Time for some badly needed glitz and glam here at grimy CAP Towers, and some crystal ball gazing in lieu of all that depressing crime fiction malarkey. Yup, it’s the Oscar nominations, and Crime Always Pays’ rather wonky take on same. To wit:
Javier Bardem “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg “The Social Network”
Colin Firth “The King’s Speech”
James Franco “127 Hours”
Javier Bardem was brilliant in the haunting ‘Biutiful’, as he generally is, but the chances of the Best Actor gong going to a foreign film are slim. Jeff Bridges was hilarious in ‘True Grit’, but the role lacks poignancy, and Bridges, along with Bardem, may well be too recent a winner to reward again. James Franco did a terrific job of sustaining audience empathy in what was essentially a one-man show in ‘127 Hours’, and Jesse Eisenberg was a revelation as Mark Zuckerberg in ‘The Social Network’, but both may be too young to get the nod. Which leaves us with Colin Firth’s superb performance in ‘The King’s Speech’. Firth has always been a likeable actor, but he moved up a couple of gears with ‘A Single Man’ (2009), and his turn as the stuttering king in waiting should be good enough to land him the Oscar.
Annette Bening “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams “Blue Valentine”
I just wasn’t convinced by Natalie Portman in ‘Black Swan’. Playing the part of a ballerina struggling to get to grips with her role, she looked to me like an actress struggling to get to grips with her role. Annette Bening’s performance in ‘The Kids Are All Right’ was solid, but Julianne Moore’s was the eye-catching turn there, and Bening’s selection makes no sense. The perennially stiff and frosty Nicole Kidman was perfectly cast as the grieving mother in ‘Rabbit Hole’, and deserves her nomination, and Michelle Williams confirmed that she’s a brilliant actress in ‘Blue Valentine’ (odd that the superb Ryan Gosling didn’t get a nod for his role there). Head and shoulders over them all, however, was Jennifer Lawrence’s eye-poppingly brilliant turn in ‘Winter’s Bone’.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale “The Fighter”
John Hawkes “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush “The King’s Speech”
A tough one to call. The fact that the excellent heist movie ‘The Town’ got largely shut out means you’d like to see Jeremy Renner get the nod, but John Hawkes was superbly sinister in ‘Winter’s Bone’. Meanwhile, Mark Ruffalo was the best thing about ‘The Kids Are All Right’. In reality, it’ll come down to Christian Bale’s “squirrelly as fuck” turn as Dickie Ekland in ‘The Fighter’ and Geoffrey Rush’s laconic subversion in ‘The King’s Speech’. My heart says Bale, especially as the character of Dickie is the most fascinating aspect of ‘The Fighter’, but my head says Rush.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver “Animal Kingdom”
It’s entirely probable that Amy Adams and Melissa Leo will split the vote for ‘The Fighter’; and I haven’t seen ‘Animal Kingdom’ yet, so I have no opinion on Jacki Weaver. That leaves us with Hailee Steinfeld in ‘True Grit’, which is an odd nomination, given that she is in fact playing the lead role in the movie; that she’s terrific as the heart and soul of the movie, though, is beyond argument. Too much, too young? Probably. I’ve never really warmed to Helena Bonham Carter as an actress, but she mutes the shrill button as Bertie’s supportive wife in ‘The King’s Speech’, and may well be due an Oscar for services rendered to the industry.
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“Toy Story 3”
Only two things to be said here. One, it’s a crying shame that both ‘Megamind’ and ‘Tangled’ didn’t make the list. Two, ‘Toy Story 3’ is a locked-down, cast-iron plunger for the Oscar.
Darren Aronofsky “Black Swan”
David O. Russell “The Fighter”
Tom Hooper “The King’s Speech”
David Fincher “The Social Network”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen “True Grit”
Firstly, it’s a crying shame that Debra Granik isn’t here for ‘Winter’s Bone’. Otherwise, it’s terrific, as always, to see the Coen brothers up for another Best Director gong, but ‘True Grit’, marvellous fun though it was, just didn’t deliver the truly great movie I was expecting. Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’ can’t be faulted for lack of ambition, but I still can’t decide whether Aronofsky deliberately allowed the film to mutate into an overblown gothic melodrama for the last half-hour in order to reflect Nina’s disturbed mental state, or if he simply bit off more than he could chew and let it all run away from him. David O. Russell’s ‘The Fighter’ is a solid and hugely enjoyable boxing flick made in the image of its hero, slugger Micky Ward, but it would have been a far more interesting film had Micky’s brother, crack addict and failed contender Dickie, been the focus. David Fincher’s ‘The Social Network’ is superbly executed, and a far more entertaining film than any movie about Facebook has any right to be, but Tom Hooper’s ‘The King’s Speech’ has an emotional resonance that should play well with the Academy.
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
Extending the Best Picture category to accommodate ten nominations is a farce, and takes a lot of the tension out this particular choice. The hype surrounding ‘Black Swan’ threatens to take it all the way to the podium, but it’s proving divisive with critics and audiences alike, and will probably stumble. ‘True Grit’ isn’t strong enough to make it worth the Academy’s while rewarding the Coen brothers again, and so soon after ‘No Country for Old Men (2007). ‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘The Social Network’ are both strong contenders, and there’s a very good chance that the buzz surrounding ‘The King’s Speech’ will peak at the right time. For me, the two best movies of the year were ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘Winter’s Bone’, and I’d be equally happy to see either win, not least because it’d suggest the Academy was finally starting to think outside the box; and if I had to choose one over the other, I’d plump for ‘Winter’s Bone’.
Finally, congratulations to Ireland’s own Michael Creagh, who was nominated in the Short Film category for ‘The Crush’. Nice one, squire.
Praise for Declan Burke: “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – The Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “A hardboiled delight.” – The Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review). “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre, was ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL.” – Sunday Times. “The writing is a joy.” – Ken Bruen. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.