Sunday, February 27, 2011
First up, we have our Best Picture nominated movies. Every year I struggle with how I would vote for this movie. What makes a best picture? Is it the overall acting? Direction? Writing? Ultimately, I believe that for a film to win Best Picture it has to have a cohesive and smooth synergy of all filmmaking aspects, and in addition, there should be a grounding in cultural relevance. A film which wins the best picture has to have a message of sorts for the audience. Many of this years' films had messages and that's one reason why not only is it a hard race for the nominees, but also why I won't be disappointed if any of the nominated films walk away with the statue. I saw all of the nominated films this year except for 127 Hours, I just couldn't bring myself to see it -- the trailers alone made me anxious and woozy as it was, I didn't think going to see the movie would be a wise decision. They were all strong films, but one has stood out in my mind the most and one which I believe should take home Oscar tomorrow night.
If you listen to the clamor this year, it seems as though everyone thinks the race is between The King's Speech or The Social Network. I personally thought Black Swan was a more interesting film. Academy voters take a lot into consideration when deciding which film gets their vote. While no one's giving me an official ballot (yet!), I tend to gravitate towards the films that stay with me the longest. Film as an art form has the power to take a story and tell it in a way that is visually interesting and this film plays with the audience's sense of narrative structure and toys with any notion of what they might expect a film to be able to do. However, based on that approach, maybe Inception would also have a fighting chance. I did love Inception and was really taken by the complete distruction of any sense of linear narration. But, that being said, while visually spectacular, the film was not conveying a concrete message. But more importantly, it's not a so-called Oscar film. Blockbuster movies have not traditionally had a lot of luck at the Academy Awards, and those which have tended to be the last in a series (think: Lord of the Rings) and The Academy is congratulating the filmmakers on a series well done. Not to mention Christopher Nolan was not nominated for a directing award. I often find it odd to nominate a film as being the best of the year but not the person who put it all together, (and now with the 10 nominated films and 5 nominated directors there are bound be key directors left off the list, but that's a discussion for another day). Another movie which I would be happy to see walk away with the statue is The Kids are Alright. The acting, direction, writing and overall story and is spot on and I believe it was an important message to tell the world, especially in our current heated political climate when it comes to (most things, but especially) issues of Gay Rights, especially Gay Marriage. The Social Network has a decent chance of winning, but as a film in its entirety doesn't hold up as much as some of the others. The acting's ok, the writing was excellent and the editing was interesting, but on a whole I wasn't overly wowed, and, personally, was a little turned off by its assertion as the film that defines a generation. Maybe that's the fault of the marketers, but it turned me off of the film because of it.
Do I, though, think that either of my two top pics will actually take home the statue? Nope. I think that it will ultimately go to The King's Speech. Voters love British period films, and this is one about beloved leaders to boot. Another Oscar fave that this film embodies is triumph over adversity. Who cares that it's about a royal who has all the money in the world? He had to overcome a real personal struggle and had to rely on his family and friends to do so. Not to mention the film on a whole was excellent from the acting to the direction to the costuming. So that's my prediction of who should win (Black Swan) and who will win (The King's Speech).
My vote for both who should and who will win goes to Colin Firth. Jeff Bridges got his award last year more, my guess, for his long and illustrious career than his performance in Crazy Heart. He was good in True Grit, but nothing spectacular and not a performance that is unlike anything ever seen in a Western. Jesse Eisenberg is another actor who is getting a lot of attention this year for The Social Network, but if you've seen him off screen being interviewed, he seems like he was just playing himself. Firth created a character that at times could be dispicable yet sympathetic, noble yet humble and strong yet vulnerable. And he did all this while putting on a very believable stutter. My vote is for Firth to take home Oscar.
I'm going to go with Natalie Portman on this one again, for both metrics, in Black Swan. She has swept most major awards (her biggest competition being Annette Benning) and deservingly so. Until this film I had never been overly impressed with her. When I was watching Black Swan I spent the first half of the movie just thinking, ok here we go again with another performance of Portman being Portman. It wasn't until her character's descent into madness that I realized the depth of this actress' ability to transform herself into her character. Nina Sayers had to be uninteresting at the beginning of the movie for the role to work and for ultimate demise there had to be a clear break in the character's personality. Portman played both sides of this character with ease and it wasn't until the end of the film did this become clear. My second choice for Best Actress would be Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine. In this heartbreaking film Williams plays a woman stuck in a marriage that probably shouldn't have happened in the first place and now she finds herself out of love with her husband and struggling to find her place in a world she wishes she wasn't in. Her raw and honest performance was painful to watch, but definitely deserving of this award. However, it's unlikely that she'll get it as the film did not garner the type of attention Oscar films hope to. Benning, as mentioned, is one of the biggest threats to Portman's awards domination. And while I loved The Kids are Alright, I didn't think she was the strongest or most interesting thing about it. I would have chosen Julianne Moore over Benning, for the nomination. As for Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, I must just say that I find it ironic that she has chosen a career that is all about expression yet has pumped her face so full of poisonous botox and pulled it so far back that her affect is completely nonexistent. She claims to have given it up, so hopefully we can see her act in the next film and not just recite words from the script. Jennifer Lawrence is the newcomer on the scene and was good in Winter's Bone, but given the strong competition probably doesn't have much of a chance.
Best Supporting Actor
This one has got to go to Christian Bale for his part in The Fighter. One of the most prolific and daring actors in our generation, and it seems almost criminal that this is only his first acting nomination. He was great in The Fighter, and even perfectly grasped the Boston accent, which is award-worthy alone! He's definitely got my vote. Geoffrey Rush is also very deserving of this award for his performance in The King's Speech. As speech therapist to the King he was both lovable and driven. He's an accomplished actor with one Oscar already at home and while very deserving of this second one, my money's still on Bale. Jeremy Renner also turned in strong performances for The Town and his nomination is interesting as the film was not met with much other adulation (but I'll admit to being biased towards any film set in Boston). Mark Ruffalo was lukewarm in The Kids are Alright, but I'm generally not taken by his acting. John Hawkes was nominated in the category for his role as Tear Drop in Winter's Bone. I did not love this film, nor did I think this performance was anything special. Aside from the fact that he was hard to understand for most of the film, I found this role to be cliche and didn't bring anything special to the landscape.
Best Supporting Actress
This is a tough category for me as I thought all of the performances were excellent (although I cannot comment on Animal Kingdom as I haven't seen it...) I think the real fight is between Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, both for The Fighter. Their two characters were in direct opposition for much of the movie so it makes sense that they'd duke it out for the award too. Leo as the tough stage mom for her boxer sons and Adams for the tough but supportive girlfriend to boxer Micky Ward. Both women embodied their characters so fully and turned in such honest performances both would be deserving of the award. Leo will probably get it as she has been racking up the awards so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hailee Steinfeld pulled it in for the upset. Her performance in True Grit was impressive and as not only a newcomer, but the only major female role in the film she handled herself well in the company of such established and prominent actors. Helena Bonham Carter was also excellent in her role as the Queen Mum in The King's Speech. Her turn as the sympathetic yet strong queen-to-be who supported her husband and pushed him to be the great king she knew he could be was such a departure from her normal eccentric roles that it was surprising to see her so subdued. My pick, however, in this category will be Melissa Leo for the win she is both deserving and the likely winner.
For this category I think Darren Aronofsky should take home the statue for Best Director for Black Swan. The way he seemingly effortlessly weaved together this story of heartbreak and madness into a coherent and cohesive story while evoking strong performances from his actors, I believe he is most deserving of this award. The win, however, will likely go to Tom Hooper for The King's Speech. Hooper is also deserving of this award for telling a story which is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. Joel and Ethan Coen tend to be award show darlings, and True Grit was a good movie, but I thought this movie's strength was in the performances and the writing. These auteurs often bring a certain "Coen" stamp to their films and I felt that was lacking in this one. David Fincher also has a strong chance of winning this award for The Social Network as the direction was interesting, but the writing has overshadowed this movie on a whole (and almost anything Aaron Sorkin touches does) and the direction isn't what people, academy voters in particular, have been focusing on.
So there you have it, my pics for the top six categories for the Academy Awards. Can't wait to see how it all turns out!