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2011 OscarTM Nominees: the scores and the bores

Submitted by Richard on January 25, 2011 – 1:40 pmNo Comment

by Richard von Busack

The Oscar nominee list is out very early this AM, and the leader of the pack is The King’s Speech (my review here) a surprisingly un-Masterpiece Theater style drama of royal healing.

Heading down the list: gratuitous commentary free of charge.

Actor in a Leading Role

Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. It’s in the bag for Firth, who was a strong finalist in last year’s A Single Man. A hard-working, ego-free and popular star, he gave his best performance this year in the film that has garnered more nominations than any other film.

Javier Bardem in Biutiful. As this opens Friday in San Jose, audiences can see Bardem holding his own in an overwrought tour of the slums of Barcelona, dying of cancer and talking to the dead.

Jeff Bridges in True Grit. Excellent choice, and my favorite of the five but it’s clearly Firth’s year.

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. A brave, truculent performance that indicates Eisenberg is creating a new kind of acting.  Glad it’s being recognized.

James Franco in 127 Hours. Palo Alto’s own Franco had a busy year, and he’s steadily improving in every role.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale in The Fighter.

John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone.

Jeremy Renner in The Town

Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech

With such demonstrated love for The King’s Speech, and bearing in mind “The Borgnine Rule,” it seems clearly Rush’s year. He was excellent. All honorable choices, but the supporting actor and actresses race are always the most fascinating part of the Oscars.

Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Five candidates from essentially arthouse films. Lawrence is the young dark horse (Borgnine rule applies); some found Blue Valentine depressing (I didn’t for a score of reasons, one of them being that the acting was too exciting). I hope it’s Williams, I expect it’ll be Portman.

(Above: Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams in The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter in The Kings’ Speech
Melissa Leo in The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

As reliable as the Borgnine Rule itself: Best Supporting Actress is always the most exciting race of them all. The field is wide open and they all deserve to win. Delighted to see Australia’s Jacki Weaver on this list: the reveal of the monster underneath the mom was the biggest surprise of any of these candidates, and plus we at the San Francisco Film Critics Circle picked her. The reason why Steinfeld on the list is the politics of the Oscars, and the strategy of how to win; and no it doesn’t make sense to qualify her as a supporting actress in a movie where the other actors were supporting her, on the whole. (She did get to say “What’ll we do, marshal?” more than once, like a sidekick.)

Animated Feature Film

How to Train Your Dragon directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
The Illusionist directed by Sylvain Chomet
Toy Story 3 directed by Lee Unkrich

We get the illusion of a race here, but it has to be Toy Story 3, a film of universal appeal. And one of the biggest surprises of the nominations this morning: what happened to  Tangled?

Art Direction

Alice in Wonderland
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan

Inception

Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat

The King’s Speech
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr

True Grit
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Ought to be Inception; what bothered people about that movie wasn’t its look. If The King’s Speech has coattails this wide (and they wore coattails long in those days) note that the designers got a lot of 1930s look on what couldn’t have been a huge budget.

Cinematography

Black Swan Matthew Libatique
Inception Wally Pfister
The King’s Speech Danny Cohen
The Social Network Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit Roger Deakins

I’d say Pfister has no equal at taking digital images and making these impossibilities possible but the crazed colors of Matthew Libatique were more dazzling and may likely take this one.  Great work all the way around: heartening in an era when we’ve got some of the ugliest photography in cinema history, thanks to the ability of lily-gilding directors to digitally diddle their films after shooting. Snubbed: Christopher Doyle for Ondine.

Costume Design

Alice in Wonderland Colleen Atwood
I Am Love Antonella Cannarozzi
The King’s Speech Jenny Beavan
The Tempest Sandy Powell
True Grit Mary Zophres

Sandy Powell is up there for body-of-work, not for the costumes in the pretty bad Tempest. Most people saw Alice and might vote accordingly, and you didn’t see handsomer contemporary clothes than in I Am Love (or a more beautiful woman for them to hang upon.) King’s Speech again, though a possible upset for the big hit Alice in Wonderland.

Directing

Black Swan Darren Aronofsky

The Fighter David O. Russell
The King’s Speech Tom Hooper
The Social Network David Fincher
True Grit Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Hooper. Too much momentum for it not to be, though Fincher and the Coens ought to be the real competitors.

Documentary (Feature)

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

Restrepo was perhaps the riskiest film (in that the filmmakers were very close to the battlefront in Afghanistan. Inside Job seems the favorite and it’s a nauseater, though the Banksy one was the most like a real movie of any of the nominees. Gasland is terrifying (reviewed here, along with Killing in the Name, when both played the UNAFF festival) but it has its drawbacks: it’s a bit of a naval-gazer. Waste Land is merely an also ran on this list.

Documentary (Short Subject)

Killing in the Name Nominees to be determined

Poster Girl Nominees to be determined

Strangers No More Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

Sun Come Up Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger

The Warriors of Qiugang Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

More on these after they open locally in the next fortnight.

Film Editing

Black Swan Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech Tariq Anwar
127 Hours Jon Harris
The Social Network Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Clearly the editing in 127 Hours is in another realm from these other candidates, and it’d be crazy to vote for anything else. Since the Oscar voting is crazy, expect Black Swan.

Foreign Language Film

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

It’d be doleful work to choose whether Incendies or Biutiful was the most dire: the first depending on coincidence so staggering that a Victorian novelist would have rejected it, the latter being a long Dumpster dive. However, this is still the Academy that thought Babel was genius so…expect Biutiful. Dogtooth is a fascinatingly weird choice; where the hell is I Am Love on this list?

Makeup

Barney’s Version Adrien Morot
The Way Back Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Two movies of limited popularity versus the monster magic of Rick Baker.  One always trembles to see a movie star aged by white powdered hair and painted crows-feet, but Morot did a fine job aging Rosamund Pike.

Music (Original Score)

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

Hopefully Zimmer. Reznor and Ross’s audioscapes were essential to the unlikely success of Social Network.

Music (Original Song)

“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Not a great era for showtunes. The Menken/Slater was charming.

Best Picture

Black Swan Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
The Fighter David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
Inception Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
The Kids Are All Right Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
The King’s Speech Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
127 Hours Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
The Social Network Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
Toy Story 3 Darla K. Anderson, Producer
True Grit Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
Winter’s Bone Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

If I wanted to watch an awards show in which everyone gets a nomination, I’d watch the Golden Globes! This expansion-team logic of making ten nominees is a depressing attempt to get viewers in a landslide year (like this one). OK, let’s pare this down a little.

Winter’s Bone. Very good lowbudget film and it went the distance, but the second time viewing is like the second time viewing a John Sayles film: it doesn’t reveal hidden layers, it’s all up front the first time. The Fighter: fine work in a predictable genre, a minority choice. Inception: very exciting, very innovative but Borgniners would have been drowsing by the final half-hours’ homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 127 Hours: too grisly. No matter how it’s sliced, a guy saws his arm off.

The Kids Are Alright highlit a long dumb summer, and it’s got the women-identified women vote, but it’s quite televisionistic in its surfaces (far more so than King’s Speech, the safe choice to handicap.) Toy Story 3, arguably the best of the year, is still a cute cartoon to some mentalities, despite its emotional sting.

So the true semi-finalists would be one of the following: The King’s Speech, True Grit, Social Network or Black Swan. All are movies about performing; True Grit, my own pick, is about acting the part of an outlaw or a hero in a barren frontier; Social Network about acting like a pugnacious ass of a CEO while putting an internet show, so to speak. Innovative but chilly, Social Network seems less likely than the study of acting The King’s Speech (“It has honor, it has character and it is British–The Kinks, “Cricket.”) Black Swan as a possible upset.

Short Film (Animated)

“Day & Night” Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Mostly unseen by our reviewers, but the terrific “Let’s Pollute,” a stealth project with Pixar personnel involved, is sensational. Review here**

Short Film (Live Action)

“The Confession” Tanel Toom
“The Crush” Michael Creagh
“God of Love” Luke Matheny
“Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
“Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

They’re coming to town. More shortly–

Sound Editing

“Inception” Richard King
“Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
“Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Inception.

Sound Mixing

Inception Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
The King’s Speech Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
Salt Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
The Social Network Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
True Grit Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Inception again, though the sound of the guns in True Grit was really like nothing I’ve heard in a western.

Visual Effects

Alice in Wonderland Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
Inception Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Iron Man 2 Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Why Eastwood’s dull and Shymalanesque Hereafter?  Light on the effects, it had the stunning flood scene at the beginning. Hard to choose, and fortunately this is one for the technicians themselves to choose.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

127 Hours Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
True Grit Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Nice list. As has previously been bemoaned this AM, Toy Story 3 gets this category because it’s based on characters from an earlier movie. In two cases, this list shows the triumph of bright scriptwriters over bad books (127 Hours and The Social Network) as opposed to a script that had the sense to adapt a great book faithfully (True Grit). Having not read Daniel Woodrell’s book, am unprepared to pontificate on its merits. Likely it’s Sorkin.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Another Year Written by Mike Leigh
The Fighter Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Inception Written by Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are Alright Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech Screenplay by David Seidler

Seidler, in a word.

(*created by James Rocchi, this formula suggests bearing in mind that elders win over the young because of the general age of the academy, as embodied by old yet still youthful character actor Ernest Borgnine. Whenever handicapping a tough race, ask oneself “Who would Ernest Borgnine choose)

**From my review of the last Spike and Mike festival

Let’s Pollute! by Geofwee Boedoe. It’s clear Boedoe is a Pixarite even before we see the end credits thanks to Pete Docter (who played bass on the cartoon’s soundtrack). It’s not just the fab-’50s style of animation that tips the Emeryville influence, but also the clarity of the storytelling: the rhythm achieved through tricky matching shots and top-notch gag writing. This practiced educational film parody even follows the old marketer’s rule: tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell them what you told them.

Visually, Boedoe channels what might be called “the Zagreb Style:” the wallpaper-sample-backed, Picassoid 1950s animated look that created a psychic bridge between New York’s UPA and the internationally famous animation studio in Croatia where so many educational films were made. (Zagreb Studios put Yugoslavia on the map, until civil war took it off again.) In Ultraflat20, Boedoe exhorts a nuclear family to amp up their consuming and wastage; this pretty bald-faced environmental message is still hilarious at six minutes, thanks to the class and care with which it is done.

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