Oscar Predictions: 2011, PLUS Hall Pass, I Am Number Four
Well the Oscars are back again, complete with the requisite back-patting — by members, for members – and a self-congratulatory, highly ranked and stratified awards system. But, as a movie reviewer, I’d be denying reality to pretend these awards weren’t my bread-and-butter.
So I’m going to try to give a very brief summary of each of the Best Picture competitors, and which ones I think will win. (I’m also reviewing two new movies – a comedy, and a science fiction thriller.)
Here are the ten contenders, in alphabetical order:
“Black Swan” is a psychological drama about a young ballet diva (who still lives with her stage-mother) who, when she tries to get the lead role in Swan Lake, is forced to choose between her cruel director, her sex and drug-addled dance-rival, her driven but coddling mother, and her own internal psychoses.
“The Fighter” is a biopic, a true story about a working class, New England Irish boxer, who, trained by his crack-head brother – a former fighter — and managed by his mother, might have to abandon his family if he wants to reach the top.
“The Kids Are All Right” is a light comedy about a happy California family – two moms, two teenaged kids – whose lives are disrupted when their daughter brings her formerly anonymous sperm-doner dad into their home.
“The King’s Speech” is the true, feel-good story about how King George VI tackled his embarrassing stammer — with the help of a self-taught Australian speech therapist — just as Britain was facing German bombing.
“Winter’s Bone” is a dramatic thriller about a young woman in the Ozarks who must journey through a swamp of her sketchy extended family to find her meth-head father before his trial or else lose her family homestead.
My own opinion is more or less in line with the ten movies chosen this year, which match four of my own top-ten choices: Winter’s Bone, True Grit, Kids are All Right, and Black Swan. I also really enjoyed Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, and The Fighter, when they came out. Ironically, the two movies with most chance of sweeping the Oscars — The King’s Speech and The Social Network — are two of the three nominees I’m least enthusiastic about. While I found The King’s Speech entertaining, it was also annoying (with its frequent use of a wide angle lens) and pandering, and didn’t do much for me; and The Social Network, while very well-written and acted, had no character I could sympathize with, so it left me feeling cold. Finally, Inception was a stupid movie with amazing special effects – nothing more to say about that.
It’s a real toss-up, with great films and performances competing in each category, but here are my choices of most likely winners: (The correct answers are in caps.)
Best Picture: The Social Network X THE KING’S SPEECH
Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg X COLIN FIRTH
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence X NATALIE PORTMAN
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld X MELISSA LEO
Best Original Script: The Fighter X THE KING’S SPEECH
Best Adapted Script: The Social Network
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Director: Darren Aranofsky X TOM HOOPER
Best Documentary: Gasland X INSIDE JOB
Best Foreign Language Film: Incendies X IN A BETTER WORLD
But on most of these, your guess is as good as mine. My main prediction is that no movie will sweep the awards; they will be spread among many different pictures.
OK, enough of the big-time movies. Here are two cheesy-popcorn multiplex selections.
Dir: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Real estate agent Rick and insurance agent Fred (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are middle-aged, middle-class best friends who drive mid-sized cars in a medium sized suburban town. But when their wives Maggie and Grace (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) overhear them talking about hypothetical sexcapades with women outside of their marriage, they worry that their marriages are threatened. So they decide to defuse the issue by going away to Cape Cod for a week, while their husbands are granted “hall passes” that say they can go wherever they want and do whatever they want without retribution. Rick has a crush on an Aussie barrista, and Fred just wants to have fun. And their wives are looking lustily at the local baseball team.
The men are at a loss – should they try to pick up girls at the Olive Garden or Boston Pizza? Meanwhile, they’re regaled with images of dozens of nubile young women in short-shorts playing Frisbee, and virtually throwing themselves at him, but his marital vows and sense of guilt keep holding him back. The running joke is they may talk a lot, but their imaginations would limit them to half-baked, suburban fantasies.
This is a typical Farrelly brothers movie, complete with their usual old-school morality – those who cheat get physically punished; those who remain loyal stay out of trouble. It’s also full of gratuitous bodily excrement jokes, breast jokes, penis jokes, the pot jokes, the racial stereotypes… but above all, a scathing take on the mediocrity of middle-aged white guys. Ouch! He’s really cruel… but the unwritten rule is directors are allowed to be meanest to their own group.
I laughed a lot — can’t remember about what but it made me laugh. And some of the audience at the preview screening, when there was an extended scene of gratuitous male full frontal nudity, reacted with extended screams and shrieks not witnessed since the last good horror/slasher movie I saw. Yes… in comedy movies, the penis is a scary thing.
Dir: D.J. Caruso
John Smith (that’s his assumed name at his latest high school) is a boy on the run. With only Henri, a guardian posing as his father to take care of him, he’s like someone in the Witness Protection program. Except he’s being stalked by the Mogadorians, evil men from outer space who want to kill all the good guys from a far away planet they destroyed. They’re killing them off in order, and each time one of them dies, John gets a distinctive burn mark on his leg. He has three of them now, and he’s number 4, the next one to die. Henri tells him to be invisible and lay low. John tries to do that by wearing a hoodie. (Hint: it doesn’t work.)
Well, in this new small town, Paradise, Ohio, John finds a cute puppy, falls for Sarah, an amateur photographer and ex-cheerleader; and also makes friends with the class geek, Sam, a UFO-seeker. But he falls on the wrong side of the school bully Mark, (who’s also the football quarterback, and the son of the piggish Sheriff) and who feels his status threatened by this newcomer. And John is discovering he has secret powers including the glowing, sweaty palms of his hands.
A showdown is inevitable, both with his rivals in the small town, and with the scary Mogadorians. The Mogs dress sort of like the Columbine shooters (Eric Harris and Dylan Keibold) in black trench coats and carry enormous, reddish assault weapons. And they all have claw scar marks on their face and spiny, yellow pointy teeth – maybe a couple rows of them. They like to say things like “You want to pay with my little gadget? No? Well my little gadget wants to play with YOU!”
Alex Pettyfer as Number Four is in his second attempt to become a teenaged superhero (he was in the first movie episode of the Alex Ryder series) and I’m not sure this one will work out any better. It was OK, but the long fire fights were hard to watch – there were too many close-ups — and it was even hard to tell which beast or monster was killing which – too much prkhhh, booom, gaaaah, too much flashy stuff, so I wasn’t impressed by it. The story was watchable, not boring, but formulaic, and I would have liked better characters, more humour, more irony, and more interesting plot turns.
As it was, I Am Number Four felt hollow and superficial.
The Academy Awards is on TV this Sunday night, Hall Pass opens in theatres today (February 25th, 2011), and I Am Number Four is now playing. Check your local listings.