a theatre, film & pop culture review
This category is a mess. And by that, I mean: who I want to win, won’t; who I think/hope will win, will probably get bested; and my least favorite will walk away with the statue.
True Grit was not to my taste, but it seems that even the most dedicated of Coen Bros. fans didn’t find this amongst their strongest work. Despite David O’Russell’s efforts, The Fighter remains an overly familiar boxing narrative, but now I’m just being redundant. Neither of these films, however, is anywhere near in the running for this award.
Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan pushes boundaries and boasts the most unique aesthetic of all the nominees. Incorporating tropes from horror, drama, camp, and dance, he craftily melds them together to construct an in-your-face story of obsession and paranoia. The result is an unsettling, humorous, terrifying, and strangely relatable film about overreaching ambition and self-discovery. I was rapt from the very first moment until the last, which I can’t say about any other film of the year; and for that, my vote would go to Aronofsky.
But as you can see from my rankings above, I’m still holding out hope that David Fincher has this one on lock for The Social Network. He took what many believed to be an un-filmable topic and, with the help of word-wizard Aaron Sorkin, created an exhilarating tragicomedy of a courtroom drama about the precipitous rise of one Mark Zuckerberg. Fincher’s glossy slickness is what makes the film, about connection in all its various forms, tick at such a rapid-fire pace. And while it’s rare for Best Director and Best Picture to be split (it’s The Social Network has no chance at winning the latter), it does happen, usually to much controversy (Ang Lee vs. Crash in 2005, for example).
One thing that Fincher is not, however, is sentimental. And Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech is all sentiment, a definite advantage for an Academy in love with that characteristic. Its sure-win for Best Original Screenplay is difficult enough to stomach (such a trivial story!), but a directing win would be unforgivable, as Tom Hooper has no idea what kind of film he’s making. Is it an overcoming-a-disability narrative? A war film? A buddy comedy? A history play? What is this? Bertie’s emotional journey from stuttering prince to confident (?) king chugs along rather nicely, if predictably, for a while, and it could have been forgiven its noncommittal narrative. The final scene, however, is disconcerting, to say the least: the audience is directed to focus on Bertie’s actual speech pattern, and then to cheer when he makes it through without a single stutter. That’s all well and good if he were offering commentary on a tennis match or any mundane state affair. But the fact that Hooper chose to ignore what the speech was about (WWII), and then followed it up with crowds of folks applauding (the king? the speech? the war??) was just ludicrous and — perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but — offensive. That’s when Hooper’s film went from trivial entertainment to my least favorite of the year. But hey, that’s just me: the DGA crowned him Best Director, all but guaranteeing his Oscar win.
For some reason, though, the pundits are still giving a slight edge to Fincher…