The nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards (Oscars), celebrating the best in movies from 2010, came out this morning. The only minor surprise to most critics, judging from the applause in the audience, was probably the nomination of Javier Bardem for Best Actor in foreign language film Biutiful. The rest of the nominations were pretty much expected. That being said, I’m personally disappointed in a few missing, but worthy, nominations. Here’s my rundown of the nominations in the major categories and my picks for the winners…along with any disappointments I have.
My very clear winner for the Best Picture of 2010 is Inception. I’ve seen 7 out of the 10 nominated films, all but Toy Story 3, True Grit, and 127 Hours. I know that The Social Network is the frontrunner to win this award, with The King’s Speech seemingly close behind it, but for me, Inception was hands down the best movie of 2010. And it’s precisely because it’s a big blockbuster popcorn movie. Director Christopher Nolan did an absolutely brilliant job of making a smart, artistic, yet broadly accessible film that reminded us all that you can make great movies AND great money…in the Summer. With an original story written by Nolan, amazing visual effects and cinematography, brilliant acting, and an incredible score by music composer Hans Zimmer, Inception was another Titanic (1997), scoring big with audiences (over $800 million worldwide) and critics. The Social Network might be the more classically artistic/cinematic choice, but this is one year when I want the blockbuster to win both the awards and the box office. Hollywood is in major need of a massive overhaul in its mindset for making movies. Inception is a movie that works as a wake-up call to Hollywood that not every blockbuster movie has to be a sequel to an existing franchise, or a comic book/superhero adaptation, or an animated kids flick, or any number of bad toilet-humor raunch comedies, or another unoriginal and sappy romantic comedy. Inception was one of those rare movies that hit every audience demographic with an original concept that doesn’t even invite a sequel. And it wasn’t even in 3D in the supposed year of everything having to be in 3D. I know that I’m probably wasting my breath, with Inception clearly one of the underdogs right now for Best Picture. But we’ll see if the Academy does the opposite of last year when they picked The Hurt Locker (2009) over Avatar (2009), which I thought was the right choice in that scenario. This year I’m rooting for Goliath (Inception) to win over David (The Social Network).
In terms of disappointments in the Best Picture nominees, I was really hoping to see The Town and Never Let Me Go both nominated. Ben Affleck did a great job writing, directing, and acting in The Town, and it’s one of my Top 5 films of 2010. Never Let Me Go is a very good movie that has been very overlooked by critics and audiences alike. I’m actually surprised that Shutter Island didn’t get any Oscar nominations, considering it’s been highly praised by critics and viewers. I guess it was forgotten since it came out so early in the year. Other films that were good candidates for Best Picture in my opinion were The Book of Eli, Solitary Man, , and Rabbit Hole.
I’m completely shocked that Christopher Nolan wasn’t nominated for Best Director for Inception…and his body of work…what an oversight by the Academy! But David Fincher is very deserving of his nomination not only for his work on The Social Network, but for his entire body of work, including Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). I’m definitely rooting for Fincher and predicting that he will win this year. The other four nominees for Best Director (Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, and the Coen Brothers) are all deserving of Oscar nominations, but I think their nominations are their reward this year. I just feel that Fincher stands out from the crowd, but only because Nolan isn’t one of the crowd.
There’s no question in my mind that Colin Firth both deserves the Oscar for Best Actor and will win it this year. His work in The King’s Speech this year and A Single Man (2009) last year have given us two great performances in a row. I think the Academy will reward him for both of those performances and his body of work. While Firth was overshadowed by Jeff Bridges last year, that won’t be the case this year since Bridges won last year for Crazy Heart (2009) and it’s highly unlikely that the Academy will reward him a second year in a row. While Jesse Eisenberg gave his best performance to date in The Social Network, the nomination alone for this young actor is his reward. I think James Franco is still building up to his Best Actor win, but I haven’t seen 127 Hours yet to make a full assessment. And Javier Bardem has already won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in No Country For Old Men (2007).
I’m disappointed to not see Michael Douglas nominated for his performance in Solitary Man. It was a great performance from an actor who hasn’t been acknowledged for his work by the Academy since Wall Street (1987). And while I love Inception for Best Picture, I can see why Leonardo DiCaprio was not nominated for his performance. What stands out in Inception is not any individual actor’s performance, but the great ensemble cast.
I’ve seen 4 out of 5 of the nominated actresses’ performances and I feel that Annette Bening is the one to beat. Her performance, along with partner Julianne Moore, made The Kids Are All Right one of the best movies of 2010. With three previous Oscar nominations, I think Bening finally deserves her win for this role as well as her body of work. I’m still surprised she didn’t win for American Beauty (1999). The rest of the nominees in this category, Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, and Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine are all worthy of their nominations. Portman is probably Bening’s biggest competition, but after seeing Black Swan today, I felt it was a bit over-the-top compared to Bening. And I think Bening will win out with her barebones but dead-on performance. It’s a tough call in this category all around.
I’m very disappointed that Julianne Moore didn’t make the cut in this category or for Best Supporting Actress. Her work in The Kids Are All Right was funny, sharp, and emotional.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Having seen all 5 performances in this category, I’m really torn because they are all great. But I’m going with Jeremy Renner as my pick for Best Supporting Actor because of his excellent performance in The Town, and his work in The Hurt Locker last year. Renner has been building his body of work in films for years and he finally had his breakthrough with The Hurt Locker. He took that momentum and turned it into one of the best gritty bank robbers I’ve seen in a long time. The energy he brought to the screen with Affleck in The Town helped elevate that film above the heist films that so often go unnoticed at the Academy Awards. In close second place for me is John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone. As “Teardrop”, he thoroughly burned through the silver screen ever second he was in that film. It’s his performance, along with the rest of the ensemble cast, that made that film so damn engrossing and thrilling. Hawkes has definitely proven his mettle as an actor and I look forward to his future work. Christian Bale was really good as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter, but there were times during that performance that I kept thinking “this is Christian Bale acting as Dicky”. It’s a good performance, and with his Golden Globe win, he’s probably the frontrunner for the Oscar. We’ll see what happens. Mark Ruffalo and Geoffrey Rush both showed us their best, but it just wasn’t enough this year in comparison to the other three guys. All in all, every single one of the films represented in this category deserves a viewing.
A few other performances that could have been nominated include Vincent Cassel in Black Swan,and Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, who both really helped Jesse Eisenberg make that film as great as it is.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
This is the toughest category for me to choose a winner in. I haven’t seen Hailee Steinfeld or Jacki Weaver yet, but out of the other 3 performances, I think Melissa Leo was incredible in The Fighter. She definitely inhabits her character and brings everything she has as an actress to that role. Amy Adams was also very good in The Fighter, but I think she was secondary to Leo. I did really love Helena Bonham Carter in the most restrained performance I’ve ever seen from her as the Queen in The King’s Speech. But what really makes Carter so good is her over-the-top performances, like in Fight Club, so I’m not sure about this role.
I already mentioned the oversight of a nomination for Julianne Moore in either this category or Best Actress for The Kids Are All Right. Also worthy of nomination in this category was Marion Cotillard whose few minutes in Inception as deceased wife Mal were brilliant and unforgettable.
This is another tight race between Inception and The Social Network. Both movies look incredible and have very distinctive visual styles that elevate the movies above the norm. The King’s Speech and Black Swan are also interesting with good photography, but fall below the first two movies for me. I haven’t seen True Grit yet, but I’m sure it is stunning since the Coen Brothers’ movies are always good looking and when you combine their unique eyes with western landscapes, it has to be good. But Inception is the movie that has been stuck in my mind since the first time I saw a trailer for it. I went to see that film on opening day in part just because of the incredible visuals in the trailer. So my pick is Inception and the incredible work of DP Wally Pfister, whose shot all of Christopher Nolan’s films, each of which are incredible visual delights. Pfister and his amazing body of work finally deserves an Oscar.
Because it came out in January 2010 and his since been forgotten by the Academy, I think The Book of Eli was unfortunately overlooked in this category. The photography in that film was fantastic and definitely deserved an Oscar nomination. And while it was mostly visual effects and CGI, Tron:Legacy looked incredible to me.
BEST FILM EDITING
Once again, I’m completely shocked that Inception was NOT nominated in this category. The editing in Inception is fantastic and should have been acknowledged by the Academy in my opinion. But The Social Network also really shines because of its editing. It would be a tough call for me between Inception and The Social Network. I would probably pick The Social Network because I think the editing makes The Social Network a much more engaging and exciting movie then it might be in the hands of less talented editors or more standard editing practices. Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter crafted an incredible film that shines because of its extremely tight and energetic editing. The editing has a youthfulness to it much like the subject matter of the film. The only film out of the 5 nominees that I haven’t seen is 127 Hours so I may change my mind upon seeing Danny Boyle’s supposedly gripping tale. While The Fighter, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan all have good solid editing, it didn’t really elevate any of those films as much as The Social Network and Inception.
BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
With 6 previous Oscar nominations and 1 win, you might think Hans Zimmer doesn’t deserve an 8th nomination and 2nd win for Best Music (Original Score). But you’d be DEAD WRONG! Zimmer’s score for Inception is one of the most perfectly crafted film scores to accompany and enhance the onscreen action, acting, and visuals. While there were a lot of good film scores in 2010, Zimmer’s is the best in my mind hands down. Zimmer is the best modern music composer in my mind hands down…movies or otherwise. The track “Time” from Inception will probably be played by me on a nearly daily basis for the rest of my life. This soundtrack immediately jumped into my Top 10 movie soundtracks of all time, along with 4 others by Zimmer. While I also thought the music in The Social Network was incredible and fresh by newly minted movie music composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the real test of a great original score is not only how it enhances the film in which it plays, but also how it stands on its own without the movie. Zimmer’s score is simply the best score on its own out of the five nominations.
Now this category is one of the most controversial every year because of the Academy’s crazy rules on what qualifies as “original” and “score”. I personally think the only 2 standout scores nominated were Inception and The Social Network. The other 3 openings should have been filled by Tron: Legacy, Never Let Me Go, and Black Swan. And maybe The Book of Eli.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
I agree with 4 out of the 5 nominees for Best Original Screenplay. I haven’t seen Another Year yet, so I can’t speak for that one. But Inception, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, and The King’s Speech all had fantastic scripts with great dialogue. They were some of the best original material in years, making this a tough pick. If I go by my best picture choice, then I have to pick Inception as Best Original Screenplay. And since every movie really starts with the screenplay and can’t be great without it, I’d like to see writer/director Christopher Nolan acknowledged for his incredible talents as an original writer.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
There’s no question in my mind that Aaron Sorkin deserves the win for The Social Network and that he will win for it. Sorkin is truly one of the best writers in Hollywood and his work here is some of his best. There really would be no The Social Network movie without Sorkin. Who else could have possibly written a Facebook movie that anyone would’ve made?! This movie is all about the story and the dialogue between the various characters. And the good news is that I didn’t have to choose between Inception and The Social Network in this case. I got to pick both! The only other nominee I’ve seen is Winter’s Bone, but it really doesn’t matter because like I said, this win for The Social Network is as much of a sure thing as is possible at the Oscars. Certainly Winter’s Bone has a great script, and in any other year, it might win.
I’m disappointed not to see Ben Affleck and his writing companions nominated for The Town. Other adapted screenplays worthy of nominations include Never Let Me Go, Rabbit Hole, and Shutter Island.