lives of several prolific backup singers, including Darlene Love, best known for the holiday staple “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and Merry Clayton, whose voice can be heard on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and Lynryd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“That’s the sleeper; the best kept secret of the whole series,” Sceiford said. “You have these amazing women and their voices and interviews with people like Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen.”