This year I've seen 9 of the 10 Oscar-nominated Best Picture films. Since I rarely see more than one or two, I thought I would take the opportunity this year to write my thoughts and predictions. I hope you'll comment if you would like to join the discussion. My friend, Caren, told me recently, "Laura, you like to be part of the discourse." It's so true! I love to DISCUSS, so let's do it!!
(Let me add that I decided not to distinguish the movie titles with parentheses or underline or bold, because there were so many of them. They are capitalized, but doing anything else became tedious. I hope that doesn't bother you!)
This year I saw all the Best Picture nominees except Winter's Bone. I ran out of time, and it was a hard one to find. My brother, Dave, told me it was his least favorite, and we have similar taste, so I decided not to try very hard.
I honestly enjoyed the remaining nine movies very much. It was a good year for me to see so many. Inception and Black Swan were very intriguing, amazingly-filmed movies. Social Network was of particular interest to me (for obvious reasons), and lived up to my expectations (although I would rank it near the bottom of this list). Toy Story was nostalgic and a lot of fun. I love movies like The Fighter, because the characters are layered - more complicated than the initial impression. In this case, these real people were played beautifully by the actors who portrayed them.
I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed both True Grit and 127 Hours. I didn't think I wanted to see either movie at the beginning of Oscar season, but after reading about them and hearing recommendations from others, I decided to see them both. I'm so glad I did. True Grit was a beautiful movie, with the scenery seeming like an additional character. The characters were engaging and the dialogue witty. 127 Hours felt like an experience, more than just watching a movie. The music, too, was fantastic and really contributed to the experience!
I have to say, though, that my favorite movie this year is The King's Speech. I hate to just go with the crowd on this one, and I'm not necessarily drawn to "pearls and fur" movies (as they say), but I was so moved by Colin Firth's portrayal of the stammering prince/king. I found myself so drawn into his relationships. The King's Speech made me laugh and cry. I loved loved loved it, so my pick for Best Picture is The King's Speech.
I'm at a little bit of a loss in this category, because I didn't see Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), or Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine). I probably shouldn't even comment here, but since I am, I will say what I think about the performances of Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right). According to the media, the race is really down to these two actresses anyway.
There's been much talk about the fact that Annette Bening has three previous nominations and no wins. She was nominated for Best Actress in 1999 for American Beauty and in 2004 for Being Julia. (Bening's third nom was Best Supporting Actress in 1990 for The Grifters). In both 1999 and 2004, she lost to Hilary Swank. Hilary Swank is not nominated this year, but the question is still, will she lose a third time to a younger actress?
I thought that Natalie Portman's portrayal of a mentally unstable ballerina in Black Swan was amazing. Really, a-maz-ing! The movie was a little psycho for me, but she truly pulled off the performance. She definitely deserves an Academy Award! On the other hand, Annette Bening really sold the tightly-wound doctor in a sometimes rocky marriage! BUT, I thought her costar, Julianne Moore, had some of the best scenes. Moore's speech about marriage ("Marriage is a marathon. It's f*ing hard with a lot of slogging through!" - I paraphrase!) was really really powerful!
I pick Natalie Portman to win. She truly transformed herself into her character, requiring a lot of physical and mental endurance. I'll be fine if Annette Bening wins, though, even if it's just because she's already lost twice to actresses in their twenties! I have Empathy.
Of the five nominated performances, I saw four. I didn't see Javier Bardem in Biutiful. Jesse Eisenberg was convincing in the role of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but I didn't think The Social Network was as good as some of these others, and wouldn't pick Eisenberg to win.
Choosing between the remaining three actors is very hard for me. I've talked about how much I loved The King's Speech, and I thought Colin Firth's performance was fantastic! I would like to know how many minutes of the movie, 127 Hours, included only James Franco. This thoroughly engaging movie was almost completely Franco's gripping performance as a hiker pinned by a rock for 127 hours. The story, too, was much more than just how he survived his ordeal, and much much more than just the fact that (**spoiler alert -- if you don't know how he escaped and don't want to, don't read the rest of this sentence**) he had to cut off his arm to free himself!
Jeff Bridges is a fantastic actor. I loved him in last year's Crazy Heart and again this year as a U. S. Marshal in True Grit. Bridges won last year, beating out Colin Firth, who was nominated for A Single Man. I'm not sure that Bridges' performance is outstanding enough to win two years in a row. (The last back-to-back winner was Tom Hanks for Philadelphia - 1993, and Forrest Gump - 1994). Bridges has really hit his stride, though, and I look forward to what's next for him.
Ok, now is the time that I have to choose, so I think I'm going to go with Colin Firth. I just loved The Kings Speech so much. If James Franco wins, though, I will be equally as happy.
Best Supporting Actress
In this category, I saw four of the five performances. I didn't watch Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. You know how I feel about The King's Speech, and Helena Bonham Carter did a lovely job as the (eventual) Queen Mother. In The Fighter, Amy Adams (as girlfriend) and Melissa Leo (as mother) were really instrumental in the movie's success (of course, we'll get to Christian Bale in a minute). Of the two, though, I would vote for Adams over Leo, even though Leo seems to be a front runner in this race.
I honestly think that Hailee Steinfeld is nominated in the wrong category. She portrays a 14-year-old spitfire, out to revenge her father's death, in True Grit. She is really the main character in this story, and a commanding performance on her part was essential. She delivered in a major way, and for that Hailee Steinfeld gets my vote in this category!
Best Supporting Actor
I saw three of the performances in this category. I didn't see John Hawkes in The Winter's Bone, or Jeremy Renner in The Town (although I really wanted to). According to things I've read, it seems that this race is pretty much down to two men: Christian Bale in The Fighter, and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech. Mark Ruffalo is also nominated for his role as the sperm donor in The Kids Are All Right.
I liked Ruffalo's performance, but I didn't think it was nearly as good as the performances of Bale and Rush. I'm having trouble deciding which actor will get my vote. Bale really lost himself in the character of Dicky Edlund, the former-boxer-turned-drug-addict who now trains his little brother. Bale's portrayal of Dicky really shines, in a movie full of great performances. As the prince/king's speech therapist, Geoffrey Rush goes toe-to-toe with Colin Firth, in what will probably be Firth's Oscar-winning performance. I loved Rush's character and loved watching the beautiful friendship that developed between the prince and the therapist.
I think this race may just be too close for me to call right now. I'll make my pick by Sunday night (not that anyone is holding his/her breath for news of what I decide)!
My Closing Remarks
In light of the fact that this is an Oscar post, I would like to give my own little thank you speech. I'm elated that I was able to see almost all the best picture movies, and I have some people to thank. First, I'll thank the Academy for having the Oscars, because it really does make me happy (pathetic? maybe.), and gets me out to the movies! Next, I would like to thank Alex Schmidt for challenging my assumption that I would never have time to see movies during the day. I would like to thank Dave and Rachel Zahniser for encouraging me to see 127 Hours, and Caren Wood for taking time out of her day to see it with me. Thank you to Faye and Clair for babysitting on a couple of Friday afternoons, so I could go see The King's Speech and The Fighter. Thank you to Steve and Caren Wood for recommending True Grit. And last, but not least, a big thank you to my dear husband, Gary Pierson. Thank you for working hard and being willing to indulge my Oscar-season movie needs. I couldn't have done it without your support (or your money! lol).
Thanks for reading, and I would love to hear your thoughts and predictions about the Academy Awards (which air this Sunday, Feb 27 at 7pm Central on abc)!