The Oscar nominees were announced last night. This year, ten films are up for Best Picture instead of only five as in the past. It’s hard enough to come up with a winner from five. Choosing from ten may thin out the voting for any one picture, but I fear The Social Network will win instead of several other more deserving films: The Kids Are All Right, The Fighter, and True Grit.
What are the factors that determine a best picture? It seems to me that a picture has to be great in nearly all categories to win the whole enchilada—best performances by the actors and actresses, best story, best cinematography. I’m not sure how a best director is determined, so I’ll leave that out of the mix. Whenever I look back to films that have stuck with me the longest, nearly all of them are memorable for all three of the above criteria. Look at Shakespeare in Love, Braveheart, Forrest Gump, Unforgiven, Dances with Wolves, Rocky, Midnight Cowboy, On the Waterfront, From Here to Eternity, and Gone with the Wind. These are some of the ones that most stick in my memory and all of them for all three reasons. There are even some that never won but could have: The Wizard of Oz, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Singin’ in the Rain, to name only a few.
Using these three criteria as my guide for this year’s pictures, I can eliminate Inception because all I remember about it is the awesome technical tricks in the filming; The King’s Speech because it was at most only a really interesting bit of acting between the two principals, Colin Firth (the likely winner of best actor) and Geoffrey Rush (the probable winner if Christian Bale doesn’t win for best supporting actor); 127 Hours because the story is too thin; The Social Network because despite the immediacy of Facebook and the acting of Eisenberg, the story of its beginning just isn’t memorable for me; and I never got to see the other two, Toy Story 3 and Winter’s Bone, so I’ll just skip them.
That leaves me with True Grit, The Fighter, and The Kids Are All Right. True Grit was great for the acting of all three principals—Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and the newcomer, young Hailee Steinfeld—for the story, and for the gorgeous background in which it was shot; but it won’t win even though it’s deserving. The Fighter was great, especially for the acting of Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and Christian Bale (these last two the probable winners of best supporting actress and actor) and for a great story, and it could very easily win. And the one I’m most pulling for, The Kids Are All Right, is great for the timeliness of the story, but especially for the acting of all the characters, nearly all of whom could be considered for either best actress (Annette Benning) or best supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo) or best supporting actress (Julianne Moore) and even the two kids, who are better than “all right.” I especially loved and will always remember the scene when they are all together for dinner, Ruffalo there but without the blessing of Benning until he talks about his favorite album and they then sing a little a capella duet of Joni Mitchell's "Blue." In my mind, it's a winner.
I think I’m ready for Oscar Night.