February 6, 2016

2011 Oscar Preview Part Four: The Other 15%


Can you believe that's Melissa Leo?

Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Will Win: Melissa Leo
Should Win: Melissa Leo

The smart money here is on Leo.  She’s got 11 wins, including SAG, Critics’ Choice, and a Golden Globe.  You shouldn’t discount Helena Bonham Carter, though, what with a BAFTA win and love for King’s Speech going into late season overdrive.  And she’s been here before (for lead, guess which movie).  And the ingenue role goes to Steinfeld, so consider her a potential spoiler as well.

So I’m watching The Fighter and I’m thinking to myself, “Who is this woman playing the mother and why isn’t she getting more awards buzz?”  And then I see the credits and I’m all like “Da-yum!”  I’ve met Leo and I still didn’t recognize her.  As we’ll see in the next category, I’m a fan of the transformative performance.



Christian Bale – The Fighter
John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Will Win: Christian Bale
Should Win: Christian Bale

Short of Sorkin, about the closest thing you’re gonna come to a lock this year.  Rush got the BAFTA, but I don’t think the Speech-fest is gonna extend that far.

Unlike Leo, I still recognized Bale, but he completely inhabited this character.  It’s interesting to see a variation on the angry-in-control persona he usually plays morphed into frustrated-out-of-control a la Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront if Brando’s character was a crack addict.



Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

Will Win: Natalie Portman
Should Win: Michelle Williams

There is buzz of Bening stealing this from Portman.  After all, she’s been here 3 times before.  And the 2 times it was for Best Actress she lost to Hillary Swank.  Competing for the first time without Swank to trump her, it seems like finally she could win the prize.  That’s a great narrative for a voter to think about.  And while SAG didn’t give her the love this year, in their world she beat Hillary Swank to win for American Beauty back in ’99.  So this could conceivably happen.  But this is what she’s up against:

First, the momentum Portman has built up is substantial.  20 wins including SAG, BAFTA, Critic’s Circle, and a Golden Globe (granted, the Globe is a wash since Bening won one, too, and neither had to compete with the other to get it).  Also, Swan became a phenomenon, and this category is the most viable place to acknowledge that, if a voter were so inclined.  Finally, the Academy likes its Best Actress winners to be, for the most part, tortured.  Think Swank in Boys Don’t Cry or Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball or Nicole Kidman in The Hours or Charlize Theron in Monster.  This is not always true (Helen Mirren in The Queen, Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side), but it comes across.  And Portman is nothing if not tortured in Black Swan.  It’s basically the point of the movie.

I wonder how the nominations and most likely winners would have panned out had more people seen Blue Valentine.  From a performance perspective, it’s kind of the gold standard.  I’m still disappointed that Gosling didn’t get a nod.  As it is, it’s wonderful that Williams—in arguably a career-best performance—is getting recognized.  I think what puts her portrayal over the top for me is that the torture she endures is so internal and yet so effortlessly and naturally depicted that it feels more visceral than the actual visceral conflict Portman depicts.  One of my main frustrations with Blue Valentine is that I walk away from it not completely “getting” Williams’ character, but I think that’s kind of magical because I wouldn’t be frustrated lest I thought there was something to get[SPOILER] And what she’s playing is so subtle but so real that when it comes to her relationship, like many relationships, you’re never entirely sure why it fell apart, but you know there was a damn good reason.[SPOILER END]



Javier Bardem – Biutiful
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – 127 Hours

Will Win: Colin Firth
Should Win: Colin Firth

Firth scored 19 wins, including the Globes, SAG, Critics’ Choice, and BAFTA.  Pretty much from the start he was considered a favorite, and that’s only gotten stronger.

Firth doesn’t let the stuttering become a crutch for his performance.  He gives a fully nuanced characterization.  If he didn’t stutter once during the film, it would still be a great performance.



Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – True Grit
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
David O. Russell – The Fighter

Will Win: David Fincher
Should Win: David Fincher

There is a good argument to be made here for Tom Hooper.  After all, the Director’s Guild Award is something like 85% predictive.  But on the three occasions in the past 20 years when they’ve split with the Academy, twice they’ve done it essentially on their own.  When they went with Ron Howard in 1995, the Academy sided with the Globes and the Critics’ Choice and awarded Mel Gibson (imagine that happening again).  When they went with Rob Marshall for Chicago in 2002, the Academy sided with BAFTA and awarded Polanski (Globes went with Scorsese and Critics’ Choice with Spielberg so it was an all-over-the-place year, but the point is the Academy didn’t side with the DGA).  So if ever there were a year to predict a split, with everyone except the DGA awarding Fincher the honors, with even BAFTA, who went against popular trends to give acting awards to most of the cast of The King’s Speech, giving Fincher the award, this is the year.

Fincher deserves the win for the opposite of the reason he deserved (but didn’t get) the win for Button.  With Button, it was all about the extravagance since the story was about finding wonder in death.  Here, it’s all about foregrounding the story and the characters and letting his typical bravura style take a back seat, and the ability to do that and still leave a distinctive mark as a director is a sign of maturity.

Also, there’s this:  When the initial shooting script came in at 162 pages, Sorkin was convinced Fincher would want to cut it down (typical scripts are 120 pages, a minute per page, Sorkin’s would be almost 3 hours).  Fincher visits him, pulls out the script and a stopwatch, and has Sorkin read it at the rate that Sorkin would expect the dialogue to be read.  Comes in at a solid 120.  He even sticks with that timing during the shoot, helping whittle down the run time of the long-but-doesn’t-feel-long opening sequence even though it took 90 takes to do it.

Give that man an Oscar.


The Social Network

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Will Win: The King’s Speech
Should Win: The Social Network

To his credit, David Poland (and a few others) have been saying this all along.  Just because everyone and their mother has been giving Social Network end of year kudos does not mean the Academy will play ball.  When the Producer’s Guild was the first to go against the trend, his words started sounding wise.  His point is a generational one.  It is a beloved movie, but it just doesn’t mean the same thing to the majority of voters that it does to some of the voters.  There is more emotional impact (and Oscar-y-ness) to be had in The King’s Speech.  And this is a reaction I’ve heard from friends, whose chief complaints about the film revolve around (a) a lack of emotional involvement and (b) a lack of depth.  I can see how they would see those things and I can see how an Academy voter could see them as well.

Personally, I’m in that group to whom the film does mean something.  I do feel emotional resonance.  I do feel there is depth.  It doesn’t hurt that you’re combining the work of two of my favorite people, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin.  And that you’re giving them one of my favorite settings to play in: the world of the web (specifically web entrepreneurialism).  This is a film about taking part in a world where you don’t have to ask permission from the grown-ups to become a success (although you do have to ask them to represent you if you dick over your friends in the process).  It is, in that sense, a film of its time, but since it is also dealing with some pretty classic themes (the Citizen Kane comparisons are thematically apt, in my opinion) it is also timeless.


  1. [...] surprised by Hooper’s win for Director, but I’m convinced my theory was sound.  Never doubt the [...]

  2. [...] David Dylan Thomas » Blog Archive » 2011 Oscar Preview Part Four: The Other 15%Tags: Academy, BAFTA, BEST, Black, blog archive, dylan thomas, golden globe, helena bonham carter, kind, King, oscar preview, raquo, reason, renner, smart money, Social, spoiler, steinfeld, Williams, yum — [...]

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