2011 Academy Awards Preview – Conceding Defeat

I stole this from Google Images

I went into this year’s Academy Awards season with lofty goals. Having more time on my hands than in the past, my goal was to watch every single of the “big six” award films before the awards show aired.

In the past, my buddy Ben and I would set a goal of seeing all five Best Picture nominees prior to the Oscar’s. Of course, seeing those five (and now 10) usually meant you saw most of the nominees in the other “big six” categories (The four acting categories and Best Director) as well.

We usually achieved that goal. Often times, completing this task meant taking an hour and a half trip to Chicago a few times to some Indie theater that was showing “The Reader” or “Letters From Iwo Jima,” but it was usually done pretty easily.

Now that he’s in Ohio and I’m in Decatur (and previously Pittsfield and Charleston), achieving that goal together is no longer possible. But, at the same time, not being in school anymore, coupled with looking for ways to keep my blog going after football season, made me want to be able to blog about all six categories with as much knowledge as possible.

That meant seeing all the films and immersing myself with reviews so I could A) Give my take on each category, and B) Have the best possible guess at what the Academy was going to do.

I planned to use separate blog posts for each category and go in-depth. It seemed very achievable, and I was pretty excited about the possibilities. After all, my 24-hour movie marathon post from nearly two years ago generated more views than any post I’ve ever done for this blog. People clearly like reading what I have to say about film more than anything else.

Then, I got a new job. Suddenly, I was spending my time searching for apartments and moving an hour and a half east. Then, I spent my time unpacking, getting acquainted with my new job and adjusting to a new work schedule.

The good news is that I was able to see nearly all the films I set out to watch (“Biutiful,” starring Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem was unattainable). But the bad news is I simply ran out of time to blog.

I don’t know if any of you read my posts detailing the Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, or Best Actress races, but I admit to being quite disappointed with how they turned out. They’re short, uninteresting and lacking any depth. I simply didn’t have the time to devote the time and energy I had initially planned into any of them. I’m conceding defeat in my attempt at this goal. I’m sorry.

So what is this post for? First, it’s to explain what I just said. Secondly, I’ve decided to encapsule everything I thought about this year’s nominees into one big post. I’m still going to tell you who I think SHOULD win and WILL win each category, but in a slightly different format.

So what did I think about this awards season? I think it lacked drama.

No, I don’t mean that in a theatrical sense. There was plenty of drama in the films we watched in 2010. What I mean is that this year’s Academy Awards is going to go as scripted.

Most years, you see a few surprised (“Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain,” Denzel Washington for “Training Day” over Russell Crowe for “The Insider” and Will Smith for “Ali,” and Marion Cotillard for “La Vie En Rose” over Ellen Page for “Juno,” at least in some people’s eyes, just to name a few).

This year? I don’t see any viable candidates. At least in the acting categories, I simply don’t see any way Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo don’t come home with Oscar’s. Not just because I think they’ll all win, but because of what I’ve read. There simply don’t seem to be any performances that come close to those four.

Here’s a short breakdown of each four, followed by the same for Best Director and Best Picture

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa Leo in "The Fighter"

In a movie chock full of good acting performances, Leo steals each scene she’s in, even those she shares with the equally incredible Christian Bale. She’s expectedly swept all the smaller awards leading up to the Oscar’s, and those who think her being nominated with co-star Amy Adams will hurt her couldn’t be more wrong. Quite frankly, I was a little surprised Adams was even nominated, as much as that pains me to write because I’m a HUGE Adams fan. If I have to throw out an upset pick, I’ll go with Helena Bonham Carter, simply because the Academy LOVES films like “The King’s Speech” (more on this in a bit).

Should Win – Leo.

Will Win – Leo.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Melissa Leo for “The Fighter”
2. Helena Bonham Carter for “The King’s Speech”
3. Hailee Steinfeld for “True Grit”
4. Amy Adams for “The Fighter”
5. Jackie Weaver for “Animal Kingdom”

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale in "The Fighter"

As I wrote previously, if you had no idea who Christian Bale was and saw “Dark Knight” and “The Fighter” back to back, you’d be hard pressed to tell that Bale’s characters in each movie was played by the same guy. He’s that good in “The Fighter.” Who’s closest to Bale in this category? In my eyes, it’s John Hawkes for “Winter’s Bone.” In the Academy’s eyes, the best chance for an upset would probably be Geoffrey Rush for “The King’s Speech.”

Should Win – Bale.

Will Win – Bale.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Christian Bale for “The Fighter”
2. John Hawkes for “Winter’s Bone”
3. Geoffrey Rush for “The King’s Speech”
4. Jeremy Renner for “The Town
5. Mark Ruffalo for “The Kids Are All Right”

Best Actress

Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"

This is the biggest slam dunk of this year’s show. As I wrote here, I really, really liked Natalie Portman’s performance in “Black Swan” and think it’s up there with Daniel Day-Lewis’ “There Will Be Blood” performance as best of the past ten years. It would be an absolutely crime if she didn’t win this award, but if I had to chose a runner up, I’d go with Michelle Williams for her role in the incredibly underrated “Blue Valentine.” I think she’d have a good chance to win if Portman wasn’t there.

Should Win – Portman.

Will Win – Portman.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Natalie Portman for “Black Swan”
2. Michelle Williams for “Blue Valentine”
3. Nicole Kidman for “Rabbit Hole”
4. Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone”
5. Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right”

Best Actor

Colin Firth in "The King's Speech"

While I think this year’s acting categories are predictable, if one category has to spring an upset, it’s here. Colin Firth is the favorite and there’s good reason. But if the Academy choses a surprise, I could definitely see James Franco for “127 Hours” (reasonably so) or Jessie Eisenberg for “The Social Network” (not reasonably so) take home the award. Again, I haven’t seen “Biutiful” yet, so I can’t fully scrutinize this category, but I think Firth is a pretty safe bet here.

Should Win – Firth.

Will Win – Firth.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech”
2. James Franco for “127 Hours”
3. Jeff Bridges for “True Grit”
4. Jessie Eisenberg for “The Social Network”
Inc. Javier Bardem for “Biutiful”

Best Director

Here’s where things get a little interesting. I could make legitimate arguments for any of the five nominees here, and in my eyes, who wins is kind of a toss-up. However, I’m pretty confident the Academy is going with David Fincher and I can’t say I completely blame them. While I think “The Social Network” is slightly overrated, I can’t discredit the job Fincher does with a storyline that seemed, on the surface, to be completely uninteresting as a film. So, again, I’m agreeing with the Academy.

Should Win – Fincher.

Will Win – Fincher.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. David Fincher for “The Social Network”
2. David O. Russell for “The Fighter”
3. Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
4. Joel & Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
5. Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”

Best Picture

"The Social Network"

If this year’s acting categories are predictable, the Best Picture category is anything but. “The Social Network” started out as a pretty heavy favorite, but “The King’s Speech” has come on strong after sweeping the BAFTA’s, and is now the odds on favorite to win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win, either. As this column by an esteemed film critic from my alma mater details, the Academy does love English films, and “The King’s Speech fits the bill pretty well.

I’ve been pretty torn over what I think should win Best Picture, and I think it’s because there wasn’t any truly great films this year. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good ones — I can’t really argue with any of the 10 nominations — but none of these nominations stood out and made me say “Holy crap. That movie is an absolute classic,” like I did about “Crash,” “No Country For Old Men” or “There Will Be Blood.”

I think my favorite film of te year was “Blue Valentine.” Why? It was full of the subtle emotion that is so lacking in film nowadays. The movie chronicles the relationship of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s characters, flashing back and forth between how they felt about each other when they met to the crossroads they’ve found their relationship in. Even the dramatic moments don’t feel dramatic. They just feel real. You’re embarrassed for Gosling’s character when he drunkenly comes in the doctor’s office.

“Blue Valentine” doesn’t use any breakthrough techniques like “Inception,” it doesn’t touch on current events like “The Social Network” and it isn’t a technically sound period piece like “The King’s Speech.” It’s just a really good film about real life and the struggles people go through in relationships. If I had a Best Picture pick out of any film I saw from 2010, that would be it.

Out of the actual nominees, I think I have to give the slight edge to “127 Hours.” I loved the fact that Danny Boyle could keep you interested in a single person in a single, secluded setting for 90 minutes. There was scarcely a flashback, you simply say James Franco’s character going through something that was utterly unimaginable for any other human being. You can only shoot a guy stuck in a crevice so many ways, but Boyle found every way he could and kept the film moving at a stunning pace. It’s a truly unique piece of art.

But “127 Hours” won’t win. At least I don’t think it will. As I mentioned before, the Academy likes surprises. As far as Best Pictures go, the last big surprise was “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” (which I predicted), but I don’t see anything like that happening this year. Some might call “The Social Network” over “The King’s Speech” an upset, but I think the award is a toss up between the two and I’m fairly confident the Academy will go with “The Social Network.”

Should Win – 127 Hours.

Will Win – The Social Network.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

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



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