Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great Expectations

For any ignorant soul out there out who does not already know, the Academy will be releasing their nominations in just five days...that means ten more films will be added to the already astronomically long list I am attempting to conquer. My initial overview of the list tells me that 475 films (soon to be 485) have been nominated or have won in the Best Picture category since the 1927-28 season that saw the world's first Academy Awards ceremony...and out of all of these respected classics and cinematic masterpieces, I had only seen 44 (actually, it's 45 now that I've started, but more on that later). This leaves a lot of work ahead of me in the coming months!

I would be remiss if I did not  broadcast my personal prediction of which ten films this year will be nominated simply because I tend to lend my opinions on everything whether or not they are requested.
The lucky ten are:

1. Inception
2. Black Swan
3. The King's Speech
4. 127 Hours
5. The Social Network
6. True Grit
7. Toy Story 3
8. Winter's Bone
9. The Kids Are All Right
10. The Fighter

Note that these films are not arranged in any particular order. In fact, my personal favorite of 2010 is listed as number 4, and I'll get to my mouth-foaming rave about that one after just a few more rambling lines justifying my prediction. Inception, Black Swan, The Social Network, and The King's Speech are basically shoe-ins with the Academy, so I won't even touch on those. I think Winter's Bone could be this year's Precious if all goes well for the film; to that way of thinking, Toy Story 3 could be this year's Up, and The Kids Are All Right could slip in like Little Miss Sunshine did in 2006. My theories will be tested in five days...and if anyone else is reading this (though I suspect that no one is), I'd love to here your predictions as well.

Now for my thoughts on the film I mentioned above as my favorite, 127 Hours:
Best film of the year, hands down, if you ask me (no one did, but I’m informing you anyway).
A slip-up while traversing a ravine causes hard-headed outdoorsman Aron Ralston (James Franco, obviously) to become trapped miles away from any civilization when his arm is crushed and pinned beneath a large boulder- and so begins the harrowing personal and physical journey that captured the world's attention when it happened in real life and, here, spell-binds us in one of those rare cinematic masterpieces that restores our faith in Hollywood. During his five-day nightmare, Ralston constantly reflects on his most meaningful memories, the people he loves, and what it means to truly live, bringing us along for an existential journey more powerful than any we have traveled before.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the film is its stark lack of melodrama in depicting this most dramatic of events. Instead of dressing the story up in layers of fluff and sappy gimmicks, director Danny Boyle takes a frank and objective look at Ralston's ordeal, ultimately allowing the purest of triumphs to explode through what I consider to be one of the most profound performances of our time.
All that hype surrounding Franco's portrayal of Ralston is more than true- I could honestly tout his performance as some of the very best bit of acting I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. Franco doesn't just deserve an Oscar...he deserves three. Or maybe the Academy can create some kind of Super-Oscar to be given to actors like Franco who deserve to be elevated to the status of demi-gods.
127 Hours may just redefine the biopic as we know it. It's visceral, it's gripping, it's uplifting to behold- and it's most definitely worth that overpriced movie ticket (or even two).

 Finally, we arrive at my last topic: the Best Picture Challenge, heretofore called the BPC. I kicked off the BPC with 2004's The Aviator. 
My thoughts: pretty awesome movie. Being the ignorant teenager that I am, I was not even aware of the Howard Hughes story before I saw this movie, but I was fascinated by his character. Leonardo DiCaprio does a beautiful job of portraying Hughes, who is, in my opinion, the perfect contemporary tragic hero: a man of high status crippled by his hubris, ignorant to his faults, and ultimately suffering the fall that all tragic heroes must face. Despite the abrasive nature and borderline malicious behavior we see in Hughes' character, we can't stop ourselves from rooting for him when his luck turns south; DiCaprio's ability to create this paradox makes his performance so brilliant. The slow, progressive crumbling of Hughes' sanity played against his climbing success builds a sense of tension that I really got into so that, by the end, I could deeply feel the pity and fear that are dredged up by the catharsis that all great tragedies inevitably create.
Great movie...great way to start the BPC. I have great expectations for the hundreds of films that remain.


What do you think?