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The state of the race so far…

So as you all know, January/February is usually one of the most expected time of the movie year as the award season unfolds.
But for now, what do we know? The critics have published their top 15 of the year, critics’ circles have started handing out awards, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced its nominees for the Golden Globes Awards.
(Picture credit : Awards Daily).

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*The clear contender at the moment, and the biggest one, is David Fincher’s The Social Network, which I myself have found outrageously good and so well-written. It was a box-office success -for such a small budget at least ($50million); and it opened to rave reviews from all the major publications. The awards buzz as such grew slowly but steadily -and here we are today, with Screen Actors Guild nominations/Golden Globes nominations in all the main categories, winner of the NYFCC awards (critics’ circle from New York City, one of the most important) in the best film and director categories; and the film also swept the National Board of Review, an early and good indicator of Oscar wins.
So in short, we’re looking at a Best Picture win, Best Director nominee, a most probable Best Actor nomination for Jesse Eisenberg, an Adapted Screenplay win; and perhaps a nod in the Best Editing, Cinematography and Music Score categories.

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*Right behind The Social Network is Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, a “costume drama” that is sure to please the Academy, as it plays all the right cards -biopic of a historical figure with stellar and intense performances. Colin Firth, after last year’s A Single Man, once again won high praises for his performance -he’s a sure Best Actor nominee; and other acting thesps such as Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter will also get Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress noms (or may even win) Actually, Colin Firth  as well might just win the statuette as he’ll be the most ‘veteran’ actor in the field, and that would be great recognition indeed. But the film is also sure to get nominations in the key categories -Best Film, Directing, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Art Design and Music Score (Alexandre Desplat has a good shot at winning for once, squee!).

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*Hot on The King Speech‘s tail is Inception, Chris Nolan’s exploration of the dream world. Sci-fi pics usually do not fare well in award ceremonies; however as this is both compelling storytelling and visual achievement which has won the critics’ acclaim, Inception is definitely a heavy contender as well. Although it was released during the summer, its enduring box-office success made sure it was not to be forgotten when award season started; and Warner Bros clearly understood that as it is the studio’s main award contender this year, alongside Ben Affleck’s The Town, a considerably smaller film in terms of both audience and visibility. A Golden Globe nomination in the Best Picture (Drama) category reinforced its position in this year’s award race; unfortunately, Inception may have to pick up at the Oscars only what’s left by the two aforementioned films : Best Picture and Director nominations, Original Screenplay nomination is a safe bet as well; not likely to get any noms in the acting category as the cast is too widespread, it may also bag a Best Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Mixing and Editing, Music Score nomination; and a Visual Effects win for sure.

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*Alongside Inception in the ‘unconventional film’ category this year, is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, hailed as the best film in a career that’s already very remarkable -I wouldn’t be surprised if Aronofsky won the Best Director Oscar, although I daresay he will be in very good company in this category. Since its screening at the Venice Film Festival, Black Swan has been a shoo-in for every almost category -Best Film, Director, Best Actress for Natalie Portman and Best Supporting Actress for Mila Kunis ; it will probably get a Best Original Screenplay nom as well as Best Cinematography, Editing, Art Design, Costume Design. However Clint Mansell’s score has been announced ineligible for the Oscars as it drew too much material from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. Stupid Oscars.

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*No “Little Movie That Could” this year, but David O.Russell’s The Fighter might just be considered as the outsider this year. Sport biopics have always been favoured by the Academy, especially boxing ones, and so this one should be in its rightful place. It has already picked up nominations in the main categories at the Golden Globes – Best Picture (Drama) and Director; as well as Best Actor for Mark Wahlberg, Best Supporting Actor for Christian Bale and two Best Supporting Actresses for Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. Christian Bale is the main contender in his field; it’d be great to see him win an Oscar… At any rate, one can be sure to find all these acting nominations at the Academy Awards as well. Interestingly enough, the film hasn’t been nominated for its screenplay in any of the award ceremonies so far.

*The remaining candidates are: Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, a star turn for Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine, Sundance sensation Winter’s Bone, Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Ben Affleck’s The Town, and never, never forget the Coen brothers, whose latest film True Grit could act as a real surprise, as it was released just a few days ago. Also in the acting categories, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole (Best Actress) and Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom (Best Supporting Actress) have been generating quite a buzz for their performances.

Nominations for the Academy Awards will be announced on the 25th of January, expect a post then!

2010 review

As per tradition, here is my list of the best films of the year:

1. The Social Network, directed by David Fincher
2. Inception, directed by Chris Nolan
3. El Secreto de sus Ojos, directed by Juan José Campanella
4. Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenabar
5. A Serious Man, directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
6. Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich
7. Green Zone, directed by Paul Greengrass
8. The Kids are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, directed by David Yates
10. Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion
11. Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese
12. The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski
13. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, directed by Edgar Wright
14. The Town, directed by Ben Affleck
15. Up in the Air, directed by Jason Reitman

Honorable mentions: Buried, Kick-Ass, London Nights, An Education, I Love You Phillip Morris, Tangled

I know, I know. By all rights, Inception should have been first, the originality of the subject matter alone should make it the rightful number one, surely there hasn’t been a film that was equally innovative… and of course, David Fincher’s The Social Network isn’t. What is is though, is the epitome of our generation, this young century of ours –cinema at its most jubilant and storytelling at its most excellent. The story of Mark Zuckerberg makes for incredible material of course, but it’s how screenwriter Aaron Sorkin chose to treat the subject that is the most surprising –portraying a petulant, insufferable Zuckerberg while making us ache for the fundamental relationship missing in his life. What matters here isn’t how close this is to reality, but how telling it is of our reality. The Social Network is a triumph of fine storytelling, and that’s why I think it was the best movie of the year.
But that doesn’t mean that Inception, which I have reviewed elsewhere on this website, isn’t the biggest success of the year in terms of visuals, because it is. Chris Nolan has proved to be one of the most capable directors of our era –he’s also the only mainstream director willing to push the audience far enough, almost to the edge of confusion. Flashy effects and deliberately complicated structure aside, Inception is still more thrilling than any films you’ll see this year. And bonus point for wearing its heart on its sleeve while plumbing the depths of its characters’ minds.
As for third place… El Secreto de what? It’s this year’s most underrated film, although to be fair, it did win an Oscar last year for Best Foreign Film. But I don’t know anyone in France who’s seen it, except, you know, your two enduring moviegoers. In any case, Campanella’s pelicula about missed opportunities, unresolved murders and undying love is a new take on many classic themes of your usual detective story. It’s as subtle as it can be shocking, and the resolution of the story is so distressing and disturbing at the same time than the ‘twist’ alone is worth the viewing. Fortunately, there are incredible characters all around to keep you distracted from the darker aspects of the film ; plenty of humour to keep you entertained and most importantly, enough smarts to keep you guessing until the end.
I’ve already written a lengthy review of Amenabar’ epic Agora, but here’s three things that should convince you rightaway to buy it in DVD: it’s a peplum that has more intrigue than action; witnessing Alexandria being torn apart by religious conflicts is completely riveting –it sends the mind reeling as much as it fills the heart with despair; and the characters’ complexity is only matched by the fine performers who depict them –Rachel Weisz, Oscar Isaac, Max Minghella, a very solid cast indeed. Buy it already!
Last but not least, A Serious Man is a splendid Coen brothers flick, with as much as irony and dark humour as there can possibly be. I have said it before, I was thoroughly impressed to see how well the themes were echoed in the storytelling itself, which therefore mixes moral questioning, quirky characters, intangible sense of destiny and catastrophe all in one brilliant, complex film that in addition is very-well shot, choreographed and scored. It does leave you somehow perplexed in the end, but entirely satisfied at the idea of having been exposed to such genius.
That’s it for my comments on the top 5, feel free to disagree!
And a quick top 5 of the performances of the year:

Actors
1. Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception, Shutter Island
2. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
3. George Clooney, Up in the Air
4. Ben Whishaw, Bright Star tied with Ewan McGregor, The Ghost Writer, I Love You Phillip Morris
5. Matt Damon, Green Zone

Actresses
1. Carey Mulligan, An Education
2. Annette Bening tied with Julianne Moore, The Kids are All Right
3. Rachel Weisz, Agora
4. Abbie Cornish, Bright Star
5. Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Another year gone, a new one starting: the next post will be the 2011 preview, stay tuned!