B After The Fact

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Academy Awards -- Some Comments

I have seen the following Oscar nominees:

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are Alright
The Kings Speech
The Social Network

I sort of agree with my friend Bruce Fan Is Back that in some very important ways, Inception is a better movie that either The Kings Speech or The Social Network. Most importantly, it is actually a movie, designed to be watched on a big screen, and not a TV show that is simply being marketed as a movie, which is sort of how I felt about both The Kings Speech (Masterpiece Theater) and The Social Network (an HBO movie).

Like Avatar last year, and The Aviator a few years ago, Inception is a big movie that swings for the fences and misses sometimes. I have only seen it once, which is not enough. I was completely confused at times, and fell asleep at one point (I fall asleep all the time). But all in all, Inception was something I never saw before, it was very well done, and it would be nice if the Academy voters would give breakthrough "movie movies" like Inception more credit for trying than they tend to get. Ah, well. At least it was nominated.

Unlike Leonardo diCaprio. I don't want to throw any of the Best Actor nominees under the bus, especially when I haven't seen all the movies yet. However, Leonardo DiCaprio remains our best movie actor (unless you want to tell me that someone young like Ryan Gosling has caught up to him -- I don't see enough of those movies). diCaprio is so good that I still don't think that people understand what they are seeing, and how hard it is to do. I would certainly vote for him over Colin Firth or Jesse Eisenberg this year.

Anyway, Inception isn't going to win anything else, and diCaprio wasn't even nominated. So in the realm of the possible:

I liked The Social Network more than The King's Speech. I admit the difference between the two isn't enough for me to be outraged at the good fortune The King's Speech is having in the preliminary awards. My big problem with The King's Speech is the old acting/ writing issue of stakes. I didn't understand what would happen if the King stuttered through his big important speech. Would the Nazi brother with the American divorcee wife come back to reclaim the throne? Would the Brits lose World War II? Or would -- perish the thought --- the poor King feel badly about himself? Yawn.

The Social Network, admittedly, looks like a very special episode of Sportsnight, intertwined with a very special episode of The West Wing, with a little bit of A Few Good Men thrown in. But it depicts the sort of America that we have all been living in for a while, but that Hollywood has kept in turnaround. I thought that Jesse Eisenberg kept a lot of humanity going for a character that was a jerk. But I know -- Hollywood 2011 is not awarding Oscars to movies about jerks. David Thomson argues in this week's NEW REPUBLIC that it was always thus. I don't know. See The Apartment, or Unforgiven, or Godfather II, just for starters.

I think Eisenberg over Firth. I expect to see the award go to Firth (not a tough prediction given the previous awards). The central "Swanee River" scene is like an A+++ acting class exercise. This is what we acting students are all taught to recognize as great acting, and we continue to learn our lessons well. But its really perfect stage acting, and a little too broad, IMHO, for screen acting. I liked Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter" better than either of them. I haven't seen Jeff Bridges in True Grit.

I think Portman and Bening are interesting. Bening is acting, in the conventional sense and Portman is simply being an object of desire for the director and the cinemantographer. If it really is Portman vs Bening, then I would say Portman. I think that Bening gets nominated for the "Wow, she sleeps with Warren Beatty, and can still play gay" factor. Julianne Moore was better than either of them. But she wasn't nominated. Friends tell me Jennifer Laurence was better than all of them.

Christian Bale was great, and I expect that he'll win. Although I thought that Geoffrey Rush might win the SAG award. His part is about impersonation in the deepest sense. I don't think that what Mark Ruffalo does, in general, in pretty much every film he is in, is particularly easy. If it was, Ruffalo wouldn't work so much.

But still, Christian Bale. How could Mark Wahlberg's character be a supporting actor in his own life story? Because Christian Bale trumped him in every possible way. Just jumping into a garbage dump. And that prison scene. Talk about acting clinics.

Melissa Leo, man! That character has at least 9 kids. She got someone to not use a condom at least 9 times. Seems unbelievable. But Melissa Leo made you see how that was possible. She was still screwing everyone. Down to the last frame. But I dare you to resist her.

Finally, did Inception direct its own Goddam self? I know, the five director nominees directors reflect the 5 movies with the best chance of getting best picture. But still.