Changes in human personality, often forced by circumstances that one has no control over, are at the heart of the films nominated in the Best Picture category this year.
Most of the films in the race for the Academy Award of Merit, better known as the Oscar, are inspirational tales harbouring on faint longing for acceptance.
What makes a good film? The story, exceptional direction, a compelling screenplay, stellar performances and a moving background score are the obvious ingredients. This year’s contenders for the Best Picture award bring together an interesting mix of all these elements, but who will walk away with the golden statuette?
The Social Network
Our rank: 1
Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay adapted from a book makes such a compelling watch that it makes The Social Network our favourite in the race for the Oscar. Director David Fincher’s aesthetic wide-angle shots and intelligent use of flashbacks create a gripping narrative. Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg only adds to the factors making it such a hot favourite. The film narrates the tale of an ongoing phenomenon that is such an important part of our lives. Can we click the like button already?
The King’s Speech
Our rank: 2
The King’s Speech is an inspirational tale of Britain’s King George VI and his struggle to overcome a debilitating speech impediment. Remarkable performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush bring in a sense of modernity to this period drama, which could have otherwise been a musty story about a pompous and circumstance-ridden royal family. A heart-warming story paired with confident and witty dialogue makes The King’s Speech the strongest contender for Best Picture after The Social Network.
Our rank: 3
In True Grit, Hollywood’s idiosyncratic brother duo Joel and Ethan Coen present a rather dusty and gritty tale of 14-year-old Mattie Ross who wants to avenge her father’s murder. A remake of the 1969 John Wayne-starrer of the same name, True Grit stands out for the cold and calculated Mattie and Matt Damon as arrogant ranger LaBoeuf. A tight script with its strong allegiance to the Western genre makes True Grit a strong contender for the Best Picture award. With its impressive writing and sincere performances, this is our third favourite after The Social Network and The King’s Speech.
Our rank: 4
Crisp writing, peppy dialogue, and clever use of film technology make director Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours stand out in a crowd of human-interest stories. The real story of climber Aron Ralston, 127 Hours is the tale of one man’s struggle and his climactic redemption from a five-day ordeal trapped between rocks and a colossal boulder. This James Franco-starrer gets our approval for its moving storyline, intelligent filmmaking, and a great performance. Indian music director AR Rahman’s background score is so strong that it could embody a character within its notes.
Our rank: 5
Dealing with the negative, often scary psychological transformation of a ballerina, Nina Sayers, Black Swan has tantalising and intricately woven subplots, a haunting performance by Natalie Portman, and a script that leaves the audience with goosebumps. With an evocative story, coupled with an intense background score, feeding on emotions of jealousy and insecurity, Black Swan makes for an entertaining watch for a niche audience. Well-choreographed ballet scenes and the symbolic use of closed indoors are inherent to this stylish psycho-drama directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Our rank: 6
Based on a true story of 1980s welterweight boxer Micky Ward and his crack-addict ex-fighter brother Dicky, The Fighter has a very realistic narrative style which makes for a solid platform for the portrayal of ambitious, scheming and remorseless characters. Terrific performances by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo add to the credibility of The Fighter,making it a strong contender for the golden statuette. This one’s a real fighter.
Toy Story 3
Our rank: 7
The only animation film competing with a brigade of biggies for Best Picture, Toy Story 3 is easily the best animation film this year. With a moving plot generously garnished with heart-wrenching moments, the film is moving and entertaining at the same time. The beauty of this tale of neglected talking toys lies in the scale of its exceptional production value. While it is an animation film that might cater to kids, it offers great entertainment value for older audiences as well. Like the other nominees, Toy Story 3 has the rather tall task of holding a candle to The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Win or no win, this nominee sure made us rummage through our attic for our old toys!
Our rank: 8
A complex idea of a dream within a dream, presented with suave direction, made this Christopher Nolan film an instant hit with audiences worldwide. The snappy dialogue, occasionally sprinkled with sarcastic humour, and a story set against the backdrop of an eternal love stuck in limbo (pun intended) makes Inception a rich experience. But Nolan’s dream stealers might just end up being sleepyheads in the Oscar race alongside the easily understandable and peppier The Social Network.
Our rank: 9
Along with The Kids Are All Right, this touching tale of a young girl in search of her father is one of the films we believe stands no chance. Sure, the film is an emotional tale, but it is more like a depressing bag of bones, unfolding very slowly. Human drama and realistic depiction of mountain life may be its strengths, but Winter’s Bone definitely did not click with us. Director Debra Granik and (co-writer Anne Rosellini’s) skills as screenplay writer are undoubted, but in the face of its competition, Winter’s Bone might face a dry winter’s day.
The Kids Are All Right
Our rank: 10
Frankly, we wonder why this Lisa Cholodenko film has been nominated in the Best Picture category. The film revolves around a happily married lesbian couple, their kids and the children’s biological father. The film’s premise, barring the aspect of homosexuality, which the director seems keen to milk for all it is worth, is mediocre. Apart from Annette Benning and Mark Ruffalo’s stellar performances, there is nothing much going for the film. The kids may be all right, but we are not. A clean thumbs down.