A Best Picture Challenge

The Academy Award nominations have been announced. Now it is time for some fun.

There are 10 films nominated for Best Picture. Can you include all of their titles in one sentence? This is my attempt:

In the 127 Hours before the Inception of The King’s Speech, The Fighter learned that The Kids Are All Right because they had True Grit during Winter’s Bone when the Black Swan joined The Social Network to watch Toy Story 3.

The rules are simple: it can only be one sentence and you have to include all ten.

Ready, go!

The 2011 Academy Award Nominations

The Oscar nominations are in!

The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper masterful period film about King George VI and his st-st-stammer scored 12 nominations. After being shut out at the Golden Globes, Joel and Ethan Coen’s revamped True Grit followed with 10 nods. The Social Network received just eight nominations, as did Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Toy Story 3 became the third animated feature nominated for Best Picture. The complete list of nominations is available here.

After The King’s Speech topped the Producer’s Guild Awards this weekend  and the Academy’s  lack of showering The Social Network with accolades, skeptics are questioning whether or not 2010’s critical darling will win big on Oscar night. (Deep breath, TSN fans. The Facebook-saga will do just fine.)

Other notable omissions are Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right and Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine. Their on-screen spouse (Annette Bening and Michelle Williams, respectively) both received best actress nominations. For performances that are so symbiotic, it is a shame the other half was left off the ballot.

I was also secretely hoping Barbara Hershey’s performance as the wonderfully creepy arand manic stage mother in Black Swan would score a supporting actress nomination.

Are you satisfied with the Oscar nominations? What do you see as the biggest Oscar snubs? Sound off below.

Continue reading “The 2011 Academy Award Nominations”

Review: The Fighter (2010)

Boxing movies, more than any other sports film, are dominated by clichés. A working class hero rises from downtrodden circumstances to become the underdog contender in a championship match. Along the way they endure economic hardship, broken dreams, relationship woes, and familial pressure. David O’Russell’s The Fighter is just that story. But The Fighter transcends the clichés that define its essence. Not necessarily through its style (the fight scenes are less than memorable) but in its characters and performances.

Mark Wahlberg, in his third pairing with O’Russell, is Micky Ward, a down-and-out boxer from Lowell, MA. It’s the early 1990s, before Ward became known for his trio of fights with Arturo Gatti.

Ward’s career is dictated by the demands of his domineering family. His trainer is his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a local legend who tells anyone within ear shot about that time he beat Sugar Ray Leonard. The brothers are the focus on an HBO documentary chronicling Dicky’s crack addiction. Dicky believes that the documentary is about his grand comeback; everyone else knows it is really about his deteriorating life.

Alice (Melissa Leo, in yet another merciless, chameleon-like performance) disastrously manages her son’s career, putting Micky in impossible matches where the need for money, not glory, wins out. One of these matches pushes Mickey to quit boxing. When Micky meets the tough-talking Charlene (Amy Adams), his life changes. She instantly recognizes the reason for his troubles – his family. If Micky wants one last shot to be the “pride of Lowell,”  he needs to leave his family behind.

Charlene’s involvement pits her against the overbearing female forces in the Eklund/Ward clan. Mickey’s seven sisters are a working class, highly comical, hair-sprayed to the max, Greek chorus; Alice is their ringleader. They know what Micky needs; not this somewhat college-educated, MTV girl. They know that Micky, deep down, does need Dicky.

For his part, Dicky spends a majority in the film in jail, grappling with his life, his decisions, and his addiction. He emerges from jail a better man, ready to make amends and recommit to Micky’s fight. The brothers, in the end, can’t win without each other.

Bale’s performance is so good, so precise. This is not Batman. This is not the Terminator. Bale throws himself into this lanky, goofy character but not in a manner that is sheer mimicry. It is the athleticism of powerhouse screen acting.

And Leo makes the unflattering Alice (she’s sometimes just as bad as a prototypical stage mom) a force to be reckoned with. Leo is one of best character actresses working in Hollywood. Her performance in The Fighter inches up on you that by the time you realize you’ve been witnessing something that is subtly marvelous, the film is over. Watching Leo and Adams, delivering yet another fine supporting performance, exchange “pleasantries” and even fists is better than any of Micky’s fights.

In the end, it is Wahlberg who lags behind this trio of exemplary supporting performances. It is not because Wahlberg lacks the skill. Maybe because everyone else is a richer character. Micky Ward might have championed in real life, but in The Fighter it is the forces behind him that shine the most.