Oscar.go.com sez: 8 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes, 9 seconds until the Oscars. It’s not like you need more speculation on who will bring home the little Gold Guy this Sunday. Heavens knows, the Blog Universe is full of such drivel, but here are my two cents…
I came close to Oscar once. We were editing Jane Doe in New York in the summer of ’96. In the Avid room next to us was Taylor Hackford, working on what would become the 1997 Best Documentary Feature When We Were Kings. Not a single Hi! How’s it going in there? passed between us those summer weeks. Alas, he didn’t thank me in his acceptance speech either. Hackford started his red-carpet walk in that very room. For myself and Jane Doe, it was the Green Mile walk straight-to-DVD. “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found thee!”
Let’s get the Oscar preliminaries out the way first. Being as I’m a former craps dealer, I will give you an Oscar Office Pool Choice as well as a Personal Choice. Bet those Office Pools with your head, not over it. Here goes:
Best Supporting Actor: Personal & Office Choice: Jeremy Renner was bad ass in The Town; Goeffrey Rush had a great turn in The King’s Speech. Really though, it’s no contest: Christian Bale as the meth-head brother in The Fighter. Scene-stealer par excellance.
Best Supporting Actress: Personal Choice: Hallee Steinfeld as the pigtailed 14 year-old pain-in-the-ass searching for her father’s killer in True Grit. Office Pool: Melissa Leo as the utter nightmare of a mother in The Fighter.
Best Actor: Tough choice. James Franco (127 Hours) absolutely nailed it. Office Pool: Gotta be Colin Firth (The King’s Speech). Personal Choice: Jeff Bridges (True Grit). How can’t you love Jeff Bridges? He gets stronger with the years, as opposed to some former Gods who have faded into irrelevance (What was the last classic movie starring DeNiro? Does anyone even remember?)
Best Actress: Office Pool: Annette Bening (The Kids Are Alright). Personal Choice: Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone).
Best Director: Personal Choice: David Fincher (The Social Network). Office Pool: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech).
Writing (Original Screenplay): Haven’t seen Another Year yet. See below for Inception but no, I’m no fan. The Fighter is honest work with some great performances, as is The Kids Are All Right, but my money has to go on The King’s Speech. Great work by screenwriter David Seidler.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Brutal choice! Not a weak script in the batch. Toy Story 3 was a decade in the making. Has Pixar ever, and I mean ever, made a bad movie? 127 Hours flies by as a contained thriller until that awful scene—you know the one I’m talking about!—and the upbeat ending was well earned. The Fighter, too, had an upbeat ending well earned. Beating on a character for 90 minutes apparently draws kudos from the Academy. True Grit? How can’t you love the Coen Brothers? Great re-interpretation of this material. However, like the 2011 World Champion Green Bay Packers, there can be only one winner: Office Pool/Personal Choice: The Social Network. 161 page script that plays in two hours. How do they do it? The words fly. Look at the film again for pacing. Against the backdrop of that phenomenal Trent Reznor soundtrack, this script sings. What more is there to say: Aaron Freakin’ Sorkin!
Let’s start with sacrilege: I walked out on Inception. It happened somewhere around Ellen Page saying: “Now, whose dream are we in?” Just didn’t care, kinda really enjoy hating on Leo Di Caprio (if only for dragging Scorsese into his World Of DiCaprio) Not to mention the CG effects after awhile, just a yawn.
More sacrilege: I’m not on the Black Swan train. Must have been on the wrong drugs watching it, but it was basically 108 minutes of “What the f….?” Aronofsky often does this to me (though The Wrestler kicked my ass last year.)
Speaking of this year’s The Wrestler…The Fighter: Good honest drama but tell me, wasn’t that ending utterly predictable? This movie is closer to Rocky than Raging Bull or Requiem For A Heavyweight. Think about it: Micky Rourke in The Wrestler ends the movie by going into the ring to—for all intents and purposes—suicide himself. Mark Wahlberg has to win. How does the project even get made if he doesn’t win? Great character work by Melissa Leo and Christian Bale though. His entire family (who could forget those seven sisters!) is a nightmare. The reveal with the HBO Doc was spectacular too but, ultimately, this one is by the numbers.
The Kids Are All Right is another good, honest story well delivered. Didn’t really speak to me on a personal level though, not like…
Toy Story 3. Seriously, name me a bad Pixar movie. Don’t even say Cars…. Ain’t none.
127 Hours has the scene everyone’s talking about. Screenwriting books are filled with the necessity of a character having to make a choice–well, here it is! I couldn’t watch it. I had no such problems with trendy horror like Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. If anything, that terrible moment reminded me of Open Water, when the diving couple is left behind to the open sea, the encroaching night, and the sharks. 127 Hours, great flick.
Winter’s Bone. If only it had a chance. Perfectly delivered masterpiece about the meth-trade in backwoods Missouri. From the moment the sheriff rolls up (Inciting Incident) with the news: “If you don’t find your dad in a week, you lose the house.” Drives the entire movie. Pitch perfect in script, tone, casting, production.
Which boils our Best Picture down to:
The King’s Speech. Sure, this one could sweep. For the Office Pool, I have to lean here. Another pitch perfect movie. Performances, art direction, costumes, words…wonderful build-up to the last scene, the King’s big speech. I would root for it as my Personal Choice, if not for:
The Social Network. May I repeat: Aaron Freakin’ Sorkin! 161 pages in two hours. Jesse Eisenberg won’t win Best Actor but it’s the role of a lifetime. Not to mention: Justin Timberlake can act! The best art defines its time. Sorkin caught grief for not being entirely truthful with the facts, which is crazy. Reminds me of the story of Picasso’s 1906 portrait of Gertrude Stein. When it was unveiled, someone commented that Stein didn’t look like her portrait. Picasso replied: “She will.”
The Social Network: Great art, great flick. It’s for the ages, Best of 2011.