Sunday, February 27, 2011

The First Annual "I'm Right" Awards

Welcome to the first annual I’m Right awards, wherein I second-guess the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I’m going to look over the 2011 Oscar race category by category, and reveal my picks. The Shyamalanian twist here is that I’m not going to limit myself to what the Academy nominates; if I think an aspect of a different film is more deserving than any of the nominees, then that’s my pick (which may not happen all that much, actually. By my count I’ve only seen 21 movies from 2010. So we’ll see). Also, whether or not my pick is from the existing nominations, I’ll give a quick rundown of the existing category and how I think they measure up to each other. There a few categorizations with which I disagree (like Hailee Steinfeld being nominated as a supporting instead of lead actress despite having more screentime than any other character), so where that happens I’ll note it and omit it from my order.

And of course, there are a number of nominated movies that I have not yet seen, so those I’ll just ignore.

Here are my arbitrary Oscar picks. In random order.

Best Documentary:

And first up is a category I’m completely unfamiliar with. I can’t even get outraged that Waiting for Superman got snubbed, on account of how I haven’t seen it. Or any other documentary from 2010. Let’s move on.

Best Original Score:

Not one on which I have any sort of strong opinion, but at least I can hazard one. Certainly the most memorable and effective score of the year, at least for me, was Hans Zimmer’s in Inception. That’s my pick. It’s also one of the nominated options

Of the others, I haven’t seen 127 Hours, and don’t really remember noticing the score from How to Train Your Dragon. King’s Speech was good but understated for the most part, and The Social Network’s stood out more (in a good way, for that movie).

I’m going, in order: Inception>The Social Network>The King’s Speech>How to Train Your Dragon (Not seen: 127 Hours)

Best Art Direction:

My understanding is that this category largely has to do with set design. It was, in fact, called Best Set Design at various times over the years. Of course, Wikipedia tells me that it also encompasses other parts of the production, like costumes and stuff. I’m so confused.

Still, the movie that immediately comes to mind here is Inception, which featured both innovative and very cool sets and general artistry. Alice in Wonderland was also strong in this category, as was True Grit.

In order then: Inception>Alice in Wonderland>True Grit>The King’s Speech>Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Best Writing—Original Screenplay

As much as I’d like to go with Inception here, the strongest screenplay of the year was almost definitely The King’s Speech. The other member of this category I’ve seen—The Fighter—is a distant third. For some reason Toy Story 3 was considered an adapted screenplay, which it clearly isn’t. Still, it isn’t as strong as The King’s Speech, so it wouldn’t win anyways.

The King’s Speech>Inception>The Figher (Not seen: Another Year, The Kids are Alright)

Best Sound Mixing:

According to Wikipedia--which I choose to believe in all things, large or small—sound mixing is the process of mixing all elements of the sound of a movie together, including sound effects, dialogue, and music. So with that in mind, I’m reaching outside of the nominations for the first time and going with…Black Swan

One annoying habit that Oscar voters seem to have is conflating the word “best” with “most”, mistaking quantity with quality. So while Black Swan isn’t a particularly bombastic production (like the nominees list), it used sound very, very effectively to create mood and atmosphere. Again Inception is a close runner up, and my pick of the actual nominees

Inception>True Grit>The King’s Speech>The Social Network (Not seen: Salt)

Best Foreign Language Film

*Ahem*. I, uh, haven’t actually seen any of these either. Let’s move on.

Best Animated Short Film

Well, Day and Night wins here by default, it being the only nominee I’ve seen. Now to be fair it was pretty excellent, one of the better Pixar shorts that I remember.

Best Supporting Actress

How appropriate that the random number generator I’m using to get the order here gave me this as the first major category (other than Original Screenplay, I guess),because this is the one that the Oscars usually throw out relatively early in the show.

I’m reaching into my bag of tricks again for this category, and giving the award to…Marion Cotillard, from Inception. She was fantastic in that movie, and an underrated part of what made it so great. Of course, I do feel I’m ethically obligated to mention again how few movies I actually saw from 2010 (21), which really hurts on these supporting categories.

As for the existing nominees, I wasn’t quite as high on Melissa Leo and Helena Bonham Carter as most other people; both were very good, but neither great. That leaves Amy Adams, to whom I’m more than willing to give the award even if it is a bit of a weak field. And yes, I did see True Grit, but Steinfeld being nominated here is bullsh*t; she had more screentime than any other character in that movie.

Amy Adams The Fighter>Melissa Leo The Fighter>Helena Bonham Carter The King’s Speech (Not seen: Jackie Weaver Animal Kingdon, and I refuse to acknowledge that Hailee Stainfeld is eligible for this category)

Best Animated Feature

In a shocking upset, I’m going with Toy Story 3. Okay, not shocking at all. Of course, I haven’t seen The Illusionist, and the only other nominee was How to Train Your Dragon, which was actually pretty good. When the Academy can only come up with three nominees in a fairly strong year—besides the nominees, Tangled, Despicable Me, and Megamind were all received well, although personally I didn’t see the first and didn’t like the second—it’s probably time to get rid of this category.

Toy Story 3>How to Train Your Dragon (Not seen: The Illusionist)

Best Original Song

Honestly, I have no idea with this one, so I’ll just give it to the song from the only nominee I’ve seen: “We Belong Together” by Randy Newman for Toy Story 3. Even if I don’t especially remember that song. This is another category that maybe the Academy should do away with. It’s mostly irrelevant, and feels out of place during the show itself.

Best Supporting Actor

And here we go with another of the majors. Before I give my pick, a quick (or not) note. I understand that the line between a leading and a supporting role is not always clear but this year there are a few particularly egregious mistakes. I already mentioned Hailee Steinfeld, and on the male side Geoffrey Rush had very nearly as much screentime as Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. More importantly, the movie was about Logue almost as much as it was about Bertie (not true for something like The Social Network. Eduardo Saverin gets a lot of screentime, but the movie is clearly about Mark Zuckerberg). It’s just that they’re of the same sex; if Logue would have been a woman, there’s no question that the role would have been considered a lead. The Academy doesn’t like admitting that movies can have two leads of the same gender.

It has happened before—both F. Murray Abraham (who won) and Tom Hulce were nominated as leads for Amadeus—but it isn’t common. And part of the problem is that the movie studios like spreading their nominees over as many categories as possible and/or strategically placing them, both to maximize the chances of a win (and reducing the chances of a split vote, in some cases), and to increase the chances of multiple wins. The former consideration is probably why Steinfeld got a supporting nod, and the latter why Rush did.

Okay, my filibuster is over. And my choice is…Christian Bale from The Fighter. He’s absolutely fantastic, and frankly I wasn’t aware he was capable of something like this. Now he does have quite a bit of screentime, certainly the second most in the cast, but I still consider it a supporting role because the movie clearly Mickey’s story, not Dickey’s. It has only one lead.

Christian Bale The Fighter>Jeremy Renner The Town. (Not Seen: Mark Ruffalo The Kids are Alright and John Hawkes Winter’s Bone. And I consider Rush a leading role, as noted above).

Best Documentary—Short Subject

Just kidding.

Best Costume Design

This is another category where “best” and “most” are often used interchangeably. Which would lead me to pick Alice In Wonderland. But I think that quality and effectiveness should be valued just as highly as ostentation, and so I’m going with True Grit. Of course, this is also the category where British period pieces almost always win, which would suggest The King’s Speech. But I’m sticking with my choice.

True Grit>Alice in Wonderland>The King’s Speech (Not seen: The Tempest, I am Love)

Best Actor

Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m in total agreement with The Consensus here. There is just no competitor to Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. He was phenomenal; as good as Rush and to a lesser extent Carter were, Firth totally owns that movie. No one else this year came remotely close, at least that I saw.

Colin Firth The King’s Speech> Jeff Bridges True Grit> Jesse Eisenberg The Social Network (not seen: Javier Bardem Biutiful and James Franco 127 Hours)

Best Director

Another big boy here. The Academy receives a lot of criticism for the perception that this is a redundant category, that this might as well just be Best Picture: Part II. This actually isn’t quite true, although certainly the best director wins best picture more often then not. There were no splits during the 1990s, but three during the 2000s.

But this year I think the two have the same winner. No split ballot for me. And that winner is…you’ll see when I get to Best Picture

Best Cinematography

For the uninitiated, cinematography is basically what you see on camera. The cinematographer is, broadly, in charge of what you see in a movie. They are in charge of camera angles, shutter speeds, lighting, etc. This means, of course, that they work very closely with the Artistic Director of a given movie. It’s basically photography, only moving.

So with that in mind, I’m going to give the award to Black Swan, though Inception is a very, very close second. Black Swan uses subtle lighting and some tricky camera work to great effect, and is yet another example of “best” not being the same thing as “most”. That said, this is a strong batch, and I think just about any of the nominees could have a good case.

Black Swan>Inception>The Social Network>True Grit>The King’s Speech

Best Writing—Adapted Screenplay

Not sure what Tory Story 3 is doing here. I’d actually probably give it the award, but it shouldn’t be included (and is a notch below The King’s Speech in the original screenplay category). Which leaves a very capable The Social Network as the clear winner. Sorkin’s screenplay is, predictably, the best part of a very good movie.

The Social Network>True Grit (Not Seen: Winter’s Bone and 127 Hours. And I’m not considering Toy Story 3)

Best Film Editing

Alright, full disclosure, the random number generator finally gave me best picture here. But now I’ve decided I want to do that last, so I’m omitting it from my results. Deal with it.

This is actually a surprisingly easy choice, and it boggles my mind that the Academy didn’t nominate my pick. Which is, of course, Inception, for effortlessly interediting all the various dream levels. The film’s climax is an example of absolutely fantastic film editing, and it wasn’t even nominated. Sigh. Of the actual nominees, I’d probably go with Black Swan.

Black Swan>The Social Network>The King’s Speech> The Fighter (Not Seen: 127 Hours)

Best Sound Editing

Sound editing is the process of adding sound to a movie. Most people don’t know that during actual filming, only dialogue (and sometimes not even that, at least not completely) is recorded. Everything else—footsteps, doors opening, wind—is added later.

Although I was tempted to reach into my bad of tricks and give this to The Town, in the end I decided to go with Toy Story 3, both because the sound editing was really well done and because the very high degree of difficulty. An animated movie featuring toys? That wouldn’t be easy to do.

Toy Story 3> Inception >True Grit (Not Seen: Tron: Legacy and Unstoppable)

Best Live Action Short Film

Just kidding again. What do you suppose the percentage of people in the United States who have seen even one of the nominees for this category is? 1 in 10,000? Less?

Best Makeup

Oops, haven’t seen any of these either.

Best Actress

Okay, here we go, a legitimate category again. Again I’m going to agree with The Consensus, and go with Natalie Portman from Black Swan, although not as emphatically as I’d endorse Firth. Which isn’t to say that Portman isn’t great. She is. It’s just that I saw so few movies from 2010 that actually feature a female lead. Only six, by my count, and not even all of those were any good. Indeed, I’ve only seen one of the five nominees (not counting Steinfeld from True Grit, who should be here). Not sure if that says more about me or Hollywood. Probably me.

Best Visual Effects

The last of our “best”/“most” categories, this year the award absolutely must go to Inception, for having some of the most creative and generally amazing visual effects that we’ve ever seen. There is absolutely no question.

Inception>Iron Man 2>Alice in Wonderland>Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Not seen: Hereafter)

Best Picture

Which brings us to the end of my 2500 word odyssey. Just imagine what a monstrosity this would be if I’d seen more.

I am one of those who thinks that expanding the Best Picture field to ten movies was a dumb idea, for reasons that I’ll probably elaborate on at some other time. But fortunately we still have a way to tell what the actual top five are: the Best Director category. It still is only five nominees, and back when best picture was only five the two were usually virtually identical. It isn’t perfect—typically there would be one movie on the director list that wasn’t a picture nominee, or vice versa if you want to think of it that way—but it’s the best we’ve got.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the five real Best Picture nominees for 2010 can be inferred to be The King’s Speech, Black Swan, The Social Network, The Fighter, and True Grit, all of which I’ve seen. And it is a strong bunch. But I’m still going to go outside the group for my winner (which, really, is why I gave myself that loophole to begin with). My pick for the best movie of 2010 is—drumroll please—wait for it…Inception. And let the fanfare and rejoicing commence.

Seriously though, Inception is a great movie. It’s what you get when you give an A-list director creative freedom and a budget. And speaking of which, I’m going back and handing out Best Director to Christopher Nolan. Although Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan did a great job too.

My runner up for the year, Toy Story 3 was another one of the five fake best picture nominees. But number three is Black Swan (followed very closely by The King’s Speech), which means that

Black Swan>The King’s Speech>The Social Network>The Fighter>True Grit (with the first two nearly tied, then a small but appreciable gap to the next two, then a significant distance to True Grit, which was ‘only’ good)

Also, for directing: Darren Aronofsky Black Swan>David Fincher The Social Network>The Coen Brothers True Grit>Tom Hooper The King’s Speech>David O. Russell The Fighter

And that, folks, is the first annual I’m Right Awards. The final tally is

Inception 7 Pauls (Best Score, Best Art Direction, Best Supporting Actress for Cotillard, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Director, and Best Picture)

Toy Story 3 3 Pauls (Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song for Newman, Best Sound Mixing)

Black Swan 3 Pauls (Best Sound Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Actress for Portman)

The King’s Speech 2 Pauls (Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor for Firth)

The Social Network 1 Paul (Best Adapted Screenplay)

The Fighter 1 Paul (Best Supporting Actor, for Bale)

True Grit 1 Paul (Best Costume Design)

Day and Night 1 Paul (Best Animated Short Film)

19 total

See you next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating read, good sir. I must say, I prefer your take on it that of the Academy.