Being a good Angeleno, I of course have a lot to say about movies. Don’t let the small detail that I haven’t ever worked in The Industry, as we call it out here, count against me; I’ve known dozens of (unsuccessful) actors, and once accidentally stepped on Heather Graham, who’s much shorter than you’d think. I mean, I practically stepped on her head without noticing.
Again, being a good Angeleno, I’ve seen very nearly every one of the movies nominated for the major awards. Perhaps not being such a good Angeleno, this is the first year ever I’ve been able to say that. But the point is that I stepped it up this year, and, thus, these Official Picks for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.
I’ve seen every movie here except for 127 hours, and the nominees here are really outstanding. However, four really stand out to me:
- The Fighter, which was just outstanding – real, absorbing, terrifying
- The Kids Are All Right, a film that also felt stunningly real
- The Social Network, which made me somehow care about Mark Zuckerberg, and care a lot
- Toy Story 3, which brought me to tears even though it was animated
It’s really hard to pick against Toy Story 3 here, since any of the three films could have won in this category, and should perhaps have in the past and since I’m so happy that they nominated the film in this category and not in Animated again. However, the reality is that at least two of the other films in that list are better. And, as good as The Social Network was, the depth of multiple characters and the profoundness and reality of their interactions in The Fighter makes it my pick.
Again, what a great list of nominees. I was on board with True Grit until Rooster Cogburn’s run at the end, which just fit more into The Big Lebowski than it did this frontier movie. And, as great as The Fighter was as a whole, the biggest accomplishment here was making Black Swan hold together even though every moment could’ve been a lie or an illusion — and that’s what made the movie so good. So my pick is Darren Aronofsky.
I didn’t see Javier Bardem, which is a pity since he’s regularly so outstanding. The leaders here in my mind are Jesse Eisenberg and Colin Firth, both of whom had the difficult job of playing real people. Eisenberg’s accomplishment in actually making me connect to Mark Zuckerberg — whom I don’t dislike, just don’t have a personal connection to either — was outstanding. However, the sheer number of details that Colin Firth had to get right, and the skill he showed in bringing together the royal and the doubting side of George VI, make him my pick.
Annette Benning was truly outsanding in The Kids Are All Right, and well deserves a win here. So does Natalie Portman, who played ambiguous so well in Black Swan. But my winner is Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, who played somebody I could believe I’d known, in a way that couldn’t have been closer to reality.
Best Supporting Actor
As outstanding as Geoffrey Rush was in The King’s Speech, the movie would’ve worked with a weaker player there. Christian Bale, however, was the heart and soul of The Fighter, and is my clear pick here. (If you ask me, he could’ve been nominated, and won, in the Best Actor category.)
Best Supporting Actress
Hailee Steinfeld was about as good as a kid can be, but her part was quite simple, emotionally as was Amy Adams’s. Helena Bonham Carter was outstanding in The King’s Speech, but she was an add-on to the movie: the show would’ve been the same without her. As much as Christian Bale was the heart and soul of The Fighter, Melissa Leo was the center of the whole thing. She just stole the show and is my pick.
The Kids Are All Right had really stunning dialogue, and The Fighter was just so strong, but the originality and restraint of Inception wins it for me.
The Social Network worked more for its acting and direction than its screenplay; True Grit was good but not so truly different from the original that I feel it should win; and Winter’s Bone I’m shocked got nominated, as it was a fine film but all of the events happened to the star, not because of the star, a key failure in a story. To me, the big winner here is Toy Story 3, a brilliant script that lived up to the very high standards set by the previous episodes.
Animated Feature Film
As much as Toy Story 3 deserved to win Best Picture, it surely deserves to win here.
Can you believe I actually saw these? Yeah, quite the shock. The Lost Thing was a stunning achievement, truly original, engrossing and with a complete world, and I loved it. Well worth seeing. However, Day & Night was just completely different in its conception than anything I’d ever seen before, and executed perfectly to boot.
Inception was truly an art direction achievement — while other art directors need to design a world, in Inception the art director needed to design every layer, make each different and unique, and make each match the concept behind the film, with decreasing detail for each level. In Inception, they did that perfectly, and that makes it my pick.
I’m disappointed that Winter’s Bone wasn’t nominated here, as I thought it was shot brilliantly. I was disappointed by True Grit, to be frank. The King’s Speech was beautiful, but it’s been done before. The Social Network was well-shot in a TV kind of way. Inception was brilliantly shot, but the shooting played second fiddle to the other components of visual design. Black Swan, however, was a standout for me: close, yet open; spare in its colors; and always as ambiguous in its reality as the whole story. That’s why Black Swan is my pick.
I’m glad to see The King’s Speech nominated here, since it was so soundly put-together, but I don’t know how to judge a slow film like that on editing. Black Swan depended on split-second timing in all of its scenes for the illusion to hold together, and is my pick.
I actually saw all of the movies here, and I’d have to go with Inception here as well — the sound perfectly complemented the varying atmospheres and level of detail of the different worlds.
I was somewhat disappointed overall with Iron Man 2; the first one really did set new standards, but the second? Not so much. Inception used visual effects in a completely different way: to create a world, and to be thorough, not to flash and show off. But it did so in such an original way that it really did set new standards. That’s why Inception is my pick here, again.
The Social Network had incredible sound, with so many scenes in busy urban areas and restaurants, yet everything understandable without sacrificing the background noise. Outstanding.
That’s all I’ve seen, so that’s it for this year. Enjoy watching the red carpet!