By Ethan Goldsmith | e-mail
Sunday night is the Academy Awards, and unlike some years, I think that this year's group of nominees is actually a pretty good selection of what was interesting in film this year. Sure, there are snubs like any year (Inception, despite its Best Picture nomination, still got treated like an ordinary blockbuster with director Christopher Nolan and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard not receiving their more-than-deserved nominations). But overall, Hollywood's biggest night could actually live up to its name this year, as long as it listens to my suggestions...
Should Win: 127 Hours - Director Danny Boyle turned the true story of Aron Ralston, a man who had his arm trapped between a boulder and a canyon wall, into my favorite film experience of the year. It would have been really easy to tell this story in a staid, old-fashioned way, but Boyle, using frantic editing and other visual tricks, makes the audience actually feel like they're actually trapped with Ralston (and the biggest miracle of all, these tricks never seem gimmicky, and never take away anything from the story). This trick works best when the movie gets to his inevitable, gory, escape; the feeling isn't one of disgust or horror, but one of freedom.
Will Win: The King's Speech - Unfortunately, with all the interesting films on that list, the Academy seems to be going for the film that's the most middle of the road. The King's Speech is hardly a bad film; it's more than professionally made, the performances are generally excellent. But some of the other movies nominated are so much more interesting, storywise and filmmaking-wise, that it's a shame that this is the film that will be representative of the year in film.
Should/Will Win: David Fincher – One of the biggest tricks in movies this year is that David Fincher took the potentially boring "Story of Facebook" and turned it into a thrilling and funny movie. Some of the credit goes to Aaron Sorkin's typically wordy screenplay, but Fincher was able to take the words and bring them to an exciting life on screen.
Should Win: James Franco – 127 Hours wouldn't be nearly as interesting without a performance as magnetic as Franco's to anchor the entire thing. He keeps you interested in what is going on in Aron Ralston's life before the accident that drives the film happens.
Will Win: Colin Firth – Firth is a well-respected actor who is not only playing the king of England (which already puts him in the lead for an award), but he is also playing a man with a speech impediment. I'm sure he's already written the fifth draft of his acceptance speech at this point.
(Full Disclosure: I never got around to seeing Blue Valentine or Rabbit Hole)
Should/Will Win: Natalie Portman – As a whole film, I don't believe that Black Swan really works. But that doesn't stop Natalie Portman from giving an intense, frightening performance as a too-dedicated ballerina. Anyone who has dedicated to themselves to their craft can relate to the intensity Portman brings to her role.
Best Supporting Actor
Should Win: John Hawkes – This is a tough category because all five of the nominees are great in their respective movies. Winter's Bone is probably the least seen film of the Oscar season, which is a shame, because it's a really thrilling and suspenseful movie. John Hawkes plays the uncle of a young woman looking for her father who has skipped out on bail. Hawkes somehow manages to combine playing a loving uncle with a scary menace towards the people who are threatening his niece and his family. It's a truly epic performance.
Will Win: Christian Bale – This is one of those great performances where the actor becomes inseparable from the character that he plays. Batman never even enters your mind as Christian Bale turns into Dicky Eklund, crackhead brother to Mark Wahlberg's Mickey Ward. Even though it's a very showy performance, no element seems overplayed.
Best Supporting Actress
Should Win: Hailee Steinfeld – This is a little cheap, because technically, I believe this is a lead performance. But what a performance. This 14-year-old girl more than held her own against heavyweights Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, and if she was nominated for Best Actress (as she should have been), it would have been some pretty tough competition for Natalie Portman.
Will Win: Melissa Leo – Another transformative performance from The Fighter. This one is a little more surprising because Melissa Leo looks almost nothing like the character she plays in the movie. And it seems that most voters have been able to recognize the actress underneath the pounds of makeup it took to create the character.