Oscar Moment: December 10, 2010 Awards Round-Up

10 12 2010

Welcome back to another exciting awards round-up post!  It’s been a whole week since I’ve said anything about the Oscars, which is the longest I’ve gone since September!  It’s a good thing this week has been pretty stagnant aside from a few minor critics groups and some top 10 lists out in the mix.

Please remember to take the poll at the end of the discussion!  It will help to make these posts more community-driven – it’s fun just reading it and writing about it, but I sure do enjoy it more when I get your feedback!  You don’t have to live and breath Oscars like I do to take part!

As for last week’s poll, you all think that “The Social Network” will beat “The King’s Speech” for Best Picture.  And by you all, I mean all one voter that took the poll.  So let’s shoot for higher this week!

(And another reminder: I spent a lot of time linking the titles of movies in this post to their respective Oscar Moments/reviews if you want to know more about them.  So don’t hesitate to click!)

Awards

Washington, D.C. Film Critics announce. Generally not a very exciting bunch; Kris Tapley of In Contention said their picks are usually just guessing what the Oscars will nominated in about 7 weeks.  Like myself and several others, they think “The Social Network” is going to be the cup that the Academy sips from when picking their awards.

Their Best Picture line-up was absolutely stellar though: “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” and “Toy Story 3.”  If those were Oscar’s five (way back when they only nominated that many movies for Best Picture), I would be a very happy man.  Since many are already boiling the race down to a horserace, it’s curious not to see “The King’s Speech,” but it got plenty of love, including a win for Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay nominations.

Jennifer Lawrence took Best Actress for “Winter’s Bone,” which definitely showed some strength from the win as well as nominations for Supporting Actor (John Hawkes) and Adapted Screenplay.  I think we could definitely be looking at a critical favorite in Lawrence, although this is a very similar trajectory to Carey Mulligan last year who wound up not taking home any major prizes.

Predictable wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” in the supporting categories, with the former looking more and more like a lock with each passing day.  “The Social Network” also won Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, neither of which was surprising given the group’s love for the film.

Interestingly, “Inception” won Best Original Screenplay over the field of “The King’s Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Another Year,” and “Black Swan.”  This category has played out interestingly at the Oscars over the past two years.  2009 brought us “The Hurt Locker” ultimately triumphing over “Inglourious Basterds” with “Up” as a dark horse looming in the background.  2008 was the horse race between two totally different types of movies, “Milk” and the almost non-verbal “Wall-E.”  Given what’s been going on recently, “Inception” makes a fascinating wild card.  “The King’s Speech” is like past winner “Milk,” and “The Kids Are All Right” gives off “Juno” vibes.  There hasn’t been a movie like “Inception” in the race in a long time (unless you want to compare it to the mind maze of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

For a historical reference point, last year the group picked “Up in the Air” as their Best Picture.  Aside from the slam dunk supporting categories, the only Oscar winner they selected was Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for “The Hurt Locker.”  Since 2002, they haven’t been a very reliable predictor at all of the ultimate selections of the Oscars.

For a full list of nominees, see the official press release from the WAFCA.

The British Independent Film Awards. Predictably, “The King’s Speech” cleaned house at the British Independent Film Awards, the equivalent of the Independent Spirit Awards across the pond.  The very British story of King George VI took home Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.  Curiously, director Tom Hooper lost Best Director to Gareth Edwards for his work on the ultra-low budget “Monsters.”  Mike Leigh was also nominated for “Another Year” in this category.

These awards don’t really show us much other than that the British are firmly allied over their love of this movie.  Last year, “Moon” triumphed over eventual Best Picture nominee “An Education,” the movie considered to have the “British vote” going into the Oscars.  This faction will be crucial to “The King’s Speech” if it is to prevail in the Best Picture category, and this is a very reassuring ceremony for the movie.

Also worth noting: “Never Let Me Go” may be almost entirely forgotten, but apparently Carey Mulligan isn’t.  She won Best Actress for her performance, and I still wouldn’t count her out as a dark horse Oscar nominee.  I don’t think a Golden Globe nomination is entirely out of the question (a la Tobey Maguire in last year’s “Brothers“).

The European Film Awards. Not much to report here as the only awards contender really in play was “The Ghost Writer,” and it capitalized on its seven nominations by winning a stunning six categories.  Lesley Manville was in contention for “Another Year” but lost Best European Actress to an actress I’ve never heard of in a movie I’ve never heard of.

Nominations

The Annie Awards. A ceremony to recognize top achievements in animation, the Annie Awards nominations this week were dominated by “How to Train Your Dragon” with a staggering 15 nominations including Best Animated Feature.  Expect to see it take home a nice haul when the winners are announced in February.

Despicable Me” followed behind with 8 nominations and “Shrek Forever After” rode on its coattails with 7, although it missed the cut for Best Animated Feature.  “Toy Story 3” and “Tangled” each garnered a Best Animated Feature nomination, and the former added a Best Director nomination as well.

Don’t look much into these nominations after Disney withdrew themselves from official competition after a suspected ballot-rigging left “Wall-E” empty-handed at the awards in 2008 while “Kung Fu Panda” swept.  Pixar’s movie went on to take the Oscars, which was the ultimate last laugh, but now the ceremony has lost a whole lot of credibility.

This is a boost for “How to Train Your Dragon,” though, no matter what happens.  They will plaster the nomination tally all over FYC ads and try to persuade people that the movie deserves to take Best Animated Feature from “Toy Story 3” or perhaps even a Best Picture nomination.  I doubt either scenario is realistically feasible, but who knows.  Stranger things have happened.

Detroit Film Critics. The tastes in Motor City are certainly a lot more fun than the Capitol City’s.  There must be a lot of bloggers in their ranks; how else could you explain “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” scoring nominations in Best Director and Best Ensemble alongside “The King’s Speech” and “Winter’s Bone?”

Their Best Picture field is “Inception,” “The King’s Speech,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” and “Winter’s Bone,” all five considered to be strong threats for the Academy shortlist.  Technically, “The King’s Speech” and “Winter’s Bone” led the nomination tally with 6 apiece, but the latter really only scored 5 if you take out Breakthrough Performance, which would tie it with “The Social Network” for the silver medal.  All received nominations where they are expected to receive them come Oscar night, so there’s very little to talk about here.

Other than one very strange omission: Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right” in Best Actress.  Who received one when she didn’t?  Michelle Williams for “Blue Valentine” and Carey Mulligan for “Never Let Me Go.”  More on this development in the “Discussion” category below.  While Detroit may not be influential individually, I do think that they may be indicative of a general trend that could sweep many critics groups this year.

Winners will be announced December 16.

Top 10 Lists

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone. The resident critic at the music magazine, Travers has a knack for being excessively quoted.  He knows how to spin a positive line to the point that he will appear on a poster for practically any movie he doesn’t hate.  So what movie of 2010 was actually “the best movie of 2010?”  You probably heard him say it about 50 times this year.

The answer is “The Social Network,” not surprisingly.  Why care?  Travers’ list is one of the few from individual critics that we should take really seriously.  He has without fail included the eventual Academy Award winner for Best Picture in his list since 1999.  Granted only three of his favorites have wound up winning the Oscar (the last time being 2007), that’s still impressive.  Travers has also managed to include at least 60% of the nominees in his list for the past decade as well.

His 2010 list is chalked full of potential Best Picture nominees.  Take a look for yourself, but don’t expect to find any sort of surprises.  Perhaps he’s uninspired – or perhaps he’s a true Academy critic.

  1. The Social Network
  2. Inception
  3. The King’s Speech
  4. True Grit
  5. The Kids Are All Right
  6. 127 Hours
  7. Black Swan
  8. The Fighter
  9. Winter’s Bone
  10. Toy Story 3

Richard Brody, The New Yorker. Was I onto something when I declared “Shutter Island” a potential Oscar player in June?

Richard Brody may not have much to say about the Oscars, but it’s certainly his Best Picture. He named it his favorite movie of 2010 over “The Social Network,” “Somewhere,” “Greenberg,” and “Black Swan.”  His list following the top five gets pretty eccentric, including “Cyrus,” “Hereafter,” and “Catfish.”

Some have pointed out that if “Shutter Island” mounts an impressive campaign targeting the guilds, it could easily slide into the Best Picture race.  It’s such a technical marvel in so many ways, and the people who made it are all well-respected veterans.  Even if it isn’t a lot of people’s favorite Scorsese movie, the love for him could push some additional votes the movie’s way.  And the box office helps quite a bit, too, considering how little some of the big players have grossed.  Overall, I’d say “Shutter Island” is still a dark horse until we see the guild nominations.

Discussion

Is it still Bening beats Portman? Ever since “The Kids Are All Right” premiered at Sundance, the pundits have said that this could be Annette Bening’s year to finally win Best Actress.  Ever since “Winter’s Bone” premiered at Sundance, the pundits have said that Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout performance could score her Best Actress.  Ever since “Another Year” premiered at Cannes, the pundits have said that Lesley Manville was simply too good to be overlooked for Best Actress.  Ever since “Black Swan” premiered at Venice, the pundits have said that Natalie Portman’s stunning transformation would earn her Best Actress.  Ever since “Rabbit Hole” premiered at Toronto, the pundits have said Nicole Kidman’s passion project was a true heartbreaker that would land her back in Best Actress.

This is the settled five for Best Actress, the category at this stage with the most overwhelming consensus on nominees.  Each woman has her own story and her own claim on the trophy.  It’s such a compelling narrative because they all took such different paths to land in their (predicted) spot.

It was all Bening until September when Natalie Portman and “Black Swan” stormed the festival circuit, winning over critics and audiences to the point that the race was suddenly considered between two women.  Having seen both movies, I can break it down to this: it’s the battle of the performance (Portman) vs. the career (Bening).  I’ve debated this before; in my piece called “The Importance of the Speech,” I noticed this:

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, they call it “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.”  At the Golden Globe Awards, they call it “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture.”  But at the Academy Awards, the most celebrated show of them all, they call it simply “Best Actor.”

This distinction is important because at the Oscars, it is not just the performance that is rewarded.  It is the actor themselves.  The Academy elects four actors each year to become the face of quality of their industry to the world.  These actors can forever affix the title “Academy Award Winner” to their name on any poster or trailer they so desire.  Thus, they vote not only for a great body of work but also for a face and a personality that represents them well.

Bening has had an illustrious career with three shots at the Oscar  (which she should have won for “American Beauty”), and there’s little doubt that she is deserving of the title.  But then again, so is Natalie Portman, who has an impressive list of specialty and mainstream titles to her name.  The Oscars of recent memory have given no clear indication as to which they prefer; they have vacillated for the past decade between the two.

Bening has the advantage by being a veteran; she hasn’t had to hit the campaign trail simply because of the respect she has.  Portman, on the other hand, has hit the interview circuit hard to atone for the sins of young Best Actress winners past who have destroyed their careers doing mindless movies.  Might I add that she has been the very incarnation of grace, and Harvard graduate Portman has given no indication that she will follow their errors.  In a way, I think it’s Bening’s to lose and Portman’s to win.

But the whole time, there has been newcomer Lawrence, unknown Manville, and recently past winner Nicole Kidman, whose passion project “Rabbit Hole” could make a late surge in the race.  Lawrence and Manville could gain some traction from critics awards, while Kidman is about to hit the campaign trail like no other, which could make for a big change in the race.

So, are we still looking at Bening vs. Portman, with Bening pulling out in the end?  Or will Portman seize the day?  Better yet, are we not even looking at the winner in this horserace?


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