As 2010 came to an end, it seemed that there was a clear frontrunner in the 2011 Academy Award nominees for Best Picture-- and then awards season started. The King’s Speech, formerly lauded solely for Colin Firth’s performance, now leads the Oscar race with 12 nominations. The Fighter, once considered just another underdog movie, has become its own underdog story, receiving recognition for its performances at all the awards ceremonies. The 2011 Academy Awards are shaping up to be an exciting show that could go any which way. Here are the 2011 Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.
The King’s Speech
The King’s Speech leads the pack with 12 nominations, including acting nods for each of the three lead actors. Colin Firth plays King George VI, the stammering king whose wife (played by Helena Bonham Carter) seeks help in Geoffrey Rush’s speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Nobody has been able to beat Firth in the acting categories, but that may not mean anything for Best Picture. In the past, the Academy has loved individual performances of British royalty but never seems to give the movies the big prize (see Elizabeth or The Queen.)
True Grit comes in right behind The King’s Speech with 10 nominations, a pleasant surprise after being nearly forgotten by the Golden Globes, which are considered the prelude to the Oscars. The Coen brothers’ film is in some ways remarkably similar to the original 1969 movie starring John Wayne. Everything, however, is more vivid-- including the performances from last year’s best actor Jeff Bridges and 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. The Coen’s are certainly capable of producing a Best Picture (their No Country for Old Men took home the award in 2008) but in such a tight Oscar race they may want to place their hopes in the directing category.
Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller received a deserved 8 nominations, but the movie may be a little too mind-bending to win over voters. As it stands, it was a little too crafty to garner Nolan a Best Director nod. The only problem with Inception is that even if you understood it, you question whether or not you did. Inception, with its satisfyingly dissatisfying ending, deserves to be nominated for Best Picture, but unfortunately it probably won’t take home the prize, despite being one of the first brand new movies we’ve been given in a long while.
The Social Network
The Social Network should not be a good movie. It is, after all, a movie about an awkward college student playing on a computer. Yet somehow, all of the ingredients worked together to form one of the most riveting movies of the year. Maybe that’s not so surprising, considering those ingredients include directing from David Fincher, a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, a score by Trent Reznor, and a cast of young, bright actors. These factors turned the movie about a website into an on-the-edge-of-your-seat, eyes-glued-to-the-screen experience. It’s looking like February 27th will be a battle of The King’s Speech vs. The Social Network. (NOTE: I predict The Social Network will take the award home.)
… but then again, there’s The Fighter. The film initially seemed like it might be just another movie where Mark Wahlberg acts tough and takes his shirt off, but it couldn’t be further from that. Wahlberg’s performance as the Lowell, MA boxer Mickey Ward is actually quiet, sensitive, and understated; a performance that allows Christian Bale to go wild as Ward’s drug addict half-brother. The film is full of amazing performances from both actors and non-actors and has been on the receiving end at all the awards circuits. If The Fighter manages to KO The King’s Speech and The Social Network, it would be surprising… just not too surprising.
Like The Social Network, this should not be a good movie. It’s about a guy who gets his arm stuck under a rock. And can’t get it out. For the entire movie. But it’s another film where the ingredients work so perfectly you can’t look away from the screen. 127 Hours is one of the most emotional films of the year. James Franco, playing real-life survivor Aron Ralston, carries the entire movie in the palm of his one free hand. Danny Boyle directs the movie in such a way that you don’t even realize how deep into the movie you have let yourself go until you are freed from it in the exact moment that Franco’s Ralston frees himself. (NOTE: I’m predicting Social Network for the win, but 127 Hours has my vote.)
Black Swan is a masterpiece. Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a tortured ballerina who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Portman, who lost 20 pounds for the role, is falling apart from the inside out as the music plays around her and her life spins out of control. The music is haunting, each scene is chilling, and in short, it is simply a masterpiece. But Black Swan runs the same risk as Inception: it’s fairly artsy and too many voters may not have understood the ending.
The Kids Are All Right
The Kids Are All Right is a good movie. It’s a good story. The cast is good and they all give good performances. Annette Bening is really Natalie Portman’s only competition for Best Actress. Any other year, this film may have been a frontrunner for Best Picture. But in a year full of perfection and breakthroughs, it doesn’t seem to be special enough. Compared to the competition from the other nominees, The Kids Are All Right is just… all right.
This is another small film that will likely get bulldozed over in a year of big movies. The relatively new Jennifer Lawrence has received critical acclaim for her performance as a Missouri teen searching for her missing father and playing parent to her younger siblings. John Hawkes also received a surprise nomination for Supporting Actor. It’s another good story and another good cast, but just not enough for a win.
Toy Story 3
Only the third animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture (after 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and last year’s Up), Toy Story 3 is probably the most beloved film on the list. Like the final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this film would be deserving of the award for Best Picture not only for itself but for the two films preceding it. It is not a likely winner, but expect to see it win for Best Animated Feature.