I previously mentioned that over the next few weeks I'd be taking a look at the nominees in eight major categories for the 2011 Academy Awards. I'll be writing about what I think will win, what I want to win, and my thoughts about each category overall.
The nominees for Best Picture are:
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
What a difference a few months and some hardcore Oscar campaigning makes. Back in October it seemed even moot to have an Academy Awards ceremony this year. "Why pretend there's a competition when The Social Network is going to LITERALLY win every single category?", went the prevailing thought. Not only was a movie that featured Facebook as its backdrop good, it was really, really, REALLY good. Perhaps the shock of this spun the Oscar talk for the film out of control, or perhaps people realized that it's simply not possible for one film to sweep the entire Academy Awards. Most likely it was a combination of those reasons and, also, the realization that 2010 actually produced a lot of really great films and, while The Social Network is one of them, it does face some pretty stiff competition.
The stiffest, of course, being the much ballyhooed and really British The King's Speech. Four months ago an Oscar upset would have been Tom Hooper's story of a stammering son of sovereign toppling David Fincher's tale of a twisted tough-tongued twerp. It appears, now, that the upset would be opposite.
Not as much of an upset, however, should any of the other eight films in the running for the Academy's most prestigious award come away with the honor. There is little chance of that happening, I think, for the following reasons:
Toy Story 3 is automatically out of the running, as it has the greatest chance of seizing the Best Animated Feature Film award and the Academy doesn't take animated films seriously anyway (see: the creation of a Best Animated Feature Film category in the first place).
Inception, while smarter (much smarter) than your average summer blockbuster is still, in the eyes of the Academy, just a summer blockbuster. Had the category only included five nominees (as it did just two years ago and for many years before that), Christopher Nolan's flick wouldn't even have been considered for the award. The Best Picture category was expanded precisely so that films like Inception (movies that play well with mainstream audiences, internet movie geeks, and critics alike) could be included, thereby assigning some credibility to the Academy in the eyes of these folks and also guaranteeing a larger audience than years past.
The Kid's Are All Right is simply too small to pick up the award, as is Winter's Bone. Had The Hurt Locker (an astounding piece of filmmaking, but one approximately ten people saw) not won last year, both of these films would have had a better chance (however slight).
The Fighter, while inspiring, is too formulaic, and not nearly as inspiring (or British) as The King's Speech is while 127 Hours may be too unconventional for the Academy to handle (and who knows how many Academy members didn't see the whole film because they passed out during "that" scene).
The two films that have the best chance of sneaking up behind TKS and TSN only to push them both aside and proclaim the award as their own are Black Swan and True Grit. Swan just killed at The Independent Spirit awards, and although it's perhaps a tad too grotesque (and has roots in the horror genre, a genre the Academy almost always ignores) for the voting folks it's still very highly regarded by both critics and audiences. True Grit garnered an astonishing ten nominations, and people seem to be enamored with the Coen brothers' classy and tight retelling of Charles Portis's novel.
All that being said, I believe The King's Speech is going to own the 83rd Academy Awards. I'll offer director Tom Hooper and everyone involved in the production a congratulations in advance, and if I'm wrong, well, congratulations David Fincher and the cast/crew of The Social Network.