Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Oscars

It's that time of year again, when I'm desperately trying to watch as many great films from a newly depleted year so I can have a respectable top 10 list. Even though I haven't had the opportunity to write many reviews this year, I have seen a ton of 2010 films (approximately 70, most of them good), and I look forward to writing about the best ones in more detail. As usual, my deadline is the Oscar ceremony, so I will have it done by then. I have yet to been able to place my favorite 2010 films in any kind of meaningful order. It's harder for me this year than its ever been for some reason, as there are 6 or 7 films I love almost equally.

Enough griping! Here's my take on the Oscar nominations, who I think will win, and who actually deserves to win. I will not comment on many of the "lesser" categories (Makeup, Visual Effects, Etc.), or a category for which I've seen less than half of the films (Documentary Feature, Short Film, etc.). Oh, and it might be helpful to have the list of nominations open in a different tab.

Music (Original Score)
I own three of the five soundtracks nominated, and will probably own all of them by Oscar night. While I loved the music in each of these films (How To Train Your Dragon, Inception, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, and The Social Network), John Powell's score for How to Train Your Dragon is a clear favorite for me. I sincerely think it's the best film score of its kind (that excludes Clint Mansell) in years. I listen to it all the time, and it never ceases to give me chills. This is my most pleasant surprise of the all of the Oscar nominations, and I'll be cheering for it hard come February 27th.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Of the nominees, I think the actress who should and will win is Hailey Steinfeld, although she certainly belongs in the leading actress category. She is in almost every scene of True Grit and carries the film, holding her own among some of the best actors working today. The ladies from The Fighter are both thoroughly entertaining in their roles, but Amy Adams' performance to me was much more believable in its subtly. I'm glad to see Jackie Weaver nominated for one of my favorite films of the year, Animal Kingdom, and while I did enjoy Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech, neither of these ladies stands a chance at the Oscar in my estimation.

Actor in a Supporting Role
This is a two race, but Christian Bale is ahead by a couple lengths. He completely steals the show in The Fighter. If you haven't seen this film yet, it's worth the $10 just for his performance alone. The second horse is Geoffrey Rush for his sensational turn in The King's Speech as King George VI's speech therapist. There will be plenty more mentioned of this film, as it leads the nominations with 12, and rightly so, as it is indeed one of the best films of the year. As for the rest, John Hawks (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), and Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right) all deserve the nomination as much as anyone else this year, although I did love Nicholas Cage in Kick-Ass!

Actress in a Leading Role
I will start by saying I have not had the pleasure (misery?) of seeing Rabbit Hole or Blue Valentine, so I cannot comment on the performances of Nicole Kidman or Michelle Williams. My favorite performance of the group came from Natalie Portman, who I also think will win for her magnificent performance as a tormented ballerina in Black Swan. Jennifer Lawrence was pretty great in her break-out performance in Winter's Bone, a film that is tragically under-seen. Unfortunately the wrong actress was nominated from The Kids Are All Right. I found Julianne Moore's performance to be more multi-layered and believable than Annette Bening's one note, "tough guy" act. One performance I was not expecting to get nominated, but was hoping for, is Kim Hye-ja, the title character from Bong Joon-Ho's Mother. She is phenomenal, and carries the film like no other actress this year.

Actor in a Leading Role
Again, I'll lead with the caveat that I have not seen Javier Bardem's performance in Biutiful (nor have I seen any of the other Foreign Language Film nominations). Colin Firth is the front-runner here, and my favorite performance of the bunch. His role as "King George the Stammerer" in The King's Speech is such a treat to behold. James Franco is captivating in 127 Hours, but doesn't stand a chance here. The only men capable of pulling the upset on Oscar night are Jeff Bridges and Jesse Eisenberg for their roles in True Grit and The Social Network, respectively.

Writing (Adapted and Original)
It's getting late, so I'll keep it brief on this one. Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network is a lock for adapted, while I think David Seidler's The King's Speech should and will win original.

Animated Feature Film
Duh, it goes to the Pixar movie.

Let me start by addressing those who are tweeting things like, "Christopher Nolan could have done a decent job directing The King's Speech, but no one could have directed Inception but him!" This is truly an idiotic statement. It might be true that Nolan deserves a Directing nomination simply for making his script half-way intelligible on the screen, but to say that he could have directed The King's Speech... I'll just say that The King's Speech has more heart than all of Nolan's films put together. Was he snubbed? I'd say no, considering all of the directors that were nominated ended up with better films. In Nolan's defense, he deserved a nomination as much as James Cameron did last year for Avatar. As for the front runner in this category, I think it has to be Fincher, and I'd be happy with him, Aronofsky, or the Coens.

Best Picture
For your convenience, the nominated films are listed below:
Black Swan *
The Fighter *
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech *
127 Hours
The Social Network *
Toy Story 3
True Grit *
Winter's Bone
* These films would have been the nominees had there only been five (as there should be).
All of these films are pretty great, and 7 of them will likely be in my top 10. If there are any films I would have loved to see here, it's Animal Kingdom and Mother (rent them both!!), however, their absences are understandable considering how under-seen those films are. As for the front-runners, the The Social Network is in first, with The King's Speech in second and True Grit in third. Either of these films could win and it wouldn't surprise me, plus I'd be equally happy. If it was my vote, I'd probably give it to The King's Speech. It moved me in the best possible way, the way I hope to be moved each time I go to the theater. It's the feel good film of the year, with tremendous performances, and a great script and score.

Overall, I was very happy with the nominations, and look forward to the show as I do every year. I plan on having another great Oscar watching party, so if you read this, and that kind of thing interests you, you are welcome to join us!