2011 Academy Award Best Picture nominations | a review

The 2011 Academy Awards are on right now….and there are ten (that’s right, 10!) movies nominated for Best Picture this year.

Just like every year, I tell myself I’m going to see all nominated movies but I usually don’t get around to a couple of them. This year hasn’t been any different, although I’ve managed to see 7 out of 10 before the Oscars. I’m booked to see Black Swan later this week at the North Sydney Starlight open air cinema.

Here are my reviews.

  1. Inception | just like millions of people around the world, I was teased and tantalized by the movie trailers leading up to the release of Christopher Nolan’s ground breaking movie. And the reality of the movie is better than I could have imagined! It’s trippy, kinda sci-fi and completely mind-blowing. Plus anything with Leo is going to be awesome. The premise of the story, set in a futuristic art-deco society, is that ‘operatives’ can go into people’s dreams and steal their ideas; a new kind of corporate espionage. You never really know if what you think is reality is actually reality, or is a created world within a dream. The ending is probably the best ending ever. If I think about it for too long, I trip myself out. Brilliant!
  2. True Grit | this isn’t a remake of John Wayne’s 1969 movie. The Cohen Brothers went back to the novel and wrote the screenplay from there. It’s conservative to the western genre; authentic characters rough but with integrity, well-worn landscapes, stakeouts and ambushes, and characters that overcome adversity to find their strength and fortitude. Newcomer & Best Supporting Actress nominee Hailee Steinfeld brilliantly plays young Mattie, obstinately searching for her father’s killer, hiring an old grumpy drunk US Marshall with an itchy trigger finger (Jeff Bridges as “Rooster”) who strikes a deal of convenience for the capture of the killer Chaney (Josh Brolin) with Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon). I am a huge fan of both Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon and I thought they were both amazing in their roles. Hailee is my pick for Best Supporting Actress. 
  3. Black Swan | not having seen this yet, but anxiously waiting to watch it at the outdoor cinema later this week, I have huge expectations for this film. Natalie Portman has won every major award leading up to the Oscars, so she’s in pretty good stead to win Best Actress. One critic reviewed it as an “artful horror”. Sounds like my kind of movie!
  4. 127 Hours | I didn’t really know what to expect because I (thought) I knew the story: an adrenaline junkie Aron Ralston goes into the Utah desert for a weekend of hiking and climbing, has an accident where a boulder pins his arm to the wall and when he doesn’t get rescued he cuts his own arm off with a blunt knife. But it’s so much more than that. The filming/editing is typically Danny Boyle, it’s fast paced, fantastic music and takes shots you wouldn’t usually expect. James Franco’s brilliant performance (and Best Actor nominee) is at the center of this movie. He portrays Ralston’s state of mind brilliantly – cutting back and forth from his current reality trapped by the rock and both memories of his family/friends and hallucinations caused by his exposure. You understand his predicament and what leads him to cut his own arm off and can almost feel the excruciating pain of it. It’s a gut-wrenching and inspiring story. James Franco is my pick for Best Actor.
  5. Toy Story in 3D | I get so excited when I see the little bouncing lamp dude at the opening of the movie! Woody, Buzz, the Potato-Heads and the rest of the Toys are back in this sweet and nostalgic animated sequel from the fun imagination geniuses at Disney-Pixar! The toy gang are accidentally delivered to a daycare instead of going into the attic when Andy goes off to college. The daycare is run like a prison and the prison-master is an evil but deceptively cute-looking old teddy bear. Their attempts to escape are wacky and Woody coming to terms with Andy growing up and moving-on is cathartic. There’s only one thing left to say; to infinity and beyond!!!
  6. Winter’s Bone | set in the backwoods of Missouri, Ree (played by Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 yo school dropout who is the primary carer for her mentally-ill Mother, and young brother and sister. It’s desperate times that forces her to navigate her way through the secretive and at times violent community to find the whereabouts of her drug-dealing Dad. Her family’s predicament is bleaker than the landscape. She gets unconventional support from her fathers brother, a fellow criminal named Teardrop (John Hawkes in his Best Supporting Actor nominated role). It  has a Deliverance feel punctuated by the eerie banjo soundtrack. I had a real emotional connection to the story and thought it was beautifully directed by Debra Granik. Both actors, Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes absolutely deserve their Oscar nods.
  7. The Social Network | I really liked this movie. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is an absolute genius but a total social pariah. It details the story of how Facebook came about and how he screwed his best friend out of the deal, stole the idea to create an online social connection, the bad influence of weasel Sean Parker (Napster creator) and the court cases that forced him to pay up millions to remediate this intellectual theft. Jesse Eisenberg is awesome as the awkward genius (in his Best Actor nominated role) and Andrew Garfield is equally as good as his business partner Eduardo Saverin. It’s a nice sticky-beak into one of the biggest companies on the planet and the dynamics that happen behind these walls. 
  8. The Kids are Alright
  9. The Fighter | based on a true story of Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky Eklund (Best Supporting Actor nominee Christian Bale) who helped train him before going pro in the mid ’80s. Set in an industrial town in Massachusetts, the community is tough and Micky & Dicky’s family are amongst the toughest; lead by Matriarch Alice (Best Supporting Actress nominee Melissa Leo), backed up by their 5 crazy sisters and opposed by Micky’s girlfriend Charlene (fellow Best Supporting Actress nominee Amy Adams). Christian Bale is completely brilliant as Dicky, the ex-champion boxer and now crack addict. He is an acting chameleon, and I think this is one of his best roles to date. He’s my pick for Best Supporting Actor.
  10. The King’s Speech

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