By Marc Glassman
If it wasn’t for good ol’ Oscar and the impressive amount of box office revenues and DVD sales that he generates, you wonder whether Hollywood producers would ever bother to create prestige pictures.
As the Academy Awards creak along into their 83rd year, they feel more and more like a retrospective gesture towards a benign past when the “art” of creating commercial filmmaking was a goal that everyone aspired to reach. This year in particular it felt that the moguls didn’t care anymore–until December rolled around and a batch of “important” films were released.
So belated huzzahs to the conglomerates who decided to finance campaigns for The King’s Speech (12 nominations for those humanitarians, the Weinsteins), True Grit (10 nominations), The Fighter (7), 127 Hours (6), Black Swan (5) and a couple of films released earlier in the year: Inception (8 nominations but I bet only a couple of tech wins) and The Social Network (also 8 noms but much more likely to haul in some big prizes.)
Let’s cut to the chase. You don’t really care who is going to win in best sound editing, do you, unless you’re betting in an Oscar pool. Why don’t we concentrate on the big categories instead?
Best Motion Picture: The Social Network
Ten nominations leaves a lot of room for arguments. Everyone has a dark horse favourite. Mine is Winter’s Bone, a gritty Appalachian drama that has no chance at garnering the big prize. The smart money is picking The Social Network to beat out the more “mature” The Kids Are Alright. And I agree with the smarty-pants crowd for a change. This is an era of Facebook and Twitter. A smart drama about the creator of Facebook is clearly “the film” of 2010.
Best Leading Actor: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
He’s still a heartthrob in his mid 40s and many folks feel that Colin Firth should have won last year for A Singular Man. Plus he’s playing a Royal with a Defect. Seriously, Firth’s performance is first-rate and if I prefer Bardem in Biutiful, well, I can always move to Barcelona.
Best Leading Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Annette Bening may sneak this one out of Portman’s hands–and I preferred Williams in Blue Valentine–but that was a bravura turn as a neurotic dancer in Black Swan, wasn’t it?
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
The ultimate Method actor, Bale is almost too brilliant as a broken-down crack-addicted ex-boxer who helps to train his brother to be a champ. Some people feel he’s over-the-top and it won’t be a surprise if the wonderful Geoffrey Rush got the Oscar as therapist Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech. But my vote is with Mr. Bale.
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Playing Mattie Ross, the young lady out to avenge her father’s death in the Old West, Ms. Steinfeld was a revelation. She played the part with gravitas and a hint of vulnerability. She deserves the award and is lucky enough to have Amy Adams and Melissa Leo cancel each other out as antagonists in The Fighter.
Best Documentary: Exit through the Gift Shop
This award could easily go to Charles Ferguson’s brilliant investigation into the financial crisis of 2008, The Inside Job. But as a veteran doc-writer and programmer, my vote has to go to the most innovative film (yes, film!) of the year, Banksy’s wonderfully sly and subversive look at the commodification of art, Exit through the Gift Shop. That a number of old-style documentarians feel that this isn’t even a doc makes me want to double my vote.
Best Foreign Language Film: Incendies
The smart money is resting on In a Better World, which also swings between the West and what used to be called the “third world.” But Villeneuve’s adaptation of Mouawad’s family drama about the Middle East and Canada is a true success. Let me vote from the heart!