Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oscars 2011: The Should-Winners

My BAFTA predictions were quite off the mark and the main reasons for that debacle were the mushy heart and the myopic vision of the BAFTA members in giving The King's Speech awards in categories that it truly did not deserve - no one can tell me with a straight face that David Seidler's script (decent as it is) deserves more credit than Inception or Black Swan or The Fighter or even The Kids Are All Right.

Either way, good for The King's Speech - at least it's a film partially funded by the UK Film Council and when it wins a plethora of awards come next Sunday, David Cameron's cabinet will have made yet another ill-judged cut in their hands. But, this is not a political blog, so let's get back to film.

Yes, The King's Speech (whether you like it or not) will sweep pretty much the whole field on Sunday. That has become a foregone conclusion - The Social Network's early momentum could not continue beyond Christmas (despite sweeping pretty much all critics' boards awards). This schism in voting the best film of 2010 is actually pretty interesting: The King's Speech is clearly a popular favourite (with solid critical acclaim), whereas The Social Network was almost a unanimous darling for the critics. Crucially not so much with popular votes, as it may have been a little too dark and cynical - too 'edgy', whatever that implies.

However, The King's Speech's inevitable rise to the apparent pedestal of Film 2010 has a lot to do with the fact that people needed a rapturous speech (literally) to see them through the troubled times of ours. The proverbial king's speech lifted us to face the adversities that each and every one of us are facing on a daily basis. I cannot whole-heartedly disagree with that. Yet, this should not equate a stamp of greatness. Unfortunately, The King's Speech will be remembered thus.

I know I am in a minority in this view (though I know DubMC also agrees with me), but The King's Speech is a vastly overrrated film - yes, it is well-acted, nice to look at, and it is by no means terrible. But, should it even be one of the 10 Best Picture nominees?


Absolutely not.

Now that my view on the subject is settled (once again), I move on to the fun part.

For fear of repeating myself, I decided to do something different to my BAFTA predictions: instead of predicting the winners, I'm going to pick the winners only ... if I were the only member of the Academy. This is not a list of who will, or is likely to, win, but who in my humble opinion should win (by the way, here are DubMC's predictions, if you haven't read them already).

Same rules apply as to the BAFTA predictions:

1- I will only pick a winner in a category where I have seen at least 60% of the nominated films.
2- I will only pick categories where I can actually verbally express a somewhat intelligible argument (i.e. no costume or make-up).

One final note: I am not picking the Best Foreign Language Film (shock! horror! zombies!), because I have only seen two of the nominated films - the rest (to my knowledge) haven't been released in the UK yet.

So, after this ridiculously long preamble, here are my should-winners:


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


Inception - What else but a film that made us all really think? Not about how we're heading back home, but about what we just saw - not an easy feat for a big-budget blockbuster. A true original that pushed the boundaries of special effects and narrative (un)conventions, while defying the sequel- and remake-happy output of recent years. We may not see the likes of this for years. It was a great film in every sense of the word.


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


Darren Aronofsky - The fact that Christopher Nolan was not nominated is a travesty, so this category is already tainted by its absence. However, this should not take anything away from what Aronofsky achieved with Black Swan. In any year, Aronofsky would be a front-runner (or close by) in this category. So, this year he is clearly the deserving nominee and the frontrunner - my pick for the BAFTA was David Fincher, but that was mostly for his ouevre and not for The Social Network in particular. Aronofsky should win for Black Swan.


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


Javier Bardem - Having just watched Biutiful, what struck me most was how embedded Bardem was in the film - he is a furniture of the film, so essential to the whole mechanism that without him there would be absolutely nothing. This is not an Anton Chigurh-esque instant-classic, or an attention-commanding role like Ramón Sampedro. This is acting in its purest form - a character that is completely devoid of the actor playing him/her. Should Javier Bardem be considered as this generation DeNiro / Pacino / Hoffmann / Nicholson (delete as necessary)? I think so. And does he deserve that comparison? Without a single shred of doubt.


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


Michelle Williams - I have voiced my admiration for this film and its leads elsewhere (Ryan Gosling's absence in the Best Actor nominees is also a huge oversight by the Academy). This was a heartbreaking performance - understated, subtle, and deeply harrowing. Michelle Williams is unfairly linked to "Dawson' Creek", whose cast's post-Dawson acting careers read like Who's Who of flops and busts. I only watched one episode of Dawson (honest to the gods of Kobol), in which the only thing that that I really cared about was Michelle Williams - I guess I wasn't wrong.


Mike Leigh (Another Year)
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (The Fighter)
Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right)
David Seidler (The King's Speech)


Christopher Nolan - My reasons parallel the Best Picture 'Should-winner' reasons, so I'm not going to repeat them here. In the true auteurist way, Nolan's script and film stank of originality. Not a dull moment.


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


Aaron Sorkin - I admit that the name may influence my decision and I have thought about this a lot. The script for 127 Hours could easily snap this, but the more I thought about Sorkin's script, the more obvious it became that it wasn't just another script from one of the greatest writers working today, but it was a great script from one of the greatest writers working today. It zinged with Sorkin's trademark lightning-dialogue and without being too flashy, it kept us all entertained and enthused for a lengthy running time. Not only we followed a character that no one would like to even be acquainted with, but he was one of the most complex and uncategorisable protagonists. Ever.


Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Wally Pfister (Inception)
Danny Cohen (The King's Speech)
Jeff Cronenwerth (The Social Network)
Roder Deakins (True Grit)


Roger Deakins - Another name with immense reputation (a legend, really) and another pick that may have been influenced by that. However, there is no denying Deakins' amazing work on Coens' latest film. Their collaborations have produced some of the most memorable feats of cinematography (Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, A Simple Man ... list goes on) and True Grit will rightfully take its place amongst them - and may even feature high up on that list. Incredible crisp photography that is not only beautiful to look at, but also fits the film like a glove.


Jon Harris (127 Hours)
Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan)
Pamela Martinek (The Fighter)
Tariq Anwar (The King's Speech)
Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall (The Social Network)


Jon Harris - What shouldn't work on paper (and on camera) is proven wrong by Danny Boyle's incredible directing, his and Simon Beaufoy's dynamic script, James Franco's brilliant performance ... and Jon Harris's editing. Why? All of the other kept us interested, but what really tied them all together and made them work in an incredibly economical way (under Boyle's direction, of course) was Harris's editing. It kept us on the edge of our seats. Similar scenes and sequences ran the risk of banality and repetition, but he chose the right shots to engage us in the brilliant story. Without this editing work, 127 Hours could easily have been painfully dull.


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)


John Hawkes - I know I gave high praise to Mark Ruffalo in my review of The Kids Are All Right and I still stand behind that praise. However, I have lately come to realise how good Hawkes was in Winter's Bone - unpredictable is the word. He was menacing and malicious in one scene, staring with eyes full of hate and danger. Next scene the same eyes were warm and welcoming, hell-bent on protecting his young niece. A severely underrated performance, from a severely underrated film (despite the multiple nominations).


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


Hailee Steinfeld - It is a joke that Steinfeld is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category, when she is in pretty much every single frame of True Grit. And she is brilliant in all of them. Far more mature than her 14-years talent-wise, she doesn't play an early-bloomer, but her actual age with naivite, restlessness, and, without sounding sexist, an impending maternal instinct (I want to stress again, her sex does not automatically beget maternal instinct, so don't send any hate-mails). If she were rightfully nominated for Best Actress, she would have been a should-winner there too.

It is likely that most of these picks will not be the eventual winners. It doens't matter, because these are just a humble film-lover's fantasy picks. And if my recent fantasy sports performances are anything to go by, I am not very good at picking winners lately.

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