The King’s Speech (winner)
The Kids are All Right
There were so many good movies in 2010 that the nominees, as always, pale in comparison to what was potentially available. As tends to be my method here, I’ll start with some that really don’t have business being named as Oscar possibilities but that I love anyway. These include Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Stake Land, and Rare Exports. I feel I should also mention Rubber for its sheer originality even though I don’t love the film. On the “slightly more likely to earn a nomination” front we have Monsters, which is a surprisingly smart film for a giant monster movie, Korean revenge flick I Saw the Devil, and Spanish language animated film Chico y Rita. Also falling into this category is Four Lions, a brutally black comedy that probably went so far over the line of good taste that it wasn’t seriously considered for anything. Meek’s Cutoff would have been an interesting choice here, as would have been Blue Valentine. Easy A probably wasn’t considered a serious enough film to warrant a nod, although it’s a hell of a good screenplay. The big miss? Black Swan.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I admit that it’s not going to earn me friends in some quarters, but I’m dropping The Kids Are All Right off the top. This is the only one of the five nominees that I didn’t like as a film or as a story. In fact, my biggest problem with this is the story—this would have been a more compelling film with a heterosexual couple at the center of it, because the betrayal that happens would have been so much more painful. I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the story that much, and I genuinely don’t like the nomination.
4. There’s a lot to like about The Fighter, but for me, the screenplay ranks lower than just about everything else. I like the story well enough, but this is one of those “based on a true story” things that takes a lot of unnecessary liberties with the real history. Why do that when it’s so clearly not needed? I suppose that it’s my disappointment more than anything that ends up placing this in fourth. I like so much about this film that I’m ultimately disappointed that it feels like something very good on such a rickety foundation.
3. Another Year is something of an anomaly in where I think it should end up. I like this screenplay quite a bit. The characters come across as real people rather than movie characters and the dialogue is smart without being smarmy. So why put it in third? Because Another Year is less a movie with a plot than it is a slice out of the life of the main characters. There’s a story here, but not one that actually follows anything like a traditional narrative. That’s not always bad, but here I’m left wanting something that feels like a purpose.
2. I’ll almost certainly catch a great deal of shit for putting The King’s Speech this high, since this is one of those movies that has gotten a huge amount of heat for winning. Admittedly, The King’s Speech was a safe choice in a lot of respects. I like this movie more than it probably deserves. This is one of those “comfort” movies for me, one that I watch pretty much every year. I like the characters and I like the story, even with the few liberties it takes with the history. I find it compelling, and while it is ultimately predictable, there’s something here that moves me.
1. Picking Inception is probably a cliché for this Oscar, but I don’t really care. This is a very inventive story, one that literally has a lot of layers, and while there was a great deal of potential for this to become a complete mess. Some of that can be credited to how the story is told, but much of it comes from a screenplay that puts forth a new and interesting idea and then does everything it can to keep it understandable for the audience. The fact that this is science fiction and the ending is left unknown probably killed its chances, but this really should have been the winner.