The Academy Awards 2011
December 8, 2011 1 Comment
With the Academy Awards 2012 nominations coming up in January 2012, I thought I would share my thoughts on the Academy Awards 2011. I will focus on the “Best Picture” and “Best Actress in a Leading Role” categories.
As is well known, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the “Best Picture” Academy Award 2011, and other runner-ups were ‘Black Swan’, ‘The Fighter’, ‘The Kids Are All Right’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Inception’, ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Winter’s Bone’, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘127 Hours’.
It could be argued that ‘The King’s Speech’ won the “Best Picture” Award not because it represents some exceptional cinematographic achievement, but simply because it had no real serious competitors in that year. To put it simply, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the “Best Picture” Award not because it was so good, but because other films in its category did not conform in any way to the Oscars’ ideas of what the “Best Picture” winner should look like. That “ideal” was set in the past. Though such a state of affairs happens at the Oscars every year, I would argue that the year of 2011 has seen some of the worst examples of cinematography compared to the past thirty years, with the Academy Awards’ standards falling the lowest since the early 80s.
‘The King’s Speech’ is a historical drama, which is, arguably, the most favourite of the Academy Award Committee genres. No wonder we are now seeing the shootings of such great classics as ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and Keira Knightley in the lead roles respectively, with these films expecting to come out in 2012. The film world, especially its directors, really got one important hint from the Oscar’s 2011 i.e. such films as ‘The Social Network’, due to its comic style and ridiculous “teenagy” script have no chance of winning the Oscar in the “Best Picture” category, no matter how great the film actually is (well, at least not in the next five years or so). The Academy Award Association is (still!) just too “conservative” and “serious” in its views to allow it.
The Academy Award Ceremony 2011 was no usual movie competition, it was a slaughter. Let’s now focus on such films as ‘True Grit’ and ‘Winter’s Bone’. The former film is a western, while the latter is an indie. Neither westerns, no independent films (though receiving much critical acclaim at various global film festivals) were much of the Academy Awards Association’s popular winning choices in the past. Then, there is ‘Fighter’, a true contender, but for the fact that “sports” films, since ‘Rocky’s success, cannot really brag as to their winning streaks at the Oscars. The last one, however, is Eastwood’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’. Nolan’s ‘Inception’ is like Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, which the majority of this Planet population regard as The best in any category, but, with it containing over-the-top special effects and a twisted plot, only Einsteins among the Academy can vote for it to be the winner. With regards to Fincher’s ‘The Social Network’ and ‘127 Hours’, everything is only too evident. These films differ from such films as ‘There’s Something About Mary’ or the new ‘No Strings Attached’ only by being directed by famous folks and being based on true events, making these films “inspirational”. Still, targeting the young generation, they are a world apart from the philosophical ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. ‘The Kids are Alright’ and ‘Toy Story 3’, with the former being a comedy, depicting a “modern” family problems, and the latter a cartoon, did not have a real chance of grabbing the “Best Picture” Award. Finally, there is Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’. Being a hallucinatory charged brain-twister and containing a-much-talked-about lesbian sex scene, ‘Black Swan’ is not a film which was to win the “Best Picture”, though it certainly needed its recognition by way of an Oscar nomination. What are we left with? With the very lucky – typically British – ‘King’s Speech’. No brainer.
There was a real chance that the Academy, with its love for war material, e.g. ‘Gladiator’, ‘Dances with Wolves’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘Platoon’, would have preferred ‘The Hurt Locker’ (2008) to ‘The King’s Speech’ had these films were presented at the Oscars in the same year. At least, theoretically, ‘The Hurt Locker’ is a real competitor to ‘The King’s Speech’. The same result could have been achieved with the movie ‘An Education’, with its intelligent script and great drama, which could only be compared to the Oscar-winning ‘A Beautiful Mind’. The same pattern can be continued to other Academy Award years, e.g. 2009 or 2008, and it only shows how “poor” in terms of movie quality the Oscars 2011’s film selection really were.
To compare some of the 2011 Academy Awards film selections, such as ‘The Social Network’ or ‘The Kids are Alright’ to such award-winning films as ‘The English Patient’ or ‘Out of Africa’ is ludicrous at best. It seems that ‘The Social Network’ got its recognition, i.e. Academy Award nomination, out of respect for David Fincher, and, probably, due to the popularity of the story behind the film.
At the Academy Awards 2011, Natalie Portman (‘Black Swan’) won her Award in the category of the “Best Actress in a Leading Role”. Other nominations were Nicole Kidman (‘Rabbit Hole’), Jennifer Lawrence (‘Winter’s Bone), Michelle Williams (‘Blue Valentine’) and Annette Bening (‘The Kids Are All Right’). With a controversial feel to the story, and Portman’s claims of “very hard work”, making herself a ballerina prior and during the shooting of ‘Black Swan’, Portman seemed to bulldoze through to her win, rather than to really deserve it. There is a real controversy as to the question of who was really doing all “the work” in ‘Black Swan’: Portman or her double Sarah Lane, who claims that Portman only did “5 per cent” of full-body dance shots. There is no reason not to believe Lane, because the only person other than Portman who seemed to contradict Lane’s claims is Benjamin Millepied, Portman’s choreographer in the film and her latest love interest. If we are to credit actors with the Academy Awards wins simply because they lost weight drastically for their roles, then we are still waiting for Christian Bale’s Academy Award for his role in ‘The Machinist’ and Michael Fassbender’s Oscar for his role in ‘Hunger’. Overall, there is no scene in ‘Black Swan’ which stands out in my mind as a great piece of acting on Portman’s part. To give Portman an Academy Award in the “Best Actress in a Leading Role” category is to equate her performance with the likes of Vivian Leigh in ‘Gone with the Wind’ or Meryl Streep in ‘Sophie’s Choice’, i.e. an absurd move. Thus, in my opinion, Portman’s best performance still remains in the film ‘Leon’, and Kidman should have been the one to receive her Oscar in that category, with Williams probably making her mark in this year’s film ‘My Week with Marilyn’.
To sum up, it is only too evident that ‘The King’s Speech’ is the only film in its category which could have won an Academy Award in 2011, given all the other film nominations. With regards to Portman’s win, in my opinion, it is wholly unjustified, and a more thorough investigation should have been made as to her actual film contribution.