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February 2011

Oscar time!

Well, this year I have seen 11 out of 32 movies. Whatever. Monetary issues are primarily what kept me from seeing all of them. It was a good exploration into the ones I did see though. Especially because I got to see Winter’s Bone and Animal Kingdom which I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Here are my semi-educated predictions for the evening:

Actor in a Leading Role
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale in “The Fighter”

Actress in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech” (although I wish Jacki Weaver would win)

Animated Feature Film
“Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction
“Alice in Wonderland” Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

Cinematography
“Black Swan” Matthew Libatique

Costume Design
“Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood (by definition, this should win. But it might just be too obvious…)

Directing
“The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper

Film Editing
“The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Makeup
“The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)
“The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (I’d like to see Inception win though)

Music (Original Song)
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater

Best Picture
“The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers

Sound Editing
“Inception” Richard King

Sound Mixing
“Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick (Social Network better not win…)

Visual Effects
“Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

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The Fighter

Movie: The Fighter
What it’s up for: Best picture, supporting actor, 2 supporting actress, direction, film editing, writing (original screenplay)

Hooray for The Fighter! What a fantastic movie. I loved that it’s based on a true story. I went into it knowing that but not really knowing what the movie was about. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a particularly unique story idea, but it was delivered fantastically. The story of a pair of boxing brothers from Massachusetts defeat all odds and bond as a family.

First of all, Christian Bale is going to win best supporting actor. Holy cow. I especially loved that they put the short clip of the real brothers at the end of the movie so that we could see what they actually act like. Christian Bale pegged Dicky PERFECTLY. Amaaaaazing.

Melissa Leo (who plays the mom) and Amy Adams (who plays the girlfriend) are nominated for supporting actress. They were both really good, but I wasn’t blown away by either of them. Amy Adams’ character kind of annoyed me actually…

Film editing really was good. They kept transitioning between old 90s-looking shots and regular shots during the fight scenes because it was supposed to be on tv. That was pretty cool.

Writing…eh, sure. It wasn’t bad. It was good but nothing too special. They used the crutch of the f-word too much. And I don’t just say that because I don’t like swearing. It was hard to understand what was going on at times because of the excessive swearing.

Overall, I liked it. A lot. I like true stories. And Christian Bale really made the movie what it was.

Predictions
Christian Bale will win. No doubt. Everything else is possible, but I can’t say.

Harry Potter #7.1

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
What it’s up for: Art direction, visual effects

I want to go see it again! Right now!

Ok, I haven’t read the last book since last spring, so the details of it are kind of fuzzy. BUT I remembered enough to think “Oh no, something bad happens here…but I don’t remember what!” I think that might be the best way to watch movies based off of books – with enough knowledge so you know what SHOULD happen plot-wise, but not knowing every little detail by heart.

So, anyway, even though it’s been awhile since I read the book, I thought it seemed pretty accurate. There were a couple key lines spoken that I did remember from the book being most likely word-for-word. They DEFINITELY benefited from having 4+ hours to work with to get through the book rather than just 2. I mean, why do you think LOTR was such a big hit? They weren’t every-detail-accurate, but because of their length, they were able to adapt the books into worthy film versions.

This movie almost redeems numbers 4-6. Almost. The movie franchise began to hit a good creative balance with Prizoners of Azkaban. (Thank you, Alfonso Cuarón – the genius behind Children of Men.) But that’s when they REALLY had to start sacrificing some loyalty to the books. POA wasn’t that bad. But 4-6 were crap. And the crap writing affected whatever cinematic benefits their new creative direction was reaping. DH1, although it feels a lot like 4-6, it’s not as rushed and their able to spend more time on plot development.

Regarding the acting: I feel like all the “kid” actors have vastly improved. I was impressed with the Hermione-Ron-Harry interactions more so in this movie than in any other. They also seemed to spend more time having them work on their method acting. Hermione wasn’t as obnoxious as usual, which was nice. Ron seems finally matured. Harry is less angsty but still intense. Well done, all.

Now, regarding the Oscars: surprise, surprise it’s up for visual effects and art direction. Both were spectacular, per usual. I was especially impressed with the visual affects. It’s interesting observing the visual affect development of a movie series that spans over 10 years. I mean, seriously…Sorcerer’s Stone came out in 2001. The Oscar for visual effects that year went to The Fellowship of the Ring. The only other nominees were A.I. and Pearl Harbor. Yes, FOTR was brilliant. But it also wasn’t heavily reliant on visual effects (we’re talking primarily computer generated visual effects here) like DH1 was. And DH1’s effects were very realistic-looking, for the most part.

Predictions:”
Art direction: Unlikely.
Visual effects: I want to say “possibly”. Mostly for the sheer immensity of what they had to create. But Inception was also beyond belief, in a much more realistic way.

The Town

Movie: The Town
What it’s up for: Supporting actor

I’m on a crime drama kick today.

HERE is the New England mob movie. Ben Affleck and his buddies live in Charlestown, which is right outside of Boston and apparently produces the highest number of armored car/bank robbers.

Typical mob movie, plot-wise. Parts of it were a little bit hard to follow. But cinematically, it was a beautiful film. The cinematography seemed to be carefully thought through. There were a lot of symbolic and foreshadow visuals throughout the movie. Ben Affleck directed it, which I didn’t know until the end, and I am very impressed.

Excessive use of the f-word, per usual. However, something I realized today after watching Animal Kingdom (which didn’t have NEARLY as much swearing) is that you can do a dramatic crime film without dropping the f-bomb every 5 seconds. It’s really just unimaginative (although probably realistic) to use so much language for effect.

Jeremy Renner is up for supporting actor. He plays one of Ben’s friends. He’s basically the leader of their little bank/armored car robbing gang. His role was very well-played, but his character wasn’t too complex. (Although, out of all the characters, his probably WAS the most complex.)

Blake Lively played the drugged-out sister of Jeremy Renner’s character and I was impressed by her performance. It wasn’t Oscar-worthy or anything, but it was a really different role for her and she played it well. I thought Ben did well too, but it wasn’t much different than his usual acting.

Predictions:
Now I’ve seen 2 out of 5 movies for this category. Between John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone and Jeremy Renner in this, I’d pick John. I don’t think Jeremy will win, anyway. Not against Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush.

Animal Kingdom

Movie: Animal Kingdom
What it’s up for: Best supporting actress

All I knew about this movie going into it was that it was about a crime family. So, I naturally assumed it was going to be some Italian family in New Jersey or something. I wasn’t too excited to watch it. (Don’t get me wrong, I love mob movies. But with this and The Town…I figured I was going to get overdone with mob movies.) BUT THEN as the movie started, I received the pleasant surprise of finding out that it was a movie about an AUSTRALIAN crime family. That definitely bumped my interest level up a notch.

Basically, the plot is centered around Josh, a 17 year old whose mom dies of a drug overdose and he’s forced to go live with his grandmother and interact with his crime lord uncles (whom his mom had been trying to keep him away from).

The plot is exquisite. There are multiple climactic moments throughout the movie. I found myself an hour in thinking the movie was almost over (in a good way). It is well-written, creatively shot, and keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. When it was over, I sat in awe for a good few minutes, amazed at how good it was. And I was a little shaky.

Character development was practically flawless. It was one of those movies where you get emotionally drawn into the characters almost immediately. I got attached to almost all the members of the family almost immediately, became hostile towards the proper characters at the proper times, and was driven up and down emotionally by what happened to each person.

Jacki Weaver is the one up for supporting actress. She plays Josh’s grandmother and the mom of all the crime uncles. Her character is BRILLIANT. You don’t realize how brilliant her character is until about halfway in. I love that the Academy recognized this movie for her acting. Amazing.

This movie is just great. So so great.

Predictions:
Jacki is up against tough competition. Mostly because most of them are well-known actresses. I still haven’t seen the other movies in this category, but it’s unlikely that this brilliant Australian actress is going to win. 😦

Black Swan

DISCLAIMER: If any of my youths are reading this….I DO NOT ENDORSE YOU SEEING THIS MOVIE. No matter if you’re 17 or not.

Movie: Black Swan
What it’s up for: Best picture, actress (lead), cinematography, directing, film editing

Ok, so, through most of this movie, I was sitting in the theater with my knees tucked into my chest thinking “What the what is going on????”. Especially in the last like 20 minutes. Which, well, I’m sure was the point.

First of all, what I liked:
I liked the general feel of the movie. The psychotic, chaotic thriller aspect of it was really interesting and engaging. The symbolism throughout the movie was astounding and I’m sure I only caught a small percentage of it. Cinematography, directing, and editing were brilliant. BRILLIANT. Transitions and the use of camera angles were used perfectly. (Except for all the POV in the beginning. That was really rough and distracting.) And the use of sound effects was really unique and well done and added A LOT to the general intensity of the movie.

Natalie freaking Portman should win best actress just for the amazing fact that she learned so much ballet for this movie. And not JUST that she learned ballet (if you can “just” learn ballet) but that she used what she learned AS part of her acting. Her final performances were acted brilliantly through the ballet. And her total transformation from beginning to end is expertly done. SPOILER ALERT: I also loved how she went from normal to paranoid schizophrenic without you even noticing. It was like….normal normal normal…questionable…what’s going on…*BAM!* WHAT IS REAL??!?!?!

What I didn’t like:
Straight up, I didn’t like the excessive use of sex. People are SO unimaginative. Yes, Nina needed to learn how to be the black swan. Yes, she needed to figure out how to be seductive. No, they didn’t need to have her develop that in the way they did. I mean, even looking back at the general timeline, all the sex didn’t really build into something specific related to her black swan character. I mean, she never really showed that she learned how to seduce anyway. They definitely could’ve figured out a more imaginative, subtle, psychological way of corrupting her. Something more subtle would’ve fit the tone of the movie better. Not to mention just the general fact that NO ONE needs to see that. Come on, now.

There’s a reason this movie wasn’t nominated for writing. It’s because it wasn’t very good. The script had it’s moments but any positives it had got completely overshadowed by the ending. Soooo corny. Yeah, I get it. The idea of it is a good conclusion. But it was corny. SPOILER ALERT: And I wish that they’d emphasized her moment with the ballet guy a little bit more. It was an important moment and they kind of just skipped over it. The characters could’ve been developed better. Especially the mom. They never fully explained Nina and her mom’s relationship, which left me a little bit confused at the end.

Overall, I liked the movie. Mostly BECAUSE it was so chaotic and kind of just blows your mind. And because I was totally freaked out at various parts of the movie and during the entire last half hour. I like being freaked out. It left some things to be desired but overall it was good. But it should not win best picture. It’s not well-rounded enough.

Predictions:
Best picture: Please no. Simply because I can’t stand a movie winning best picture unless it has near-perfect writing.
Directing: Possibly
Leading actress: Please, yes!
Cinematography: Possibly, but I think not.
Film editing: Definitely a possibility.

*UPDATE* After less than a week, I wish I hadn’t seen this movie. The gore-y parts continue to freak me out when I think about it and the sexual parts continue to disturb me. I also find myself thinking about my mind being out of my control…it’s messed up.

Winter’s Bone

Movie: Winter’s Bone
What it’s up for: Best picture, actress (leading), actor (supporting), writing (adapted screenplay)

But seriously…has anyone heard of this movie before the award season started?

Lionsgate produced this movie and it feels very indie-ish…in a great way. I love indie films. It’s about a 17 year old girl named Ree living in backwoods Missouri who is taking care of her two younger siblings and her mother who has some sort of mental illness. Her dad has been in and out of jail for awhile for dealing drugs and at the beginning of the movie he’s not there. “The law” comes looking for him and tells Ree that if her dad doesn’t show up for his court date, the government is going to come take their house (which is really the only thing she has). The movie is about her going to her various family members trying to find him.

That description doesn’t really do the film justice, but that’s basically what it is. It’s well-written and well-casted. Jennifer Lawrence who plays Ree is up for best leading actress and it’s obvious why. She plays her character well. Ree seems emotionless on the outside but even in her monotone speech, you can read different emotions. John Hawkes (up for supporting actor) plays her uncle Teardrop and he is superb. Creepy but still a protagonist.

The plot itself is kind of confusing. But then it gets to parts where it all makes sense and it makes it really good. There are a few important points that you’re left to your imagination to figure out, which may be what they were aiming for. The writing in general was good. I especially found Ree’s lines to her siblings to be really interesting and helped tie together a lot of the plot.

Side note: I was super excited to see that the dad from the show “Raising Hope” was playing the sheriff. He did a great job too.

Predictions:
I think it’s unlikely that it will win anything it’s up for. No doubt it was one of the token indie films for the BP category. The writing was good and may win as a surprise. The acting awards will go towards more popular actors, most likely. Especially when they’re up against Geoffrey Rush and Natalie Portman.

*UPDATE* After more than a week, I’m still thinking about this movie. And liking it more and more the more I think about it.

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