Oscars 2011 Best Picture nominations: A Brief Review

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It's not too often that I would have seen every picture nominated for the Oscars before the winners are announced, so why not a run down of what I thought of each nomination? In order of preference:

The kids are all right - A heart-warming lesbian love story cleverly disguised as a non-threatening romantic comedy about a modern family's rather special predicament: a bisexual mom having an affair with the sperm donor, forcing everyone to re-evaluate what was important in his/her life.

True grit - The Coen Brothers remade the famous John Wayne vehicle into a Coen Brothers film that was pure, crackling entertainment infused with girl power and all that jazz.

The Social Network - A good, technically accomplished, dialogue-driven flick about the social elements that drive the success of Facebook.

The King's Speech - An emotionally driven, intellectually dispensable but entertaining movie, with a top notch cast dramatizing a fictional account of the King of England's friendship with an eccentric speech therapist.

Inception - Although not particularly revelatory, it's still a terrifically entertaining, inventive action film with a highly re-watchable value.

Toy Story 3 - The final chapter of a beloved franchise about self discovery and growing up did an admirable job of closing the curtain on childhood (and the series) gracefully, but its creativity fell short of the monumental achievements set by its predecessors.

Winter's bone - The story unfolded like a novel, with dark, artsy, brooding chapters constructing disturbed figures of a shadowy criminal clan, as seen through the eyes of a bull-headed young girl forced to make dangerous and heart-breaking choices to survive.

Black Swan - Natalie Portman was perfectly cast as a frigid, withdrawn ballet dancer looking to break out of her mold set by an enmeshed mother-daughter attachment relationship in this melodramatic coming-of-age horror.

The Fighter - A decent flick packed with loud performances about the sacrifices and the iron will of an Irish American boxing family to rise above its circumstances.

127 Hours - The film started out rather promisingly, only to deteriorate in the final act and missed the chance to really build something substantial out of Aron Ralston's fierce drive for independence and extraordinary will to live.

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5 Response to Oscars 2011 Best Picture nominations: A Brief Review

Jason person
February 27, 2011 at 4:37 AM

"Milk and cookies keeping you awake, Sebastian?"

Ah, this is like the prolific Aurelle of old! --I'm sure it's a momentary glitch in your otherwise busy life, but I'll drink it up.

You sum up the (supposed) heavyweights well (wait, isn't True Grit nominated?).

It's interesting to read the reviews on the Christian evangelical organization "Focus on the Family"s website. In their skewered way, some of their critics wrestle admirably with films, to illuminating effect.

I read their "Black Swan" review yesterday, and they took the film seriously, taking the theme to be The Pursuit of Perfection, with the obvious implication that Portman's character self-destructs because of godless hubris-- the pursuit of "artistic" perfection at the expense of morals, relations, spirituality.

They also seemed warm, in a way, to the sexual provocations. I don 't mean that in a smarmy, 'haha you guys are getting off on it' way; rather, they seemed to think Aronofsky was at least entertaining the idea that sex can sometimes be, you know, *malevolent*.

They're hip enough not to try to yoke the film to some kind of anti-gay bandwagon. The approach there intrigues me because it actually dovetails with something some 'secular' critic (I don't remember who) said to the same effect about BS: that it takes a frosty, non-celebratory view of sexual excess. Maybe Aronofsky is kind of a moral crusader?

Anyway, it's provocative just to see evangelicals wrestling with aesthetic issues and sort of paying obeisance to the film artistry (see also the "True Grit" review) while being tortured by a film's moral implications. Yes, I do sympathize! I mean, they're more interesting than Rober freakin' Ebert!

Jason person
February 27, 2011 at 6:23 AM

"dark, artsy, brooding chapters"

Hey, I thought you didn't read novels!

"dark, artsy, brooding"-- you forgot "edgy"! I hear "edgy" is what I need to be going for in my YA novel.

Seriously, I do enjoy your novelistic evocation. I should give you a copy of "Violet & Claire"

February 28, 2011 at 4:53 AM

I'm so sleepy at the moment, I'm going to have to come back to all your comments to give you more of my novelistic evocation.

Jason person
February 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM

Do, Sleepyhead, do!!

OMG, Tobe Hooper won a Best Director Oscar?!? HAHA "Lifeforce" has been VINDICATED baby!!!


Ok, there's my little joke out of the way . . . .

March 1, 2011 at 1:08 AM

True Grit is nominated, and it's on the list of reviews. I was going to do my own nominations for all the categories, but alas, not enough time. In the coming week(s), perhaps?

I just read their Black Swan review and I must say, that's quite a thorough job. I wonder if this Adam guy sat down with an ipad to write all the scenes down? I must take note!

Black Swan is very conventional in many ways, including the depiction of good = sexual naivete and bad/dark side = sexual awakening. What's more interesting about it is that Aronofsky overcoats it with this perfection theme that's struggled by a female character. It's a woman's coming of age opus, a hot pot of individual identity through work and sexual identity all mixed together. It's interesting because perfection, according to the film, cannot be achieved in light alone. Yet, perfection can be achieved in death, even though, what does perfection mean in the absence of existence? It is nothing. As I write this, I wonder if I should write a full review on this Swan? Hm.


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