Monday, October 22, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2010

The Contenders:

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids are All Right
The King’s Speech (winner)
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

What’s Missing

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.

5. It seems strange to say this, but I’ve probably watched The King’s Speech more than any of these other movies. There’s something about it that is very comfortable for me, and I’m not sure what it is. There was plenty of hand-wringing and teeth gnashing when this won the Oscar for Best Picture, and I agree that it didn’t deserve to win, but it also didn’t deserve the massive amount of backlash it received. It’s a fine movie, a good story, and very well acted all the way through. It shouldn’t have won, but honestly, you should like it more. Yes, you.

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.

My Choice

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.

Final Analysis


  1. "Winter’s Bone" blew me away from an acting stand point, and it obviously impressed the execs behind "The Hunger Games." However, I'd have to go with the second sequel to "Toy Story." Had it been a live-action film, it would have won best picture, but animation snobs/haters are alive and well inside the academy.

    1. I have a feeling I'm going to get a lot of Toy Story 3 love, but I've heard a lot of anti-TS3 sentiment, too.

  2. Black Swan is a great choice. It's not my #1, but I won't argue with anyone who has it as theirs.

    Way back when I first did my top 20 list for that year The Social Network didn't even make the cut. I've since come around on it, and it will almost certainly be on the list when I redo it. Therefore, you get no flack from me on it's placement because of what I'm about to tell you. Inception was my #1 and Toy Story 3 was my #2. When that list is done over, there's a very strong possibility that TS3 will be in the top spot. Even a 4th movie in the franchise can't tarnish that no matter what the quality.

    I do think Winter's Bone is great, but I totally understand not wanting to watch it again. Side note: I saw it before I saw the True Grit remake and that's exactly what it felt like, an update/remake of that story, albeit a more hopeless one.

    I enjoyed The King's Speech at the time, but that one is my movie from this list I just never think about watching again. I'm fine with the rest of the noms.

    Some other movies I really like from that year (that of course, would never get nominations):

    Poetry (beautiful Korean movie)
    I Saw the Devil (also Korean, a lot more brutal than beautiful)
    Blue Valentine (a downer)
    Kick-Ass (superhero)
    Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (video game and superhero - double whammy)
    Let Me In (horror remake)
    Shutter Island (actually, I'm kind of surprised this didn't get a nom)

    1. I'm just so disappointed that there's going to be a fourth Toy Story. The third installment ended the story so well. For what it's worth, I don't take issue with anyone putting that first--it's a beautiful story more than worthy of the first two in the series.

      As for you other suggestions, I haven't seen Poetry, Let Me In, or Shutter Island. I liked I Saw the Devil and thought about mentioning it at the top, but there are things about it that I don't love. Blue Valentine for some reason didn't trip my radar; it's a fair mention as a possibility. Kick-Ass was fun, but I'm not sure it's great in the way I look at this particular award.

      I hated Scott Pilgrim. I hated almost everything about it aside from the stylistic visuals. If you check the "The List" tab above on the right and then scroll all the way down, you'll find a link to the review of it.

  3. I loved The King's Speech and Inception but Black Swan is the more complex film so though it wouldn't be my choice it's a solid one. So glad to not see The Social Network at number one, I HATED that film and the people in it. I liked this version of True Grit and its acting nominations were well deserved but not a picture nom.

    Films I would have rather seen in the running: The Ghost Writer, Made in Dagenham and Shutter Island which would be my winner. I see from above that you haven't seen it and no one was more surprised than me that I thought so much of it since I hated Scorsese's previous film The Departed so much.

    1. I really should get to Shutter Island one of these days. I even own a copy. I just haven't pulled the trigger on it.