The best picture category was particularly weak this year. The problem is storytelling. Most of the stories were slight or barely there at all (The Kids Are All Right). Many relied on visual hocus pocus, flashbacks and flashforwards (Inception and 127 Hours) or trumped up drama (Social Network and Black Swan) to pad out what should have been 15-minute short films.
I’ll admit that I still haven’t seen Winter’s Bone or Toy Story 3. I have high hopes for the storytelling of Winter’s Bone. The Toy Story brand of sentimentality doesn’t have much appeal for me.
The King’s Speech was a fine film and unobjectionable winner. The acting was brilliant. On the down side, it never outgrew its stage-play origins. A safe and predictable choice by the Academy.
My own choice among the best picture nominees (or at least the eight that I have seen) is True Grit, which was the complete package. It had excellent storytelling, visuals both grand and minute, and one of the best musical scores, which helped focus the story in both its time and place. The period dialog rang true and the actors, led by the wonderful Hailee Steinfeld, were exceptional. Jeff Bridges was better here than he was in the weak film, Crazy Heart, for which he won the best actor Oscar last year.
The Coen brothers’ True Grit was nominated in 10 categories and won zero Oscars, a disappointing shutout. Joel and Ethan Coen won best picture and best director Oscars recently for the bleak modern Western, No Country for Old Men (2007), which probably eliminated them from serious contention so soon.
Colin Firth’s win was well deserved for his role as King George VI in The King's Speech. Firth was perhaps even better last year in A Single Man, when he didn’t win.
While this was a predictable win for Natalie Portman for Black Swan, her almost entirely one-note performance didn’t offer much for me. A lead actress nomination should have gone to Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit. She was nominated instead as a supporting actress. I haven’t seen several of the nominees in this category. I am especially looking forward to seeing Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.
A Los Angeles film critic remarked that Christian Bale should get the award for “most acting” in The Fighter. John Hawkes’s work was remarkable in the television series Deadwood. I look forward to catching up with his nominated performance in Winter’s Bone.
Melissa Leo was very good as the mother in The Fighter. She was even better as the lead in Frozen River (2008) when she didn’t win. I look forward to seeing Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom.
Animated Short Film:
A big congratulations to Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann for The Lost Thing.
Shaun Tan named on Oscar shortlist
Oscar nominees for Best Picture for 2010 films
Why Best Picture Oscars are like a Broken Clock