Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wunelle's Crystal Bald

So, about those Oscar nominees. I did this once before, intending it to be a yearly thing. But I've managed to miss the last couple years. Alas. As before, I'm flying blind with some of these--an asterisk after the nominee connotes a film or performance I've not seen--but that's no reason not to praise or condemn what I don't understand (a great career in conservative television and radio commentary can be had this way). So here we are:

Best Picture:
  1. Black Swan
  2. The Fighter *
  3. Inception
  4. The Kids Are All Right
  5. The King's Speech
  6. 127 Hours *
  7. The Social Network
  8. Toy Story 3
  9. True Grit
  10. Winter's Bone

2010 felt like a good year for film. I'm used to seeing five nominees, and it's a good year when we get twice that number of solid front-runners. But they can't all win. Black Swan, while brilliant, is too unrelieved in its angst, and Inception is just too silly a concept at its core to be a great film. The Social Network (which I saw but have not yet reviewed) is really about a single great characterization. I liked True Grit, but it's not one of the Coens' best. So I think this race comes down to Winter's Bone and The King's Speech (with The Fighter looming there as, to me, an unknown quantity).

My pick: The King's Speech

Best Actress:
  • Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole *
  • Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
  • Natalie Portman in Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine *
Again with apologies for what I've not seen, this race to me comes down to Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman. Both are brilliant, but I think Portman has climbed the higher mountain.

My pick: Natalie Portman

Best Actor:
  • Javier Bardem in Biutiful *
  • Jeff Bridges in True Grit
  • Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
  • Colin Firth in The King's Speech
  • James Franco in 127 Hours*
Tough category. I regret not having seen Biutiful, as the trailers make it seem compelling and Bardem has done some great things. I'm thrilled for the Coens and for Jeff Bridges that his Rooster Cogburn could be nominated for the same award that John Wayne won in the same role; Bridges' star performance here more than rises to the challenge. If I criticize The Social Network for being a one-characterization film, well, this is the characterization that puts it on the map (with a tip of the hat to Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake). Jesse Eisenberg is the reason to see this film. And Colin Firth is letter-perfect in an actor's role as the stammering King George. Every role is a winner.

My pick: Jesse Eisenberg

Best Supporting Actress:
  • Amy Adams in The Fighter *
  • Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech
  • Melissa Leo in The Fighter *
  • Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom *
My weakest category, having seen only two of the five performances (and I would have liked to see Rebecca Hall on this list for The Town). I loved Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech, but she's done a beautiful job with a role nearly any middle-aged actress could play. And Hailee Steinfeld (who might have qualified for a Best Actress Oscar, methinks) is at least partly remarkable for her youth--though she IS remarkable. I suspect the winner might come from The Fighter, but I can't say.

My pick: Hailee Steinfeld

Best Supporting Actor:
  • Christian Bale in The Fighter *
  • John Hawkes in Winter's Bone
  • Jeremy Renner in The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right
  • Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

Another tough category. Of the four performances I've seen, all are brilliant and any could justly take the prize. But I think it's John Hawkes who covers the most ground here.

My pick: John Hawkes

Best Director:
  • Darren Aronofsky --Black Swan
  • David O. Russell --The Fighter *
  • Tom Hooper --The King's Speech
  • David Fincher --The Social Network
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen --True Grit

It's tougher for me this year than in some years to separate the director's role from the finished product. I wasn't as strongly drawn to Black Swan as to some of the other nominees, but I think Aronofsky has told an ambitious story--more ambitious than, say, The King's Speech (which had, on the other hand, period issues with which to deal). Likewise with True Grit, which had its own period challenges and must have required a fairly arduous location shoot. (I can't help thinking that Ben Affleck should be on this list for The Town.) On balance, David Fincher is my pick for telling a straightforward enough story but one made difficult by the rapid-fire language and inscrutability of its central character.

My pick: David Fincher

Best Cinematography:
  • Black Swan --Matthew Libatique
  • Inception --Wally Pfister
  • The King's Speech --Danny Cohen
  • The Social Network --Jeff Cronenweth
  • True Grit --Roger Deakins

The Coens' longtime DP Roger Deakins last tackled the Great West in No Country for Old Men, and before that in O Brother Where Art Thou (well, the Dust Bowl), each time giving us something very different. With the mythology of the American West slipping like sand through our fingers, Deakins here has given us another chunk to hold onto.

My pick: Roger Deakins

Best Original Screenplay:
  • Another Year --Written by Mike Leigh *
  • The Fighter --Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
    Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson *
  • Inception --Written by Christopher Nolan
  • The Kids Are All Right --Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
  • The King's Speech --Screenplay by David Seidler

Seidler has given us a delicious bit of history with the class structure and personal depths aplenty. And a great entertainment to boot.

My pick: The King's Speech--David Seidler

Best Adapted Screenplay:
  • 127 Hours --Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy *
  • The Social Network --Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
  • Toy Story 3 --Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
  • True Grit --Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • Winter's Bone --Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

High marks for all these stories, but Winter's Bone seems to plumb the deepest depths.

My pick: Winter's Bone--Debra Granik / Anne Rosellini


We'll come back and revisit after the awards and see what my percentage was. Last time I managed 50%, so I've got room to improve or tank as the case may be.


dbackdad said...

Best Picture: I saw 7 of this and would say the battle is between The Social Network and The King's Speech as far as the voters go. The momentum seems to be for The King's Speech. I would choose 127 Hours.

Best Actress: The only performance I saw was Portman's, so can't make a qualified judgment. But I think Portman will win and I have no problem with that.

Best Actor: I saw all but Bardem's. I think Firth is a lock here.

Supporting Actress: I saw Steinfeld and Carter. I think both were fantastic. Momentum seems to be in the direction of Leo. I would pick Steinfeld.

Supporting Actor: I missed all but Renner and Rush, who were great. I think Bale will probably get it.

Director: I really think Fincher will (and should) win here. This story is really about Fincher's direction and Sorkin's words. I completely agree about Affleck.

Cinematography: I think Deakins should win for just about every film he's done. He's fantastic. Just a partial list of his movies: True Grit, No Country, A Beautiful Mind, O Brother, Where Art Thou, Fargo, Dead Man Walking, Shawshank Redemption, Sid and Nancy, etc. That's ridiculous ... and I've excluded a zillion other brilliantly shot movies.

Original Screenplay: Again, I'm handcuffed by having just viewed two of these, but I'd vote for The King's Speech and I believe it will win.

Adapted screenplay: Saw 4 of these. In two of the cases (127 Hours and The Social Network, I've also read the source material. I think The Social Network will (and should) win for greatly improving the story it adapted.

I kinda hedged my bets. I've got pretty good ideas on who will win (from watching SAG Awards and Golden Globes), but hope there's some room for some dark horses like Winter's Bone.

Good stuff, as always.

wunelle said...

Interesting. I find that I'm more inclined to watch the awards when I've made an effort to rank the entries myself (not sure why this should be).

The Academy Awards have always seemed a bit whimsical to me--the Golden Globes seem a more reliable indicator of quality--but I love the attention drawn to the film industry. Anything that rises to the top here is certainly worth a look.

We should wager a beverage on whose picks get closer! (My wife and I always do this... and it's the only contest that I regularly win ;-)

dbackdad said...

Absolutely! It's on like Donkey Kong. :-)

I don't even try with my wife. The only Best Picture nominee she actually saw was Toy Story 3.

wunelle said...

My wife doesn't see most of them either, but (like me) she makes the ol' college try, stabbing in the dark!