By an odd coincidence, I have seen quite a few of the movies that were nominated for Oscars this week. My sister is the film buff in the family, and usually when the awards roll around I’m lost when it comes to who’s nominated and who deserves to win. This year I can make educated guesses. Follow the link to more discussion on “Toy Story 3,” “Inception,” “Black Swan,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech,” “True Grit” and “Winter’s Bone.”
“Toy Story 3”: There’s always a risk with sequels that they won’t be as good as the original. I was leery of this movie because I wasn’t thrilled with “Toy Story 2.” However, I think the theme of growing up and leaving your childhood behind is one that resonates with a lot of people. I know more than one person who teared up during this movie. And the Disney/Pixar machine is one that is always difficult to beat. I doubt this will win best picture but it’s a strong contender for best animated feature film. My sister tells me “How to Train Your Dragon,” nominated in the same category, is also very good.
“Inception”: I’m wary of high-concept films, but this one was better than I expected it to be. I think it can win in the best visual effects category, but I don’t think it’s strong enough for best picture. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is enjoyable to watch, as always. He impresses me more with each project he does.
“Black Swan”: My reaction at the end of this movie was “eh.” Maybe I just don’t know enough about ballet to truly appreciate the story. I couldn’t tell how Natalie Portman’s character was supposedly so stiff and cold in her role as the Swan Queen in “Swan Lake,” so it was irritating each time the director told her to dance more passionately. I couldn’t tell the difference between one performance and the next. I found myself liking Mila Kunis’ character more. I think she deserved a nod for best supporting actress. Portman obviously worked extremely hard to become a believable ballerina, but I’m not sure it was Oscar material.
“The Kids Are All Right”: This is off topic, but where I really hoped the impact of this movie would come is on grammar. Sadly, although the producers knew “all right” is two words and not one, no one else seems to have noticed. I liked this movie, and I’m glad a story about two women raising their kids is getting nominations. I also like both Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, but I don’t think either deserves best actress awards for this movie. I’m glad it’s become more mainstream to see gay families represented in a positive light, as people who have the same careers, problems, hopes, fears and joys as everyone else. One thing that struck me is that when Bening’s and Moore’s characters refer to their relationship, they identify as married wives, even though they couldn’t be legally married in California. That doesn’t matter to them. In their hearts, they are married. Why are conservatives so eager to deny this right to committed couples?
“The King’s Speech”: This might be my choice to win best picture. It’s been getting some criticism for being a formulaic, feel-good story, which is fair. It doesn’t take risks and it’s not an experiment in cutting-edge filmmaking. Does that matter? I liked it the most of all the best picture nominees that I have seen. Maybe my standards are low, but I think there are worse reasons for choosing a film than it was a great story. Colin Firth, Geoffery Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are all very good. Firth is my pick for best actor and Rush is my choice in his category of best supporting actor. I’d root for Carter for best supporting actress if not for the next movie.
“True Grit”: I think Hailee Steinfeld should win best supporting actress. She’s amazing as a girl who will stop at nothing to track down her father’s killer. I wrote a review of the movie when I saw it a few weeks ago, so I won’t repeat all of that. I’m just glad Steinfeld is getting recognition for her excellent work. I think Jeff Bridges was also good, but with his accent it was more difficult for me to understand him than it was to understand Colin Firth with his stammer.
“Winter’s Bone”: This is a gritty look at the fallout of drug-dealing on poor families. Jennifer Lawrence plays a teen who’s desperately trying to care for her younger siblings and mentally ill mother, which could all fall apart when her father puts their house up to secure his bond from jail. The father is never seen in the movie but his presence looms over all of the action. Ree is determined to do what her father couldn’t: take care of her family. And as I mentioned with “True Grit,” it was gratifying to see a young woman play a strong character for whom romance wasn’t even on the radar. Lawrence is the least well known of the best actress nominees, but she might be the most deserving.
The Oscars ceremony isn’t until late next month, so we have plenty of time to contemplate the nominees. Who do you think is most worthy of the Oscar?