Monday, January 31, 2011

10 Most Deserving Oscar Nominations

For this list, I've decided to snub the more expected gets, despite adamant fandom.  For example: I adored Natalie Portman's go for broke ballerina freak out, but feel I've fawned enough about it; plus of course she was a lock!
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Playing a slimy, morally ambiguous character resulted in one of the most stark and eerie portrayals of 2010.  But again, he's very subtle, and Oscar prefers grandstanding over anything else (see nearly every performance nominated in any year, ever.)  That the film's overall reception was greeted higher than expected may have helped chug him in the fray, but it's one of the strongest supporting turns of the year...and a great boost to such an electric and interesting character actor.  Sidenote: I was a bit obsessed ever since seeing him in Me & You & Everyone We Know.
The Social Network- Best Film Editing
Surely this one was no surprise, but the way this lightening stuck in a bottle film works, does so to the tireless efforts of director David Fincher and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall.  Paced at a breakneck speed, slowing down only to the affect of Sorkin's cutting and brilliant prose, and sliced, diced and dissected with such crystal line precision, one could possibly bounce a quarter of this film, it's so lean and tight.  And yet, it's never undone by it's own artistry.  In that sense it is perhaps a surprise, given that the Oscars typically prefer the more is better approach to anything, especially the cutting.
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
As affable and charming she appears on the press circuit, she's chilling and manipulative in the little Australian crime drama that desperately deserves to be seen by more than it's limited release afforded.  Playing the ultimate den mother to a pack of bad boys, Weaver holds her own and gradually lets the audience onto her wicked ways.  As a sidenote, Weaver and fellow supporting actress nominee Melissa Leo both should earn special tributes in following the tradition of the Mary Jones Bad Parenting Award-- have Mo'Nique present.
I Am Love- Best Costume Design
The nicest surprise the nomination morning was the wonderful inclusion of Antonella Cannarozzi's achievement in clothing the most devastatingly beautiful flick of 2010.  Her choices were incisive, completely fitting of the characters inside, and best of all-- fabulously extravagant; this family is loaded after and melodrama is sweeping, best be ward robed appropriately.  If only some of the other tech departments could be swept up in the biggest eye candy surprise of the last year.  Sometimes more is more.
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
This one of the give me as well, but it's so outside the typical Oscar-performance that it deserves more mention.  I've been a fan of his nerdy shtick since 2002's Roger Dodger, and it's great that he's been afforded perhaps the densest, more controversial real life part of his generation; that's kind of sad, but perhaps also true.  For work that's so subtle and never cloying in desperation to be liked, it's perhaps also a brave one as well.  Debates may wager over time over the morality of Mark Zuckerberg, but Eisenberg's amazingly individualist portrayal deserves no such debate: it's inspiring.
Winter's Bone- Best Adapted Screenplay
It's great to know that a small dazzler like this one can be widely appreciated by the Academy.  The tightness and control of Debra Granik and Anne Rosselini's screenplay surely was the starting point in creating the rich, authentic, creepily unusual atmosphere at work here.  Sparse, but elegant-- this is perhaps the first great noir of the decade, but it's also a rich character study, and generous ensemble piece.
Dogtooth- Best Foreign Film
Many may snicker, but the biggest surprise come nomination morning was the is offbeat, unsettling, and altogether startling mindfuck from Greece was named one of the five best foreign language films.  Whether was granted a slot thanks to odd critical citation loophole of the category or not, this is a film worthy of getting into a fuss over; it's perhaps the biggest conversation piece of any movie I saw last year...that is of course if people actually see it (It's on instant watch on Netflix for the intrigued.)  And it's good for the Academy to shake itself up every once in a while and go for the stunners alongside the safe bets.  It's the best film of 2010 to mix incest with cat murder...enter at your own risk!
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
While it's troubling, and feels awfully wrong that Williams got in without her counterpart Ryan Gosling in Best Actor field, for there's was an acting duet for the ages, still Williams' performance is too good to wage a war over.  Her Cindy arguably even has the tougher role since it's debatable that the film is a bit more leaning on Gosling's side (a viewpoint, agree or not), and her choices are simply the more pragmatic of the two.  She plays it beautifully, self contained, but still without a net.  With the careful character shadings of such an experienced and expressive place, she's limitless in what she can portray, often all while seemingly doing very little.  Hard to believe she came of age on Dawson's Creek.
The entire Best Documentary list.
The major snub of the juggernaut Waiting for 'Superman' made this race so much more helps that the field is full of films all superior as well.  So Bravo to the Academy for this incisive and startlingly surprising list: Exit Through the Gift Shop, GasLand, Inside Job, Restrepo and Waste Land.  2010 was a great year for non-fiction films, and this list is world-weary enough to acknowledge it proudly.
Black Swan- Best Cinematography
Darren Aronofsky's cinematographer of choice is Matthew Libatique, whose framed the dingy, often unsavory sets of Pi and Requiem for a Dream.  Here is perhaps their boldest collaboration, with the sweeping and seductive part audacious art film\part old style horror flick...the result is something new, something scary, and altogether remarkable.  The Academy is not known to honor films like this in this category-- they prefer pretty landscapes (which is why True Grit will likely win), but this unsettling atmosphere is tops in my book.

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