Monday, 4 April 2011

Filmmakers Bleed

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is the Oscars.

After seeing The Fighter last night, I've now seen all the films nominated for last year's Best Picture Oscar. This must be the first time I've done this. And all 9 films nominated were fantastic. The sharper amongst you will have noticed that I said 9 films, and there were in fact 10 films nominated for Best Picture. This is because I refuse to recognise Inception as a legitimate nomination. I am Obama and Inception is an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Inception is responsible for a number of human rights abuses.

So lets look at the 9 Oscar nominations for the Best Picture of 2010.

Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky doesn't know the meaning of the word 'subtle' and Natalie Portman does more and louder sharp-intakes-of-breath than Matt Bellamy, but none of this matters. The film works because of Aronofsky's hugely broad strokes making it so big and loud and in-your-face, that you can't turn around and say 'can she stop breathing so fucking loudly' because your jaw is on the floor of the cinema, and stuck to it if its an Odeon. Natalie Portman shouldn't have won the Best Actress Oscar (I'll come to that) and hers wasn't even the best performance in the film; Mila Kunis proved herself to be a credible actress (which I already knew because I love That '70s Show) and Vincent Cassel did what he does best; playing a very nasty foreign man. If there's one Oscar that Black Swan should have won, it's Visual Effects; that skin-rippling thing was stunning. But Black Swan wasn't even nominated, while Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was. I saw that film, and it should have been nominated for fuck nothing, except maybe an Unwieldy Title award. I can only assume Natalie Portman's skin just does that naturally.

The Fighter: The best thing about this great film was the dialogue, and it should have won the Writing (Original Screenplay) Oscar, which was instead won by The King's Speech. (I'll come to that, too.) At least The Fighter was nominated for that one. And justice was served when Christian Bale won the Supporting Actor Oscar, because as a skinny, wasted, crack-addict, he showed that he's completely wasted as Batman. Haha. It's true though, make him act and he will; make him dress as a bat and do a stupid voice and... he also will. I think what we've shown there is that he's versatile. But it's his relationship with Mark Wahlberg's character that makes it, and the juxtaposition of the frenetic Bale and the cool Wahlberg. The latter masterfully keeps everything bubbling just beneath the surface for most of the film. I've read reviews that claim that Wahlberg 'doesn't act'. Well he does, and brilliantly. Just because he's understated doesn't mean he doesn't act. Acting doesn't need to be over-the-top. And it's films like Inception which are to blame for that misconception. (I'm a poet and I'm not even doing it intentionally.)

The Kids Are All Right: Annette Bening is great, Mark Ruffalo is great, Julianne Moore is great. (Though the best thing she's ever done is definitely 30 Rock.) There's not much else to say. I'm not bothered that it didn't win any Oscars. But still, it was great.

127 Hours: Or as comedian Greg Proops calls it, 'I Cut My Arm Off.' Oh, that's a spoiler alert, but, not. James Franco was impressive, armed (haha) with a handful (haha) of items including a blunt knife because he's an idiot, making us like his character simply by talking to his video camera, and Danny Boyle built up the tension wonderfully, before the scene everyone had been waiting for, which was perfectly executed. Or indeed, amputated. As Mark Kermode explains, we felt the character's pain because we liked the character. That's why this was more horrific than a Saw film, in which we don't care about the characters. Also, knowing that this actually happened made it all the more painful. And brilliant. Nerve-severingly brilliant.

The Social Network: Everyone knows how fantastic this was. Well done David Fincher (though his best work is still Fight Club) and Andrew Garfield (though his best work is still Red Riding) and Justin Timberlake (though his best work is still... music) and Jesse Eisenberg (though his best work is...this. Zombieland was good though.) Oh and justice was served once again when Aaron Sorkin won the Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Oscar. (Though his best work is still... Sports Night. Hah, you thought I was going to say The West Wing didn't you? Well, it's not, it's Sports Night, one of the most underrated sitcoms ever. It's got Peter Krause (though his best work is still Six Feet Under) and Joshua Malina and loads of great people. Go watch it, it's all on YouTube, go, now. Stop reading this and go watch it.)

Toy Story 3: I saw this ages ago and don't remember the details, but I remember it being good so I'm glad it won the Animated Feature Film Oscar. Nice to see the third film of a trilogy being so successful too. And I remember comedian Michael Legge accurately describing it as something like 'a cross between Saw and The Shawshank Redemption.' I also remember a bizarre item on the New Statesman website about Nick Clegg being 'our Buzz Lightyear.' I think it said something about them both thinking they're Spanish?

True Grit: This wasn't as good as the Coen brothers at their best, like No Country For Old Men or A Serious Man, but it was still very good indeed. Hailee Steinfeld should have won the Supporting Actress Oscar, and Matt Damon should have been nominated for Supporting Actor. As Mark Kermode says (again), Matt Damon has gone from being a replaceable action-hero to a very good, serious actor without anyone really noticing.

Winter's Bone: This should have won the Oscar for Directing (Debra Granik) and/or Cinematography. But it wasn't even nominated for either. And Jennifer Lawrence should have won Best Actress. I didn't hear her breathe once. As Mark Kermode says, (sorry but he is right about everything. Everything apart from Inception.) it's wonderfully atmospheric, mystical, immersive and poetically authentic. There are lots of nice animals in the film too. Kermode doesn't mention that, that's my own critical analysis. Also it's the only one of these films to include a squirrel-skinning scene. Since they had to cut out that bit from Toy Story 3.

The King's Speech: It's good.

I'd have been happy if any one of these 9 superb films had won the Oscar for Best Picture. Apart from The King's Speech. And which film won? You guessed it, Piranha 3D. No, it was obviously The King's Speech. And as I said, it's a good film, and Colin Firth deserved the Oscar for Best Actor. Though he should have won it for A Single Man, a film which managed to be great despite the presence of Nicholas Hoult. (I originally mistyped Colin Firth as Colon Firth, which might have to stick.)

But is The King's Speech really the best of these 9 amazing films? A film about a king with a stutter? Is that really better than a ballerina turning into a swan or a 14 year old girl seeking retribution for her father's murder or a man cutting off his own arm? Is it better than the invention of Facebook? Well obviously it's better than the invention of Facebook but is it better than The Social Network? Does it blow you away like Black Swan? Does it pull you in like Winter's Bone? Do you care about the characters like in The Fighter? Does it move you like Toy Story 3? Does it have anything to say about social values like The Kids Are All Right? The answer to all those questions are, in that order: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no.

I think in order to win the Best Picture Oscar a film should be doing something different, making the audience think, saying something. And The King's Speech doesn't do these things. Or if it does, it doesn't as much as the rest of the nominations. If it is saying something then it's been said in every other film about the monarchy. As, guess who, Mark Kermode says, we have enough films about the royal family and we know why we make them; to appeal to 'the transatlantic tunnel vision' of the Academy, who lap up films about the British monarchy like they're not made every single fucking year. And I know The King's Speech isn't just about the monarchy, and I know it's better than every other monarchy film made before, but it still pisses me off that of all those brilliant films, that list of 9 of the best films I've ever seen, the fairly dull one about a king with a stutter was deemed the best. And as Mark... Watson (Hah, curveball!) says, 'I don't think Firth was particularly good, he seemed to stumble over a lot of his lines.'

But at least it wasn't Inception.

Thanks for reading, I'll leave you with the song that this blog is named after, which is by the amazing Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. Enjoy!


  1. What's with all the Inception hate? I've only seen Kids, Grit, Fighter and King. Thought King and Kids were very good but wasn't a fan of True Grit or The Fighter (which I admit I watched half-arsedly), I thought Inception was better, as much as you can compare several completely different films.

  2. I don't think Inception is any more than a jumped up action film

  3. I'm sensing the hate for Chris Nolan's movies here. Only seen 2 of these movies, but wasn't disappointed by them.

  4. I'm still bitter about Avatar not winning last year. And being a poor student I've only seen Toy Story and Inception...

  5. The Hurt Locker was infinitely better than Avatar, I was happy with last year

  6. Ditto. 10 Best Picture nods just to try and please everyone is still ridiculous though. They might as well bump up every other category if they're concerned about not acknowledging people who deserve it.