It’s that time again – time for the annual Oscar post! (Be still your hearts.) If you’re going to take away anything from this possibly rambling, probably pointless post, let it be this: See The King’s Speech. You won’t be sorry.
I have lamented in earlier posts that movies just aren’t what they used to be. I think I went for most of the year without seeing a single thing I liked. But things took a turn for the better over the last couple of months, when many of this year’s nominees came out in theaters. I have seen 7 of the 10 best picture nominees (same as last year) and I loved two of them (The King’s Speech, True Grit), liked one of them (Toy Story 3), found three of them acceptable though nothing I would watch again (The Kids are All Right, The Social Network, Winter’s Bone) and I didn’t like Inception. I found certain things about Inception interesting, but overall it was a big, long, convoluted mess. I’m looking forward to seeing Black Swan, starring my doppelgänger and probable best actress winner Natalie Portman, and 127 Hours with crazy man James Franco, but I’ll probably skip The Fighter. I’ve seen this movie before, I’m sure of it.
I’ve decided I like the idea of 10 best picture nominees. I’m sure the Oscars did it for the ratings boost (more fun to watch when you have a rooting interest or have at least seen some of the things nominated) but I think it provides a better overall picture of the year in…well…pictures. Each year there are plenty of articles on entertainment sites about past Oscar winners, and many of them are people giving their opinions on which were the worst films to ever win an Oscar. (Titanic!) That will still happen, only now the authors will have a long list to pick from of what movies were better and also nominated that year. Honestly though, it can also be tough to predict what will hold up over time, so when the Academy inevitably gets it wrong, there’s a longer and more reflective list of what else was good that year.
I usually have a rooting interest in the writing categories and this year I don’t. Last year I think I wanted 500 Days of Summer to win (and was disappointed.) It was a great little film which was insightful and realistic and cleverly written and structured. This year, The King’s Speech is nominated for original screenplay, and that would be my pick, but I wouldn’t call it a writer’s story. I imagine that it would actually be a very hard story to convey on paper, without shoe-in best actor winner Colin Firth bringing that stammer to cringe-inducing life. There is an awful lot of storytelling that goes on in the silences, as we wait and cringe and hope and pray for the words to form. It’s also a very subtle story that does not focus on the historical astonishments and soap opera-ness of the British monarchy like other period films do. This is a film about the dynamics of a friendship and the universal truth that everyone struggles with something, regardless of position in society.
I have one other rooting interest (besides Best Picture) this year and that’s in the Best Original Song category. I really know better than to invest in this category in any way, because very year the Academy predictably picks the absolute worst song in the history of songwriting as the winner. But perennial Oscar nominee and my personal favorite Randy Newman is nominated this year for the song We Belong Together from Toy Story 3, and it’s such a good song. It’d be nice to see him win. He’s only won once (nominated 19 times), for Monster’s Inc, and during his acceptance speech, when the clock was running out, he told the musicians in the orchestra that if they played him off, they’d never work for him again. And not a peep was heard until he was finished. Truly one of the great moments in Oscar history that nobody remembers and only I love.
Finally, I am predicting The King’s Speech to win the big award and I am quite sure if it does, no one will regret it five or ten years down the line. It will stand the test of time because the story is timeless and universal, and that’s really what you want out of your Best Picture winner.