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2011 Oscar Musings by Prasad Nadhavajhala


oscar musings

25th February 2011
San Francisco

Topics like building a website, computer programming, venture capital and corporate revenue models are engaging to read only in news articles and are just unfilmable to entertain larger audience. What script writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher achieved with “The Social Network” is nothing short of a miracle. This legal thriller about the early days of Facebook phenomenon became the darling of critics and cinegoers all over the world. It is a real treat to watch the powerhouse performances from the lead actors Jesse Eisenberg (born to play Mark Zuckerberg), Andrew Garfield (the next Spiderman) and the inimitable pop superstar Justin Timberlake (as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and Plaxo). In these days of on-screen graphic effects, “The Social Network” relied on the basic film tools – direction, acting, editing and writing (who can forget these lines: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A Billion Dollars.”, “You’re not an a**hole, Mark. You’re just trying really hard to be”). If not for the unexpected competition from a stammering King from England, this 21st century Internet startup story would have swept all the major categories at Oscars this year.

Many of us know that King George VI was the father of Queen Elizabeth II and was the British King when India got independence. Very few knew that he had a stammering problem. Period drama “The King’s Speech” took this small event from history and turned it into a must-watch cinema spectacle of the year. It has all the ingredients of a traditional Oscar Best Movie – uplifting triumph of the will, great visuals, lovely orchestral score and wonderful ensemble cast. Screen writer David Seidler, who grew up with the same impediment as George VI, is slated to accept the award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’. Colin Firth, who missed Oscar for “A Single man” last year, delivered the performance that has ‘Best Actor’ Oscar written all over it.

Another artiste that has near lock in the acting honors is Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”. Director Darren Aronofsky, who resurrected Mickey Rourke in 2008 with “The Wrestler”, created twin ballerina characters on celluloid that any actress would die for. This R-rated psycho drama needs repeated viewing to peel and appreciate the layers of reality and paranoia. Natalie Portman grabbed the role of a lifetime and came up with the stunning performance as a passionate dancer with self-destructive streak. Annette Bening, who is also superlative as the lesbian mom in “The Kids are alright”, may have to wait longer to get her long-due Oscar.

Actor-producer Mark Wahlberg approached Matt Damon and Brad Pitt to play the role of his meth-addictive loser brother in “The Fighter” but they rejected. Finally Christian Bale was roped in after he lost considerable weight to play the real life character Dick Eklund, brother of world champion boxer Mickey Ward. Bale was now the frontrunner in ‘Best Supporting Actor’ category and he has tough competition from Geoffrey Rush, the speech therapist in “The King’s Speech”.

“The Fighter” also garnered two ‘Best Supporting Actress’ nominations for Melissa Meo, the hard-hitting mother of the boxer Ward and Amy Adams, the lady who tries to alienate her boxer beau from his family of seven sisters. These two actresses are fighting with a 14-year old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who as a feisty cowgirl in “True Grit” stole every scene in the film from the likes of Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster “Inception” received eight Oscar nominations but the Academy continues to snub him in ‘Best Director’ category. It is surprising that he never received any nomination so far in spite of his ever-growing critically acclaimed kitty of “Memento”, “The Prestige” and “The Dark Knight”. “Inception” is expected to win a few technical awards.

AR Rahman and Danny Boyle continue their winning combination with “127 hours”. The film garnered six nominations but has a shot only in “Best Original Song” category. In any other year, this big screen adaptation of the harrowing tale of the amputee mountaineer Aron Ralston would have repeated ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ magic at the Oscars. But 2010 is an extraordinary year with too many quality films crowding Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

My picks for Oscar night:

Best Picture: ‘The King’s Speech’
Best Director: David Fincher (‘The Social Network’)
Best Actor: Colin Firth (‘The King’s Speech’)
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (‘Black Swan’)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (‘The Fighter’)
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld (‘True Grit’)
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler (‘The King’s Speech’)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (‘The Social Network’)
Best Film Editing: ‘The Social Network’
Best Cinematography: ‘True Grit’
Best Animated Feature: 'Toy Story 3’
Best Original Score: ‘The Social Network’ -- Trent Reznor (of rock band ‘Nine Inch Nails’) and Atticus Ross
Best Original Song: “If I Rise” ('127 Hours') -- A.R. Rahman
Best Art Direction: 'Alice in Wonderland'
Best Costume Design: ‘The King’s Speech’
Best Makeup: ‘The Wolfman’
Best Sound Mixing: ‘Inception’
Best Sound Editing: ‘Inception’
Best Visual Effects: ‘Inception’
Best Foreign Language Film: ‘In a Better World’
Best Documentary Feature: ‘Inside Job’

Prasad Nadhavajhala
prasadnvn at yahoo dot com

Related articles:
2010 Oscar Musings
2009 Oscar Musings
2007 Oscar Race


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