Friday, February 25, 2011

The Markademy Awards

Another year, another edition of the Markademy Awards, arguably the most prestigious film award that a movie can win....on Blogger. This ceremony doesn't have Anne Hathaway or James Franco, but it does have me, who dressed as the Hobgoblin for Halloween in the sixth grade (basically the same as the Green Goblin, right?) and is often referred to as 'a male Anne Hathaway' by friends. I really need them to explain the origin of the nickname to me at some point. It might be due to my habit of always getting naked in my films. Okay, maybe not 'my films,' but rather the cameraphone videos that people take of me when I'm streaking through downtown London.

Onto the awards!


Actual nominees: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)

Overlooked: Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception/Shutter Island hybrid), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)

I'll start things off with the easiest to call of the acting categories. Colin Firth has basically had this Oscar on lockdown ever since the movie was announced. He's well-liked in Hollywood, well-respected by all, beloved by every woman in the world over the age of 35, and, oh yeah, he gave the best performance of the bunch. (Note: haven't seen Biutiful yet.) Firth probably clinched his Oscar in the climactic final scene of King's Speech when he beats Hitler in a fistfight, and then stands over Hitler's unconscious body and says "Did I stutter?" Anyway, I've got no beef with any of the nominees, so overall, yeah, pretty boring category.

Should win: Firth
Will win: Firth

Actual nominees: 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)

Overlooked: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Arnie Hammer (The Social Network), Bill Murray (Get Low)

All of these guys did a good job, though I could've easily taken Murray or Hammer over Renner's overwrought Bawsten guy in the overwrought Bawsten melodrama known as The Town. (I was not a fan.) This one is totally a race between Rush and Bale, and there's a lot of good arguments for both sides. Bale has won the lion's share of critics' awards and gives pound-for-pound the better performance, but Rush is his usual terrific self and might get swept up in the King's Speech wave. It's safe to guess that Rush is a bit more popular in Hollywood than Christian "Friend to Cinematographers Everywhere" Bale, but then again, Rush has an Oscar already, so Academy voters might want to spread the wealth. It's a real tossup between the two, and if Rush wins, it might be a bellweather that TKS will clean up at the ceremony.

My pick, if I had a vote, would be neither man. It'd be good old John Hawkes, who almost stole the show in Winter's Bone. TV fans know Hawkes for playing nice-guy Sol Starr on Deadwood, or Kenny Powers' meek brother on Eastbound & Down, or Lennon, the most pointless character in the history of LOST. In this film, however, kindly Hawkes basically channels Harvey Keitel and plays an absolutely vicious backwoods near-psychopath. It's quite a stunning performance, especially from a guy who's been typecast as decent fellows for most of the last decade. Just getting a nomination was a victory in itself for Hawkes, so well done.

Should win: Hawkes
Will win: Bale

Actual nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), The Coen Brothers (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Overlooked: Banksy/Exit Through The Gift Shop, Mike Leigh/Another Day, CHRISTOPHER FUCKING NOLAN (Inception), Lee Unkrich/Toy Story 3, Edgar Wright/Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Tom Hooper won the Directors' Guild award, which almost always goes to the eventual Best Director Oscar winner. Yet...I can't shake the nagging feeling that Fincher will still capture the directing prize. If I'm looking for a comparison, I might seek out 1998 and 2002, when little-known directors (John Madden and Rob Marshall, respectively) directed BP winners but since they didn't have the pedigrees of the other nominees, they lost Best Director to bigger names (Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski). Remember, Social Network isn't a hated film by any stretch, it's just that King's Speech seems to be more in the Academy's wheelhouse. Fincher (and Aaron Sorkin, in the screenplay category) could both easily be rewarded for putting together such a fascinating film, even if King's Speech goes on to win Best Picture. And hey, who knows, maybe if Hooper goes on to have a legendary career, we'll look back at this in 30 years and all think "Oh man, how they have snubbed Tom Hooper here! David Fincher? Really? The Alien 3 guy?"

Oh, and also, let's take a moment to wonder if Chris Nolan actually has to kill someone to get an Oscar nomination. I mean, not that I would've voted him to win over Fincher, but for the love of god, is even a token nomination at this point too much to ask from the Academy?

Should win: Fincher
Will win: Hooper, probably

Actual nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Overlooked: Leslie Manville (Another Year), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Noomi Rapace (The Millennium Trilogy), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

Is anyone else stunned that Michelle freakin' Williams from Dawson's Creek is a two-time Oscar nominee? Meanwhile, James Vanderbeek has been reduced to turning himself into an internet meme, Joshua Jackson is on a low-rated sci-fi show and Katie Holmes is married to a tiny madman. Since this was the only place where Blue Valentine picked up a nom, I'll mention here that my buddy Trev recently made the unfortunate mistake of taking a date to the film. Eeep. Guys, if you're thinking "Hey, my ladyfriend likes Ryan Gosling, this movie is supposed to be critically-acclaimed...I can take her to one of 'her picks' and be entertained myself!", please disavow yourself of this notion. This is not a date movie. This is less of a date movie than Date Movie, and any man who non-ironically took his date to that film should dumped post-haste.

But, anyway, Best Actress. Williams and Kidman are happy to be there, and Lawrence is the 'breakout star' nominee of the year who has parlayed her newfound acclaim into...uh, this shitty new X-Men movie. It's a two-horse race between Bening and Portman, and it seems like Portman has all of the momentum behind her at the moment. I can't argue with this since Portman carries Black Swan on her back and single-handedly keeps the film from degenerating into ridiculousness.

A note on my snubbed list. What hurts Bening in the final vote, I think, is that her performance is such a dual act with Moore that it's hard to separate the two. I'm not sure why Bening is the one singled out for a nomination both at the Oscars and overall in critics' awards, frankly, since Moore was just as good. Leslie Manville should absolutely, absolutely be nominated for her fantastic performance in Another Year, and part of me thought Rapace might get a surprise nod for her overall work as Lisbeth Salander. Possibly the funniest moment in any film this year was Lisbeth getting ready for her trial by dressing in the most outrageous goth/punk outfit possible as a big F-you to the court proceedings.

Should win: Portman
Will win: Portman

Actual nominees: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Overlooked: Marion Cotillard (Inception), Greta Gerwig (Greenberg), Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go), Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer)

I am not crazy about this list of nominees. It's a lot of "well, they were good, sure, but Oscar good?" It seems like a category filled out of performances that should be the fourth or fifth choices on a ballot. The exception is Steinfeld, who you'll notice I included on my overlooked list for Best Actress. This is because she is so blatantly the lead character of True Grit that her nomination here smacks of the studio just trying to get her into an easier category. This actually might cost her the Oscar, since voters may instead turn to Leo, a well-liked veteran who actually gives a supporting performance. Or, Leo might have her votes split by her co-star Adams, or Bonham Carter might win as part of a King's Speech split or a desire on the part of Academy voters to see what garish outfit she'll wear to the ceremony. I'm tentatively predicting a Leo win, but really, any result besides a Jacki Weaver victory wouldn't be surprising. I'll also take a short trip back on the 'Inception got jobbed' train and note that Cotillard should be nominated here.

Should win: Steinfeld
Will win: Leo

Nominees: Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle (127 Hours), The Coen Brothers (True Grit), Debra Granik and Anne Rosselini (Winter's Bone), Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)

No-brainer. This is one category a King's Speech sweep can't touch.

Should win: Sorkin
Will win: Sorkin

Nominees: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right), Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy (The Fighter), Mike Leigh (Another Year), Christopher Nolan (Inception), David Seidler (The King's Speech)

This one is almost surely going to David Seidler, and really, once you hear the man's incredible story, it's hard to debate. Now, the Oscar historian in me would almost want to toss an Oscar in the direction of Nolan or Leigh just to give one of these two awesome filmmakers SOMETHING, but hopefully, their day in the Academy Award sun is still to come.

Should win: Seidler
Will win: Seidler

Nominees: Danny Cohen (The King's Speech), Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network), Roger Deakins (True Grit), Matthew Libatique (Black Swan), Wally Pfister (Inception)

Legendary cameraman Roger Deakins is 0-for-9 lifetime at the Oscars, while modern-day star Wally Pfister is 0-for-4. Hopefully one of these streaks will be snapped on Oscar night, though since they're up against three first-time nominees, Deakins and Pfister will probably get piqued by the Academy gods once again. Gun to my head, however, I might go for Black Swan as the best-photographed of these nominees. (Had Cronenweth pulled off this planned elaborate tracking shot for the credit sequence of Social Network, I might've been convinced to vote for him too.) It seems like there's a bit of a groundswell building up for Deakins to finally get his Oscar, and since the Academy liked True Grit enough to give it 10 nominations, this seems like a good place for a win. Again, though, if Cohen wins, it's going to be an even bigger King's Speech sweep than expected.

Should win: Libatique or Deakins
Will win: Deakins

Actual nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone

Overlooked: Another Year, Exit Through The Gift Shop

The story of this awards season was Social Network sweeping everything in sight until about a month ago, when King's Speech suddenly picked up the Director's Guild, Producer's Guild and SAG Awards, thus vaulting it into the frontrunner's position. The anti-King's Speech backlash has already begun online, which is unfortunate since TKS isn't at all a bad movie. It's a very good, solid, thoroughly quality picture that wouldn't at all stand out as an eyesore in Best Picture history. The problem, in a great line I'm stealing from someone else's review, is that King's Speech also could've been the Best Picture of 1970 or 1980 or 1990. It's your classic Oscar battle: a traditional, feel-good, period piece against a more cutting-edge film of its moment.

Now, you could argue that if you're going for timelessness, this gives King's Speech the edge. After all, in 15 years, Facebook might be obsolete, replaced by the latest internet trend. Facebook itself, however, is almost irrelevant in Social Network...heck, I'd argue that another 2010 film, Catfish, deals more with the privacy/creepiness/having your whole life online aspect of Facebook much more than Social Network does. Facebook in TSN is almost a Macguffin, since it could really be any invention, idea or concept that Zuckerberg, Saverin and the Winklevii are feuding about. The film is about this feud and this dynamic between the characters, which is probably why Sorkin felt so free to rewrite large chunks of Mark Zuckerberg's life. In Sorkin's mind, he was writing a classic story about power corrupting, not about the actual history of Facebook.

TSN is my personal choice of these nominees, and *almost* my best film of 2010, but we'll get to that in a minute. It's really down to just Social Network and King's Speech. The only film that has even a 0.5% chance of an upset is actually Toy Story, if the voters decide to get all Lord Of The Rings on us and reward an entire trilogy --- and in this case, Pixar as a whole --- with its final act. I suspect King's Speech will get the nod on Oscar night, and really, we should be fine with that. TKS over TSN wouldn't even be in the top 40 most baffling Best Picture decisions in Academy history, so maybe we're all taking this too seriously. (This is a great thing for me to realize after writing a few thousand goddamn words about the Oscars.)

Should win: The Social Network
Will win: The King's Speech

And now, finally, the uber-ballot. The top five on my list all had a legit shot at the #1 position, and for the first time since 2006, I had a tough time deciding my favourite film of the year. Was it Social Network, and its endlessly interesting script? Was it the sheer fun of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Was it the mind-bending adventure of Inception, even though I'm kinda afraid to watch the movie again since I fear I'll suddenly see a dozen plot holes? Was it the heart-warming, generation-defining enjoyment of Toy Story 3?

Or, was it the street art documentary? You guessed it.

1. Exit Through The Gift Shop
2. The Social Network
3. Toy Story 3
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
5. Inception
6. Winter's Bone
7. The Other Guys
8, Another Year
9. The King's Speech
10, True Grit

So, Exit Through The Gift Shop. The premise is simple: the film is a look at the anti-social network of underground street artists that stretches around the world. The documentary was first conceived by a guy named Thierry Guetta, who shot thousands of hours about various legendary street artists, particularly the grand-daddy of them all, the mysterious Banksy. Guetta, however, while enthusiastic, didn't know film-making from a hole in the ground, so his finished product was a mess. Banksy then decided to re-edit the footage himself, including a sequence of Guetta's own attempts to enter the street art world as "Mr. Brainwash," though Guetta ends up becoming a derivative version of all his favourite artists and something of a sellout to the movement.

The documentary, taken at face value, is a fascinating look at post-graffiti art culture. What adds another layer of intrigue to the whole project is that the entire premise I described in the previous paragraph could be all bullshit. There's a theory that Guetta's art, and by extension the film, is in itself a concocted project of Banksy's that satirizes the idea of art as a commodity and the concept of documentaries as in any way factual.

To wit, Banksy himself keeps his identity hidden throughout the picture since part of his mystique lies in the fact that nobody knows his actual name. This has created an amusing subplot to Oscar night, since ETTGS is nominated for Best Documentary and the Academy has stated that if the film wins, Banksy cannot come onstage in a mask. As the Academy puts it, "what if five guys come up in masks and we have to ask which one is the real Banksy?" From what little I know about the actual Banksy, the guy would find this amusing as hell, so who knows what he will do or wear at the ceremony, if he's there at all.

Top to bottom, Exit Through The Gift Shop is the most overall satisfying film of 2010 and this year's recipient of the Markademy Award for Best Picture. It joins a tremendous list of winners that includes Inglourious Basterds, The Dark Knight, Once, The Prestige, Batman Begins, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Love Actually, Talk To Her, Amelie and High Fidelity. Though, it should be noted, in the 1998-2003 installment of the 'best films of our lives' project between myself and my pal Kyle, I backslid and picked Memento and Unbreakable over Amelie and High Fidelity, respectively. Surely, any award becomes even more prestigious when an M. Night Shyamalan film is attached to it, right? Right?

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