Monday, December 13, 2010

The Mania in Full Bloom

With the announcement of several major critical prizes (Los Angeles, Boston, New York Online, AFI) and more to come in the next couple of days (New York proper, Golden Globe nominations, Critics Choice nominations) we in the eye of the storm so to speak.  To the truly obsessive types, like myself, I'm giddy and tired and overwhelmed; this is my time of year-- forget Christmas, who going to win actress for the New York Film Critic Circle is on my mind.  Of course with it comes disappointment- a sort of five stages of grief with each announcement:
  • Denial- The Social Network can't possibly win everything
  • Anger- The Kids Are All Right hasn't won anything, yet!
  • Bargaining- I'll take Christian Bale winning supporting actor; but give at least one, measly runner-up prize to Mark Ruffalo...
  • Depression- it seemingly never ends!
  • Acceptance- The King's Speech may prevail in the end, and that's OK, sort of...
And so as each major American city, or every city with a post office makes its bids for the best of everything cinematic in 2010, I know from past experience, that I will lose my cool every now and again; I know I will get bored in the mid section, when every guild\critical society gives up on free thinking, and I know that it really doesn't affect me personally at all.  I suppose I'm too slavish to season of giving.

What we know at this point:
  • The Social Network is the big is director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin; the films excellent praise, exciting media hook, and popularity ($90 million plus for a talky adult drama is huge, even if it's disguised as a young person's film), the question is when inevitably The King's Speech attempts it's big takeover, will The Social Network come back into the conversation at the right time (ideally when Oscar ballots are due.)  I have a feeling, an intuition that when the Golden Globes, Critic's Choice Award, BAFTA (the British Academy), and perhaps even SAG (Screen Actors Guild) will heed more King's Speech than Social Network-- will that matter in the end?
  • Christian Bale is a bona fide contender for best supporting actor for The Fighter, David O. Russell's Beantown biopic.  Bale's character-- Dicky Eklund, a real-life pugilist with a crack problem and brotherly adoration for Mark Wahlberg could play right into the Academy wheelhouse.  Raves have been buzzing for Bale, and he's dominated the critics prizes (save for Los Angeles, who went their own way in all categories except best picture.)  Bale lost tons of weight, a professional norm for the lean and scarily trim\beefy and muscular intensity driven actor.  It also may show a nice, new director for supporting actor, which for the past three years has been dominated by screen villains: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men (2007), Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008) and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (2009.)  The question mark for The Fighter isn't so much in the critics (they seem to support the film highly), it may come from how popular the film opened in limited release this past weekend to an excellent per-screen average of $80,000 on four screens, but the real question will find answers next week when the film opens wide.  Surprisingly The Fighter has done very well in the early rounds of awards, not just with Bale, but also with Melissa Leo (who plays his mom) as well as the film placing in the National Board of Review's top ten of 2010.
  • Black Swan appears to starting out just fine, with Boston film critics going for Natalie Portman's bravura performance, (as well as New York Online), and well as mentions so far for cinematography, and a runner-up director nod for Darren Aronofsky from Boston.  With the film doing such grand business in limited release at the moment (#6 this weekend, on 90 screens; that's bat-shit craziness!), the question turns to the future-- will it hold up; already the divisive following around the film has raised some potential Oscar questions-- it may be too cool for the fussier types-- a mention on AFI's top ten list doesn't hurt however.  Good news for Black Swan's studio-- Fox Searchlight, 127 Hours appears to have a bit of life in it (after AFI's mention, and James Franco's best actor win from New York Online) and Conviction surprised by winning a best supporting actress laurel for Juliette Lewis from Boston film critics.
  • Even though it's still early, I'm worried about The Kids Are All Right, which has been knocked off a little at the start.  It's plethora of Indie Spirit nominations is good, but where's the critical love-- is it too much of a comedy, too gay, too feminine?  It's still early, but if the New York Film Critics Circle, Golden Globes or Critics Choice don't bring the film back into the conversation, it's in trouble!  Which is shameful since it's easily one of the most joyful surprises of 2010.  On a side note, I'm truly surprised by the mentioning of The Town in best ensemble prizes thus far, and not the glorious ensemble work from The Kids Are All Right-- it's the most jarring thing I've noticed so far in award watch 2010.  Same might appear to be true for the newly more viable R-rated Blue Valentine, which hasn't registered much heat so far, and I fear it's late release date (December 31st) won't help.
  • I'm loving that Jacki Weaver's estimable, smartly sneaky role in the itty-bitty Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom is getting much needed heat.  Big wins from the National Board of Review and Los Angeles Film Critics are just what it needs-- it's distributor Sony Pictures Classics will hopefully be smart enough to work it. Below is her adorable acceptance speech for winning best actress from the Australian Film Institute Awards.

In truth, however many theories aside, we don't know much of anything, and as I descent into end of the year movie madness, I invite you all to journey down the rabbit hole (and not the Nicole Kidman awards contender) with me.

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