I had the good fortune to see all ten Oscar-nominated movies this year and quite a few of the other movies with major nominations. I wanted to share my thoughts, but also to share with you this much more comprehensive preview from my sister, who indicates we have similar tastes. I'm not sure I would have said that, but after reading her excellent recap, I have to agree. (By the way, I think Annette Bening lost to Hilary Swank both times.)
Here is how I would rank the ten nominees:
1. True Grit
I love the Coen Brothers' movies, and this one did not let me down. Some would call the dialogue hokey, but I thought it was classic Coen Bros. (Think Raising Arizona.) I agree with Laura that Hailee Steinfeld should have been a best actress nominee (and not a supporting actress), and the film was beautiful. But I don't think True Grit has a chance to win.
2. The Social Network
I was completely engaged in The Social Network. I am not an Aaron Sorkin fan at all, but I thought both the dialogue and the way he crafted the story were terrific, going with the deposition testimony and the flashbacks. I read the book the movie was based on, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (that's how much I liked it, I went out and bought the book to learn more) and it had none of the deposition testimony or the litigation. So that was all Sorkin. But like any movie based on fact, I wonder how much of it is actually true. With actual deposition testimony available, presumably it was very accurate, but you know Hollywood. It's between this and The King's Speech for the award.
3. The King's Speech
Laura mentions (as has every media outlet) how terrific Colin Firth was as the stammering future king, and no doubt he was. He should have won last year for best actor in A Single Man, and may win this year, but the real star of this movie was Geoffrey Rush. He is nominated in the best supporting category but he gave the single best performance of any actor in any role (that I saw) this year. And he still may lose to Christian Bale in the supporting category.
4. Black Swan
A terrific psychological thriller. I'll try not to spoil anything here, but stop reading if you haven't seen it and plan to. You start out wondering why everyone in Natalie Portman's character's world is crazy. Let's just say the journey to realizing that isn't necessarily true was one of the great cinema rides this year. It wasn't quite Requiem For a Dream, but I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie.
5. 127 Hours
In case you haven't crawled out from under your rock (pun intended) and you don't know what this is about I won't spoil it, but let me just say who knew this could be so much fun to watch.
6. The Fighter
Now that I'm out of the top 5 I can be a little more critical. This was a great movie. Amy Adams was terrific and definitely deserved her best supporting actress nomination. The movie was inspiring, funny, and heartbreaking. But toward the end it got a little too sports movie. I will say that Mark Wahlberg is very talented. He always surrounds himself with great actors (think Boogie Nights) but holds his own and is always under-appreciated.
7. The Kids Are Alright
I've loved Mark Ruffalo ever since seeing him for the first time in one of my favorite movies, You Can Count On Me (with Laura Linney). But as Rachel pointed out, he played basically the same character in this movie as he does in most of his movies. This was a great film but just not in the class of the top five on this list.
8. Toy Story 3
I guess I'm getting more sentimental. I wouldn't typically have a kids' cartoon in my top ten, but this was a very good movie and a great story.
Any movie that includes a string-the-rope-across-the-slope-to-knock-the-driver-off-the-snowmobile scene can't win the Oscar.
10. Winter's Bone
Winter's Bone was a decent movie, with good performances. It should not be an Oscar contender, however. Blue Valentine would have been a better choice.
As far as the telecast, the big excitement is whether or not Banksy will show up (I say he won't). Either way, and whether or not it wins for documentary, put Exit Through The Gift Shop in your Netflix cue.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
3 weeks ago