Oscars 2011 – The From The Block Picks
As regular readers are aware, I’ve made it my cinematic mission this past month to see all of the movies nominated in the Big Six categories before the actual ceremony so, just once, I can both prognosticate and inevitably whine with a degree of authority.
So, with the 2011 Academy Awards less than twenty four hours away, I am bowing out with a respectable 12 out of 15 films viewed, which is not bad since I live in the cinematic equivalent of a third world country. I get a free pass on Biutiful since it’s not out here for another few weeks and The Town appears to be in the limbo land between cinema and DVD release. I got unlucky with Winter’s Bone which concluded it’s run four days after I decided to do this in the first place, which is a total bummer as I really REALLY wanted to see it.
Now, with the below, I’m ranking the movies and performances based on what I personally think deserves it, not on who I think will win. Although, for shits and giggles, I’m gonna take a stab at it anyway. Normally I’m actually pretty good at this, because I go purely off gut (like the time I was the only person on the face of the planet who picked Marcia Gay Harden to win for Pollock. Or the fact that I guessed Need You Know to sweep the main categories at The Grammys recently). I’ve actually found seeing all the films has made it harder as my gut is clouded with sentimentality. Oh well, here goes!
BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
Toy Story 3
The Social Network
The King’s Speech
The Kids Are All Right
Haven’t Seen :-
First of all, I have to say that I HATE HATE HATE having ten nominees for Best Picture. HATE it. It just makes the whole category feel cheap. Scoring a Best Picture nomination now is like winning a Golden Globe award – it’s just not that hard to do. Curious to see how this one plays out. I’ll die a little inside if The King’s Speech wins. I mean, it’s a great movie that you can definitely argue a case for being one of the best movies of the year, but THE Best? It lacks a certain oomph or wow factor for me. That being said, I think it will just scrape through a win, even though there are five better movies nominated. The Social Network lacks the heart that makes someone want to vote for it, even though it’s a stronger film overall. I finally saw True Grit on Monday and was just floored by it. I can’t remember a movie in recent memory that was so epic yet soulful and intimate and moving. It’s literally a perfect movie – I went from jumping up and down in my seat to biting my nails in suspense to breaking down in tears during the beautiful, haunting epilogue. The second it finished, I knew to my very core that not only was it the best movie of the year, but one of the all time greats. If The Fighter managed to eke out a victory, I wouldn’t resent it either. I love that Toy Story 3 got nominated deservedly but, really, number 2 is the stronger movie.
Will Win : The King’s Speech
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
James Franco – 127 Hours
Haven’t Seen :-
Javier Bardem – Biutiful
Colin Firth pretty much has a lock on this baby this year and deservedly so. To be fair, it’s as much a recognition for a career’s worth of solid work than the performance itself (I mean, his performance in A Single Man last year was better) but it is indeed a great turn, even if he’s done better in years past. Jeff Bridges has zero chance of winning after taking it last year, which is a shame. And Jesse Eisenberg was a true revelation in The Social Network, making Mark Zuckerberg both sympathetic and a sociopath. Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter and Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine were both robbed of nominations, particularly Gosling. Even though it didn’t have a shot in hell, Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island was amazing too and James Frecheville in Animal Kingdom was just heartbreaking.
Will Win : Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Haven’t Seen :-
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
This is basically like the Best Actor race all over again with the second best performance of the year being a lock. To paraphrase my man Kanye – yo Natalie Portman, imma let you finish but Michelle Williams gave one of the best performances OF ALL TIME. Clearly, the academy didn’t get around to seeing the heartbreaking Blue Valentine (hence it’s total snub in the Best Picture race where it would have been number two on my list, not to mention it’s snub for Ryan Gosling and, particularly, it’s amazingly creative direction). Michelle Williams gives that kind of haunting, naked, full bodied performance that just stays with you for days and days without being able to shake it. It’s truly an acting master class. That being said, Natalie Portman is a completely deserving winner for Black Swan and gives a fearless performance that makes the movie work when it could have slipped off the deep end easily. Annette Bening’s early award season momentum always puzzled me. It’s like The King’s Speech of performance – it rightly deserves to be on any shortlist of the year, but not at the top of said shortlist. On the plus side, at least she’s not going to get beaten by Hilary Swank for a third time..
Will Win : Natalie Portman – Black Swan
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mark Ruffalo (and his amazing, AMAZING ass) – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Haven’t Seen :-
Jeremy Renner – The Town
John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
This is the hardest in a lot of ways as the top three keep changing around in my mind. Geoffrey Rush is at the top of his game giving his most human and non-theatrical (ironically, since it was originally conceived and written as a play) since Lantana. But it’s pretty much a co-lead performance, which always feels like a little bit of a cheat. Christian Bale is his usual amazing self but, whether rightly or wrongly, the bug eyed weight loss thing is starting to feel like performance schtick, even though that’s not really fair. Mark Ruffalo gives a sexy, earthy performance as the sperm donor who becomes a Dad in suburban family drama The Kids Are All Right. Bringing just the right mix of tenderness, selfishness and sheer charisma to a difficult role, Ruffalo has rarely been more charming, although I could have just been biased by his amazing, amazing ass that deserves an award all of it’s own as it’s on screen almost as much as Ruffalo is.
Will Win : Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Finally – A category where I’ve seen all five nominees! Even better, this is probably the most wide open category of the night. Melissa Leo was a lock until she kind of sunk herself by openly funding her own campaign for the little naked gold man (using truly awful, awful photos) and then lying about it. That’s the funny thing with The Oscars – you’re not meant to openly admit how badly you want it. Heck, Sandra Bullock cruised her way to gold last year (*sigh*) purely by nonchalantly pretending not to care. Kind of glad for poor Leo though as, even though she’s brilliant in The Fighter, I just think the other four performances are better. That’s hardly a slight as she’s in amazing company, I just think it’s overrated as a performance, especially compared to Jacki Weaver who plays a much more subtle, complicated take on a similar character in the underrated Australian gem Animal Kingdom.
Hailee Steinfeld is an absolute plucky eye opener in True Grit and is truly the movie’s heart. It’s a jaw-dropping role, but it’s hard to tell how much of it is her own acting ability propelling it forward, or just masterful direction and writing. That’s actually the hardest part for a young actor, it’s not that the Academy is afraid to reward you at such an early age, it’s that it’s hard to know whether you gave a great performance or just were utilized well. Plus, she’s in ever. single. damned. scene of the movie. It’s not just A lead role, it’s THE lead role. I’m torn whether that will work against her.
For my money, Amy Adams was just perfect in The Fighter, taking a stock role and giving it real strength, depth and scrappy heart. It’s an incredibly tough, enjoyable and likable performance and Lord knows that, like both Bonham-Carter and Leo, she’s well overdue for gold. In the toughest category to pick on the night, she might just be able to scrape through.
Will Win : Amy Adams (at a pinch). Otherwise, Steinfeld. Either way, the world wins.
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
David Fincher – The Social Network
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen – True Grit
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
David O. Russell – The Fighter
YAY – another category I’ve seen all five. Really, Danny Boyle (as much as it pains me to say it) was totally robbed for a nomination this year as he would have a strong case for winning as it’s his direction that makes 127 Hours work so unexpectedly well. So too Christopher Nolan – Inception may has been a big soulless Rubiks Cube of a movie, but the sheer vision and skill he bought to the table was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
I’ve basically moved Fincher and The Coen Brothers back and forth back and forth in my head the latter part of this week. I actually just did it again right after I typed that sentence. True Grit is a real master class in directing – the sheer visual poetry and fantastic, unexpected performances both are award worthy, but the movie is lacking any real awards season momentum when it comes to top prizes. And, really, what Fincher accomplishes in The Social Network is extraordinary. The movie literally buzzes with this intense, kinetic energy that so perfectly encapsulates the world that these men live in, you feel like you’ve been literally hard-wired into the world wide web as you watch. Plus, he’s one of the single best directors of all time (same could be said for Aronofsky – such a shame he was never nominated for the sublime Requiem For A Dream).
Will Win : David Fincher – The Social Network
So, there you go kids! What do you think? I’ll stop back in twelve hours to either gloat or to post seventeen new entries to try and hide how woefully I did. To be honest, I’m not as confident as I normally am – I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve misread both supporting categories (I blame Mark Ruffalo’s hypnotically beautiful butt). Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing it all play out and, no matter what, this time tomorrow I’ll have so many badly dressed celebrities to mock that it will be like all my Gay Christmas’s have come at once.