Feb 28, 2011

WRONG! The Academy Awards 2011

I used to get excited about the Oscars, but that was before I discovered, in a big way, non-mainstream and foreign language cinema. For the past decade, as I've seen more new films year on year - 212 in 2010 - The Oscars has seemed ever more like a hugely expensive salute to cinematic mediocrity, and last night was, depressingly, no different. So, let's take a look at some of the results and see why they're WRONG!

Original Score
Winner: The Social Network; Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross
Right because: This was easily the best nominated score. It's a brilliant piece of music that marries up perfectly with the film it is soundtracking, and is also an interesting and highly listenable piece in isolation.

WRONG! because: The best original score of 2010 was not even nominated. The fact that Daft Punk's score for Tron Legacy - a score so good it's more memorable than the film - didn't get nominated isn't a surprise from a body as conservative as AMPAS, but it does make a mockery of this category. The same thing is likely to happen next year; however good The Chemical Brothers' score for Hanna is I'd bet against a nomination.

Winner: Inception; Wally Pfister
WRONG! because: It's not that Inception had bad cinematography, in fact, as in all the other tech departments, the film excelled there. Seriously though, what the Hell does Roger Deakins have to do to win, blow every Academy member individually the week prior to voting? (legal note: I am not saying this is what Pfister did). True Grit is a truly beautiful film, and Deakins earned this with his opening shot alone, to say nothing of the last 20 years of his career.

Foreign Language Film
Winner: In a Better World
WRONG! because: I have only seen one of the nominees in this category, and I'm sure the others, including Susanne Bier's latest, are good films. I am, however, equally sure that none is as complete a masterpiece as Dogtooth. I am still yet to see a single better film since I first saw Dogtooth in October 2009 (and since then I have seen over 500 films for the first time). Yorgos Lanthimos' challenging work was never likely to win, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have.

Film Editing
Winner: The Social Network; Kirk Baxter / Angus Wall
Right because: Again this is the correct answer from the list of nominees, a beatuiful, unshowy, job from Baxter and Wall... but...

WRONG! because: No nomination for Lee Smith's editing of Inception? Has AMPAS lost its collective mind? (note: yes). If there was only one category in which Inception deserved to win (note: there was) then it was this one, if only for Smith's astonishing feat of cutting together action scenes on four separate levels of reality in a way that was easy to follow throughout the film's last half hour.

Original Screenplay
Winner: The King's Speech; David Seidler
WRONG! because: Of the four nominees I saw in this category, not one stood out as a screenplay, and certainly none even held a candle to the fantastic writing for Four Lions. Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain took a difficult subject (terrorism) and made it funny, while creating characters who were rounded, interesting, even bizarrely sympathetic at some levels. It's a beautifully executed balancing act, and it gets overlooked for an overgrown TV movie.

Winner: The King's Speech; Tom Hooper
WRONG! because: Look at the competiton. EVERY other nominee delivered a better directorial job than Hooper, as did many who weren't nominated (Lee Unkrich, Danny Boyle and Debra Granik for starters). Actually the direction is the worst thing about the stodgy and inert The King's Speech (to say nothing of the fact that giving the nod to Timothy Spall's awful cartoon of Churchill should have disqualified Hooper all by itself). AND he beat David Fincher, cause, yeah, what's David Fincher ever given us... only four indisputable modern classics, including the film he was nominated for, but forget that, let's give it to the man who pointed a camera at the most ridiculously average and personality free film nominated. THIS is why I hate the Oscars.

Supporting Actress
Winner: The Fighter; Melissa Leo
WRONG! because: Well let's begin with the fact that Melissa Leo (a fine actress) is flat out fucking awful in The Fighter - not middling, not occasionally pushing the boat out too far - AWFUL. Her performance is hammier than the buffet table at a world pig farmers convention. So there's that. Then let's observe that everyone else in her category was better, especially Leo's co-star Amy Adams (along with the unnominated Mark Wahlberg the best thing in The Fighter) and Hailee Steinfeld (whose nomination here was naked category fraud, to be fair) whose remarkable performance in True Grit deserved the statuette.. Then let's remember the dignity shredding neediness with which Leo reacted to this, her second nomination. I may have hated this performance, but before those vomit inducing ads I had respect for Melissa Leo. Not so much now. A horrible result, and one that may set a bad precedent for Oscar campaigning.

Supporting Actor
Winner: The Fighter; Christian Bale
WRONG! because: Christian Bale is a great actor, and he's given many Oscar worthy performances. The Fighter is his best work in a while, but it's still sometimes a very cartoony performance. It's a shame Bale had to win for this rather than, say, American Psycho (though let's not pretend that this Oscar isn't more an expression of 'whoops, Christian Bale doesn't have an Oscar yet' than approval for this performance). It's also a shame that he had to beat the much more interesting, much more internalised work of John Hawkes in Winter's Bone, to say nothing of Andrew Garfield's two unnominated turns in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go.

Winner: Black Swan; Natalie Portman
WRONG! because: The perfect example of what often happens with Best Actress; the award being given because it's just someone's turn. I understand that I'm in a minority hating Black Swan, and all the ludicrous histrionics of the acting, but I'm just baffled by how often AMPAS looks on over acting as great acting. Again of the nominees I'd have gone with Winter's Bone, and Jennifer Lawrence's strong, understated, showing, but again my real winner; Agelliki Papoulia, who plays the elder daughter in Dogtooth, was never even in with a shout for a nomination. I've no problem with Natalie Portman having an Oscar (she earned it in, at least, Leon, Beautiful Girls and Garden State), but for THIS performance, really?

Winner: The King's Speech; Colin Firth
WRONG! because: This is the most obvious and most egregious make up Oscar in a long while. Firth so obviously deserved the golden baldie last year for A Single Man, but lost out, thanks to a combination of being way too subtle in that movie and the fact that Jeff Bridges was overdue for his own 'we're sorry we didn't get round to it before' Oscar. Firth's decent enough in The King's Speech, but he's capable of so much more than is asked of him here (see Genova and A Single Man). Firth's performance doesn't hold a candle to the less gimmicky work of Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network or Oscar co-host James Franco in 127 Hours, but their time will come, and when it does it will likely be for a middling performance, and rob a more deserving actor of their trophy, and so the cycle will go on.

Winner: The King's Speech
WRONG! because: Okay, so it's not my least favourite of the nominated films (Black Swan, since you asked), but here's the bottom line: If The King's Speech really were the best film (even one of the 20 best films) of the last 12 months I wouldn't be writing this, because if that were anything like the pinnacle of what cinema could do then it wouldn't be worth the time I spend on it. The King's Speech is oversized TV with ideas above its station. It's not a bad film, it's not a good film, it's a relentlessly average film; decent and completely unchallenging in every aspect. It doesn't come near the transcendent emotion of Toy Story 3, the generation defining drama of The Social Network or even the genre mastery of True Grit, it's a film that, were it not for this unwarranted awards attention, I'd have forgotten on rising from my seat when it ended. Ladies and Gentlemen; your Best Picture. KILL ME.

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