This Sunday marks the 83rd annual Academy Awards ceremony, the most glamorous night in Hollywood. For movie geeks like us, this is the equivalent to the Super Bowl or the World Series. Sports fans have their favorite teams and players, we have our favorite films and actors. Here are my picks for what I felt were the best performances of the year.
* Colin Firth: The King’s Speech
His portrayal of King George VI was amazing. The scenes where he speaks in public are moving, especially when you see the look on his face as he struggles with his speech impediment. His performance is heartbreaking, and you can’t help but feel sorry for him. The fact that he got a thumbs up from Queen Elizabeth herself makes him all but unbeatable in this category.
* Natalie Portman: Black Swan
She’s has always been a favorite actress of mine ever since I saw her in The Professional. In Black Swan she portrays Nina as a sweet and innocent ballerina, the perfect embodiment of the white swan. But what really convinced me was the scene where she becomes the black swan. She finally embraces the darkness within her and seduces the audience with her performance. However, it’s not until the black swan is released that she realizes it was the light and dark within herself that she was battling the entire time.
Best Supporting Actor:
* Christian Bale: The Fighter
I have always been impressed with Christian Bale’s acting skills. He has a reputation for immersing himself in his roles and truly becoming his character. Whether it’s losing an alarming amount of weight to play an insomniac or bulking up on muscles to play a comic book hero, he embraces his roles and makes them his own. His performance in The Fighter was no exception. In fact, he acted so much like Dicky Eklund that Mickey O’Keefe (Micky Ward’s trainer who played himself in the movie) couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him. With such an impressive resume, it’s hard to believe that this is the first Oscar nomination for Bale.
Best Supporting Actress:
* Hailee Steinfeld: True Grit
This is the first feature film for Hailee Steinfeld. She beat out 1,500 other girls for this role. But that’s not what impressed me about her, it was her performance as Mattie Ross that won me over. To be able to hold your own on within the cast of True Grit is very impressive. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin are all celebrated actors in their prime, but she owned that movie from the minute she came on screen. Unfortunately, Melissa Leo seems to be an Industry favorite and will be tough to beat. Still, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for Hailee.
* Darren Aronofsky: Black Swan
Aronofsky has always directed “outside the box”, with films such as Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain. His most “normal” movie to date is The Wrestler, which got Mickey Rourke an Oscar nomination. I like that Aronofsky dares to be different. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he does get some great performances out of his actors. He took sweet, innocent Natalie Portman and had her do things you’d never think she would do (on film). Plus I liked that her transformation in Black Swan was literal at times as well as metaphorical. Unfortunately, David Fincher and Tom Hooper seem to have better odds of winning. The Social Network (Fincher) has gotten a lot of the popular vote while The King’s Speech (Hooper) has the most critical momentum behind it.
* The King’s Speech
With 12 nominations and a lot of love from the industry, The King’s Speech seems like the one to beat. The story was good and the acting was superb. In terms of overall quality it can’t be beat.
While The Social Network was popular among critics, it may be too commercial for the best picture award but will probably get the screenplay award.
As for True Grit, The Fighter, and Black Swan; they each had one or two outstanding performances but not enough to win the main award.
Inception and Toy Story 3 are the highest grossing films on the list. While Pixar is known for quality films, the academy will not give the award to an animated feature while quality live-action films are in the running. Toy Story 3 however, is pretty much guaranteed the best animated film award. And while Inception is visually stunning, the story isn’t so great and academy members may find it too confusing.
127 Hours was a great film but not a lot of people have seen it, plus it doesn’t help that people have been fainting at screenings.
The same applies for Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right (without the fainting part). Winter’s Bone was released nearly a year ago and The Kids Are All Right came out last summer in limited release, they’ve been out of critics’ minds for too long.