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FILM: The Oscars 2011

3rd March 2011

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The 83rd Academy Awards was a ceremony to remember. With some fantastic movies nominated like The Social Network, The Fighter, The King’s Speech and Black Swan it has been most definitely a great year for film.

The awards for Best Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Cinematography all went to Inception proving that it was a very professional film. The visual effects were particularly astounding as Nolan looked to create and subvert whole worlds with his fantastic team of people behind the scenes, working their magic.

It has to be said that the film as a whole, didn’t quite achieve all the things that it set out to do. The audience were taken so far down the rabbit hole that they were left wondering exactly why they were down there in the first place. Nolan perhaps got lost in one of his own dreams when he aimed to make a film, about dreams within dreams within dreams. Confusing? Yes.

It was surprising not to see Tron: Legacy nominated for Best Visual Effects as it was aesthetically mind-boggling, though in terms of storyline, it gradually degenerated into the bathetic scenes of Matrix Revolutions

The Social Network was a very slick film that was also deserving of its Best Editing, Original Score and Adapted Screenplay awards. A brave piece, The Social Network was not afraid of avoiding the easy track of ‘goofy kid comes good’ and to its credit in this way it was courageous.

It was also great to see Randy Newman performing his best original song ‘We Belong Together’ from Toy Story 3 live at the awards. Unfortunately his vocal levels were much too low which was a real shame.

Toy Story 3 was a hands-down winner for Best Animation. As we have seen with the Shrek films, it’s easy to lose originality and freshness with sequels but, perhaps due to the eleven year gap, Toy Story 3 felt as fresh as the original Toy Story. It was exciting and moved both adults and kids simultaneously.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One was up for Best Visual Effects and best art direction but walked away empty-handed. This film was a step forward in these categories and was a brave departure from its predecessors. Though it was exciting and approached the franchise in a refreshing way, it also struggled to juggle the impossible number of balls of any Harry Potter film. Some of these are: books that rely on substantial ‘wizarding’ detail; an audience that wants exactly what it has envisaged to be portrayed on screen, and at its acting core, a triumvirate of very meagrely talented people.

Melissa Leo seemed extremely surprised to receive her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, probably due to the tough competition from Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). Leo’s win was surprising to many people but her performance in The Fighter was a deserving one. In it she was utterly convincing as her son’s fierce boxing-manager, and she brought a realism that raised the film up another level. Her acceptance speech featured an interesting blend of shock and aggression that was bewildering to most people. It was surprising not to see Barbara Hershey nominated for the award, as she was for the Bafta, because her performance as the controlling mother in Black Swan was utterly haunting.

Christian Bale portrayed in The Fighter, an utterly likeable and pitiable character who was magnetic to watch.  His award for Best Supporting Actor was no surprise. His performance was so good that one cannot help but think that if he was the leading actor in The Fighter (you could even be forgiven for thinking he was) he would have beaten Colin Firth to the Best Actor award. It was also nice to hear the much awaited comeback of his British accent in his acceptance speech!

Natalie Portman should have earned her Best Actress Oscar for simply the hundreds of hours of ballet that she practised for Black Swan. She encapsulated perfectly the schizophrenia of the terrified girl with inner demons that thirsted for perfection. When she finally became the black swan, her movements alone were enough to win her a nomination.

 It was obvious to everyone that Colin Firth was going to win the Best Actor award, so obvious in fact that they had him sitting in front of the stage steps! It was, however, obvious for a reason as his portrayal of King George VI held a vulnerability and strength that proved a hit with countless people.

The director of Black Swan Darren Aronofsky was rightfully nominated for Best Director. The film’s greatest virtue but also weakness was its claustrophobic camera work that brought us into Nina’s frenzied and solitary life, but it did not allow for the scope and magnitude that is normally required from the best director’s film. Another nominee, David O. Russel for The Fighter, fell slightly short of making a directed masterpiece by encouraging his actors to run free, leaving him as the unsung hero in the wings.

Director of The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper, succeeded in making a structured, beautiful and whole piece in his film. Though  it was less challenging than The Fighter in its message, and less daring than Black Swan in its style, it was more eloquent and thoughtfully put together. His speech was worthy of his directing style: calm and well delivered.

It was extremely satisfying to see so many Brits winning awards at the Oscars, particularly for the technical work behind the scenes, showing that Brits are up there with the best of Hollywood. Overall we can see that the two biggest films of the year generally got what they deserved. The Fighter was awarded for its stunning performances and The King’s Speech for its completeness as a wholly heart-warming and uplifting film.


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