Sunday, February 27, 2011

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Picture

the nominees for best picture are:

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

well, tonight's the big night. gay christmas. the 83rd annual academy awards. or as they call it in billy crystal's house: passover.

it's a busy day for me so i tend to short-shrift best picture a bit. but there are some easy disqualifications to make.

you cannot take a best picture nomination seriously if they do not have a corresponding best director nod. so.... say bye-bye to inception, the kids are all right, 127 hours, toy story 3 and winter's bone. without a director... it's just not gonna happen.

i think the 10 nominees is idiocy.... but we have them. the only upside is that brilliant films like winter's bone can snag a nomination when they might normally be too small for the academy to remember.

so we're left with five serious nominees. of those, only the social network and the king's speech have a chance.

the social network has won every. single. critic's. award. you. can. win.

it is the best film of the year. as i said last night.... it's fresh, it's solid... it's of our time. it's built on one of the best screenplays we've had in years. (by the way, aaron sorkin will win best adapted screenplay for network. just watch the first 8 minutes of the film... pure word masturbation. it's genius.)

but the king's speech has won the one award (well, two) that might matter the most. the big one is the producers guild of america award. the PGA winner has most likely always gone on to win best picture at the oscars. (in fact, they've matched up 75% of the time over the years.)

hooper also won the director's guild and, as previously discussed, that generally means he'll go on to win the best director oscar. the winner of the best director oscar almost always takes home the gold for best picture, as well.

they do differ from time to time. but in the past 30 years, the picture/director split has only occurred SIX times. the last time was 2005 when crash undeservedly won best picture but ang lee won director for brokeback mountain.

i'm reading a lot of chatter about a picture/director split this year. it's not normally predicted but the theory appears to have a following this year.

i adore the king's speech. i think it's a nearly perfect film. i will be thrilled if it wins best picture. but i simply see the social network as the better film.

but.... i don't see it taking home both director and picture.

so.... a split. (just to make things even more interesting.)

will win: the king's speech
should win: the social network

and i leave you now with my beloved liza minnelli singing my favorite oscar song: "oscar! everybody loves ya, oscar! everybody wants to get ya, grab ya, hug ya... hold you tight!"

happy oscars!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Director

the nominees for best director are:

darren aronofsky, black swan
david o. russell, the fighter
tom hooper, the king's speech
david fincher, the social network
joel & ethan coen, true grit

okay, kiddies... it's getting late and i still have a shitload to accomplish this evening in pre-prep for tomorrow.

so let's just cut to the chase, shall we? (get it? "cut"? director...? nevermind.)

so the coen brothers just recently won for no country for old men. (great film. seriously... check it out.) too soon for them to win again. as awesome as true grit is. (and you'll probably never hear me say this about any other film: better than the original.)

darren aronofsky remains too out there, i think, to win. plus.... it's his first nomination. david o. russell stunned a lot of oscar watchers with his nomination. also... first one. won't win.

this is really a two way race: fincher v. hooper.

now. this is fincher's second nomination for best director. he was last nominated for the highly overrated the curious case of benjamin button.

this is hooper's first nomination.

so i seem to want to discount first-time nominees, right? wrong! i mean... it happens. especially if you were an actor first. (see redford, costner, eastwood, gibson.)

BUT. and this is a HUGE "but." hooper won the director's guild award for the king's speech. the DGA, people.

in the 63 years of the director's guild, the winner has NOT gone on to win the oscar only.....SIX time. six, people.

now, this has happened twice since 2000. the first time in 2000 when ang lee won the DGA for crouching tiger, hidden dragon but lost the oscar to steven soderbergh for traffic. and the last time in 2002 when rob marshall won the DGA for chicago but lost the gold to roman polanski on oscar night for his direction of the pianist.

so all indications would lead one to think hooper has the oscar in the bag, yes?

well..... david fincher has won every single critics' award leading up to the DGA for his superb direction of the social network. he won the golden globe. he even won the BAFTA (the british equivalent of the academy award...) over brit, hooper.

i don't really know what to say? both films are exceptional. both directors are worthy. i.... well, i lean towards the social network and fincher. i find the direction fresh and inventive. it feels very much of our time. and... it's flawless.

so... while the safe money is on hooper, i'm going out on a limb here, people. "no guts, no glory," as the man says. i'm predicting fincher to take home the oscar. yes.... a split from the DGA and, perhaps, a split from the ultimate winner of best picture.

but that's tomorrow.

will win:
david fincher, the social network
should win: david fincher, the social network


Friday, February 25, 2011

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Actor

the nominees for best actor are:

javier bardem
, biutiful
jeff bridges, true grit
jesse eisenberg, the social network
colin firth, the king's speech
james franco, 127 hours

a little old.... a little new in this category. we have jeff bridges scoring his sixth nomination and, of course, he won for the first time in last year's crazy heart. bardem has scored his third nomination and firth scored his second. of course, barden already won for 2007's brilliant no country for old men. firth's first nomination came just last year when he lost to fellow nominee, jeff bridges.

meanwhile..... jesse eisenberg and james franco both score their first nods.

let's go ahead and count out the two, first time nominees. i think franco is very good in a small film very few people could stomach the idea of watching. it's a nomination to reward his talent... and for not nominating him previously for milk.

eisenberg could win if there's a big push for the social network. but it appears the king's speech has taken the wind out of facebook's sails. (more on that in another post.)

i also don't see jeff bridges winning a second oscar the year after just winning his first. only nine actors in the 83 year history of the academy awards have won two best actor oscars... and only two in consecutive years (spencer tracy and tom hanks).

javier bardem also has an uphill battle if he hopes to win for biutiful. not only has he already won an oscar recently.... but the last and only time the best actor statue went to a foreign language film performance was 1997. roberto benigni upset the entire oscar telecast (and, more!) when he won for that piece of shit film, life is beautiful. i'm still trying to figure that one out and occasionally wake up with lingering night terrors recalling the moment.

(incidentally, the only other foreign language film performance to win an oscar is sophia loren, best actress - two women. some consider robert deniro's supporting actor win for the godfather, part 2 a foreign language performance win. which it is... except for one line he exclusively speaks italian. but the film is not considered a foreign language film.)

but i digress.......

if i was comfortable calling any category a lock, it would be best actor. sooooo.... i'm saying it's a lock. and it appears to be a lock like most acting categories. even though i've said the other categories could very possibly see an upset. however... this appears to be the most solid lock and the one i'd put the most money on.

colin firth..... long overlooked for a long career of great performances, has scored his second oscar nod this year. a year after he probably should have won for a single man but.... well, who could say "no" to finally awarding jeff bridges his oscar? crazy heart wasn't great.... but it was time. (see it like al pacino finally winning for the pretty awful film, scent of a woman.)

but colin firth has been on a roll winning awards for the king's speech. not only has he won every british award, he's also picked up critics awards from chicago, florida, kansas city, L.A., san francisco, D.C. and the golden globes. he also snagged the much coveted screen actors guild.

and most importantly: he deserves to win for this performance this year. firth's king is cold and prickly... but he's also endearing and afraid... he is all of us. and we want him to succeed and that is the driving force and the power behind this film. without the audience wanting firth to say that next word without hesitation is the key to the entire film. and firth makes us all want that.

it's an amazing performance. both emotionally and technically. beyond his stuttering. his perfect timing in line delivery. pay attention to his lazy r's. the soft pallet of a man with a speech impediment. it's masterful.

firth should and will win. so.......

will win: colin firth, the king's speech
should win: colin firth, the king's speech


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Actress

the nominees for best actress are:

annette bening, the kids are all right
nicole kidman, rabbit hole
jennifer lawrence, winter's bone
natalie portman, black swan
michelle williams, blue valentine

poor annette bening. poor, always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride, annette bening.

sorry, i'm getting ahead of myself.

best actress appears to be another two-way race with an obvious front runner. could there be an upset? perhaps? but at this point it seems unlikely. unless... well, again. i'm getting ahead of myself.

let's start again with who will not win:

nicole kidman already has an oscar for the hours.... it's an award she didn't really deserve but it was to recognize a larger, overlooked body of work. (keep this in mind.) an award for a body of work does happen from time to time. (but it used to happen much more often than it does now.) rabbit hole was a quiet little film that nobody saw and kidman will not win again for this film. nobody saw the amazing performance michelle williams delivered in blue valentine either. both kidman and williams delivered layered, heartbreaking performances in both of these films and deserve the nominations.... but they will not win.

jennifer lawrence carried winter's bone and her performance at such a young age promises many great things from her in the future. winter's bone was feared to be overlooked come the oscar nods - but it did very well scoring three very big nominations. the film was not widely seen but critically adored. lawrence, in particular. some might say she's a dark horse but i see this more as a nod to her talent and encouragement to continue.

no... the race comes down to bening and portman. poor, unrewarded annette bening.

bening has three previous nominations under her belt: 2004's being julia, 1999's american beauty and 1990's the grifters. the grifters (a movie i adore... check it out) was her only supporting nod. the other two previous nominations were in the lead category. both years bening appeared to be a lock for best actress. then hillary swank came along and delivered performances in million dollar baby and boys don't cry that not only deserved to win the oscar.... but did. upsetting bening both times.

now we have the young natalie portman delivering a tour de force performance in black swan. portman is so very good in swan. her metamorphosis is haunting and terrifying... it doesn't hurt that she spent a year training for the role.... losing weight, toning a dancer's body, learning ballet itself. the academy eats up this shit. (think of bobby deniro packing on the weight for raging bull.) pushing your body for a performance is highly regarded and often rewarded. especially if the performance is worthy.

having said all this.... there is a moment in the kids are all right when annette bening slowly sits down at a dinner table after the "revelation" of the film. the full understanding of everything that has proceeded this moment washes over her face and registers in her eyes, her mouth, her skin. without saying a word... bening delivers a moment more powerful than the entire portman performance in black swan. and i should point out... i'm not a huge fan of the kids are all right. but bening is perfection.

bening is pitch perfect and at the height of her craft in kids. she deserves to win this year. not like those other years when she was really, really great.... but not as good as..... this year should be her year.

but she will most likely lose to another young actress, ms. portman. portman’s role is simply more showy, more dramatic, more the academy’s speed (despite the bizarre nature of the film).

portman has picked up awards from the boston, chicago, dallas-fort worth, florida and kansas city critics. she has also picked up the golden globe and the biggie: the screen actor's guild. bening, of course, also picked up a globe but in the comedy/musical category. rarely as highly regarded as winning in the dramatic category.

the academy could decide bening has delivered over 20 years of incredible, indelible performances. perhaps an acknowledgement of her body of work will catapult her to a victory? i hold my breath with anticipation.

but i'm also allowing myself to gasp for air from time to time because, well.... i'm a realist.

will win: natalie portman, black swan
should win: annette bening, the kids are all right


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

the nominees for best supporting actor are:

christian bale
, the fighter
john hawkes, winter's bone
jeremy renner, the town
mark ruffalo, the kids are all right
geoffrey rush, the king's speech

okay, so i teased about a lock in the best supporting actress category yesterday... and it does appear to be a lock there. well, here... in supporting actor.... i think we pretty much have a lock.

let's knock out those we know aren't winning first, shall we? in order of least likely to win....

jeremy renner's nomination for the town seems residual glory from last year's the hurt locker phenom. sometimes the academy is so impressed by an individual one year their every subsequent performance (for a time) seems to be on their radar. renner is very, very good in the town. but it's no a gold-worthy performance and this is more of a further nod to his acting chops.

first time nominee john hawkes is extremely good in winter's bone. his teardrop epitomizes everything great about the film: he's at once terrifying and heartbreaking. you fear him one moment but are surprised by his humanity the next. in a bigger film, he would be a stronger contender... but winter's bone is the little movie that could and has done well with several nominations in the big six categories. but hawkes will not win here. but look out for this actor in the future.

the kids are all right seemed to be the juggernaut earlier in the year... but the film has cooled (rightfully so, in my opinion) and ruffalo's star has darkened. another first-time nominee, ruffalo gives the type of performance the academy does love. charming and lovable but, ultimately, a cad..... in a weaker year he could have been a bigger part of the conversation. and if the academy is looking for a way to reward the film, ruffalo is a possibility.

but what we really have here is a two-way race with what looks like a near lock for christian bale.

geoffrey rush turns in another type of performance that oscar loves. rush's lionel logue is extraordinary. warm, funny..... he provides strength for the other characters and, well, supports them. it is the quintessential supporting role. and it doesn't hurt that rush is genius in it. if the king's speech sweeps through the academy awards this year, rush could easily win for this performance. it would be rush's second win (he won best actor for 1996's shine) and it's his fourth overall nomination (he was also previously nominated for shakespeare in love and quills). many would argue, me included, that this talented performer deserves a second oscar.

but then there's dicky.

christian bale has long been admired as a versatile actor. he's been able to successfully tackle smaller, dramatic roles along with big box office action films. he has turned out one memorable performance after another.... yet the fighter is his first nomination. and it's one helluva performance.

dicky is charming and charismatic.... he is also pathetic and frustrating. bale steals the show in a film overpopulated with memorable characters. he has won the critic's choice awards from boston, chicago, dallas-fort worth, florida, kansas city, the national board of review, the broadcast film critics (the actual "critic's choice award"), as well as the golden globe and the screen actor's guild.

bale will become another stat in a long list of first-time nominees who win for a long-overlooked career on the screen.

will win: christian bale, the fighter
should win: geoffrey rush, the king's speech


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Countdown to the Oscars: Best Supporting Actress

the nominees for best supporting actress are:

amy adams, the fighter
helena bonham carter, the king's speech
melissa leo, the fighter
hailee steinfeld, true grit
jacki weaver, animal kingdom

i wanted to start with my favorite category this year: best supporting actress. this category has always provided some of the biggest surprises and upsets in oscar history. marisa tomei over judy davis. anna paquin over winona ryder and rosie perez. juliette binoche over lauren bacall in what looked like a certain lifetime achievement win.

but this year..... best supporting actress seems almost a lock.

all signs point to a melissa leo running away with the award for her frenetic turn as alice, the controlling and not-so-lovable mother in the fighter. she has won several major critics awards including the new york film critics and the broadcast film critics (or critic's choice award). most recently she's won the golden globe and the screen actor's guild.

she even has a previous nomination under her belt in the best actress category for 2009's frozen river. and academy members love to vote for nominees when they feel have earned their win by having one or two prior nods.

so how could she not win when all momentum seems behind her.....?

well, supporting actress could easily offer another upset this year. how is this possible, you ask? well, there's a lot of talk about another potential upset due to...... splitting the vote.

the one individual who does not seem to be in this discussion is aussie, jacki weaver. her janine is a slow burn through much of animal kingdom but she really turns out a brilliant and terrifying performance if you stick with it and truly understand everything her characters has done by the end of the film. but despite a couple of very high-level critic's wins (including the LA film critics) the film was not widely seen and her character does fly under the radar for most of the movie.

but let's looks at how vote splitting could work.

there's helena bonham carter. could vote splitting between two nominees from the same movie, combined with the momentum of the king's speech, carry her to victory? it's possible. carter does have a prior nomination for 1997's wings of the dove (best actress) and she is the stoic weight of the king's speech. and there's always this: the academy loves the supportive spouse.

amy adams could win if steinfeld and leo, the two contenders seen as the most likely winners, split academy votes. and adams does have a track record with the academy and gives a very solid performance in the fighter.... most importantly stretching her acting chops with a character outside her normal cute and naive range.

but adams and leo could also split the fighter votes which might lead to steinfeld winning for her magnificent debut performance in true grit. steinfeld could join the likes of tatum o'neal and anna paquin..... two young actresses who appear in every scene of a movie (or nearly every) but are relegated to the supporting ranks because of their age. the lead-ness of their performances also help bolster their potential win.

i would also argue that steinfeld deserves the win. she delivers a nuanced and understated performance far beyond her years. at fourteen, she could become one of the youngest oscar winners in the 83 year history of the awards.

(for trivia lovers: 10 year old tatum o'neal remains the youngest winner for her 1973 best supporting actress win for paper moon. the aforementioned paquin comes in second at 11 years old for her supporting win in 1993's the piano.)

steinfeld's performance is not as showy and leo seems to have all the momentum heading into the oscars..... but look for a very potential upset here. however, my gut tells me all signs point to one eventual winner. so.....

will win: melissa leo, the fighter
should win: hailee steinfeld, true grit