With one week to go until the Oscars, and now that we've managed to see 8 out of the 10 Best Picture nominees, I think it's high time to do a quick recap of the finest in (American) cinema from the past year.
James Franco pretty much turned his role in this film into Oscar hosting duties, as well as a pretty perpetual film career. His odd sense of humour and ability to elicit empathy completely carries this movie that ultimately hinged on the performance of its lead actor. The movie flies by, and even though the audience knows the ultimate result of the film, it's a riveting film. But, it's not gonna win.
Tomatometer: 93% (8.2/10)
Both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have drawn rave reviews for their performances here, and Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey probably deserved more credit for being so creepy and psychotic, respectively. The film itself is beautifully shot, and gives the viewer a sense of the collapsing reality that Portman's character is dealing with. It definitely has a solid chance to take home the Oscar, and would certainly be in the Top-5.
Tomatometer: 88% (8.2/10)
Mark Wahlberg isn't nominated for Best Actor, but Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams are all nominated in their respective Supporting categories, and it is their performances that truly carry this film. Less a sports film than a study of family dynamics with a boxing subplot, the interplay between the immensely damaged characters of the film makes it one of the best films of the year. Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both deserve to take home statuettes, but don't expect the film to.
Tomatometer: 90% (7.8/10)
Inception's chances of winning suffer from one thing - it came out way too early. It was released last July to deservedly rave reviews, made over $800-million, featured outstanding cinematography, an intriguing story, deft performances from an interesting cast, and now has been mostly forgotten. It deserves to win more than it will, but everyone should take the chance to see it if they haven't already.
Tomatometer: 86% (8/10)
We're currently finishing this movie, and it's evidently one of those films that speaks more to critics than to audiences. The plot of the story is strong, and the acting is pretty top notch, but the film can't really seem to decide what point it's trying to make. Annette Bening is nominated for an Oscar, but even her performance, like the rest of the film, doesn't really achieve anything out of the ordinary.
Tomatometer: 95% (7.9/10)
The runaway favourite for many an award, including Best Picture, The King's Speech reads like a laundry list of achievements in film making - indeed, it's nominated for 12 Academy Awards, and should probably win a fair number of them. It partly benefited from timing - being released just as Prince William and Kate Middleton were announcing their engagement - but the fact that it's a film with an historical angle that has not really previously been explored definitely helped it. On the down side, if she didn't wear funny hats, no one would really care about Helena Bonham Carter's turn as the Queen Mum. Just sayin'.
Tomatometer: 95% (8.6/10)
The King's Speech and The Social Network are this year's The Hurt Locker and Avatar and comes with all the same questions - which one will win more awards? Which will be Best Picture? Which truly was the better film? Why is James Cameron such a dick? The King's Speech's greatest strength is its actors, while The Social Network's is David Fincher's direction, and that is where this film's awards will come from.
Tomatometer: 97% (9/10)
I really liked Toy Story 3, but don't kid yourself, it isn't going to win Best Picture. The 10-nominee format pretty much guarantees there will be an animated film in the running every year, but that also means that it's going to take one hell of a film to win. It does, however, make it very easy to predict which film will win the Animated Feature category.
Tomatometer: 99% (8.8/10)
Despite boasting old Oscar darlings Joel and Ethan Coen, new Oscar darlings Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin, as well as Matt Damon in a moustache, True Grit hasn't really generated the type of Oscar buzz that one would assume. It's the first of the two that I haven't seen, so I can't give it much of a review, but it doesn't sound like it'll be a forerunner for too much gold.
Tomatometer: 95% (8.3/10)
I haven't seen this one either, and, judging by the fact that it's made less than $8-million worldwide since it's release in June, I'm not the only one. Strangely, this hasn't even garnered any "Little Engine That Could" buzz, so it probably doesn't have much hope of getting anything.
Tomatometer: 95% (8.3/10)
And there you are - happy viewing!