Archive for February, 2011
Let us not waste time by going over all ten nominees for Best Picture. In all seriousness, not each film has an equal chance of winning this coveted Oscar. In any given year one can usually narrow the competition down to about three, and the fact that the Academy has expanded the number of nominees to ten has not changed this. This year we have narrowed the number of truly possible winners down to two. Both are equally likely to win for reasons you can read below. Because of this adequation we refrained from picking a likely winner, but regardless of our indecision whichever film does win will most surely deserve to.
The Social Network
Directed by David Fincher
When the film was released in October it earned a lot of buzz for being the “frontrunner to win Best Picture.” That its director, leading actor, writer, cinematographer, and sound editors have been nominated for Academy Awards for their respective categories we can see there is palpable substantiation for such hype. Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, the film boldly places a critical gaze upon what I shall reluctantly call the Facebook generation. The character of Mark Zuckerberg appears to create Facebook as an effort to produce cyber relationships and validate them by equating them with interpersonal ones, and in the process he destroys what real interpersonal relationships he has. In the end, Zuckerberg has all the power and influence he could want except for the kind that would allow him to rebuild meaningful relationships with the people who grew to hate him, who are the same people he most wishes to be close to. Such a story could potentially be successfully told in a variety of ways, but David Fincher’s patient and astute direction, the exceptional acting, and Jeff Cronenweth’s effectual cinematography, which often oscillates between delusive warmth and numb, cold sterility, make The Social Network a film that will be studied for years and watched for generations. It is not a film that will be swiftly forgotten.
The King’s Speech
Directed by Tom Hooper
The King’s Speech is the critical darling of the year. Released only two months ago on Christmas Eve its Oscar buzz didn’t have much time to gain momentum, however nearly every critic worth listening to has had it in his or her top five list of best films of the year. Its reputation soared quickly and has been able to stay high thanks in no small part to enthusiastic acclaim from audiences. Director Tom Hooper’s visual style for the film is admittedly not very impressive – that is, in comparison to the other nominees – but his management of the film’s performances by its actors, which include Oscar nominees Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, certainly is. Hooper’s command of detail and judgment of timing is impeccable in areas outside of the actors’ performances, but such mastery obviously translates to that arena as well. Unlike The Social Network, this film is unquestionably more uplifting. Both are based on true stories, but while the former is about a young man falling victim to his own flaws the other is about a man overcoming them. Critics are sometimes called ineffectual, but just over the past several years we can see that the Academy voters’ consensus is usually in alignment with theirs. Best Picture winners Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurt Locker can all justifiably be labeled the “critical darlings” of their years, which should strongly encourage those pulling for The King’s Speech.
Here are our assessments on this year’s nominees for the 83rd Academy Award category of Best Director of a feature film.
Though Aronofsky has only directed a handful of films his distinct visual style and his gift of pulling great performances out of his actors are what make his films, and especially Black Swan, so remarkable. Aronofsky makes Black Swan a terrifying nightmare by mixing genres like horror, psychological thrillers and women’s pictures to tell the story of Nina Sayer’s rapid descent into madness. The constantly moving handheld camera and shooting the film as if from Nina’s perspective allow the audience to identify with the ballerina so severely that watching the line between her imagination and reality fracture becomes all the more terrifying. But while Aronofsky’s visual style can be stunning, it can also be distracting. Audiences, and by extension Oscar voters, can either find Aronofsky’s style engrossing or a little ostentatious and silly. Aronofsky’s direction, as well as the film itself, is fairly divisive, and he will have a tough time beating either David Fincher or Tom Hooper.
Odds of Winning: Unlikely
Here are our assessments on this year’s nominees for the 83rd Academy Award category of Best Actor in a leading role.
Bardem is known for completely embodying his characters, and his turn in Biutiful as a divorced father of two dying of testicular cancer feels very lived in. He endows Uxbal with a quiet sadness that gives the character’s desperate need to provide for his children after his death a devastating tragedy. Bardem’s performance is so layered, so deeply felt that it doesn’t really seem like acting, which might be its greatest weakness in the Oscar race. Unlike some of his competition, Bardem’s performance is a bit understated and it might be less memorable. Because Bardem won an Oscar for his intensely frightening performance in 2007’s No Country for Old Men, which was much more sensational, and because his competition this year has offered showier performances, the Academy will not likely award him again soon.
Odds of Winning: Unlikely
Here are our assessments on this year’s nominees for the 83rd Academy Award category of Best Actress in a supporting role.
This is Adams’ third Academy Award nomination, with prior ones being for her performances in Junebug and 2008’s Doubt. She has yet to win the award but when nominated she has always had a strong chance of winning. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her nomination this year. With recent ventures into romantic comedy (Leap Year), children’s films (Night at the Museum 2), and vehicles which present a stage more for her voice than her acting abilities (Moonlight Serenade), her nomination for The Fighter is most likely just an endorsement from the Academy and her peers to stay within the realm that seems to showcase her talents best: i.e. drama. Her role in The Fighter was not all that difficult for her nor was it exemplary of her true talent, which can’t be said about some of the other nominees.
Odds of Winning: Unlikely
Here are our assessments on this year’s nominees for the 83rd Academy Award category of Best Actor in a supporting role.
Bale altered his physical appearance and mannerisms and became nearly unrecognizable in order to play drug addict former boxer Dicky Eklund. The frenetic intensity with which he plays Eklund is positively fascinating to watch. Though Bale plays Dicky as a man too wrapped up in his former glory to realize he is spiraling out of control, he also endows him with an unwavering devotion to his family. Dicky may be unreliable, but he more than makes up for it through his commitment to seeing his brother succeed. Bale likely gives the most extravagant performance of his fellow nominees, and since the Academy tends to prefer bigger performances, coupled with his wins at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice Awards, he has a very good chance of winning his first Oscar.
Odds of Winning: Likely
Here are our assessments on this year’s nominees for the 83rd Academy Award category of Best Actress in a leading role.
Mrs. Kidman has been nominated for an Academy Award for her performances in such films as Moulin Rouge! and The Hours, the latter of which she was awarded the gold statuette. Her nomination for Rabbit Hole is her first since than win. In the film she plays a mother who, along with her husband (played by Aaron Eckhart), tries to find a way of grieving for her lost son that will actually help her get past the life-altering tragedy. The couple’s conflicting forms of mourning threaten to tear their marriage apart, and it is during those scenes when she lets her emotions loose that Kidman’s talents shine brightest. On the surface it looks as though this were the type of performance that would be the most likely to garner an Oscar, however the role is decidedly one-note and doesn’t allow her to do much else besides wallow and argue. This is not to say that she doesn’t deserve the nomination, but when comparing her performance with the other nominees it fails to stand out.
Odds of Winning: Unlikely