The Kids are All Right
The King’s Speech (winner)
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
I have to say that, based on the 10 nominations for this year, 2010 was a hell of a good year for movies. I like nine of these movies well enough to recommend without reservation, and that in and of itself is pretty notable. There’s that one movie I’m not a fan of, though, and that’s the place where I think I can sneak in a better nomination. Sadly, the movies I would nominate are generally the types that don’t get nominated, or are in genres that might get a token nomination to keep the nerds happy. We can start with How to Train Your Dragon, ignored because Toy Story 3 was the animated film of choice for this year. Horror and science fiction have always been Oscar’s red-headed step-children, which leaves out Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Monsters. Despite a bit of a resurgence in the genre, westerns like Meek’s Cutoff still get ignored, and despite how good it was, Easy A is just a teen comedy in a lot of people’s minds. Four Lions, brilliant as it is, almost certainly goes too far. That leaves use with Rabbit Hole, which might be too short and not enough and Incendies, which certainly could have been Oscar’s non-English representative here.
Weeding through the Nominees
10. I said above that I genuinely like nine of these movies. That means that last place is going to the one that I don’t: The Kids are All Right. There’s nothing particularly egregious about this film; it’s just not that interesting or very good. I don’t like the characters, and the fact that this centers on a same-sex married couple doesn’t make me like the characters more. In fact, I made what I think is a clear argument that this would be a better movie with a heterosexual couple because of where the story goes. I don’t hate this movie; I just don’t like it.
9. I rated six of these movies as 4 out of 5 stars on Letterboxd, which means that at this point, I’m forced to look at other factors to determine rank. True Grit is a fine movie with some good performances, but there are two main reasons I’m putting it in ninth place. The first is that this is a remake. That’s not always a deal killer, but it does in many ways count against the film. The second is that, once seen, I’ve never for a moment thought about watching it a second time. In fact, I haven’t really thought about it at all since I’ve watched it.
8. Everything I said about True Grit could also be said about 127 Hours. It’s an interesting story, and a gripping one in that it’s based on a true story. It’s also a movie with perhaps the dumbest moral in movie history: don’t go somewhere without telling people where you are going. Sure, it’s an inspiring tale of survival and auto-amputation, but it’s also in many ways a glorification of a privileged dudebro who thought he was too cool and too invincible to follow the most basic of safety protocols.
7. Rewatchability has to play at least a little into deciding which movie I want to put where. As impressed as I was with Winter’s Bone, it’s another film that I don’t want to see again any time soon. The reason for this is different than that for True Grit. In this case, it’s the brutality and basic hopelessness of the story. This is not an easy story to watch or sit through, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again. It’s arguably great, perhaps ever better than I give it credit for being, but I don’t know that I’ll watch it again to make that determination.
6. The Fighter is a film that surprised me in the sense that I tend to like Mark Wahlberg as a supporting actor far more than in the lead. He’s one of the leads here, and he’s very good in the role. I don’t like how much this movie veers from the real story that is being told; there are times when I get the move from reality to heighten the drama, but in this case, the moves from reality seem to follow no real pattern. Like many of the movies I have already discussed here, this is one that I haven’t thought about watching again since I’ve seen it.
4. Probably the biggest surprise for most people reading this and for myself as well is that Inception didn’t come out higher than fourth place. There’s a lot to love with Inception and I won’t deny that it is visually a treat and mentally complicated and convoluted enough to keep even the grognardiest viewer happy. Oddly, though, it’s a movie that I’ve had genuinely difficult time getting through again. There’s something about it, as inventive as it is, that doesn’t want me to rewatch it.
3. Put a gun to the head of many, many people I know, and their winner of choice is The Social Network. I get it; it’s a hell of a movie. It’s also a movie that is much more important for the generation behind mine than it is for me. I understand its importance and I agree that it’s a hell of a good movie. But, as someone who had to be convinced to join Facebook and did so reluctantly at first, it’s a movie that spoke to me much less than it did to those in the generation or two after mine. Still, it wouldn’t be a bad choice.
2. I’ll catch some shit for not putting The Social Network first and I’ll catch even more for putting Toy Story 3 ahead of it. Tough. This is my blog and I can do what I want. The truth is that Toy Story 3 wraps up the tale of Woody, Buzz, and all of their friends as beautifully as it could be done. I love that it calls back to the first movie at the end of everything. It’s heartfelt and honest and real. And if I redo these Oscar posts in the future, you can expect this might drop in retrospect, since they’re doing a completely unnecessary money-grabbing fourth film.
1. But my vote is for Black Swan. There’s no shortage of posts on this site talking about my odd connection to the ballet world. I have a daughter currently pursuing a career in ballet and working an internship at a professional dance company. And so there is certainly a personal connection to this film. Because of that, there are elements of the film that I understand as being completely realistic as a part of that world. The obsession and pure insanity of what ballet is comes through perfectly. My daughter, as a young child, once said that she loved ballet because it was something she could legitimately do perfectly. That is simultaneously inspiring and terrifying, and speaks to the heart of Black Swan. It’s my clear choice.