Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Updated: The Awkwards! Honoring the Best in Film from 2010


UPDATED 2/23/11: With the Oscars just days away, I thought it best to update my individual awards, making some changes for what I now consider premature decisions.

Well, you know what I think will be nominated for the Oscars this year. But if I were running my own awards show, it would look a little different. That's right, fasten your seat belts for a long, long trip, because it's time for the 3rd Annual Awkwards!

Unlike the Oscars, I only have 15 categories, and of those, I only use seven of the Academy's (technically, eight, but I use slightly different criterion for my Best Artistic Direction award). Some are more fun than others, but overall, I want to capture all aspects of a film in these categories that may have not as much to do with the technical work, but what, as an audience, we appreciate.

I also award 5th through 1st, so no one feels left out. After all, these are by far the most important awards given out this season... (*snigger*... did I just snigger at myself?) The only other rule I have is that one performer can't be nominated twice in one category.



A quick note on the graphic: in honor of the award being called the Awkward, I present one of the more awkward moments in Oscar history--the interruption of the Best Documentary Short Music By Prudence winner's acceptance speech by a booted producer from the project--as a representation of how truly awkward awards can be.

Left ineligible originally this year were Barney's Version, Frankie and Alice, Biutiful, Country Strong, The Company Men, Blue Valentine, Another Year and The Way Back due to their limited releases. It's an unwritten (well, now it's written) rule of the Awkwards that one-week "qualifier runs" carry no water here. I took off this restriction for this update, but the only film it benefited was Blue Valentine.

So, without further ado, let's get started...

Best Ensemble

Black Swan
Inception
Please Give
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Social Network

5th Place: A group of incredible women (and the spectacular Oliver Platt) play the many different roles of women in a sophisticated, beguiling ensemble in Please Give.

4th Place: Darren Aronofsky brings out the best in all of his actors, creating what is possibly the greatest horror ensemble in Black Swan.

3rd Place: The characters feel incredibly real as they fight over the creation of Facebook in The Social Network.

2nd Place: Inception assembles a group of actors young and old, of varying degrees of veteran status, but all talented and smolderingly good-looking. It's an attractive ensemble in so many senses.

1st Place: Without such a talented ensemble, the rapid pace of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World wouldn't have worked, but each member of the cast is an undeniable gift to this incredibly fun movie.

Best Individual Scene
The transformation, Black Swan
"You Always Hurt the Ones You Love," Blue Valentine
Charlene vs. Dicky, The Fighter
The Three Brothers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
Mark and Erica's breakup, The Social Network

5th Place: It may appear the most disparate, but the animated telling of "The Three Brothers" story is a standout as the best part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

4th Place: "I like my life," Charlene says to Dicky in The Fighter. She holds back tears and stands her ground for her man, making her perhaps the bravest fighter of them all.

3rd Place: Watch Nina pirouette again and again, with each turn summoning more of the Black Swan inside her. A technical and directorial marvel.

2nd Place: The Social Network starts with one of the fastest, most mesmerizing scenes of all time--Mark Zuckerberg's breakup with his girlfriend, Erica--and the history of Facebook all unravels from there.

1st Place: The sound of the ukulele played by Dean to a dancing Cindy echoes throughout their relationship and throughout Blue Valentine--we feel them falling in love, and we just as painfully feel them falling apart.

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, True Grit
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Tom Hardy, Inception
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
Miles Teller, Rabbit Hole
 

5th Place: Damon is great fun as LaBoeuf (pronounced 'LaBeef,' naturally), spouting pronouncements of Texas with relish and pride in True Grit.

4th Place: Hardy is a sultry enigma in Inception, the most intriguing in an incredibly strong ensemble and at so many moments the funniest.

3rd Place: Teller calls to mind the great Viola Davis in Doubt with his ability to use a short amount of time onscreen to great effect, matching and even outshining his scene partner Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.

2nd Place: A brilliant sparring partner for Colin Firth, Rush plays the late King George VI's speech therapist, the Australian Lionel Logue, with equal parts dramatic gravitas and comedic stylings in The King's Speech.

1st Place: Garfield shows us the talent we could long ago see bubbling under the surface in his role as Mark Zuckerberg's wronged best friend Eduardo Saverin, acting as both the emotional entry for the audience and the unlikely hero of The Social Network's twisted tale.

Best Individual Line
Animal Kingdom
Black Swan
Easy A
Inception
True Grit

5th Place: "I do not know this man." Maybe not the best line, but surely the best line delivery--Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn understates matters with such hilarious aplomb in True Grit.

4th Place: "Hey! No judgment. All God's children. It's fine. I was gay once, for a while. No big deal. We all do it. It's okay." Try to keep the smile off your face as Olive's father delivers this instantly-quotable line in Easy A.

3rd Place: "You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can't be sure. But it doesn't matter - because you'll be together." Achingly nostalgic and delivered beautifully by both Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard in Inception. It's a transporting, deeply felt line, one that echoes throughout the film.

2nd Place: "You've done some bad things, sweetie." Jacki Weaver's Smurf delivers her signature line in Animal Kingdom with both relish and with a sense of advantage: she knows what you don't think she knows.

1st Place: "I just want to be perfect." What a desperate plea from Nina in Black Swan. She's tortured by her inner need to be the best. It's an instantly classic line that was also used as part of a creative, innovative marketing campaign for the film. Well-written and well-delivered.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Marion Cotillard, Inception
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Amanda Peet, Please Give
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

5th Place: Kunis is much like the dancing style of her character, the mysterious Lilly, in Black Swan: effortless, seductive, and sultry, but she also brings to the table a wicked sense of timing and a natural ease that perfectly embodies the Black Swan.

4th Place: Believe the hype: though Weaver doesn't have much to do in the first two acts of Animal Kingdom, her performance in the third act approaches flawlessness: her Smurf is not the simple woman she seemed to be before, but a complex crime figure who pulls all the strings.

3rd Place: Adams isn't herself in The Fighter, unlike the characters she's played in such films as Doubt and Julie & Julia. Instead, she plays the tough-talking Charlene with equal parts honesty and gravitas, standing out in an underwhelming film as the highlight.

2nd Place: Peet shows previously unseen depths in Please Give, never fearing being interpreted as unpleasant or unlikable. Instead, she goes for the throat and gives the best performance of her career as a narcissistic, self-involved New York woman we pretend to hate but are forced to acknowledge we see bits of in ourselves.
1st Place: Cotillard is heartbreaking in Inception as both Mal and Cobb's memory of Mal, two different entities she imbues with the same energy and aching nostalgia. A beautiful performance, one that deserves the awards attention it never received.


Best Use of Music
Black Swan
Easy A
Inception
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Social Network

5th Place: "I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine..." What Olive declares to be the "worst song ever" is the perfect earworm, sticking with both her and the audience throughout Easy A.

4th Place: Composer Hans Zimmer uses a fun trick transforming the Edith Piaf song used as a kick in the movie into the main score cue, creating a whole new world of insight. What a layered, conversation-inspiring film Inception is.

3rd Place: "Hello again/friend of a friend/I knew you when" Composed by Beck (with an oh-so-great assist from Metric on "Black Sheep"), Scott Pilgrim's soundtrack is a rebel yell of enthusiasm to match the intensity and speed of the movie.

2nd Place: Black Swan used Swan Lake's already dramatic score and turned the dial to eleven, giving each scene the perfect sense of triumph or fear.

1st Place: The Social Network's score, masterfully composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, was both contemporary and thematic, proving that the two can indeed go hand-in-hand.

Best Poster(s)
Black Swan
Inception
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Never Let Me Go
Rabbit Hole
5th Place: Inception's character posters introduced us to all the principals and their roles on the "Dream Team" in an artful, interesting way.
4th Place: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows us that "piece of work" herself, Rivers, as a work of art with a personality almost bigger than the poster itself.

3rd Place: Rabbit Hole's final poster, sectioned into the many emotions its central characters go through, was both striking and somehow beautifully ugly.
2nd Place: Black Swan had so many incredible posters from the mod-inspired foreign posters to the striking visage of its star, Natalie Portman, with a crack in her fa├žade.
1st Place: The primary poster for Never Let Me Go evoked nostalgia in its audiences so beautifully it's common to find yourself aching for hours after looking at it. If only the film itself was so good.
Best Actor
Jim Carrey, I Love You, Phillip Morris
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
5th Place: Carrey constantly surprises in his ability to go beyond his usual slapstick, but he has never been so mesmerizingly good as in I Love You, Phillip Morris, imbuing the antihero Steven Russell with great heart and personality.

4th Place: Firth should have been the big winner at the Oscars last year for his work in A Single Man, so when he wins for his impressive work in The King's Speech, it will be a reward that has come a year late but is still well-deserved.

3rd Place: Dean is conflicted and in love in Blue Valentine--he plays both the old, wily Dean and the new, broken-down Dean in equal measure with equal proficiency. It's a gorgeously-executed portrait of a man in two stages of his life.

2nd Place: Eisenberg embodies Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg with such innate loneliness and heartbreak in The Social Network that audiences are drawn to his plight, no matter how misguided his character might be. Eisenberg's Mark is not an asshole, he just tries so hard to be one.

1st Place: Franco has almost no one to play off of, no supporting cast to make his portrayal of isolated, soon to be one-armed hiker Aron Ralston, instead relying on his infinite charm and dramatic undertow to fully embody his character. There is no male performance like it this year--none of the others are so beautifully crafted and executed as this.

Best Onscreen Chemistry
Natalie Portman & Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Jim Carrey & Ewan McGregor, I Love You, Phillip Morris
Leonardo DiCaprio & Marion Cotillard, Inception
Colin Firth & Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
Michael Cera & Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

5th Place: Cera and Culkin use their characters' strange situation as straight/gay roommates in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to allow for witty, quick comedic rapport that feels like a true friendship.

4th Place: Carrey may outact McGregor at every turn in I Love You, Phillip Morris, but neither of them is better than when they are acting opposite each other--you can feel the joy and the pain emanating from their relationship.

3rd Place: Portman and Kunis are Black Swan's dark and light, two forces that naturally repel. But the two performers create a dangerous chemistry together that is hard to read but nonetheless completely attractive and powerful.

2nd Place: DiCaprio's Cobb may not be in love with the real Mal anymore in Inception, but he and Cotillard create such aching, heartwrenching passion that remains unresolved that the audience wants nothing more than to see them united again.

1st Place: Firth and Rush create a genuine student/teacher relationship in The King's Speech--they may not always like each other, but they're drawn to each other.

Best Artistic Direction
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
Inception
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Toy Story 3

5th Place: Blue Valentine is shot in such a unique, gritty style--the surroundings mirror Dean and Cindy's relationship. It's all so blue.

4th Place: One of the chief complaints with the Toy Story franchise used to be its lower quality graphic work compared to other Pixar films. Toy Story 3 takes that criticism and blows it out of the water with top-notch artistic design.

3rd Place: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is, to some, a noisy, brightly colored mess. What those critics don't understand is why that noisy, brightly colored mess is a perfect representation of the world of the film.

2nd Place: Inception is daring, unique, bold, and breaks the rules of what film can do. No artistic direction this year was riskier and more breathtaking...

1st Place: ...than that of Black Swan, which played with mirrors and the dark grittiness of the New York ballet world to create a setting so impossible and yet so real it felt like the audience was on the scene at every moment.

Best Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Natalie Portman, Black Swan 
Emma Stone, Easy A
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

5th Place: Bening is the best part of the mediocre The Kids Are All Right, singing Joni Mitchell's "Blue" at the dinner table and making everyone at the table and in the audience feel more uncomfortable than at any family dinner before.

4th Place: Stone may be in the light Easy A, but her workload is anything but: she is in almost every frame of the film and carries it with absolute aplomb. She shows versatility and talent in a fun, infectious fashion and signals that there is much to be discovered about this previously low-key young actress.

3rd Place: Kidman is unafraid of playing the "bitch" or the cold, unsympathetic woman, instead embracing this role and using it to great effect in Rabbit Hole.

2nd Place: Williams portrays Cindy as a woman trapped--she can't get out no matter how hard she tries. Her Blue Valentine, Dean, is not the man she married, nor will he ever be again. She makes this slow realization as painful for us as it is for her.

1st Place: Portman is doing the best work of her career in Black Swan, never fearing the role or trying to humanize Nina, instead fulfilling the vision of director Darren Aronofsky completely while putting her own recognizable signature on the performance. She captures the descent into insanity with such verve and creates an iconic role in the process. Truly one for the record books.

Best Screenplay
Easy A, Bert V. Royal
Rabbit Hole, David Lindsey-Abaire
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall
The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin
True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen

5th Place: True Grit toes the line between slapstick comedy and traditional Western drama at so many junctures and never once feels anything less than genuine.

4th Place: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is truly among the fastest screenplays ever written, with wit and pop culture savvy to match sheer speed.

3rd Place: Rabbit Hole is genius not for its bluster and monologues, but for the beautiful quieter moments that break up the anger.

2nd Place: Full of both great story and brilliant one-liners, the cast of Easy A (especially Emma Stone) has plenty of contemporary, witty material to plunder.

1st Place: The Social Network is, pure and simple, among the greatest screenplays ever written. It's fast, taut, deep, fun, strong and truly a marvel to behold as it is acted onscreen and as it can be read straight from the page.

Best Performance of the Year
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
James Franco, 127 Hours
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

A new category! This one's meant to honor the strongest performance of the year overall.

5th Place: Kidman, returning to form after years of underwhelming work.

4th Place: Eisenberg, distancing himself from the Michael Cera mold and showing his versatility.

3rd Place: Williams, proving her stellar Brokeback Mountain performance was no fluke.

2nd Place: Franco, proving that his charm and good looks are backed up by real talent.

1st Place: Portman, giving the performance of not only the year, not only of her career, but of a lifetime.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
David O. Russell, The Fighter

5th Place: It's hard to separate the man from his work, particularly since the man's work wouldn't exist at all had he accepted the punishment for his crimes, but Polanski does his best directorial work in decades in The Ghost Writer, a taut, riveting political thriller.

4th Place: The Fighter may not be a top-tier movie, but it could have spiraled so far out of control were it not for O. Russell's steady hand. He kept the movie grounded in reality.

3rd Place: Fincher also constrains his usual need to overdose on length in The Social Network, keeping the story to a manageable pace and length and letting Aaron Sorkin's masterful screenplay be the star.

2nd Place: Aronofsky is an artist, one who had not yet made a masterpiece until Black Swan. All of his best techniques are used to great effect, with the sheer power and shock value of the film undeniable. He has crafted the ultimate artist's horror film.

1st Place: Nolan is a visionary, a man who never lets the idea of impossible constrain his storytelling. He, along with Aronofsky and Fincher, is truly one of the greatest auteurs of the generation, using all the tricks in his director's bag to their fullest effect in Inception. Each frame is meticulously planned--if Aronofsky's is the artist's horror film, then this is the artist's action film. Beautiful work, largely owed to his vision.

Best Picture
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
Catfish
Easy A
Inception
The King's Speech
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit

In 10th Place: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the blast of fun that oozes charm and fun while supporting the most finely-crafted ensemble of any film this year.

In 9th Place: True Grit, the Coen brothers' reinterpretation of the Western that has a sense of humor both about itself and about its audience.

In 8th Place: The King's Speech, the spiritual prequel to The Queen that so beautifully shows us Queen Elizabeth II's father's special relationship with his speech therapist and how he confronted the insurmountable obstacle that was his place in the monarchy.

In 7th Place: Toy Story 3, the beautiful conclusion to a magnificent trilogy that transcends medium or target demographic and is truly a fantastic work of art.

In 6th Place: Easy A, one of the greatest teen comedies that pays great homage to all those films that it owes a great debt to.

In 5th Place: Inception, the visual masterpiece of the year with a beautiful love story at the center of all the action.

In 4rd Place: Catfish, the "is it real or is it fake?" phenomenon where the real answer is, "it doesn't matter." The film is a brilliant piece of documentary that excites and brings along its audience for a strange, thrill-loaded ride.

In 3rd Place: The Social Network, which, in almost any other year, would have easily taken the top spot. All the elements of this film, from Fincher's direction to Sorkin's script to Eisenberg and Garfield's performances to the other performances in the ensemble to the musical score by Reznor and Ross, were in perfect harmony. It is an absolutely breathtaking film.

The Runner-Up: Blue Valentine, a gritty portrait of a dying marriage juxtaposed with the beautiful origins of Dean and Cindy's relationship. Director Derek Cianfrance makes beautiful choices, and each fight, each bad decision, each screamed line makes the audience feel the pain. It's an emotional knockout.

The Awkward for Best Picture of 2010 goes to: Black Swan. Was there any other possibility? This is the film that those who saw it will proudly say to their children, "I saw that when it was in theaters!" It is the greatest artistic statement this year and of the past few years. It features a career-best performance from Portman, career-best work from Aronofsky, an incredible ensemble that elevates the work to new heights, and never lets up for one frame of the film. There are some who may dislike it, some who may find it to be "too much," but when it comes down to a discussion of which movie is best, there is no question that the best film is this. It did it. It was perfect.

If you only count the seven Oscar categories (the acting, directing, screenplay, and picture contests), the nomination tally would look like this:

5 nominations
The Social Network (2 wins)


4 nominations
Black Swan (2 wins)

3 nominations
Blue Valentine
Easy A
Inception (2 wins)
True Grit 
2 nominations
The Fighter
The King's Speech
Rabbit Hole
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
1 nomination
127 Hours (1 win)
Animal Kingdom
Catfish
The Ghost Writer
The Kids Are All Right
I Love You, Phillip Morris
Please Give
Toy Story 3

And if you count all the categories, the count is revised to:

12 nominations
Black Swan (5 wins)

11 nominations
Inception (2 wins)

9 nominations
The Social Network (3 wins)


7 nominations
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (1 win)
5 nominations
Blue Valentine (1 win)
Easy A 
Rabbit Hole

4 nominations
The King's Speech (1 win)
True Grit
3 nominations
The Fighter

2 nominations
127 Hours (1 win)
Animal Kingdom
Catfish
I Love You, Phillip Morris
Please Give
Toy Story 3

1 nomination
The Ghost Writer
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
The Kids Are All Right
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Never Let Me Go (1 win)

And that is it! Many, many awards later, I am done for the year! Hopefully you guys enjoyed-forgive the indulgence on the length, but hey, awards time comes but once a year! What are your thoughts? Did I put together a solid ten for Best Picture? What movie did I love that you hated? Vice versa? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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