Saturday, February 26, 2011

My 2010 Academy Award Winners From My Nominees

Now that a week has passed, and by Monday we'll know who the Academy selected out of its nominees, I can now announce my winners on my own list. Winners indicated by red or an asterisk(*).


BEST PICTURE

The Fighter*
Inception
The King's Speech
Toy Story 3
True Grit

There isn't a bad one in the lot, and some that perhaps should have been put here (like Black Swan), got cut because I still go by the Five Nominee rule. Out of all of them though, few got me to an intense emotional level like The Fighter, one of only two films I saw twice for the sheer pleasure of it (The King's Speech being the other). It was a truly tough choice, but I opted for the working-class drama of The Fighter over the upper-class drama of The King's Speech in a very close race. Granted, the latter is more Oscar-friendly, but The Fighter had so much within it: great acting, a compelling story and a sense that every character had undergone a life-altering journey that it pushed it over the top for me.

BEST ACTOR

Jeff Bridges: True Grit
Aaron Eckhart: Rabbit Hole
James Franco: 127 Hours
Colin Firth: The King's Speech
Ryan Reynolds: Buried

Again, not a bad performance in the group. If it had been released later and had a wider release, perhaps Reynolds would have gotten a nod. Certainly, it takes a great deal of talent to hold a film all by yourself, a difficult thing to do which he did so well. Eckhart was heartbreaking in Rabbit Hole, and it's difficult for men on film to show how emotionally vulnerable they are. However, Firth managed to show the King-Emperor at his weakest physically (with his stammer) without it being showy but instead natural. He also handled scenes of emotional impact flawlessly. All around great performances by all, but Firth comes First.

BEST ACTRESS

Annette Bening: The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman: Rabbit Hole
Diane Lane: Secretariat
Natalie Portman: Black Swan
Hailee Steinfeld: True Grit

Let's start by saying the obvious: Steinfeld is not a Supporting Player. She is the star of True Grit, and it's a curious quirk in Academy rules that the star or central role in a film can be called Supporting. Granted, she submitted her name in that category since Portman is all but assured a win. However, I think Steinfeld would have given Portman a strong run for her money, and to my mind, although Portman was absolutely brilliant in Black Swan, Steinfeld at her age carried a performance that showed a greater maturity than most actresses twice or thrice her age.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale: The Fighter
Andrew Garfield: The Social Network
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Inception
Jeremy Renner: The Town
Geoffrey Rush: The King's Speech

Throughout The Fighter, I thought Bale was brilliant, and he certainly was: one of the great performances of this talented but highly troubled actor. However, I never lost sight of the fact that it was Christian Bale. When it came to down to it, no matter how often I tried to get it right, I always ended up saying "Eduardo Saverin" when I meant to say "Andrew Garfield". To me, Garfield was Eduardo Saverin, the heart, emotionally speaking, of The Social Network, and when an actor becomes that wrapped in a role where I forget he isn't that individual, it just knocks me out. This was not the easiest choice: I kept flipping back and forth, and at one point had made it a tie. However, I opted out of that easy way out, and decided that by the thinnest of margins the award went to Peter Parker over Bruce Wayne.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Helena Bonham Carter: The King's Speech
Loretta Devine: For Colored Girls
Barbara Hershey: Black Swan
Mila Kunis: Black Swan
Melissa Leo: The Fighter

Leo's chances of winning, though still good, have shrunk after the release of some bizarre "For Your Consideration" ads which feature her ample cleavage and in a glamorous floor-length fur coat. On a personal level, I think this was a completely idiotic move: it's one thing to campaign for an Oscar (and it is a bit naive to think people don't, no matter how much they may protest to the contrary), but it's another when it looks so shameless and tacky, especially when you are the Front-Runner. The ads, according to articles I've read, have so irritated Academy members that some have said they will either reconsider voting for her or flat-out won't vote for her because of them. It would be ironic: an Oscar campaign actually made one lose. It even had me reconsider my own vote and go for my second choice: Hershey in Black Swan. It was a small role, but Hershey did what any good Supporting Player do: support the lead character or the story or what have you, without overwhelming you with their presence. However, I don't vote based on ads no matter how stupid. I vote for the work. That being the case, my winner survives her massive Melissa misfire.

BEST DIRECTOR

Darren Aronofsky: Black Swan
David O. Russell: The Fighter
Christopher Nolan: Inception
Tom Hooper: The King's Speech
Ben Affleck: The Town

Let me start out by saying, yes, even I was surprised I would nominate someone with such limited talents as Ben Affleck for anything, but his direction of The Town showed that Gone Baby Gone was no fluke. However, he will have to go outside Boston to show he can do more than gritty crime dramas. As for the rest of the nominees, the idiotically ignored Nolan created a masterful film in Inception, and it takes a director of great ability to hold an audience so completely within his/her hands, especially in such a complex film like Inception. Yes, you may ask where were Joel & Ethan Coen for True Grit or David Fincher for The Social Network. Again, it's a case of being spoiled for choice, and unfortunately some just fell by the wayside.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Black Swan
Buried
The Fighter
Inception
The King's Speech

Buried is a great idea for a film, overall well-executed, but if it weren't for the ending it might have actually won in my list. Now, all the other films were expertly written, but given that both the plot and execution of Inception so blew me away, I'm giving the edge here to it rather than to my immediate runner-up, The King's Speech. In this case, I'm going for the 'original' in Original Screenplay.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

127 Hours
Never Let Me Go
The Social Network
The Town
True Grit

Now, I've always had my issues with the Coen Brothers and their die-hard 'everything they do is brilliant no matter what it is' cult they have (whom I lovingly refer to as Coen-Heads). However, I have to recognize any film that uses such phrases as "a congress of louts" as part of ordinary speech.

BEST EDITING

127 Hours
The Fighter
Inception
The Town
True Grit

I liked The Town more than I thought, didn't I? I gave it more nominations that The Social Network, a film that most critics masturbate to but which I find highly, excessively overrated. In spite of that, I still have to acknowledge the sharp work in The Fighter, especially in the actual fight scenes that were cut in so well that one might have thought they were actual archive footage of the bouts rather than scenes specially filmed for the film.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Buried
Black Swan
Inception
The King's Speech
True Grit

I guess I liked Buried more than I thought as well. I put it here because it is extremely difficult to make one set (in this case, the wooden coffin our lead finds himself in) riveting for over an hour & a half. However, they did it, so the work has to be acknowledged. In the end though, the visual impact of True Grit is simply too beautiful and majestic to ignore.

BEST ART DIRECTION

Burlesque*
Inception
The King's Speech
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
True Grit

Some films are simply there for the visual aspects of it. Such is the case with Burlesque. Granted, this is one where I actually flipped, having selected Inception first. However, I took into consideration whether or not the actual sets in Inception were what was impressing me, and I decided that in the end they weren't. So with that, I opted for the movie where lavish sets were the order of the day. Thus: Burlesque.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Inception
The King's Speech
Never Let Me Go
Tangled
TRON: Legacy

How I debated this one. HOW I debated this one. After a second listen-through, I decided that Daft Punk's score for Tron: Legacy not only served the story but was excellent, capturing the world of Tron so well (and yes, I was influenced by the techno/electronica aspect of the music). It might have been selected, but when I thought about the music from a film, it was Rachel Portman's mournful, elegant score to Never Let Me Go that stayed with me long after the film ended. As in Tron: Legacy, it captured the mood of the film, in this case a sad, tragic one. Simply put, the score to Never Let Me Go was simply...beautiful.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Show Me How To Burlesque (Burlesque)
You Haven't Seen The Last of Me (Burlesque)
Give In To Me (Country Strong)*
I See The Light (Tangled)
Shine (Waiting for Superman)

I still don't understand how You Haven't Seen The Last of Me or actually ANY song from Burlesque could have been so ignored by the Academy (especially since Diane Warren is no stranger to nominations and that, frankly, her work for Burlesque was better than something like There You'll Be from the abysmal Pearl Harbor). I liked Coming Home from Country Strong and I would have nominated that one, but Give In To Me had the same impact that the score for Never Let Me Go had: it is still in my mind long after I saw the film.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Black Swan
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part I
The King's Speech
True Grit

I wasn't overwhelmed with any film frocks, but given I have a penchant for 'costume pictures' and royals (especially when they are combined) by virtue of default The King's Speech gets my vote.

BEST MAKEUP

127 Hours
Black Swan
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part I
The Wolfman*

Though the film was disparaged (though not by me, since I enjoyed it thoroughly), the actual makeup work in The Wolfman both served the plot and looked convincing. With that, I think it should (and will ) win.

BEST VISUAL (SPECIAL) EFFECTS

Inception
Iron-Man 2
TRON: Legacy

Here we have not only remarkable special effects (the fight in the hallway both brilliant and iconic) in Inception, but they do something that all special effects should do: actually serve the story as oppose to show us what they can do. I'm big on not having visuals drown out the story, so that gives Inception a bigger push.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Inside Job
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work*
Oceans
Waiting For Superman

Unfortunately, most 'documentaries' are really advocacy films: movies that want me to take a certain point of view (the filmmakers) and worse, ask me to join whatever campaign they are pushing. In short, they slip into being infomercials. However, that isn't the reason I chose the only one which isn't an advocacy film. I chose Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work because it gave me a real look into this somewhat angry, bitter, even scared woman who keeps pushing herself because she knows she still has much to do before the final curtain.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Despicable Me
Tangled
Toy Story 3

There's no surprise here. Now, all three films were very good, but Toy Story 3 did what appears to be so impossible for Hollywood: make a second sequel that not only works, but actually adds to the previous stories. Toy Story 3 had a deep emotional impact with almost everyone who saw it (myself included). If I had seen The Illusionist before the cut-off point, I would have placed it on my list, and it would have been the only film that might have made me hesitate on Toy Story 3. However, it isn't so there it is.

MaƱana we'll all find out who won and who lost. Frankly, I don't expect many surprises, though seeing The Social Network go down will thrill me endlessly. I expect it will win Screenplay & Director, maybe Editing, Original Score less likely. However, I don't think it will win Best Picture, sending many of my fellow critics to their beds to cry on their pillows.

Doesn't the Academy know what we know...that The Social Network is actually better than Citizen Kane, than The Godfather, than Birth of A Nation, than 8 1/2, and than Seven Samurai? No film will ever be able to approach the genius that is The Social Network...at least they think so. For those of us who work outside of watching movies but who love film, we can see The Social Network is a fine film: expertly crafted, good performances, well-written. However, it would be nice if my fellow critics could tone down the rhetoric that accompanies this film. Surprisingly enough, I haven't seen it more than once and worse, have little interest in doing so.

In the end, a good rule of thumb is that the film with the most nominations wins Best Picture. With 12 nods, that would mean The King's Speech will reign supreme.

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