Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSCAR NOMINEES 2011: The race for Best Picture

To much fanfare, the 2011 Academy Award nominations were released today.  You can grab an entire list of the nominations here.  This is it!  The big one!  Best Picture!  Here's an analysis of the ten-film race for Best Picture for the 83rd annual Academy Awards. 

The Academy Award for Best Picture

The nominees (in alphabetical order):  
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Who was snubbed or who doesn't belong:  With this expanded field of ten for the second year in a row, you can't really name snubs.  It's become the MLB All-Star Game and the NBA Playoffs.  Everybody with a pulse get in.  However, like the NCAA men's basketball tournament for "March Madness," there's always a few under-performing, at-large, big-name bubble teams that argue they deserve to go to the dance over some small school conference winner.  Those bubble films include The Town, Rabbit Hole, and Blue Valentine.  The Town has a legitimate beef as a big-time picture, whereas indies Rabbit Hole and Blue Valentine will sound they are arguing over who is the tallest midget between them and Winter's Bone.  This new ten-nominee rule is really a drag because it gives too much credit to lesser work and diminishes the accomplishment of being truly one of the five best, like it used to be. 

Happy to be there: AKA- "The First Cut":  With having ten nominees, you literally have to call five of them filler and participation ribbon winners solely.  They shouldn't be there and have no chance of winning.  They aren't nominated (or aren't nominated enough) in other major categories like screenplay, acting, directing, or editing.  At best, they get to put "Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture" on their DVD and Blu-ray covers and sell a few more copies.  Those five fillers, rounding out the "first cut" are Winter's Bone, 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, and sadly Toy Story 3.  Winter's Bone and 127 Hours are too independent.  The Fighter and The Kids Are All Right are more acting showcases.  Sure, The Kids Are All Right won the Best Picture- Musical/Comedy Golden Globe, but it beat crap like The Tourist and weak competition like Red and Alice in Wonderland.  The Academy never rewards comedy (even if you do try to mix a little drama with it, just ask As Good As It Gets and Juno) making it not worthy of being one of the big dogs.  And then there's Toy Story 3.  On its own, it's arguably the best picture of the year, hands down.  It's the best reviewed movie out of everything on Rotten Tomatoes for 2010 and Pixar knows to write and make Oscar-worthy films (Wall-E, Ratatouile, and Up).  The problem is, as long as that slam-dunk Best Animated Feature category is around, an animated movie will never be taken seriously to win Best Picture, let alone its stigma as a sequel too (unless you make history like The Godfather Part II or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).  It's real shame.

The FinalistsBlack Swan, Inception, The King's Speech, The Social Network, and True Grit.  These should have been the five nominees the whole time, plain and simple, with Toy Story 3 nipping at their heels.

Who Will Win:  Well, let's go one by one.  It won't be the only five-award nominated Black Swan, which is brilliant but a little out there and campy for some.  It won't be Inception because Christopher Nolan didn't get a Best Director nomination and does come across as more of a summer movie, no matter how absolutely brilliant it is.  That leaves your three top nomination-getters: The King's Speech, The Social Network, and True Grit.  The dark horse of the three is True Grit.  It's ten nominations are second to only The King's Speech, showing its approval and admiration with voters.  What's going against it is that the Coen brothers won with No Country For Old Men just a few years ago.  It seems too soon to have them become two-time winners.

Final Showdown:  That leaves the traditional triumphant Hollywood awards example and the trendy, timely, in-the-moment upstart. The King's Speech has won Producer's Guild award in this category, which is base voting body of this award.  It has the pedigree, the look, the performances, and the popularity to make it a worthy winner and shining example of what Hollywood does best: the historical epic of peak perfection.  The King's Speech is better than Shakespeare in Love.  But, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is The Social Network and its transcendent connection to so many people because of its subject matter, Facebook.  Mark Zuckerberg, the main character of the movie, was just named TIME magazine's "Person of the Year."  It has won most every critic's circle (NY, LA, National Board of Review, Critic's Choice, etc.) and guild award for Best Picture thus far, including the Golden Globe.  It may not be the best from a technical standpoint or an acting standpoint, but there are always Best Picture Oscar winners that reflect the moment and the times (Rocky, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker) more than the art.  This is one of them and it's going to win.