Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ranking the Nominees: 2010

scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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To continue my new feature, I'm looking at all (not true..."most") of the Oscar nominees from a given year. This time, I'm tackling a much more recent year: 2010, the year my oldest son was born. I would have to say this was also the year I became incredibly dedicated to the Oscar race. I began closely following bloggers and critics during the race, began predicting awards, and began championing certain films over others. This may be the year I also came closest to seeing every best picture nominee before the Oscars. I think I only missed one - and I still haven't seen all of True Grit.

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1. TOY STORY 3 - 99%

It was a fitting conclusion to one of the most celebrated movie trilogies of all time. The first one introduced us to the toys, their personalities, and their struggle. The second one expanded that universe, adding some heavy stakes and thrills. The last one realized the sadness that comes paired with maturity and the realization that the things that once filled your life with such happiness can't meet that need anymore. While Toy Story 3 repeated a lot of the tropes we saw in the first two, it also added a level of reality that the other films didn't. It grabbed five nominations, winning best animated feature and original song. But, it was a rare animated feature that grabbed a best picture nod, and was at once both hilarious and heartbreaking, serving as a bittersweet bow on the gift that was Toy Story.


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It was a battle with a predetermined winner as we headed through the awards season. The Social Network didn't sweep the critic awards, but it certainly dominated them. But, it was a foregone conclusion that it would lose. A dark look at Mark Zuckerberg (however true or not), David Fincher's brilliant adaptation framed the creation of Facebook as a minefield of broken promises, paranoia, and disloyalty, all because of a distorted sense of arrogance and solitude, thanks to a brilliant performance from Jesse Eisenberg. Separate yourself from the supposed "truths" and you'll find a film centered around a fully realized character not unlike Charles Foster Kane - a lonely architect nearly destroyed by the weight of his own genius.

3(TIE). TRUE GRIT - 96%

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The movie that beat The Social Network? This heartwarming little story about King George VI overcoming a stutter. The King's Speech won best picture before any even saw it, in addition to Colin Firth's best actor Oscar. Nominated for 12 Oscars, it only won four - the two already mentioned, adapted screenplay, and an unexpected (because it wasn't deserved) nod to Tom Hooper for directing. That being said, The King's Speech is a truly delightful movie - a story of triumph with some good performances, however simplistically it tells its story and how many gaps it leaves out of its historical portrayal.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Lawrence. A few years before taking home the gold for Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence blew open the doors in Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, a noir-style film set in the Missouri Ozarks. Receiving nods for picture, adapted screenplay, supporting actor (John Hawkes) and best actress for Lawrence, it didn't take home any, but set the stage for a new star. An unnerving story of a teenager's journey to find her father and provide for her family through the drug-addled areas of the poverty stricken mountains, Lawrence spends almost the entire film on-screen, giving what still stands as her best performance, despite the lack of golden accolades.

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5(TIE). THE TOWN - 94%

Ben Affleck kicked off his directing career with Gone Baby Gone in 2007. Last year, his film Argo took home the prize for best picture. But, in between those two, he made his biggest stride toward filmmaking prowess with the crime thriller The Town. Set in Boston (of course), the film follows a lifetime thief as he plans a heist at Fenway Park, while also trying to connect with a bank manager with ties to one of his past heists. The film only grabbed one nomination (supporting actor for Jeremy Renner), but, more importantly, showed Affleck's improvement as a director, in addition to this ability to work with an ensemble cast (which paid dividends in the future). The acting in The Town leaves something to be desired (Affleck himself isn't very good), but it was a step in the right direction.

8(TIE). 127 HOURS - 93%



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11. THE FIGHTER - 91%

David O. Russell has one of the more eclectic filmographies of any director working today. The Fighter marked a relatively mainstream effort from the man who also directed I Heart Huckabees and Flirting with Disaster. Starring Mark Wahlberg as "Irish" Micky Ward, the film details his rise to boxing success with the help (or not) of his drug-addicted brother Dicky (Christian Bale) and his insane family. Compared to many of the other 2010 contenders (pun intended...kind of), The Fighter seemed relatively light, despite its semi-focus on Dicky's struggle with drugs. What it did do was provide a stage for a number of great performances, two of which landed the film the only Oscar wins of its seven nominations (supporting actor for Bale, supporting actress for Melissa Leo). Other than that, it grabbed nominations for picture, director, editing, original screenplay, and supporting actress (Amy Adams), in addition to delivering one of the better sports films in a long time.


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While The Social Network is the film I consider the best of the year, Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller may be my favorite film of the year. Black Swan was a dark, twisted thriller focused on the pressures of the world of ballet, headlined by an Oscar winning performance from Natalie Portman. In addition to Portman's win, the film grabbed four other nominations for picture, directing, cinematography, and editing. While other films of the year were more complete and a lot more developed, Black Swan was easily the most visceral experience I had at the cinema in 2010.

12(TIE). BLACK SWAN - 87%

14(TIE). RABBIT HOLE - 86%

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14(TIE). INCEPTION - 86%

What a half life Christopher Nolan's mind-bending film has seen. First, it was the trendy pick for best of the year, prompting a strange backlash against the film. Despite its perceived lack of attention to character development, Inception is easily one of the most original, exciting cinematic experiences movie theaters have seen for a long while. The film picked up eight nominations, winning four (sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects, and cinematography). It lost picture, original screenplay, original music, and art direction, but still burns into the brains of anyone who experienced it in the theater during its original run. The top may or may not still be spinning...but that's not the point.

16. BIUTIFUL - 65%

BIGGEST OMISSIONS: How to Train Your Dragon, Meek's Cutoff, The Ghost Writer, Certified Copy

That's it for 2010 - great films overall. Disappointing Oscar year, if you ask me.
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