22 February 2011

The Mad Prophets 2010

Cheer up, I promise that I saw your film.

Continuing on with the "awards season stuff" promised yesterday, it's that time of year once again. The Oscars are on Sunday, and foolishly, the Academy have not given a single inclination of the head, let alone a nod, to great films like Never Let Me Go or Buried. Bastards. My turn, I think.

As with last year's outing, this is for the period starting March 1st 2010 and ending on February 28th 2011, which is about the same period the Oscars are supposed to cover. "Supposed" still being the operative word, given how forgetful Academy voters can be. Also, as ever, going by UK release dates. Here goes...

Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Rodrigo Cortés- Buried
David Fincher- The Social Network
Christopher Nolan- Inception
Edgar Wright- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

As in most categories, it's been a good year. All of my usual problems with the Oscars overlooking great films are negated because there are very few cases of undeserved nominations. That said, I would have found room for Christopher Nolan in the Oscars' director race, at any cost. Fincher is the favourite there, having turned in the showiest and most visually engaging way of telling a story about nerds making a website.

Similarly, Aronofsky did his best Sam Raimi, clearly having more fun than you reasonably should with an awards darling, but still managed to turn a melodrama like Black Swan into something I'd love to see on an IMAX screen. Cortés did a marvellous job in the tiniest of spaces for a whole 90 minutes, but ultimately I was more impressed by directors holding together a molass of different elements. While I love Wright's work on Scott Pilgrim, I think Nolan ultimately managed that in a more collected and breathtaking manner.

WINNER- Christopher Nolan, Inception

Keira Knightley- Never Let Me Go
Lesley Manville- Another Year
Chloe Moretz- Kick-Ass
Emily Watson- Cemetery Junction
Jacki Weaver- Animal Kingdom

While Hit Girl immediately became almost everyone's favourite characters of the year, other, more harrowing supporting performances than Moretz's have stuck with me more in the last year. My review of Animal Kingdom won't be online until tomorrow, but Weaver really impressed with her performance, building power as the film went on.

Emily Watson made a huge impression on me early in the year as the put-upon wife of Ralph Fiennes, his attitude to their relationship making a strong case for the banality of evil. Likewise, Keira Knightley recently gave her best ever work in a very melancholy context as Ruth in Never Let Me Go. but finally, it had to be Lesley Manville. So much of why Another Year resonates is down to her desperate and sympathetic turn, and it's a shame none of the big humdinger awards bodies recognised that.

WINNER- Lesley Manville, Another Year

Christian Bale- The Fighter
Andrew Garfield- Never Let Me Go
Ben Mendelsohn- Animal Kingdom
Kayvan Novak- Four Lions
Geoffrey Rush- The King's Speech

At the actual Oscars, I believe the smart money is on Bale, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Rush snuck in to take it. Bale is so magnetic in The Fighter that people seem to entirely forget Mark Wahlberg is the lead- like his character, you can't help but like his acting here even if you feel it's a little unfair. On the other hand, Rush bolsters The King's Speech by being just as important to the film as Colin Firth. The two go together perfectly.

Elsewhere, Novak's tragicomic turn as Waj almost entirely sums up Four Lions for me- so much of his performance is why the film works as it's meant to. And I was sad to see that Mendelsohn didn't get a Supporting Actor nod for being the absolute most batshit terrifying thing about Animal Kingdom. But let's not underestimate Never Let Me Go, as everyone else has. People might have first noticed Garfield in The Social Network, but his performance as Tommy is what really blew me away.

WINNER- Andrew Garfield, Never Let Me Go

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Four Lions
The King's Speech

As much as I applaud Kayvan Novak for bringing it to life, I still have to give kudos to the great Chris Morris for taking suicide bombing and Islamic extremism and making exactly the kind of sensitive satire required. Feeling for the characters without wanting them to succeed is exactly right. The King's Speech is scripted for maximum sympathy with the characters too, but royalty are a little more readily likeable than suicide bombers. 

Although Christopher Nolan wins for imaginative direction, I'm more impressed by the use of one scenario for maximum value on the page. So while Inception is an incredibly imaginative concept, I was more bedazzled by the likes of The Disappearance of Alice Creed. You get the sense it's a calling card script, but it's a fantastic calling card script set in one contained scenario. But they don't come more contained than Buried, which was bloody brilliant.

WINNER- Buried 

Never Let Me Go
The Social Network
Shutter Island
Toy Story 3

Many would argue that Alex Garland's script was Never Let Me Go's failing, for being uncinematic. Our characters are not passive, but they're not exactly raging against the dying of the light. It's embarrassing to have had conversations with people who felt it should have been more like Michael Bay's film The Island. On a happier note, most people liked Shutter Island, with its script that gains even more depth upon multiple viewings.

It's possible to have a lot of fun with Kick-Ass, which is not something I could say about the source material, once I gave it a look. The script version takes the mean-spirited edge off, which works in its favour. It's also great to see the prison movie format put to use in both comedic and emotional ways in Toy Story 3. All good scripts, but ultimately, I'm blathering- we all know this one goes to Aaron Sorkin's amazing script for The Social Network.

WINNER- The Social Network


Leonardo DiCaprio- Shutter Island
Colin Firth- The King's Speech
James Franco- 127 Hours
Ryan Reynolds- Buried
Mark Wahlberg- The Fighter

Poor Mark Wahlberg. I know The Fighter was his dream project and he's probably just happy it got made, but the way his performance here is being so shamefully overlooked was the indignant focus of more than half of my review of the film. I shan't dwell upon it much longer except to give him his dues alongside the likes of Firth, who did get nominated for an Oscar and shall probably win for his performance as King George VI.

DiCaprio played characters with similar backgrounds in Shutter Island and Inception, but the former gave him more to get his teeth into- it sucks that Shutter Island got bumped to a date after the consideration for last year's Oscars, and so Scorsese's film was too readily forgotten. I also managed to honour both of the excellent claustrophobic performances of the year- Reynolds' and Franco's. Franco bristles with such energy that you know he has even better performances to come, which is why Reynolds swipes it.

Winner- Ryan Reynolds, Buried


Jennifer Lawrence- Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman- Black Swan
Noomi Rapace- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hailee Steinfeld- True Grit
Michelle Williams- Blue Valentine 

Three out of five certainly ain't bad, Oscar. Portman is everybody's favourite to pick up the gold at the end of the month, but I wouldn't consider either Lawrence or Williams out of the running just yet. All three of them were pulled this way and that by their character's circumstances- Portman's Nina by her unravelling psyche, Lawrence's Ree by her shitty neighbourhood and Williams by her disintegating marriage.

Plenty of room for characters who were in control of their situation, mind. It's possible to draw a line connecting Steinfeld's Mattie Ross with Jesse Eisenberg's performance in The Social Network, and she also manages to outact even the fantastic cast of more experienced actors who co-star in True Grit. For me, it's all about Lisbeth Salander- due to plot restrictions, she peaked in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but none of the Millennium trilogy is ever as interesting when Rapace is off-screen as it is when she's on-screen. Rooney Mara has big shoes to fill.

Winner- Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
A Town Called Panic
Toy Story 3

As before, I'm loath to separating this category out on its own, especially this year. It does give me the chance to give a shout out to the profound message about the death of innocence in The Illusionist, and the sheer weirdness of A Town Called Panic, and the psychedelic and epic visuals of Zack Snyder's owl movie. But in this year above most others, it's been proven that animations can be just as great as the more celebrated live-action movies.

Take that other toy movie, for instance. Toy Story 3 is the cap on a perfect trilogy, bringing in prison movie tropes to great effect and wrapping up the story of the Best Loved Characters of a Generation. It's quite rightly proven to be the best reviewed movie of the year. So it sucks to be Dreamworks, perpetually trembling under the heft of Pixar's oeuvre, when they did actually make a really good movie this year. So it annoys me to separate stuff out with animation, because it means I have to be diplomatic and do this...

WINNER- How to Train Your Dragon


The 10 best films of the last 12 months, according to me...

1. Toy Story 3
2. Inception 
3. The Social Network
4. The King's Speech
5. Never Let Me Go 
6. Buried
7. Animal Kingdom
8. True Grit
9. Shutter Island
10. Black Swan

Yeah, yeah, boo away. Toy Story 3 gets to be the Best Film of the last 12 months and yet not the Best Animated Film because there's no real reason to separate animations except to recognise films that wouldn't otherwise be recognised. So that's what I did. Toy Story 3 holds its own against any of the other sterling contenders of the year, and it won't win Best Picture at the Kodak Theatre.

The only other thing to discuss about the list is my placing The King's Speech below The Social Network. I maintain that The Social Network defines the last decade, like Wall Street and Network defined decades beforehand. Films like that don't tend to win outright though- The King's Speech is still a favourite of mine over it, and it's almost certain to win big on Sunday. Whether you like the list or not, Toy Story 3 still trumps the lot.

Winner- Toy Story 3

Join us next year for the 3rd Annual Mad Prophet Awards, where there still won't be any "sweeps" like in those other, boring awards ceremonies. Not unless Deathly Hallows Part II actually has sex with my brain, anyhoo.


Dev said...

How can you give toy story 3 best film but not best animated film. That does not make sense ;)

Mark said...