Monday, January 31, 2011

Biutiful



2006’s Babel was released to lots of acclaim and box office success as it garnered six Oscar nominations including a win for Gustavo Santaolalla’s score while director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won the Best Director Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Though the success was a big deal for Inarritu in the year where his fellow Mexican directors Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro were getting lots of attention for their films. The film would mark the end of an era for the director. Babel was the final part of a trilogy of films about death that began with 2000’s Amores Perros and followed by 2003’s 21 Grams which were all written by screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga.

Babel also marked the last time Inarritu and Arriaga collaborated together as the two had a falling out during the making of Babel over authorship of their previous collaboration 21 Grams. The two parted ways following the film’s completion as Arriaga forged a filmmaking career of his own with 2009’s The Burning Plain. Inarritu meanwhile, went on hiatus as formed a production company with Cuaron and del Toro while working on smaller projects such as a 2010 World Cup commercial starring Gael Garcia Bernal and a short segment for the 2007 anthology film To Each His Own Cinema. In 2010, Inarritu returns with his fourth feature film that not only recalls his fascination with death but also redemption with Biutiful.

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with a screenplay written by Inarritu, Armando Bo, and Nicolas Giacobone. Biutiful tells the story of a criminal whose life goes into freefall as he seeks redemption for himself, his children, and make plans for a better future as he is deal with his own mortality. The film has Inarritu going in a more straightforward approach for his film as he explores a character on the brink of death and his yearning for redemption. Starring Javier Bardem. Biutiful is a haunting though sluggish film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a man makes money getting immigrants work while trying to connect with the dead just before they leave to the other world. Though he’s also involved in crime, Uxbal remains a very devoted family man to his daughter Ana (Hanaa Bouchaib) and son Mateo (Guillermo Estrella). Their mother Marambra (Maricel Alvarez) is suffering from bipolar disorder as she often spends time drinking and such with Uxbal’s brother Tito (Eduard Fernandez). Tito also works with Uxbal in trying to get Chinese immigrants work and make money for both as Tito learns that their father has died.

Uxbal meanwhile, gets the news that he is dying from cancer as he tries to set his affairs in order. Even as he tries to get Marambra to help take care of their kids despite her issues. Yet, Uxbal tries to do good for a Senegalese friend Ekweme (Cheikh Ndiaye) who had been arrested for selling narcotics. Uxbal decides to help out Ekweme’s wife Ige (Diarytou Daff) by getting her to live in his apartment as he and the kids live at Marambra’s apartment. While Uxbal also tries to help out a Chinese warehouse worker named Hai (Cheng Tai Shen), Hai’s friend Liwei (Luo Jin) tries to cut Uxbal out of the deal.

The one day, something bad happens as Uxbal’s plans to help others go terribly wrong. With Uxbal having a hard time trying to sort all things out with his businesses. Marambra’s behavior becomes more chaotic as the kids are in harm while he has a difficult time trying to provide for them. With Ige stepping in to help out, Uxbal ponders what kind of future his children will have. Even as he worries about their mother and those he had done business with as he await the last moments of his life.

The film is about a man trying to find redemption in his final days as he also tries to provide some hope and a future for his young kids in the harsh streets of Barcelona. That’s essentially the film in a nutshell but Inarritu doesn’t do anything conventional with that story. While he goes for a very straightforward approach instead of the non-linear, hyper-connective films of the past. It’s an approach that works although the storytelling at times suffers through sluggish pacing.

The film’s themes of redemption and death centers around this man who is dealing with death and tries to do good by helping people whether they’re criminals, corrupt cops, or good people. Yet, Uxbal is a man that is devoted to his family but is leaving them in a world that is very troubled. Even as their mother is unable to take care of herself and can be abusive while is desperate to live a fun life. While Inarritu and co-screenwriters Armando Bo and Nicolas Giacobone do create a fully-realized character in Uxbal as well as smaller ones like Ige and the children. The problem is that the story at times is too bleak.

Inarritu has been accused for putting his characters into situations where they’re punished very harshly and, for some sick reason, has a sick pleasure into putting them into these situations. While it’s something that is true with his films, he does it again with Biutiful but this time around. He sets it into a much bleaker world with even more dire consequences that is somewhat reminiscent to Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. While the screenplay works in studying Uxbal’s behaviors and motivation. It’s major flaw is trying to make it flow while some of the intense, dramatic moments doesn’t really pay off.

While the screenplay has major flaws, Inarritu’s direction definitely has potency despite its shortcomings. While he can create some amazing imagery and shots of Barcelona that is striking. There are those that seems to be strange like shots of someone hanging on top of a ceiling which becomes very confusing though there are scenes where a soul of a dead person appears but sitting down. There’s no explanation though it would be very confusing to the audience wondering what they just saw. Inarritu also create some great scenes such as a raid against Senegalese street merchants as it lifts up some of the heavier, dramatic moments.

While Inarritu also creates some surreal moments such as a strip-club scene that Uxbal enters to meet Tito. Due to the script’s lack of movement, he just lets the camera wander around or remain still where he would have shots that is typical of Inarritu but doesn’t have the same emotional impact of his previous work. Even as it dwells into heavy melodrama in some scenes while creating heavier moments that goes overboard where he could’ve underplayed it or just not show anything but still reveal what happened. Despite the flaws that is presented in the direction, Inarritu does create a compelling film that follows around a man trying to do good.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does some excellent work in the film’s photography with a grainy yet colorful presentation. While it’s grittier than his previous work with Inarritu, Prieto’s cinematography is one of the film’s highlights as it helps emphasize the bleak tone of the film. Editor Stephen Mirrone does a very good job on the film’s editing by creating some excellent transitions and rhythm jump-cuts to try and keep the rhythm going. Yet, he doesn’t do enough to help keep the story moving for its 147-minute running time.

Production designer Brigitte Boch, along with set decorator Laura Musso and art director Marina Pozanco, do a fine job in creating the decayed, dirty look in the apartment homes and slums that the characters live and interact in. Costume designer Bina Daigler and Paco Delgado do nice work in the costumes as they play up to the street look of the film with the character of Marambra wearing very loose clothes to exemplify her persona. Sound designers Martin Hernandez and Alejandro Quevedo do some great work in the film’s sound in creating the chaotic atmosphere that is the slums of Barcelona from the crazy streets to the noisy highways that Uxbal looks at.

Music composer Gustavo Santaolalla creates a wonderful though low-key score that is largely dominated by arpeggio guitars and piano to emphasize the film‘s melancholic tone. Even as he creates a heavy orchestra to also play to the film’s dramatic moments. The soundtrack includes pieces by Underworld, Barry White, Café Tacuba, Lorca, and many others. A lot of which is used in the club scene as the music of the film is another of the film’s highlights.

The casting is very good for some notable appearances such as Ruben Ochandiano as a corrupt cop, Ana Wagener as a spiritual woman who knew Uxbal’s mother, Karra Elejalde as a construction officer, and Lang Sofia Lin as Li, a woman who was Ana and Mateo’s babysitter. Other small roles include Cheng Tai Shen as a warehouse boss named Hai, Luo Jin as Hai’s corruptive confidant Liwei, Cheikh Ndiaye as Uxbal’s Senegalese friend Ekweme, and Diarytou Daff in a wonderful role as Ige, the woman who would help take care of Ana and Mateo. Eduard Fernandez is very good as Uxbal’s brother Tito who helps out with things though is a man who likes to make things worse when it involves Marambra.

Maricel Alvarez is good as the troubled Marambra when her performance is quiet and struggling though she overdoes it when playing wild and loud to the point that it goes overboard. It’s not a bad performance but it’s the one character that seems more like a cliché rather than a real character. Hanaa Bouchaib and Guillermo Estrella are excellent in their respective roles as Ana and Mateo. Bouchaib and Estrella exemplify the innocence and uncertainty of children as they watch themselves being cared for by their father unaware of his condition while dealing with their bipolar mother.

Finally, there’s Javier Bardem in what is definitely one of his greatest performances of his career. Bardem definitely exudes all of the harshness and vulnerability of a man who tries to do good despite what he does for a living. When he faces death, Bardem brings a lot of the uncertainty and determination of his character despite how flawed he is. Even when he unknowingly does something bad when he tries to do good. It is his performance that really makes the film worth watching as it is definitely one of the year’s best and deserving of the Best Actor prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Biutiful is a good though very flawed film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that features a towering performance of Javier Bardem. Fans of Inarritu’s work will be amazed by the straightforward approach he does though it’s clear that not everything works in what he’s trying to do. Even as there’s some cases where he sort of parodies himself. Fans of Bardem will see why he is one of the best actors working today proving that he can do something as heavy as this. In the end, Biutiful is a stellar though sluggish film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that is saved by the amazing performance of Javier Bardem.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Films: Amores Perros - (21 Grams) - Babel - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - (The Revenant)

© thevoid99 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Year



2008’s Happy-Go-Lucky was a surprise hit with audiences and critics as its writer/director Mike Leigh scored another hit film while giving its star Sally Hawkins a true breakout role. The film was also surprising for fans of Leigh as it was his most optimistic and upbeat film of his career. Sadly, it would be Leigh’s last film with longtime producer Simon Channing-Williams who died at age 63 in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. Leigh paid tribute to his late colleague and friend as he moved forward with a project about life in general with Another Year.

Written and directed by Mike Leigh, Another Year tells the story of a married couple whose blissful life is mired by the unhappiness around their friends as they help them out. Featuring many of Leigh’s improvisational style and exploration of all of the quirks about life. It’s a film that dabbles into many themes while finding some sort of solution about the way the world works. With an all-star cast that includes such Leigh regulars as Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Peter Wight, Philip Davis, and Imelda Staunton plus appearances from David Bradley and Oliver Maltman. Another Year is a charming yet touching film from Mike Leigh.

It’s springtime as Geri (Ruth Sheen) is helping a woman named Janet (Imelda Staunton) deal with her insomnia. Geri is a counselor who works with a doctor named Tanya (Michele Austin) and a secretary named Mary (Lesley Manville). Geri’s been happily married to Tom (Jim Broadbent) who works as a geologist. Whenever they’re not working or at home, Tom and Geri do a lot of time tending to their large garden filled their own fruits and vegetables. Mary often hangs out with Tom and Geri as she is looking for love while would get herself drunk every once in a while pondering about her lack of a strong love life.

While Ruth and Geri often invite Mary to their world, they also get visits from their son Joe (Oliver Maltman) who is also trying to find love as he often helps out with their garden. It’s summertime as a friend named Ken (Peter Wight) visits who is despondent over his age and other issues as he hangs out with Tom and Geri. A barbeque party is held with Ken, Mary, Tanya, Joe, and another friend named Jack (Philip Davis) as they’re all having fun while Tanya unveils her new baby boy. During the party, Mary reveals that she bought a new car as she also flirts with Joe as she asks they would meet again for a drink.

It’s autumn as Joe makes a surprise visit to see his parents as he unveils a new girlfriend named Katie (Karina Fernandez) where they all have lunch and dinner. During the dinner, Mary arrives to hang out with Tom and Geri only to learn about Katie. The dinner goes smooth but leaves Mary upset as she would later make another visit in the winter. Tom, Geri, and Joe however, go to meet Tom’s brother Ronnie (David Bradley) for some devastating family news that is worsened by the visit of Ronnie’s son Carl (Martin Savage). Mary’s visit to Tom and Geri’s home has her realizing how much trouble she is though it’s just another moment for Tom and Geri.

The film is about a couple who help out their friends and family in the time of need through the span of four seasons. Yet, the one friend who is in constant need of help is a woman named Mary, a 40ish secretary who likes to drink, have fun, and wear youthful clothes in order to be loved. Yet her character goes through the most changes throughout the year as she becomes more desperate and fragile. Through it all, it’s Tom and Geri that provide safety and love not just to her but to the people involved.

It’s really a film about good people who are there for those in need of comfort. Notably in the winter section when Tom and Geri with Joe visit Ronnie who is need of comfort. Though Ronnie doesn’t speak very much over what he had just been through, it is Tom and Geri that offer him a place to stay for a while. When their friend Ken is going through tough times, Tom takes him out to play golf with Joe and Jack just to cheer him up. Mike Leigh’s approach to the story is definitely well-structured in four parts as he gets the chance to create mood changes for each season. Even in creating characters that are lively and interesting to watch.

Leigh’s direction is definitely marvelous to watch in the way he creates a mood for each season. While its mostly straightforward, Leigh’s still yet moody compositions remains intoxicating to watch. Even as it has an air of theatricality in the way he shoots actors from where they’re standing to creating wonderful close-ups that explores the mood of the characters. Leigh underplays the drama while opening the film with a bitter woman wanting sleeping pills so she can sleep. While it’s mostly a dramatic, melancholic film, Leigh allows lots of humor into the mix so that the audience can get to know the characters and maybe want to hang out with them. The overall result in Leigh’s work is proof that is one of Britain’s great living directors working today.

Leigh’s longtime cinematographer Dick Pope does a wonderful job with the different array of color schemes for the film’s seasons. With the more colorful, brighter look of the spring and summer for the first half of the film including dabbles of rain. Pope also uses darker palettes for the autumn and winter scenes in the second half as it helps plays to the film’s emotional tone. Pope’s work is superb as it is definitely one of the film’s technical highlights.

Editor Jon Gregory does an excellent job with the film’s editing in presenting the film with a straightforward approach while adding bits of style to maintain a nice rhythm to the film. Even in letting each season fade to black to end and open the next season. Production designer Simon Beresford, along with set decorator Sophia Chowdhury and art director Andrew Rothschild, do a very good job with the film‘s set design from the comfortable home that Tom and Geri lives in to the tiny, decayed shack that they sit in at their large garden. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran also does a very good job with the film‘s costumes from the hippie-like clothes that Geri wears to the more casual stuff everyone else wears while the character of Mary wears clothes that represents her longing to be youthful.

Sound recordist Tim Fraser and sound editor Nigel Stone do some fine work in the sound work by capturing natural sounds to convey the energy and feel of the scene along with some crazier scenes involving traffic and trains. Music composer Gary Yershon brings a lovely yet plaintive score that plays to the film’s melancholia played with a harp as it helps introduce a new season or to play up to the dramatic elements of the film.

Casting director Nina Gold does a superb job in assembling a great cast for the film as part of what makes Mike Leigh’s films so fascinating is in the casting. Appearances from Leigh regulars such as Philip Davis as Jack, Michele Austin as Tanya, Martin Savage as Carl, and Imelda Staunton in a small but memorable appearance as Janet, an insomniac in the opening scene of the film. Other notable appearances include David Bradley as Tom’s laconic yet shell-shocked brother Ronnie and Karina Fernandez as Joe’s new, upbeat girlfriend Katie. Peter Wight is excellent as Ken, an old friend of Tom who has fallen on hard times as he seeks comfort in his friends while he carries a torch for Mary. Oliver Maltman is very good as Joe, Tom and Geri’s son who is there for his parents while trying to find love as well. Maltman’s performance is fun to watch as an adult-son who has all of the good qualities that he’s inherited from his parents.

Ruth Sheen is great as Geri, a no-nonsense but caring woman whose job is to help people sort out their situations. Even as she possesses a maternal warmth that people needed as she provides whatever they need for comfort as Sheen’s performance is marvelous. Jim Broadbent is phenomenal as Tom, a kind-hearted man with an eccentric behavior who also provides the things his friends need. Broadbent’s whimsical yet charming performance is one of the most uplifting and witty performances he has done as it proves why he’s one of the great actors working today.

Finally, there’s Lesley Manville in an amazing performance as Mary. A lovely but fragile woman desperate to find love as she drinks her sorrows while hoping to nab the much younger Joe. Manville’s performance is wonderful to watch as she starts out as this vibrant though flakey woman who often forgets things. To then descend into someone really desperate as Manville doesn’t overplay the drama by remaining still as she allows her character to gain sympathy for who she is. It’s definitely one of the best performances of 2010 as Manville’s work is just startling to watch.

Another Year is a wonderful yet mesmerizing film from Mike Leigh and company. Led by an amazing ensemble cast including Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent, and Ruth Sheen. It’s a film that fans of Mike Leigh will enjoy about all of the ups and downs of life. Fans of great yet unconventional dramas will find something surprisingly uplifting in a melancholic film that reveals the goodness of people and why its important to have friends. It’s also another amazing film from Mike Leigh who adds another great film to his amazing filmography. In the end, Another Year is a superb yet engrossing film from the great Mike Leigh.

Mike Leigh Films: (Bleak Moments) - (Hard Labour) (The Permissive Society) - (Knock for Knock) - (Nuts in May) - (Abigail’s Party) - (Kiss of Death) - (Who’s Who) - (Grown-Ups) - (Home Sweet Home) - (Meantime) - (Four Days in July) - (High Hopes) - Life is Sweet - Naked - Secrets & Lies - Career Girls - Topsy-Turvy - All or Nothing - Vera Drake - Happy-Go-Lucky

© thevoid99 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Way Back



2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was a film that garnered lots of acclaim from critics as it also received several Oscar nominations. Despite the acclaim, the film was a modest hit in the U.S. while its overall grosses worldwide did help cover the film’s massive budget. For its director Peter Weir, it was another of his great films as he would spend the next seven years taking on various projects. Among them was an adaptations of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson and Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram. Other projects included War Magician and Shadow Divers as none of them got past the development stage. Weir finally got a project going based on the true story about a group of prisoners escaping the Siberian Gulag during World War II based on The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz that would be entitled The Way Back.

Directed by Peter Weir with an adapted script by Weir and Keith Clarke. The Way Back tells the story of a young Polish POW who is sent to the cold Siberian prison where he meets fellow prisoners from around the world. The young man along with other prisoners decides to escape the prison as they go into a treacherous journey through the cold mountains of Siberia and into the desert where they‘re later joined by an orphaned teenaged girl from Poland. Starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Gustaf Skarsgard, Dracos Bucur, and Ed Harris. The Way Back is an exhilarating and adventurous film from Peter Weir.

It’s 1939 as Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is being interrogated for possible crimes in being a spy which he denies. When his wife (Sally Edwards) reveals, under torture, that he did commit crime, he is sent to the Gulag in Siberia for twenty years. Entering the Gulag in 1941, Janusz meets an actor named Khabarov (Mark Strong) who claims to know a way to escape the Gulag. Yet, Janusz learns from an American prisoner named Smith (Ed Harris) that Khabarov is just trying to make his own way out as Janusz refuses to give up. When a brutish, tattooed prisoner named Valka (Colin Farrell) overhears a conversation with Janusz and Khabarov, he decides to join in Janusz’s plan to escape.

Joining Janusz, Smith, and Valka for the escape are four other men that consists of a Lativan priest named Voss (Gustaf Skarsgard), a Yugoslav accountant named Zoran (Dracos Bucur), an artist named Tomasz (Alexandru Potocean), and a 17-year old Polish boy named Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky). During a snowstorm and a blackout in the prison, the men escape as they trek through the cold forest of Siberia as they make their way South in hopes of reaching Mongolia. Along the way, they go further into the mountains hoping to reach a lake while they wear wooden masks during the heavy snowstorm. During the long journey, Janusz finally finds the lake as everyone goes to the lake.

Along the way, they learned that a young Polish girl named Irena (Saoirse Ronan) has been following them as Smith isn’t sure in taking another person to the journey. Still, she follows them as they reluctantly let her join the trek to Mongolia. Encountering everything from mosquitoes to icy waters, they finally reach the Russian-Mongolian border only to learn that Mongolia is a Communist state. Realizing that the only place to go to is India for freedom, the group goes on a trek through the Gobi desert where they have to deal with all sorts of challenges to get across to their destination.

The film’s plot about a group of men and a young girl trekking through Siberia to India seems like the kind of film that doesn’t really do much in terms of plotting. In the hands of Peter Weir, it becomes an extraordinary experience about endurance and survival. Though the film’s opening dedication does spoil the ending which is the only big mistake the film makes. Weir and co-screenwriter Keith Clarke decides that the film shouldn’t just be about the journey but also the characters.

Janusz is the character who drives the film as he knows he’s innocent and hopes to return to his wife whom he loves and knows that she is carrying a lot of guilt for putting him in prison. He is then joined by several characters who would help him escape and take part in this journey. While there are a couple of minor characters like the shady Khabarov and the young Kazik that do get a chance to shine. They’re just minor players who would help everyone else. Smith is an American who came to Russia to find work only to be suspected as spy. Smith is the old man who would be Janusz’s right hand man as he’s also someone not very sentimental as he tells Janusz about his kindness which he perceives as a weakness.

Yet, the arrival of Irena would become the person that the men in the journey would feel protective for. She becomes their angel of sorts as at one point during an encounter with Mongolians in the desert. Smith would say that Irena is his daughter as their relationship becomes somewhat of a father-daughter relationship as the rest of the men are her brothers. The character of Valka is a brutish man who is an admitted thief and is willing to do anything to survive. Yet, he becomes someone who would help everyone for their survival while maintaining his belief as a man who loves Stalin despite everyone else’s opinions.

It’s not just Weir’s ability for audience to get to know these characters which include other supporting characters like Tomasz, Voss, and Zoran as they would bring their own personalities to the journey. Even as the film would have bits of humor through the dialogue as some of it is in Russian and Polish. The screenplay also has a great structure in how to tell the story despite not having a lot of plot-points or conventional story ideas. Though it would lag in a few places, the overall work in the script is superb.

Weir’s direction for the film is definitely top of the line in what is expected from a cinematic master. Shooting on location in places like Bulgaria for the scenes in Siberia plus other locations such as Morocco, Pakistan, and India for the rest of the film. Weir takes audiences into a journey as if they’re part of this long walk from Siberia to India as he always has the camera following the group or have long shots of them walking together. Part of Weir’s brilliance as a director is him always having a wide depth of field where he allows the audience to soak the vast locations they’re walking on.

Whether its coldness of the snow and heavy storms in Bulgaria as Siberia or the big sandstorms the group encounters in the desert. Weir allows the audience to get a feeling of the location with close-ups of the ground or vast long shots. There is always something that Weir is interested in and he’ll shoot it. Even if with actors interacting with nature while taking a chance to even get in touch with where they’re at. It’s definitely directing at its finest as Weir secures another film that goes up there with his vast filmography.

Cinematographer Russell Boyd does an amazing job with the film’s vast, sprawling camera work as he creates naturalistic images that are truly dazzling on film. From the snowy regions near the Himalayas and other mountains to the wondrous deserts. Boyd’s photography is truly exquisite not just for its realistic look at the locations but also in playing to the emotional tone of the film as creates dream-like images for scenes at night as well as a mirage-like sequence. Boyd’s work is definitely top-notch in what is expected for a film like this.

Editor Lee Smith does an excellent job with the film’s editing which is mostly straightforward as it moves quite well for a film with a near two-and-a-half hour running time. Smith also manages to keep the film going with rhythmic cuts for some intense, fast-paced scenes while a lot of the scenes of walking is slow but in a leisured pace.

Production designer John Stoddart and art director Kes Bonnet do a fine job with the few set pieces made for the film such as the prison where the prisoners were staying early on to the Soviet Union-Mongolia border arc they encounter. Costume designer Wendy Stites does a very good job with the ragged costumes the characters wear including the dress that Irena wears and the pants and boots the men wear in their journey. Sound editor Richard King does a spectacular job with the film’s sound in capturing the broad atmosphere of the locations the characters encounter whether it’s the snowstorms or a sandstorm. King’s work is definitely one of the film’s technical highlights

Music composer Burkhard von Dallwitz brings a wonderful epic, soaring score that plays to the journey of the characters. Filled with sweeping string arrangements and a huge orchestra, von Dallwitz’s score is definitely one of the film’s highlights as it helps play up to the film’s vast presentation.

The casting by Lina Todd is wonderful for what is definitely inspired casting not just for its well-known actors but also lesser-known ones. Smaller performances such as Sally Edwards as Janusz’s wife, Zahary Baharov as the interrogator in the opening scene, Stanislav Pishtalov as the prison superintendent, and Sebastian Urzendowsky as Kazik, the young prisoner suffering from night blindness. Alexandru Potocean is excellent as Tomasz, an artist who makes drawings as he keeps the morale of the group high while being a dreamer with high hopes. Gustav Skarsgard is amazing as Voss, a former priest hoping to find a home to maintain some kind of spirituality for those seeking something to believe in as he has a great scene where he and Saoirse Ronan are inside a decayed Buddhist temple.

Dracos Bucur is superb as Zoran, a Yugoslav accountant who brings some much needed humor to the film whether is the desire for salt or maintaining some kind of hope needed once they reach their destination. Mark Strong is very good in a small role as Khabarov, an actor who has the idea to escape prison but doesn’t believe anything will happen. Colin Farrell is phenomenal as Valka, a thug who is very pro-Stalin as he is an admitted thief but a person who cares about freedom as he helps his friends to their journey. Saoirse Ronan is just spectacular in her role as Irena, a young Polish girl who forges an unlikely bond with the prisoners. Even in her scenes with the more cynical Smith where the chemistry between Ronan and Ed Harris is one of the film’s touching yet low-key moments.

Jim Sturgess gives what is definitely his best performance yet as Janusz. A young man desperate to return home as his willingness to escape and go home becomes one of the key moments into why the film is so captivating to watch. Even as tries to maintain hope for his group as Sturgess proves himself to be a capable lead when he’s armed with a great cast. Finally, there’s Ed Harris in one of his best roles as Mr. Smith. A cynical American who came to the Soviet Union for work only to be in prison as he tries to maintain a realist approach to the journey. Even in being an unlikely father figure for both Janusz and Irena as he also some great scenes with the rest of the cast as Harris solidifies his position as one of the finest actors working today.

While it may not live up to such masterpieces as Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, or Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Way Back is still an amazing film from Peter Weir and company. Featuring a great ensemble cast led by Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, and Colin Farrell along with new discovers in Dracos Bucur, Gustav Skarsgard, and Alexandru Potocean. It’s a film that is a great testament of courage and survival as its captured through masterful filmmaking. Fans of Weir will no doubt enjoy the film for its adventurous vision and large canvas as it’s something that should be seen more. In the end, The Way Back is a stunning yet engrossing film from Peter Weir.

Peter Weir Films: (The Car That Ate Paris) - (Picnic at Hanging Rock) - (The Last Wave) - (Gallipoli) - (The Year of Living Dangerously) - (Witness) - (Mosquito Coast) - Dead Poets Society - (Green Card) - (Fearless) - (The Truman Show) - Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World

© thevoid99 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

83rd Oscar Nominations Pt. 2


Best Art Direction

Alice in Wonderland (Production design:  Robert Stromberg; set decoration:  Karen O’Hara)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 (Production design:  Stuart Craig; set decoration:  Stephenie McMillian)
Inception (Production design:  Guy Hendrix Dyas; set decoration:  Larry Dias & Doug Mowat)
The King’s Speech (Production design:  Eve Stewart; set decoration:  Judy Farr)
True Grit (Production design:  Jess Gonchor; set decoration:  Nancy Haigh)

Who Will Win:  Eve Stewart & Judy Farr, The King’s Speech

Period pieces are often something Oscar voters like to see as the art direction for the film in its 1920s to 1940s setting is definitely remarkable to watch.  Even as it reveals what those times looked like back then in Britain from Buckingham Palace to the homes that everyone else lived.  It’s definitely fantastic work though it’s real competition will be against the art direction for Inception.

Who Should Win:  Guy Hendrix Dias, Larry Dias, & Doug Mowat, Inception

The art direction for a blockbuster film like Inception is definitely no other.  Even as it featured a sequence inside a spinning hallway that moves around.  Even as there are sets built for the dream-like sequences whether it’s a traditional-Japanese style home or a decayed apartment in another dream sequence.  It’s definitely art direction at its finest as it’s the one that the voters should pick.

Dark Horse:  Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillian, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1

The franchise has yet to win an Academy Award and it’s definitely not going to be this year.  Even as the film is mostly shot in the forest with very few set pieces such as the tent in a wedding sequence along with the dystopian look of the Ministry of Magic.  While it’s definitely some great work, there is really no chance for Stuart Craig or Stephenie McMillian to beat out its competition.

Best Cinematography

Black Swan (Matthew Libatique)
Inception (Wally Pfister)
The King’s Speech (Danny Cohen)
The Social Network (Jeff Cronenweth)
True Grit (Roger Deakins)

Who Will/Should Win:  Jeff Cronenweth, The Social Network
Cronenweth’s work in The Social Network is definitely one of the most distinctive features of the film.  Shot in a mostly dark, colorless-palette with very little brightness, with the exception of a few scenes in California.  The film has a mostly earthy yet haunting look that represents the trouble persona of Mark Zuckerberg.  It’s definitely amazing as it’s the film to beat.

Dark Horse:  Danny Cohen, The King’s Speech

Cohen’s photography for The King’s Speech is definitely wonderful though is mostly straightforward in comparison to the other nominees.  While he creates some amazing shots including a scene where Bertie and Lionel walk through a foggy park in London.  It’s work that shouldn’t be entirely dismissed though it did snub other possible nominees such as Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle for 127 Hours and Harris Savides for Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere.

Best Costume Design

Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
I Am Love (Antonella Cannarozzi)
The King’s Speech (Jenny Beaven)
The Tempest (Sandy Powell)
True Grit (Mary Zophres)

Who Will/Should Win:  Jenny Beaven, The King’s Speech

Jenny Beaven’s work in the costumes is definitely spectacular as she plays up to the period setting of the late 1930s.  With the regal though casual-like dresses that Queen Elizabeth wears throughout the film to the suits that the men wear.  It’s a period film that works where the costumes give life to the characters and it’s definitely some great work.  It’s not too lavish nor too understated as it’s costume designing at its finest.

Dark Horse:  Antonella Cannarozzi, I Am Love

Antonella Cannarozzi’s work on the Italian film I Am Love is the film that is set in current times.  Yet, with the gorgeous clothes that Tilda Swinton wears and the suits that men wear.  It’s a film that not many people have seen while it’s competition are films that are either set in different periods or play up to something that is very lavish.

Best Film Editing

Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum)
The Fighter (Pamela Martin)
The King’s Speech (Tariq Anwar)
127 Hours (Jon Harris)
The Social Network (Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall)

Who Will/Should Win:  Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall, The Social Network

The editing of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall is truly amazing in the way it helps tells the story.  From the back-and-forth structure of the story with seamless transitions to the rhythm of the cutting in its opening sequence.  Baxter and Wall definitely create something that is magical along with the great boat-race sequence by slowing the action down in cue with the eerie music of Edvard Grieg’s In The Hall of the Mountain King.  It’s one of the reasons why The Social Network is a great film.

Dark Horse:  Tariq Anwar, The King’s Speech

Tariq Anwar’s editing is definitely excellent for what is needed in a historical drama film.  Yet, it’s not the kind of film in terms of editing that voters will go for.  Even as it’s mostly a very straightforward kind of editing in terms of a historical period film. 

Best Makeup

Barney’s Version (Adrien Mort)
The Way Back (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk, & Yolanda Tessieng)
The Wolfman (Rick Baker & Dave Elsey)

Who Will Win:  Rick Baker & Dave Elsey, The Wolfman

Rick Baker is already famous for his work in make-up whether its in horror films or the comedies that starred Eddie Murphy.  For The Wolfman, he transformed Benicio del Toro into a werewolf with lots of hair and skin that would make it believable to the audience.  Baker’s track record and his work is the one that other nominees have to beat.

Who Should Win:  Adrien Mort, Barney’s Version

While it’s a dramatic piece, Adrien Mort has the job of changing Paul Giamatti’s appearances as the character grows older.  While it’s not as big or as lavish as what Baker is doing.  Mort’s work helps enhance Giamatti’s performance in the way he goes from one woman to another.

Dark Horse:  Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk, & Yolanda Tessieng, The Way Back

Since the film is about a trek from the Gulag in Siberia to the deserts of India, the characters had to put on various makeup to endure the weather conditions they encountered.  While it’s not the kind of makeup work that will win awards, it at least brings some needed attention to Peter Weir’s epic as it was able to secure at least a nomination.

Best Original Music Score

How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell)
Inception (Hans Zimmer)
The King’s Speech (Alexandre Desplat)
127 Hours (A.R. Rahman)
The Social Network (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)

Who Will Win:  Alexandre Desplat, The King’s Speech

Having been nominated three times previously, Alexandre Desplat is definitely a shoo-in as he plays a plaintive yet understated score for many of the film’s more somber yet light-hearted scenes.  Even as he includes bombastic arrangements to the heighten the drama in some scenes as Desplat has a great chance to win.  Even as he faces some very tough competition with the intense bombast work of Hans Zimmer for Inception and the dark, chilling score of The Social Network by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.

Who Should Win:  Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network

The duo of Reznor and Ross is probably the most unlikely film score to get nominated for an Oscar.  Particularly one that is largely dominated by electronic music.  Yet, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and his longtime cohort Atticus Ross create haunting pieces that plays to the dark mood of Mark Zuckerberg as well as how intense creativity can be.  It seemed unlikely that Reznor and Ross would be nominated since they did take a few pieces from the NIN album Ghosts I-IV. Somehow, they’ve managed to get a lot of attention as this is the score that should win.

Dark Horse:  John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon

John Powell’s triumphant score that is a mixture of Scottish-style woodwind arrangements and sweeping orchestral flourishes is definitely a surprise in the category.  Even as it has it all of the elements needed for an adventurous animated film.  Yet, Powell is facing some big compositions in not just veterans like Hans Zimmer and Alexandre Desplat but also more experimental composers like A.R. Rahman and the team of Reznor & Ross.

Best Original Song

Coming Home, Country Strong (Music & Lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges, & Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light, Tangled (Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise, 127 Hours (Music by A.R. Rahman; Lyrics by Dido & Rollo Armstrong)
We Belong Together, Toy Story 3 (Music & Lyrics by Randy Newman)

Who Will Win:  Alan Menken & Glenn Slater, I See the Light from Tangled

The team of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater has been known for making award-winning songs for Disney films in the past.  The song I See the Light is a plaintive yet flourishing ballad that works as it wonderfully sung by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.  It’s not overdone either as its orchestral arrangements in the background help play to the emotions of the film as it’s the one to beat.

Who Should Win:  A.R. Rahman, Dido, & Rollo Armstrong, If I Rise from 127 Hours

Dido’s collaboration with A.R. Rahman is a somber ballad that features Rahman’s soft Indian touches and Dido’s calm vocals.  The song is very reflective about Aron Ralston’s experience as the children’s choir in the film plays up to the emotive quality of the film.

Dark Horse:  Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, and Troy Verges, Coming Home from Country Strong

The country ballad has all of the elements of a big, bombastic country power-ballad with Gwyneth Paltrow singing heartbreaking lyrics.  Yet, it’s also the most bloated as it’s the kind of the song that screams for the Oscar.  The problem is that it’s not going to be the kind of song voters want to win as they’re yearning for something simpler unless they want something that is big and flashy.

Best Sound Editing

Inception (Richard King)
Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers & Michael Silver)
Tron:  Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle & Addison Teague)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay & Craig Berkey)
Unstoppable (Mark P. Stoeckinger)

Who Will/Should Win:  Richard King, Inception

For a film as big as Inception is, the sound editing in terms of creating chaos in the dream sequences is definitely spectacular.  Even as it creates a sense of mood of what is real and what is fiction while bringing together lots of sounds for intense action sequences.  King’s work is definitely an idea of what sound editing is and it’s definitely the one to beat.

Dark Horse:  Mark P. Stoeckinger, Unstoppable

An action film about an unstoppable train has all of the elements of a Tony Scott film in recent years.  Speedy cuts, even in sound as it captures all of the ideas of what is needed in a breaking action film.  Yet, action films such as this don’t usually win as it’s often about something bigger or something innovative.

Best Sound Mixing

Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, & Ed Novick)
The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen, & John Midgley)
Salt (Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan, & William Sarokin)
The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick, & Mark Weingarten)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, & Peter F. Kurland)

Who Will/Should Win:  Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick, & Mark Weingarten, The Social Network

Led by sound designer Ren Klyce, the sound mixing for the film is another of the film’s technical highlights.  Even as it captures the tense atmosphere in the deposition scenes where the music and dialogue help create that tone.  The scenes such as the little moments where Facebook is being created with overlapping dialogue and party scenes are another great example of the film’s sound design and mixing as it is truly masterful.

Dark Horse:  Jeffrey J. Haboush, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, & William Sarokin, Salt

The sound work for a blockbuster thriller like Salt has all of the ideas needed such as the layering of sounds in a chase scene or a gun battle.  Yet, it’s the one film that is very unlikely to win because it’s a typical blockbuster film as it’s facing up against another blockbuster film plus a western, a historical drama, and a character-study drama.

Best Visual Effects

Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, & Sean Phillips
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, & Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephen Trojanski, & Joe Farrell)
Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, & Peter Bebb)
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, & Daniel Sudick)

Who Will/Should Win:  Peter Bebb, Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, & Andrew Lockley, Inception

The visual effects in Inception is truly dazzling from the way a city can fold up onto itself or a bridge to appear in a dream-like world.  Yet, it is definitely something that has the look to make it feel real and also not make it look like it was all computers.  This is an idea of what visual effects should be as it’s also the film to beat.

Dark Horse:  Joe Farrell, Bryan Grill, Michael Owens, & Stephen Trojanski, Hereafter

The big sequence of a tsunami sweeping Thailand in the film is the only big visual effects scene in Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama.  Yet, it’s the most unlikely film and sequence to be nominated as it’s going up against blockbuster films.  So it’s definitely the long-shot in this category.

Well, that is it for the Oscars prediction.  Let’s be sure to enjoy and see who wins what.

© thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

83rd Oscar Nominations Pt. 1


The Academy Awards. The awards that honor the best in films. Where crazy hi-jinks occur and big acceptance speech happens. At the same time, we see people try to be funny and fail (like Ben Stiller in recent years). We also see the moments were there are surprises and as well as those that weren’t so pleasant (like the time Crash won instead of Brokeback Mountain). It’s the Oscars. A chance where movie-lovers and film-buffs collide to see where things can go right or where things can go wrong. It’s that time again to predict who will win.

Best Picture

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

A ballerina goes way into deep into getting the big role for Swan Lake by exploring her dark side. The true story of “Irish” Micky Ward’s rise and his complex relationship with his brother Dicky Eklund. A man enters into minds to plant ideas with the help of a talented group of people. Two kids find their biological father as they’re raised by lesbians. The true tale of how King George VI overcame his stammer with the help of a commoner. Another true story of how a man survived his ordeal of being stuck in a rock inside a canyon for nearly 5 days.

The story of how Facebook was founded and how it destroyed friendship among its founders. The tale of toys dealing with mortality as they enter a daycare center that becomes a nightmare. A young girl seeks vengeance for her father’s death with the help of a grizzled marshal. Finally, there’s the tale of a young girl discovering a seedy underworld in the Ozarks. These are the nominees of Best Picture for the 83rd Academy Award.

What Will/Should Win: The Social Network

David Fincher’s story about the founding of Facebook that is told in part through depositions as it is definitely one of the most compelling films of 2010. Even as Facebook remains one of the most popular social-networking tools that millions of people use all over the world. It is also a classic tale of the rise of its founders and how jealousy and betrayal would destroy the relationship between co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. It should win not just for its study of characters but also in the way the story is told in partial flashbacks . It’s also in those depositions scenes where Zuckerberg is facing off against Saverin and people who claimed that Zuckerberg stole their idea.

Dark Horse: The Fighter

David O. Russell’s story about “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother Dicky Eklund is a typical boxing-drama story that audiences can enjoy. Yet, it’s also Russell’s weakest film of his career since it’s his most straightforward while it also carries some of the clichés seen in not just boxing films but also family dramas. It’s a film where audiences unfamiliar with Ward’s career will have a hard time wondering when some of the fights take places.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

Who Will/Should Win: David Fincher, The Social Network

Fincher’s direction for The Social Network is definitely his most provocative and restrained work of his career. Notably for creating a film with a somber mood and taking it to dark places. Even in the deposition scenes where he creates this sense of tension and how Zuckerberg is more concerned with his company rather than the depositions. It’s definitely Fincher at his most observant and at his most atmospheric.

Dark Horse: David O. Russell, The Fighter

Known for mostly comedies with the exception of Three Kings, Russell plays it straight for The Fighter. Though he creates some great moments in the fight scenes, he is best when maintaining a low-key approach to the drama while letting Christian Bale to be showy and funny in his role as Dicky Eklund. Yet, Russell ends up delving into clichés for some of the film’s more over-the-top dramatic scenes where it goes overboard at times. Yet, his nomination is controversial as the one director that should be nominated is Christopher Nolan for Inception.

Best Actor

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Who Will Win: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2009’s A Single Man gave Colin Firth an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. For his role as King George VI, Firth displays a man who is a duke that has to speak for his publicly but has a stammer. Firth’s performance of a man who was then known by his family as Bertie shows all of the vulnerability of a man who was content in being a duke, husband, and father. Yet, when he has to become king and play a bigger role for the world. He reaches out to a speech therapist to give him the confidence to speak for the United Kingdom. It’s a performance that is truly regal and one that is truly deserving of a nomination as Firth is the front-runner.

Who Should Win: James Franco, 127 Hours

In the role of Aron Ralston, James Franco plays a mountain climber who gets himself trapped by a boulder inside a canyon. Having to find a way to free himself for 127 hours, it is a role that could’ve been very boring. Yet, Franco’s sense of humor and lively performance makes the film an engaging yet captivating experience. Even as Franco brings a sense of realism and determination into his character that is very flawed and a bit unlikable at times. Still, it’s a performance that is truly one of the best.

Dark Horse: Javier Bardem, Biutiful

In his performance in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, Javier Bardem plays an underworld figure in Spain who is trying to provide a great future for his own kids as he is facing death. The performance won Bardem the Best Actor prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival though it’s one that many people have seen which is why he’s the long-shot in this category.

Best Actress

Annette Benning, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Who Will Win: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

In her role as a young innocent ballerina finally nabbing the lead role of Swan Lake. Natalie Portman brings a chilling yet mesmerizing performance as a young woman whose innocent persona becomes threatened when she tries to tackle into the dark persona of the Black Swan. It’s a role where Portman not only plays a girlish young woman surrounded by stuffed animals and be smothered by her mother. She also dabbles into a very dark, maniacal side once she begins to embrace the Black Swan as it’s Portman at her finest. Yet, her only real competition to win the Oscar is Annette Benning as a lesbian mother in The Kids Are All Right.

Who Should Win: Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Michelle Williams’ post-Brokeback Mountain film choices as shown the actress taking risks whether its doing experimental art-house films for Kelly Reichardt or being in a pivotal role for Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. For her role as a young woman falling in love with a young man only to have their marriage crumble years later. Williams displays the youthful innocence of a young woman meeting her dream man and then show herself feeling tired and ragged as a mother and wife unhappy with her life. It’s a very raw performance that should be seen more as it proves that Williams has come a long way since being in the TV show Dawson’s Creek.

Dark Horse: Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

Since winning an Oscar for 2002’s The Hours, Nicole Kidman has been in a rut of sorts with being in big commercial flops like Invasion and The Golden Compass and art-house films like Dogville and Fur. For her role as a mother dealing with the death of her child in John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole. Kidman goes for a more restrained yet eerie role as a woman dealing with death and longing. While it is seen as a comeback of sorts, it’s also an art-house film that not many has seen which will probably hurt her chances to win.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Who Will Win: Christian Bale, The Fighter

In the role of Dicky Eklund, Christian Bale returns to drama after years of being in high-profile blockbuster films. Bale also decides to remind audiences of why he is a great actor by losing lots of weight to play a crack-addicted former boxer who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard. Bale’s showmanship and energetic performance is definitely marvelous to watch as it is deserving of the acclaim he’s receiving.

Who Should Win: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Rush’s role as Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who would help King George VI overcome his stammer, is a remarkable performance for veteran. Even as Rush plays it straight while allowing the character to also be funny. It’s a supporting performance that truly works as he plays a commoner who helps the future king find his voice. In some ways, Colin Firth’s performance as King George VI wouldn’t be as great if it wasn’t for the support that Rush gives as Logue. It’s one that Rush should really get accolades for.

Dark Horse: Jeremy Renner, The Town

Jeremy Renner had a great year in 2009 when the 2008 film The Hurt Locker put him in the spotlight as it won the Oscar last year for Best Picture. For his role in Ben Affleck’s The Town, Renner plays a fellow bank robber who tries to convince Affleck’s character to stay in the side of crime while planning a big job. It’s a showy role for Renner that gives him a chance to shine though he’s in serious competition with the actors he’s competing against. Notably John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone which is a big surprise considering how much praise he’s getting.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bohnam Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Who Will Win: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

2008’s Frozen River brought Melissa Leo a surprising Best Actress nomination as she gets a nomination playing the mother of Dicky Eklund and Micky Ward. While it’s a role that has Leo playing a trashy, street-tough manager who doesn’t really know what she’s doing half the time. It’s the kind of loud role that screams Oscar but for the wrong reasons. It’s not that her performance is bad but it plays like a caricature for a lot of the film though there’s time when Leo tries to bring a real person in that role.

Who Should Win: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

For her role as a young girl seeking revenge against the man who killed her father. Hailee Steinfeld’s role as Mattie Ross is definitely one of the best debut roles ever captured on film as she gets to act with the likes of Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. While placing her in the supporting category is controversial since she is really the lead role in the film. Her performance as no-nonsense young lady who is very businesslike while wanting to keep things simple is definitely marvelous for the young actress.

Dark Horse: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

In the role of a crime family matriarch, Jacki Weaver’s performance is one of the great discoveries of 2010. Even as she plays a woman trying to keep her grandson within the family while maintaining a creepy sense of love towards her family. It’s a role not many people will play as it’s also a chance for Jacki Weaver to be discovered as she is also facing some great competition against more well-known actresses.

Best Original Screenplay

Another Year (Written by Mike Leigh)
The Fighter (Screenplay by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy; Story by Keith Dorrington, Eric Johnson, and Paul Tamasay)
Inception (Written by Christopher Nolan)
The Kids Are All Right (Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg)
The King’s Speech (Written by David Seidler)

Who Will Win: David Seidler, The King’s Speech

Seidler’s screenplay for The King’s Speech is wonderful for not portraying history accurately but also exploring the relationship of the king and a common speech therapist. Seidler’s script also explores the Royal Family including the relationship between King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It’s a script that truly works as it has some wonderful dialogue and a story that is definitely inspirational.

Who Should Win: Christopher Nolan, Inception

Christopher Nolan’s story of a man trying to bring ideas into the mind of another man with the help of a team is truly original. Especially for something that is a big blockbuster film with lots of ideas as it also a thriller. Nolan’s exploration of a man and his regrets as he comes to term with own troubles. It’s also a film that keeps people guessing as it is definitely one of Nolan’s best work as a writer which would make up the snubbing of him not being nominated for Best Director.

Dark Horse: Keith Dorrington, Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, & Paul Tamasy, The Fighter

The screenplay for The Fighter is definitely a story that audiences can root for but it’s also one that is filled with clichés. It’s probably the most flawed film of this category. The other nomination could’ve been filled for Blue Valentine or Black Swan.

Best Adapted Screenplay

127 Hours (Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy)
The Social Network (Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin)
Toy Story 3 (Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich)
True Grit (Screenplay by Joel & Ethan Coen)
Winter’s Bone (Screenplay by Debra Ganik & Anne Rosellini)

Who Will/Should Win: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin’s approach to the telling about the founding of Facebook is definitely an example of great screenwriting. Even as the film moves back to forth to the depositions that Mark Zuckerberg is at and how Facebook was formed. While some of the plotting was definitely inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Sorkin refines into the exploration of who Mark Zuckerberg is.

Dark Horse: Debra Ganik & Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone

The screenplay for Winter’s Bone is definitely a surprising nomination and a deserving one. Especially for the tale of a young girl in the Ozark mountains hunts down her drug-dealing father to save her family’s home. It is a film that really explores a girl coming of age while dealing with the dark world that she is going into as the competition the script is facing will be a tough one.

Best Animated Film

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

What Will/Should Win: Toy Story 3

Pixar is one of the most consistent studios putting out great animated films. Even as their reputation to create great stories and using the technology to create these stories have always ended up with the studio making great films. For the third Toy Story film, Lee Unkrich and company give the franchise a fitting close. Even in giving Woody, Buzz, and the gang a chance to have one great adventure as they fight a real foe who has a way of what toys should be. It’s no surprise if the film will in as Pixar is always a guaranteed win for that category.

Dark Horse: How to Train Your Dragon

Dreamworks Animations’ How to Train Your Dragon wasn’t just a big hit in the box office. It also attained a lot of great critical acclaim as the studio made a film that some said can go up there with the films from Pixar. The tale of a boy who takes in a wounded dragon is one of the most surprising. It’s a dark horse because Dreamworks Animations hasn’t made a film that could top what Pixar has done so far while it’s other competition in The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet. A French animated director who has a great reputation to making wonderful 2D animated films.

Best Foreign-Language Film

Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
In A Better World (Denmark)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

What Will/Should Win: Dogtooth

Though it originally premiered in 2009 at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Un Certain Regard prize. It came into the U.S. in late 2010 to lots of acclaim. The film about a husband and wife keeping their children imprisoned at home as they have no idea about the world outside of them. It is a very dark filled with themes that not many filmmakers will want to explore. It’s also a film that has gotten the most attention as the Foreign-Language film category is always a guessing game. Even as director Yorgos Lanthimos is facing some high competition against Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, Susanne Bier’s In a Better World, and Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies.

Dark Horse: Outside the Law

Rachid Bouchared’s follow-up to the Oscar-nominated film Days of Glory in 2006 has him exploring the relationship of three brothers in 1945 through 1962. While Bouchared is facing some great competition against his other nominees in Algeria. There is always a surprise in the dark horse as Bouchared could come out as a surprise winner.

Best Documentary Feature

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

What Will/Should Win: Restrepo

Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s story about a year-long campaign in Afghanistan by a platoon is certainly one of the most haunting stories about war and how it affects soldiers. The film’s title comes from a medic who was killed in action as it would later lead to a horrendous battle that would have awful consequences for civilians and soldiers. Films about war doesn’t really gain much favor but it is one that is likely to win for political reasons. Yet, it’s real competition is Exit Through the Gift Shop about the mysterious artist known as Bansky.

Dark Horse: Gasland

Josh Fox’s documentary about communities in the U.S. impacted by natural gas drilling as homes are being sold for gas companies to drill. Even as it would affect drinking water as it’s a film that has an environmental message. It’s clear that this category is not hard to choose who is the long-shot as this film has serious competition against Restrepo, the political Inside Job, and Exit Through the Gift Shop. The other nominee in Waste Land is about an artist creating art through garbage is also other long-shot in the category.

(End of Part 1)

© thevoid99 2011