Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Picks!

Here we are, only three days away from the 2011 Academy Awards. I’m so excited! Yeah, I know, I know. The Oscars are worthless. It’s a popularity and “Who You know” Contest. Blah blah blah. But every time I begin to think that way, I look at the candidates, and you know what? They’re pretty damn accurate most of the time. I mean look at the Best Picture Category. Are there any movies that didn’t make the cut that you think should have? Well, actually, there is.  But I'll get to that in a second.

Anyway, I got some bad news. I’m not going to be live-blogging on Sunday. It’s not cause I don’t love you guys. It’s because live-blogging is hard! Last year they kept screwing up the presentation order, forcing me to write out my prediction and thoughts for each category within five seconds, post each thought, then post an opinion thought after the result. Inevitably something would go wrong and I would have to go back and clean it up, all while the next category was starting, forcing me to simul-post. And let me tell you, I’m not good with simul-posting. I mean come on. Aren’t these Oscar producers thinking of the hard work and dedication bloggers everywhere are putting into this?

For that reason, you’re going to be getting my predictions in all the big categories right here and now. Naturally, all I really care about is the screenwriting competition, but I have some pretty strong opinions on these other categories as well. There’s something about the acting and directing categories in particular that bring out the nasty in me. People who’ve endured my past thoughts on Matt Damon and George Clooney know this well. Anyway, let’s dig in here. Feel free to leave your own pick in the comments section. I know I’ll be coming back here Sunday night to celebrate my 8 for 8 victory.

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids are All Right
The King's Speech
**The Social Network**
127 Hours
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

To me, Inception and Black Swan are the most cinematic experiences of all these ten movies. But the name of this category is not “most cinematic.” It’s “Best Picture.” Toy Story 3 is probably the most complete movie in this group from top to bottom. It’s got the best story. It’s got the best characters. It creates the strongest connection between itself and the audience and has the fewest flaws. Buuuuuut…it’s a cartoon and something wouldn’t feel right about a cartoon winning this category. The King’s Speech has really come on late in this race and is a great “1a” choice. It would be my personal pick for Best Picture. But when it’s all said and done, The Social Network has the most buzz, and probably the most money, behind it. You can already smell the victory. But before I leave this category, I’m still trying to figure out all the love for The Fighter. I thought the movie was okay but I mean, come on, isn’t it just an excuse for Christian Bale to let out all that repressed energy he had to hold back during the Batman films and win himself an Oscar? Here’s why this movie fails for me though. I keep comparing Mark Wahlberg to Sylvester Stallone in Rocky on the charisma scale. Wahlberg’s a solid 3 and Stallone’s a 10. I just didn’t care if he won that fight at the end or not. Oh, and the one tragedy here is WHERE IS THE TOWN!??  That should've gotten in over The Fighter, Inception, 127 Hours and Winter's Bone easily.  Grrrrr.  Bad Academy! Anyway, Social Network for the win!

Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
**Natalie Portman (Black Swan)**
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

I don’t have a chicken in this fight but I do have a…swan. Heh heh. Get it? No? Okay, I’m saying I’m picking Natalie Portman to win. That movie is so haunting and it’s the best job Portman’s done in forever. It almost makes me forget Queen Amidala. Almost. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the inclusion of Miss Boring Face from Winter’s Bone though. Is there a single moment in that performance where you think, “Wow, great acting?” And while I loved The Kids Are All Right, I’m not sure Annette Bening had much to do either. She was fun. But it’s not an academy award performance.

Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
**Colin Firth (The King's Speech)**
James Franco (127 Hours)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)

Whaaaat? Jesse Eisenberg for best actor? He acted like an asshole for two hours! I would’ve nominated his turn in Zombieland over this. Javier Bardem’s film is flying way too under the radar for him to win anything. That leaves Firth, Franco, and Bridges. Bridges won last year so he’s not winning twice in a row. And Franco can’t hang with these actors. So Firth takes the prize. That was easy.

**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)

This is always the best race since supporting roles don’t need to anchor the movie and therefore tend to be the flashiest. While I thought The Fighter was pretty average, Bale definitely did something unique with his part. Having said that, I really liked Renner in The Town. When he looked into people’s eyes? I honestly believed he could kill them. John Hawkes gets a nomination for grabbing a 17 year old’s hair. Ruffalo’s role doesn’t have enough sizzle factor. And Rush is good but for some reason isn’t getting a lot of mileage from this role. I want Renner to win but Bale’s got this locked up.

Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
**Melissa Leo (The Fighter)**
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Say what you will about David O. Russel. I’m not sure he even knows what the word “narrative” means. But the guy always gets some unique performances out of his actors. So I’m leaning towards the two people he directed in this category, Adams and Melissa Leo. I know Hailee Steinfeld is the new young “it” girl, but I’m not buying it. The dark horse here is Jacki Weaver.  I thought she was really good.  But that movie's so small.  I don't think enough Academy members have seen it.  Three months later and I’m still remembering Melissa Leo’s performance from The Fighter, so I’m taking an underdog shot with this one and going with her.

**Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)**
David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

This is a GREAT category. You have some real monsters in this group. But I think we can kick Russell and Hooper out easily. That leaves us with visionary titans Aronofsky, Fincher, and the Coens. You know, I still don’t know what people base the criteria of best director on. Is it for the overall vision? Is it for the amazing performances? It seems to me that the best directing decisions probably happen in the heat of the battle behind closed doors. But I think it’s safe to say Fincher isn’t stretching his muscles here. And out of the remaining competitors, Aronofsky is taking way more chances and way more of those chances are paying off. So I’m saying Aronofsky for the win, a win he rightly deserves.

127 Hours (Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle)
**The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)**
Toy Story 3 (Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
True Grit (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
Winter's Bone (Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini)

There’s about as much suspense in this category as there was in the movie, Blue Valentine. I never saw 127 Hours as a strong screenplay and find it odd that it was nominated. Like I said back in my review, it’s a film way more than a script. Toy Story 3 is great and all but it does suffer a little from not being fresh. True Grit’s alright but nothing special. Winter’s Bone…I mean, this just seems like a lazy pick to me. A very standard story. Very sparse. I don’t know what it is about the screenplay that would get anyone excited. That leaves, of course, our clear cut runaway winner, the best reading experience I had of 2009, The Social Network. A-duh.

Another Year (Mike Leigh)
The Fighter (Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colich, Eric Johnson, Scott Silverand Paul Tamasy)
Inception (Christopher Nolan)
The Kids are All Right (Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko)
**The King's Speech (David Seidler)**

This is a really interesting category. Inception must be in here for imagination, because it violates so many good screenwriting principals and is so lazy in its storytelling practices that it’s hard to argue for its inclusion. The Fighter is just a complete mess on the page, often confused about which character’s story it wants to tell, and concludes its turbulent 120 pages with a last second fight we’re all of a sudden supposed to care about. Can you imagine if Rocky would’ve found out he was fighting Apollo Creed 20 minutes before the end of the movie?? Okay okay! I’ll stop ragging on The Fighter. Of all the films in the two screenplay categories, Mike Leigh’s is the only one I haven’t seen or read, so if that script is brilliant, my apologies for missing it. The two best scripts on this list by far are The Kids Are All Right (old review here) and The King’s Speech (old review here). Personally, I love both of these scripts. And because there’s more to juggle, I believe The Kids Are All Right is the better script, but The King’s Speech is the one that makes you feel better inside after it’s over, and for that reason, that’s my pick. And how awesome would it be to have a 76 year old screenwriter win the Oscar!!

I’ll be reposting this on Sunday to keep the debate going. Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to all 10 of the Oscar nominated screenplays.