For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’m drawn to watch the Academy Awards show tonight. Perhaps it is a combination of factors – one, I don’t have a TV so I tend to watch a lot of movies. But even more, movies in general, and certainly the stuff that was in the multiplexes this year, spoke to me more than anything else offered by the pop culture.
For instance, what song or group sang to my issues – those of a 61 year-old guy who got terminated from a job he loved but started a new business – The Mountain News – that soars on the wings of my greatest dreams? Talk about a roller-coaster ride of emotions, the last six months have been a doozy, and then throw-in three months of living back east to help my 86 year-old mother heal from a fall and four broken ribs. Now, that was a difficult but transformative time, and I’m sure I’ll write about here sometime. But not now.
No, tonight is the time to talk about a gathering of professionals that I have come to respect tremendously for their creative endeavors, for in my judgment Hollywood has turned out some great films this year.
In Best Picture category, here is my view:
Before I spill the beans about my choice, I need to say there are a couple films that I refused to see because they creeped-me-out, such as Black Swan and 127 Hours. I simply do not want to see a film about somebody cutting his arm off, no matter how heroic it might be. Also, after 14 years of working in psychiatric hospitals, I just didn’t want to witness a ballerina’s collapse into mental illness.
As for Winter’s Bone and The Kids are Alright, I don’t even remember them being in our local cinemas. Who saw them? Anyone?
But, I saw the other six nominated movies and they are superb. At the top of the list are The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Speech is a well-told story that happens to be very interesting – how the King of England humbled himself to trust a commoner who in turn happens to know how to listen and ultimately helps the monarch overcome a crippling speech disorder.
Network is another one of those movies I had decided not to see as I didn’t want to witness the egomania of Face Book’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, splashed up on the Big Screen. But American Airlines played it on my return from New York and I am grateful. The Social Network tells the complicated story of the formation of Face Book in a very successful manner, and at the risk of jumping ahead here, I’d give the Director, David Fincher, an Oscar for his accomplishment.
But the best movie I saw this year was Toy Story 3. Even though it is the third in a trilogy, the story it tells is fresh, compelling and addresses universal concerns. The New York Times accurately reports that no one leaves Toy Story 3 with a dry eye.
TS 3 is a tale of what happens to a kid’s toys when he goes to college. The toys, beloved by their owner Andy, plummet into an existential crisis as Andy’s mom says he has to make a choice – throw them out, send them to the attic, or re-distribute them, such as donating them to a day care center. The other option, taking them to college, is never considered by anyone, a metaphor of the kinds of titanic, life-changing decisions that are so much a part of life.
Making the choices, and what the toys endure as they are subjected to the ravages of a fickle humanity, is the height of great drama, and the ending, where Andy finds a young kid in the neighborhood who learns to cherish his toys as he once did is an outstanding denouncement.
Toy Story 3 is the most satisfying movie I saw this year, and the technical aspects of this animated feature are top-notch. The voice-overs, such as Tom Hanks’ rendition of “Woody,” the wooden cowboy toy who is the ring-leader of Andy’s collection, are excellent, as are the script and production values.
No other movie I saw last year is as complete, and TS 3 scores top marks in all aspects of its cinematic creation. Toy Story 3 gets my Oscar for Best Picture.
Although Jeff Bridges, in True Grit, and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network deliver nuanced and deep performances revealing complex characters, Colin Firth gets my Oscar vote for Best Actor for his portrayal of Great Britain’s King George VI on the eve of WWII in The King’s Speech. His ability to show the depth of the king’s impediment – the tightly locked-down psychological blockage that prevents the monarch from uttering more than a few garbled words in normal conversation or more importantly, during a speech to his nation, is gripping. Firth’s performance is a tour de force, and will be studied by all serious actors for the next generation.
Somehow, I didn’t see a single movie in this category, and I am stunned. How did this happen? I don’t know, other than my aversion to Black Swan. However, after listening to interviews of the nominated actresses, I’d like to see Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right. She sounds like she gave a great performance in a family drama as a mother whose sons are a band of robbers.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Unlike the previous category, I saw four out of five actresses nominated for Best Supporting, and it’s a tough group from which to select top honors. Melissa Leo gave a cracker-jack performance as the tough-as-nails-controlling-bitch-mother who manages the boxing careers of her two sons in The Fighter. In addition, Amy Adams plays the girl friend of one of those sons, and she is a delicious counter-foil to the mom-from-hell.
But, my Oscar goes to the kid in True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld. True, her character was superbly written by the directors, the Coen brothers, whom I can’t stand because of their love of violence but I do respect their creative skills, particularly in character development and script-writing. Nevertheless, 14 year-old Steinfeld delivered the goods, and along with Jeff Bridges’ and Matt Damon’s characters, they elevated Grit to be an engrossing movie and worthy of its nomination as best picture.
Best Supporting Actor
The only supporting actor I saw was Christian Bale in the abovementioned The Fighter. Although my ability to compare is impaired, I do give Bale the Oscar. His performance as the older brother, a hyper, burned-out tutor to his younger brother who is destined for boxing glory, is filled with depth and pizzazz. Great job, great movie, and worthy of its nomination as best picture.
What say you, readers? Use the “Comments” box below to share your Oscar picks.