Tag Archives: Biutiful

Oscar Predictions: Best Leading Actor and Actress

24 Feb

In my second to last Oscar Predictions post I will tackle both Lead acting races, both of which are pretty much considered locks by most, but one of which really isn’t.

BEST LEAD ACTOR

Nominees

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

In case you were wondering, this is that one that actually is a mortal lock. There’s absolutely no way in hell Colin Firth will not walk away from the Nokia Theater without the golden man firmly in his hands. He gives a masterclass in acting in The King’s Speech, not to mention he’s coming off his other Oscar-noinated stellar performance in A Single Man last year.

Should Win: Colin Firth
Will Win: Colin Firth

BEST LEAD ACTRESS

Nominees

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

These are actually my Top 5 performance by any actress in a leading role in all of 2010, so I was specifically happy about this bunch of nominees. But this is the category which I think isn’t as clear-cut as most are assuming.

Yes, Natalie Portman has swept through the precursors, and her performance, to me, is certainly the best in this group and should most certainly earn her her first Academy Award (she was previously nominated for her supporting turn in Closer).

But then there’s Annette Bening. This woman is heavily involved in the Academy, absolutely loved and revered by everyone in the business, as she should be because she’s one seriously awesome lady, and has already lost three times before (twice to Hilary Swank, one of those, to me, quite unjustly), so the Academy may feel like she’s due (and she honestly is) and give her the award, even if her performance, stunning as it may be, isn’t as great as Portman’s.

So yes, I’m saying Portman for now. Not because she has won all the other awards, just because I liked her performance better. But maybe Annette Bening will pull off the upset, I mean, just look at her face during the scene at dinner in Paul’s house and it’s tough to argue against giving her the golden man.

Should Win: Natalie Portman
Will Win: Natalie Portman

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Oscar Predictions: Documentary, Foreign Film, Animated Film

24 Feb

This is the sixth of my ten Oscar Predictions posts, and one that will tackle three categories, those honoring the best achievement in Documentary, Foreign Language and Animated films. Here are my predictions.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Nominees

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz)
  • Gasland (Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic)
  • Inside Job (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
  • Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
  • Waste Land (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)

Though an upset by Exit Through the Gift Shop is something I could actually see happening, even though Banksy has been banned from attending the ceremonies under disguise (which means now he won’t attend at all), I really want this to go to Inside Job, and I think it just might. Charles Ferguson’s look at what made the recent economic crisis happen is really stunning and spellbinding, and after already having been nominated for another terrific and timely documentary, No End in Sight, I think he’ll get his due.

Should Win: Inside Job
Will Win: Inside Job

BEST FILM IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Nominees

  • Biutiful (Mexico)
  • Dogtooth (Greece)
  • In a Better World (Denmark)
  • Incendies (Canada)
  • Hors-la-loi (Algeria)

Even though I would personally like nothing more than to see Biutiful pick this one up, I doubt that’ll ultimately happen, that film, though thoroughly masterful, is too dark and moody for many, which means the decision upon it will certainly be divisive, which sucks considering Mexico, with seven previous nominations in the category, hasn’t won this award once, not even when its contenders were Pan’s Labyrinth and Amores Perros.

But yeah, I think Biutiful ultimately won’t pick this trophy up, but rather the race will be between In a Better World and Incendies. The Dutch film probably has more momentum, especially after the Golden Globe win, and will most likely earn Denmark their third win in this field, and as such I’ll pick it as my winner. However, I think Incendies is the better film out of the two, so seeing that one win would be even better.

Should Win: Incendies
Will Win: In a Better World

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Nominees

  • How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)
  • L’Illusionniste (Sylvain Chomet)
  • Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)

Are we really planning on discussing this one? It’s the biggest no-brainer of the night. Since the inclusion of the Best Animated Film category in the Oscars all seven of the Pixar films released during that time have been nominated for it, with five going on to win the award. Look for the animation house to now make it six for eight with this one.

Should Win: Toy Story 3
Will Win: Toy Story 3

Biutiful

27 Jan

Title: Biutiful
Year:
2010
Director:
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writers:
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone
Starring:
Javier Bardem, Blanca Portillo, Maricel Álvarez, Rubén Ochandiano
MPAA Rating:
R, disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use
Runtime:
147 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
7.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
64%

I’m writing this review a day after the Academy Award nominations were announced, but I saw the actual film several weeks before this, and have seen it two more times since. I’ve been raving about Javier Bardem’s performance here for quite a while now, and hearing his name as a nominee for Best Lead Actor, the first time a performance in a foreign language has been nominated for that award, was a great way to start the week.

Because, really, the stuff on display by Mr. Bardem here is a thing of absolute beauty, my fifth favorite performance given by a male lead actor in all 2010, one in a film that’s so damn bleak and dark that it really needed a performance like this to get us through the journey. Because many people have turned off Biutiful or left the theater after a while because they weren’t able to fully watch it, which is a pity, because as hard as it may get to watch at times, it’s incredibly rewarding at the end, and all the support Mr. Bardem is getting from fellow actors and friends like Julia Roberts and Sean Penn is extremely deserved.

Alejandro González Iñárritu is a pretty masterful craftsman, you look at all four of his films, Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and now Biutiful, and you know this is a guy who can handle some pretty heavy topics and create something amazingly compelling with them, something never far from brilliant, and always getting some extraordinary performances from his actors.

Biutiful deals with a man, Uxbal, and looks at him as he knows the end of his life is near, and must do everything to provide a safe future for his children and leave everything he has worked for in order. And in the end there’s hope to be found in Biutiful, a film that has in Mr. Bardem a leading man that was willing to go deep down inside and fetch some really raw emotions that make this film feel like a wonderful poem about life. The shots here are just gorgeous, the details, everything, you just feel this was a work of love from all involved. Gloomy as hell, yes, but also beautifully intimate and, ultimately, absolutely riveting.

There’s something cool about having the actor here be Mr. Bardem and having the city be Barcelona. I say that because, as it’s been mentioned in a few interviews, this film shows the absolute opposite side of the city than the one that was shown in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the Woody Allen film that also starred the Spaniard thespian. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona we saw beautiful colors, beautiful women and beautiful places, in Biutiful the color palette is darker, full of blues and dark oranges, and so are the stories we found, with Uxbal being a very special sort of criminal in the Barcelona underworld. And while the film deals quite a lot with death, you just sense so much life coming out of it.

And how Mr. Bardem plays Uxbal is what ultimately makes this film hit so deep, what makes it stand out from being just a dark moody film. His Uxbal is a guy who could have been played straightforward by a lesser actor and the result wouldn’t have been as astounding, it’s in the complexities and layers that Mr. Bardem adds to the character in which we truly find the richness of Biutiful.

Uxbal, you see, is indeed a criminal, a guy who lives in a zone full of immigrants and has his hands all over many illegal businesses, but he can also communicate with the souls of the recently deceased, which he does, for a price, to alleviate mourning families. He’s a good guy, he really is, and he has the best intentions for the people that surround him. And, most importantly, he’s a dedicated father to their two children, of whom he has full custody of since their mother is really something.

In Mr. Iñárritu’s first three films, which were all written by Guillermo Arriaga with Mr. Iñárritu pitching in as a co-writer in Babel and that were dubbed the ‘Death Trilogy’, he used intertwining story lines and multiple narratives, and for those films, that worked insanely well. But here in Biutiful, his first film without Mr. Arriaga, he decides to focus on just one man, on Uxbal, who discovers he’s dying from cancer. And in focusing on just one man, and in having such a talented actor playing that man, he manages to create scenes of beautiful depth, filmed with handheld cameras and showcasing lovely colors that suit the film perfectly.

And while his first project without Mr. Arriaga has Mr. Iñárritu tackling only a single story, it doesn’t mean he’s going to start focusing on other themes that much. This is still a very sad story, focusing on a man who doesn’t have the best of outlooks. And what I thought was great was the fact that Mr. Iñárritu didn’t work that hard to explain Uxbal to us, most of that discovery is left to us, the audience, to try and understand why Uxbal is the way he is, to try and understand the people in his life.

I understand why some people are saying Biutiful was too grim for them to endure, because it honestly is, and as amazing as I personally thought this was, this is a hard film to recommend because I know deep inside more people than not won’t agree with me. But still, please try and get over the eerie atmosphere and moody outlook and allow yourself to follow Mr. Bardem in his very human exploration of a character, Uxbal is a hero trapped in a situation he knows he can’t get out of, and it’s an amazing journey to be a part of.

The music by Gustavo Santaolalla, the way it was shot by Rodrigo Prieto, every single element comes together here to make a thing of sheer beauty. And trust me, if you’re able to get through seeing Biutiful fully, then the first thing you’ll want to do once you’re done is to see it again, to fully appreciate the intricate subjects that Mr. Iñárritu touches upon here, and realize that even though this may be his simplest film yet narrative-wise, it’s probably the hardest one he’s done as far as studying emotions and situations.

Grade: A

Oscar Nominations: My Reactions

25 Jan

The Oscar nominations were announced bright and early this morning. And while most of the nominees were predictable, there were still quite a bit of storylines to take out of the morning’s announcements.

Firstly, of course, the outrageous snub of Christopher Nolan in the Best Director category, Inception might have made the Best Picture ballot and Mr. Nolan himself got his second career Screenplay nod, but the Academy yet again failed to mention him for Best Director to make room for the Coen brothers. Another snub was The Town, which ended up with a sole Oscar nomination and got snubbed in the Best Picture as well as Director and Screenplay races, the films nominated instead were still quite deserving, but still, too little love bestowed on such a great film.

Then, on a far more positive note, this was also the year in which films that came out of Sundance came out strong at the Oscars, which is terrific news for the independent film business, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone both got 4 nominations in major races, Animal Kingdom got a Best Supporting Actress bid, and four out of the five Best Documentary nominees were shown in Park City a year ago.

As for what the nominations will mean come the big night on February 27th, well, The King’s Speech certainly got a huge boost today, scoring an even dozen nominations, the most out of any film this year. That has some people jumping from The Social Network‘s bandwagon into the one driven by Harvey Weinstein, since for the last several decades the movie with the most nominations has won the Best Picture race 75% of the time. Now, let’s play statistics for a while here, I actually still think The Social Network will still win this for now, but the stock on The King’s Speech has certainly risen in the last few weeks. First, of course, was Saturday’s PGA win, and considering that association has bestowed its award to the eventual Best Picture winner 13 out of the last 20 years it means it has the odds going for it.

But then again, lets not forget just how much The Social Network has going for itself, it pretty much swooped the Critic’s groups awards, including big wins at the Globes and the National Board of Review. Not to mention that David Fincher is the clear front-runner to win not only the Best Director Oscar, but the DGA honors that will be announced on Saturday. And really, the Best Director winner is always considered the likely victor of the big race and, in fact, the winner of the DGA award has actually went on to have their film win the Best Picture Oscar 33 times in the last 40 years.

So, who really has the advantage? I honestly don’t know, this really is one seriously tough race to call, and I won’t call it until all the remained precursors are done with. Yes, the DGA will most likely go to The Social Network, but then the BAFTAs will presumably be all over The King’s Speech considering it’s a home-grown film. The PGA win by Tom Hooper’s film was big, yes, but so were the many Critic’s Associations and Globes wins by David Fincher’s movie. So, if I may interject, I think that the one awards show that may be a big indicator as to what will happen on Oscar night will be the SAGs, taking place this coming Sunday.

Hear me out for a while, the SAG obviously doesn’t have a Best Picture award, but rather a Best Ensemble one, meaning it will honor the combined acting performances of the cast in a film. And while I still think that the front-runner for that one is The Fighter (which has four seriously spectacular performances), I can see an upset happening courtesy of The King’s Speech. The Social Network won’t win that one, it has some great performances but it can’t compete acting-wise with those two other films, so that race will be the one to prove just how much support The King’s Speech has. And if it wins that one, then I probably will update my predictions and consider it the front-runner for the Oscar, because, remember, the SAGs have many times served as indicators of Oscar upsets, I’m obviously referring to 1998, when the SAG went to Shakespeare in Love, the same film that went on to win the Best Picture Oscar over the clear favorite, Saving Private Ryan, and most recently in 2005, when Crash ended up with the SAG win and ended up upsetting Brokeback Mountain for the Academy’s top honor.

So yes, this will be a Best Picture race for the ages, one I’m really excited for and one that will come down to the very end. Will The King’s Speech end up with the win? Consolidating itself as the biggest Oscar bait there ever was in 2010, a biopic about British monarchy counting with excellent performances all around and a spectacular director working form a brilliant script. Or, will The Social Network prevail? The film with very young up-and-coming actors, directed by a director that started out working on music videos and then went on to create some of the most masterful and popular films of the last decade and a half, one about a modern phenomenon and full of quick-witted, very fast and talkative scenes. It will be a New School vs. Old School battle to the very end, the historical dramas have fared very well in the past, I’m thinking Gandhi or The English Patient, but as of late, with winners like The Hurt Locker and No Country for Old Men, it feels as though the Academy is skewing more towards films oriented to younger audiences with a more gritty sort of feel. We’re in for one very entertaining race to the finish line.

But enough about the big race, I’m sure we’ll talk much more about that in the near future, but for now let us revise all the nominations announced by the Academy today.

BEST PICTURE

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

All the usual suspects here. I went 9 for 10 as far as my predictions go, considering Winter’s Bone felt the love from the Academy big time today and crept into the big party, throwing out my original prediction for the tenth slot: The Town. Again, as for who will actually win it, I have no idea, it’s a big split between The Social Network and The King’s Speech, and we’ll have a clearer idea of the state of the race once the remaining precursors are all said and done.

BEST DIRECTOR

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

I went 4 for 5 in this one, considering I predicted the horribly snubbed Christopher Nolan to be invited to the party instead of the Coen brothers. However, True Grit got a massive ten nominations and the love went to the genius brothers instead. Which was well deserved, but it’s ridiculous that Nolan doesn’t have a Best Director nomination to his name yet. However, massive kudos to Darren Aronofsky for finally getting his first career nomination for helming what to me was the best film of 2010.

BEST LEAD ACTOR

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

Went a perfect 5-for-5 in this race, correctly predicting Javier Bardem’s nomination over Get Low‘s Robert Duvall. Still, Bardem’s nomination was much deserved, and it was awesome to see a foreign language performance getting a nod here. However, this has never been a race, the golden man probably has Colin Firth’s name engraved from this very moment.

BEST LEAD ACTRESS

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

Another category in which I went 5-for-5 in my predictions. And it really is a lovely bunch of ladies getting nominated here, Michelle Williams got her extremely deserved nomination for her beautiful work in Blue Valentine and Jennifer Lawrence capped off her breakthrough year with an invite to Hollywood’s biggest party. This is, though, still a Portman vs. Bening battle, and even though I think Portman has the edge because hers was the better performance in the better film, I’ll wait until the SAGs are done on Sunday to call her a lock.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Christian Bale (for The Fighter)
  • John Hawkes (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Jeremy Renner (for The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (for The King’s Speech)

I predicted four out of the five here, the one I got wrong was Andrew Garfield who I thought would firmly land a nod but was bumped off by John Hawkes who was riding on the huge love given to Winter’s Bone here. Still, this is no contest, it’s Bale’s to lose, and he just won’t.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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

I’ve always said this was my favorite race of the year, and even though my personal #2 pick, Mila Kunis, was left out, it really still is. I said that if Hailee Steinfeld remained here and wasn’t voted as Lead, then either Ms. Kunis or Jacki Weaver would get the boot, I picked Kunis in my predictions but apparently the Academy really loved the Australian crime saga and wanted to give it a nod, as they should have, really. Still, this is the best race there can be this year, considering I could see any of these ladies potentially winning. Amy Adams was my personal favorite of the year, and she gives her best performance yet, and considering it’s her third nomination they may (and hopefully will!) give it to her. Helena Bonham Carter may find herself winning if The King’s Speech sweeps. Melissa Leo is the current favorite, and if she wins the SAG on Sunday then this will be hers. Hailee Steinfeld carries True Grit and the voters may like to reward a young one. And Jacki Weaver created one seriously compelling character here, though considering she missed out at the SAG I think she’s the less likely to end up winning.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Another Year (written by Mike Leigh)
  • The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson)
  • Inception (written by Christopher Nolan)
  • The Kids Are All Right (written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  • The King’s Speech (written by David Seidler)

I went 4 for 5 in this one, and the one I missed was the one that pains me the most not to see here which was the beautiful Black Swan screenplay, which I had in favor of Another Year, but I guess you can never count Mike Leigh out of this race, he’s just that good. As for who will win it, I would very much like to see The Kids Are All Right pick this one up, or if not then Christopher Nolan as a sort of apology from the Academy for not even nominating him for Best Director. But, most likely, this one will end up firmly in the hands of David Seidler.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • 127 Hours (written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the book by Aron Ralston)
  • The Social Network (written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich)
  • Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
  • True Grit (written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis)
  • Winter’s Bone (written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell)

As I said in my predictions, Winter’s Bone was going to put up a fight to be honored in this category. In my predictions I had The Town listed instead of Debra Granik’s film, but, as I’ve already said, the Academy shout-out the Ben Affleck film outside of Jeremy Renner’s nod, so no love here either. I like Debra Granik’s script better though (had it 6th in my Best Screenplays of 2010 list, while The Town was 15th), so I’m happy about it. Still, there’s no way Aaron Sorkin is losing this one, but then again I said the same thing about Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner’s script for Up in the Air last year.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Inception
  • True Grit
  • The King’s Speech

Very very good bunch of nominees here, the only film I could have seen making the cut and still be happy about it would have been Shutter Island, but nevertheless, this will be a very cool race. I’m hoping Inception will prevail here, though Alice in Wonderland may have something to say about that and, if it turns out to be a sweep, so may The King’s Speech.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

If I would have to guess, I’d say True Grit will win this one. However, it was amazing to see Black Swan get listed here, though I would have liked to see The King’s Speech miss out on this race in favor of the wonderful job by the 127 Hours guys.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Io Sono l’Amore
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit

As I said in my review for The Tempest, you can never count any Julie Taymor film out of the Best Costume Design race (all four of her films have now been nominated), but still, this one will most likely go to Alice in Wonderland. Cool to see Io Sono l’Amore get a nod here, too.

BEST EDITING

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network

Out of the technical categories, Best Editing is the one that foretells the Best Picture winner the most, so this one is one we should pay close attention to. Since the award was introduced nearly eight decades ago, only nine films have won Best Picture without being nominated here. Which I guess also goes to explain why Crash trumped over Brokeback Mountain. But still, the two Best Picture front-runners are here, so seeing who wins may be decisive as to who takes Best Picture. My vote goes to The Social Network here, and I still can’t fathom why Inception wasn’t named.

BEST MAKEUP

  • Barney’s Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman

They failed to recognize Alice in Wonderland in this one somehow, so I’m guessing this one’s definitely The Wolfman‘s.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • 127 Hours (composed by A.R. Rahman)
  • Inception (composed by Hans Zimmer)
  • The Social Network (composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
  • The King’s Speech (composed by Alexandre Desplat)
  • How to Train Your Dragon (composed by John Powell)

Usual suspects in this one. Awesome to see Reznor and Ross up for this one, and they’re definitely my favorites to end up picking the award. However, Alexandre Desplat gets his fourth nomination with this one and still hasn’t won, so if The King’s Speech ends up owning the show he could win. However, Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception, which is all sorts of mind-blowing, may end up getting the win if the Academy feels it didn’t bestow enough nominations love towards the film, he hasn’t won an Oscar since The Lion King in 1995, despite being nominated 6 additional times since.

BEST SONG

  • If I Rise (from 127 Hours)
  • Coming Home (from Country Strong)
  • I See the Light (from Tangled)
  • We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3)

I honestly don’t know who will end up with the win here. All I know is that I’m happy no songs from Burlesque were named here.

BEST SOUND

  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • Salt
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

This is the one category that had most prediction experts baffled. Everyone predicted a maximum of 11 nominations for The King’s Speech, and this is the one nobody imagined, and the one that showed us just how much the Academy loved the film. As strange as it may sound, a Sound nomination is what really let us know that it was the front-runner.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • TRON: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable

I really liked seeing TRON: Legacy here, and I was sure that The Social Network would get a nod here, but out of nowhere came Unstoppable and made the cut. Still, a cool and eclectic bunch.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2

I expected TRON: Legacy to make the cut here, but at least it got a Sound Editing nod so it didn’t go unmentioned. Still, if Inception loses this race the Oscars will have lost all credibility to me.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Biutiful (from Mexico)
  • Dogtooth (from Greece)
  • In a Better World (from Denmark)
  • Incendies (from Canada)
  • Outside the Law (from Algeria)

This one’s always very tough to predict. But hopefully Biutiful will end up with the trophy.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • L’Illusionniste
  • Toy Story 3

This one isn’t a race at all, Toy Story 3 will win this one hands down.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Inside Job
  • Gasland
  • Waste Land
  • Restrepo

No Waiting for Superman? Yeah, very very weird. Same with the lack of Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. Still Inside Job would be a very cool winner, as would be Exit Through the Gift Shop, especially if we somehow get a Banksy appearance.

OscarWatch: Best Picture

24 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. And in the very final pre-nominations OscarWatch post we’ll of course tackle…

Best Picture

I’ll give my Top 20 picks for the best films in all of 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, well, it’s a two-way race here. The precursors gave huge momentum to The Social Network, as did its win and mini-sweep at the Globes last week. However, yesterday The King’s Speech won the Producers Guild Award, and considering it will most certainly win the BAFTA, and will have a very decent shot at the Best Ensemble SAG award this really is a two-horse race, and a very very entertaining one at that.

Personal Top 20

  1. Black Swan – My favorite film of the year by heaps and bounds, a true masterpiece, directed by one of Hollywood’s most ambitious and perfectionists minds, featuring a handful of exceptional performances and just nailing every single frame.This is intense and passionate filmamaking at its very best, and were it up to me it would win absolutely everything.
  2. The Social Network – This is being heralded as the film of a generation. And as huge a statement as that may seem, it’s really kinda sorta on the money. A film about the phenomenon that’s consuming huge amounts of time of our lives, directed to perfection by a guy who can’t seem to do a bad thing and who started directing music videos, bolstering sensational performances by a cast full of up and coming actors, and with a script full of words and witty remarks. This really is the film of a generation.
  3. Inception This was the popcorn film that was actually stimulating, the smartest film of the year directed by the visionary we have all embraced like crazy into our lives. This was the one everyone talked about even months after its release, the one that when released on home video showed us just how awesome a blu-ray can really be, the one that had some seriously amazing performances and a very emotional story in the midst of all its visual spectacle. True innovative filmmaking.
  4. Blue Valentine The rawest, most emotional film experience I had in all last year. Bolstered by two pitch-perfect performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, this film showed how quick love can start, and how quick it can all end. It’s portrayal of a crumbling marriage is a very powerful thing to watch, the actors putting everything on the line, masterful stuff all around.
  5. The Kids Are All Right – This one has superb performances around the board, and tells a very contemporary story about family which we can all relate to in one way or another. Beautifully written, directed and acted, The Kids Are All Right was one of the best films of year just because of that, but it became even better when you realized just how much the writers knew their wine.
  6. Somewhere – Sofia Coppola’s back at it again, coming back to the stuff she’s comfortable with, and directing a quiet and gorgeous film. One which takes quite a bit from her own experiences as the daughter of a big star, and has her exploring celebrity like few directors can.
  7. Never Let Me Go – And I’ll say it one final time in these OscarWatch posts, this was, to me, the most underappreciated film of 2010 by a fair amount. Capturing the style and essence of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel it was based on was going to be a tough task for anyone to accomplish, and yet Mark Romanek did so splendidly, directing Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley to beautiful performances.
  8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – A truly original film, one that captures to perfection the style and flair of the graphic novels I love so much and that found in Edgar Wright the perfect director to convey the precious little life of Scott Pilgrim, and in Michael Cera the perfect guy to bring the character to life. This one goes by really fast, with its stunning visuals and cool one-liners, and every last second of it is pure bliss.
  9. Toy Story 3 There hasn’t been an official confirmation that this will be the last Toy Story film. But if it is, it’s probably the most graceful conclusion to any trilogy ever, coming full circle, full of memorable moments, of huge laughs, of meaningful tears. A beautiful film that ranks amongst Pixar’s best.
  10. 127 Hours A really powerful film, this one is. James Franco delivering the best performance of his career for director Danny Boyle, who entrusted him with portraying Aron Ralston, the real life man who was trapped when a boulder crashed his arm in a Utah canyon. The result is really breathtaking, with a stunning performance by Mr. Franco, sharp directing and writing by Mr. Boyle and some really gorgeous cinematography.
  11. True Grit – The Coen brothers are at it again with True Grit, continuing the ridiculous string of stunning films. They also have a wonderful cast full of amazing veterans in Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin and found in Hailee Steinfeld one of 2010’s coolest new stars, who clearly has a very bright future in front of her. If you liked Intolerable Cruelty, and manage to ignore that underwhelming The Ladykillers then you just might say the have a perfect body of work.
  12. Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik creates a very bleak and somber atmosphere for her film about the Ozarks, and found in Jennifer Lawrence the perfect actress to bring Ree to life, and carry and bring a speck of hope to the film. This is a real starmaking turn from her, and what lies in her future is just amazing to think about.
  13. The Town – The film that proved to us that Ben Affleck really is a fantastic director. A film that was extremely entertaining and full of spot-on performances by a cast that included Mr. Affleck himself, as well as Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Pete Postlethwaite, Blake Lively and Chris Cooper.
  14. The King’s Speech – If you exclude Black Swan this is the best-acted film of all 2010, the sort of thing you can write “Oscar bait” on, everyone delivering some truly masterful performances, directed by Tom Hooper from a fantastic script. If Black Swan was a very polarizing film, this is one I cannot see anyone not really falling in love with, if anything just because of how amazing Colin Firth is in it.
  15. The Fighter – Yes, this is another rather predictable boxing film, but the real-life story and people in it make it a very very compelling family tale. This is not a boxing film with a human story in it, but a human story with boxing in it. The performances here are just amazing, with Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg all doing wonders with their characters.
  16. Let Me In – The fact that this film ended up being nearly as perfect as the original Swedish one is the biggest compliment one could give it. This is the perfect definition of a good remake, one that never once tries to lose the essence of the original, but that adds enough spice of its own to separate itself from it in order to be judged on its own.
  17. Greenberg – Noah Baumbach yet again delivers a darkly comic script and amazing directing chops to a small little film that deals with the intricacies of an offbeat character. That character is played by Ben Stiller in what might be the performance of his career, a nuanced portrayal that was perfect in all the best ways. Not to mention that it was also the film that introduced us to Greta Gerwig, and she’s all sorts of lovely.
  18. Kick-Ass – A very fun film to watch, one that honors its graphic novel roots, isn’t afraid to show a cursing thirteen-year-old or hugely graphic and gnarly violence. This really is a treat for the eyes, one that has Nicolas Cage in full-on spectacle mode being awesome, and in Chloë Moretz one of the best finds of the year.
  19. Animal Kingdom – The stunning portrayal of the Australian criminal underground world. The performances here are just stunning to watch develop, the script is really clever and the film is just intensely plotted and structured to deliver a really thrilling ride.
  20. Biutiful – This is a very powerful film, one that’s many times hard to watch, but one that’s extremely rewarding to watch as well. Bursting to life by a beautifully raw performance by Javier Bardem and confident filmmaking by Alejandro González Iñárritu, it’s strong stuff, but compelling, too, and one that will have you leaving the theater and really thinking deep about what you just saw.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The Fighter
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit

The Town and 127 Hours are the wildcards for me here. The other 8 I think are guaranteed to score an invite to the big race. I named both The Town and 127 Hours as hypothetical candidates, but I could actually see either one of them being bumped off the shortlist in favor of Winter’s Bone, we shall wait and see what happens Tuesday morning.

OscarWatch: Best Lead Actor

21 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post I’ll tackle…

Best Lead Actor

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by actors in a leading role in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, it’s all said and done already. There’s really no way in hell Colin Firth isn’t leaving the Kodak Theater without that trophy firmly in his hand, his performance in The King’s Speech is unbeatable, and every other actor who did good stuff in a 2010 film will have to settle for a nomination on Tuesday.

Personal Top 20

  1. Colin Firth (for The King’s Speech) – There really is no other #1 pick in any capacity that isn’t Colin Firth. The stuff on display from him here is just astounding, and considering he’s coming off another Oscar-nominated brilliant performance from A Single Man last year his chances only get bigger, he’s just the best.
  2. James Franco (for 127 Hours) – The buzz surrounding this film seems to have been dying down as of late, but James Franco will still no doubt get a much-deserved nomination for his work as Aron Ralston. His 2010 was amongst the best any actor had, and how he carries the film by himself, delivering a tour de force performance is amazing.
  3. Ryan Gosling (for Blue Valentine) – The film was full of raw emotion and power and honesty, and it’s all because of its two leads. Ryan Gosling is superb here, doing the finest work of his career to date, and if the world was fair then he’d get a nomination.
  4. Jesse Eisenberg (for The Social Network) – Jesse Eisenberg is still the Jesse Eisenberg we all know and love in The Social Network, but reigned in by David Fincher he delivers a fantastic performance, transforming himself into the version of Mark Zuckerberg the movie needed, and helping the film earn its “the movie of a generation” title.
  5. Javier Bardem (for Biutiful) – Much like Ryan Gosling, Javier Bardem sheds every inch of actor vanity for his role in Biutiful, and gives a very open and honest performance in it that has people speaking raves of him. The sheer amount of power and emotional punch he gives here is just unbelievable.
  6. Jeff Bridges (for True Grit) – Last year’s winner will likely be a repeat nominee this year. He tackles a role that won John Wayne his Oscar, and complete does a 180 with it, pitching his own singularities into the character, and making him instantly memorable.
  7. Aaron Eckhart (for Rabbit Hole) – Put him alongside Mr. Gosling and Mr. Bardem, this is the third performance that’s just emotionally sincere, in a film that’s raw and powerful. This is a guy who has been doing stellar work for a number of years now, and he doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio (for Inception) – Casting Leonardo DiCaprio was the smartest thing Christopher Nolan did for his film. He grounds the film with his emotional storyline, not letting us get lost in the mind-bending plot structure, while not taking anything away from it either.
  9. Andrew Garfield (for Never Let Me Go) – Andrew Garfield had an amazing 2010, I had him as my third favorite supporting actor performance for The Social Network, which will likely get him an Oscar nomination, and he’s in my Top 10 here, for his work on what I’ll forever call the most under-appreciated film of all last year, he’s just amazing in it.
  10. Mark Wahlberg (for The Fighter) – Christian Bale, when accepting his Golden Globe for this film, said that in order for a loud performance like his to be effective, one needed an incredibly solid and quiet anchor. And Mark Wahlberg is that anchor, taking the leading role in his passion project, and delivering like crazy.
  11. Ben Stiller (for Greenberg) – Probably the best thing Ben Stiller has done in his career, his turn here is unbelievable, as he makes us feel about Roger Greenberg, feel bad for him, feel angry at him, it’s all just incredibly solid stuff from him.
  12. Robert Duvall (for Get Low) – Robert Duvall can do no wrong. He’s always amazing in anything he’s in, and he’s delivered some of the best acting work probably ever in some of his films. In Get Low he’s at it again, giving one seriously fine work, that only an actor of his caliber and experience would have been able to provide.
  13. Stephen Dorff (for Somewhere) – If this film had gotten more attention and love then we would all be calling Stephen Dorff’s career completely revived and be throwing nominations at him. The movie, however, wasn’t universally embraced. I still loved it though, and thought Mr. Dorff was amazing in it, creating in Johnny Marco a subdued and patient performance which I loved.
  14. Ben Affleck (for The Town) – I gave The Town three shout-outs in my Top 20 for Best Supporting Actor, then gave Rebecca Hall a nod in the Best Supporting Actress rankings, so this here makes it five mentions for that film. Ben Affleck not only directed and co-wrote this amazing heist movie, but also delivered a triumphant performance as the lead character who battles morals and emotions.
  15. Michael Douglas (for Solitary Man) – When people talk Michael Douglas and this awards season they talk about his supporting turn in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and while he’s seriously good in that one, I’d rather have more people notice him in this one, a lesser-seen film in which he gives one of the strongest performances of his career, and definitely the best one since Wonder Boys.
  16. James Franco (for Howl) – Yes, a second mention for my #2 pick. And, even though 127 Hours is of course a much much different film, in this one he also carries the film by himself with a terrific performance. He plays Allen Ginsberg, and his line-readings of the titular poem are a thing of wonder.
  17. Paul Giamatti (for Barney’s Version) – I saw this one this year and will count towards my 2011 rankings, but it classifies for this awards season, so here it goes. Paul Giamatti has already won a Golden Globe for his performance here, and rightfully so, he’s amazing, and even though an Oscar nomination is pretty unlikely it would be awesome to see.
  18. Matt Damon (for Hereafter) – I also named him for Best Supporting Actor in True Grit, and here he is again. I’ve met a lot of people saying they were underwhelmed by Hereafter, but I thought it was a pretty masterful effort by Clint Eastwood, and Mr. Damon was just sensation in it.
  19. Leonardo DiCaprio (for Shutter Island) – Another double-honoree in this category. Leonardo DiCaprio always does wonders when working under the direction of Martin Scorsese, and in Shutter Island he really is amazing. A very different sort of role in a very different sort of movie for him, but he rocks it nevertheless, providing the perfect emotions to his character.
  20. Jake Gyllenhaal (for Love and Other Drugs) – I know there were other picks I could have made for the last spot, but I always give this one to a sentimental favorite. And I thought Love and Other Drugs was underrated, and I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was amazing in it, kudos kudos kudos to him.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

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

I think Bridges, Eisenberg, Firth and Franco are all locks by now, and I really can’t see any of them not being there picking up nominations. The fifth slot is more of a wildcard, and I think it’s a four-man race between Robert Duvall, Mark Wahlberg, Javier Bardem and Ryan Gosling. Odds-on favorite I would guess is Duvall, Wahlberg may get in because I think The Fighter will get some nice amount of love and Ryan Gosling gives a raw performance the Academy may want to reward. However, I think Javier Bardem has what he needs to pull this one off and be a foreign film competitor in a major race, he has peaked with the BAFTA nod and all the actors love his performance. So yes, I’m going with him for that final slot on Tuesday.

Blue Valentine

21 Jan

Title: Blue Valentine
Year:
2010
Director:
Derek Cianfrance
Writers:
Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis
Starring:
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
MPAA Rating:
R, strong graphic sexual content, language and a beating
Runtime:
112 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
8.1
Rotten Tomatoes:
89%

Blue Valentine is, plain and simple, one of the best films to have come out in all 2010. One of the rawest, and most powerfully emotional films I have probably seen in my life, and a cinematic experience I doubt I’ll ever really forget. And to think that there was a time in which seeing this one seemed to have been unlikely, since, as you’ll remember, the MPAA infamously gave this one its dreaded NC-17 rating, which was  later appealed by the Weinstein’s and downgraded to an R. That appeal is one I’m insanely grateful for, since it allowed more people to fully experience Blue Valentine, a film that took a huge amount of time to get made, and that, even though is hard to watch at times, is an immensely compelling observation of a troubled marriage, anchored by two perfect performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

When I reviewed Rabbit Hole some weeks ago I noted that film, in addition to this one and Biutiful were the trifecta of films I was seriously looking forward to towards the end of the year, and it was a trio of films that also seemed would be very tough to watch at times. And even moreso than Rabbit Hole, this one’s hard to watch, but in that uncomfortable feel is where it finds itself being such a powerful experience, and this really is a masterpiece, a film I’ll no doubt grant a perfect grade.

And it’s that good because of three people. One is Derek Cianfrance, the director and one of the co-writers of the film, the guy wrote this film years ago, contacted Ms. Williams like six years ago, got Ryan Gosling on board for it some four years ago, and then had them prepare for their roles, reading the script, getting at ease with their characters without actually knowing each other. The guy that postponed his already-delayed project even more after Heath Ledger’s death out of respect to Ms. Williams instead of going ahead and shooting with another actress, a very smart move considering how perfect she was for the role and the film. And of course, the other two people responsible for Blue Valentine being so damn good are Ms. Williams and Mr. Gosling themselves, there are no words that will do either of their performances any justice, they are both just incendiary, giving raw and relentless performances, and feeding off each other to create something tremendous.

These are just two of my favorite performances of all 2010, and it pains me to realize that they may not even get nominated for an Academy Award, because I can’t think of many other actors that could have given such an honest and painfully beautiful performances. You just feel as if these two are doing an acting exercise at a masterclass and just doing wonders improvising of each other, an element that only adds to how real this all feels. There really is never a single second in which their relationship feels fake, their chemistry is a thing of wonder. It was reported that the two rented a home together in preparation, taking their own clothes, going shopping and staging arguments together, and it definitely worked for them, and us.

And this review will probably feel like I’m going on endlessly about these two, and with good reason, because they are the heart of film, they are naked on-screen, literally, yes, but more than nothing they are naked at an emotional level. This is after all, the observation of the union between two people, two people who are together for six years, and we witness the process of falling in and out of love, and the film raises questions about that, about why love happens, about why marriage is needed by some, about why some people just one day want it all to end.

And as a film doing an acute observation this one’s pretty damn perfect, much like the last film I saw, Another Year. This one obviously does a much different sort of observation, but much like that Mike Leigh film this one finds its perfection in the details it pays so much attention to. You see Cindy, Ms. Williams’ character, not even being able to remember what brought her to marriage in the first place once the six years have gone by, and it’s really hard to watch her deal with this at times. Much like it’s hard to watch Dean, Mr. Gosling’s character, just wanting to remain married for the sake of having someone to watch over him.

Accompanying Dean and Cindy through their story, her pregnancy, their quick marriage, their immediate love, and then their downfall is something we as an audience must really appreciate. I mean, these are two actors playing two versions of the same character, six years apart, six years in which their characters have gone through so much emotional transformations, and the way they show just that is what makes Blue Valentine such a tour de force. And we move between those two stages quite a bit, trying to figure out what went wrong with the marriage, trying to figure out why Cindy feels like so much went wrong, and why Dean apparently feels like nothing really did.

And discovering that is the challenge and the beauty of Blue Valentine. Trying to find out what exactly went wrong in their union to make them end up like they eventually do. Mr. Cianfrance, who with this one gives his sophomore feature film effort (and first since his little-seen debut in 1998, Brother Tied), has said that even he doesn’t really know what got Cindy and Dean here. And I don’t, either, and I’m okay with that, because so long as we can experience the journey we won’t need any more fulfillment.

I’ll end this review repeating something I’ve said quite a bit by now: Ms. Williams and Mr. Gosling are both at the top of their games here. She’s heartbreaking and perfect as she always seems to be, he’s convincing like crazy in showing Dean’s desperation and volatile nature. And they are both always there, very present with each other, trusting the other with themselves, and it’s sincerely beautiful to watch.

Grade: A+