2011 Oscar Best Picture Nominations – The Best Collection Ever?

The 2011 Academy Awards Best Picture nominees were announced on January 25, 2011 and make up perhaps the best collection of films ever assembled. The list is even more impressive where you consider that this year the field of movies was expanded to 10. The following are the films nominated.

The King’s Speech
Expertly directed with a perfect cast, The King’s Speech is probably the best movie of the year. Colin Firth gives a performance even more remarkable than last year’s A Single Man as he plays King George VI (Bertie), the mild mannered, reserved “spare” to the throne who suffers from a dreadful stammer. The movie begins with Bertie’s disastrous and almost incoherent 1925 speech at Wembley and ends with a still hesitant but nevertheless eloquent speech declaring war on Germany in 1939. In between, the movie chronicles the speech therapy that Bertie received from the Australian Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush.). This is an immensely enjoyable and engaging film on all emotional levels as a story of human beings, royal or not, dealing with and overcoming hardships.

The Social Network
Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, The Social Network follows Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg as he creates Facebook, the game-changing social network that has transformed how people interact on the Internet. A movie about the founding of Facebook could have been a very long, tedious film targeted to a very niche audience. But writer Aaron Sorkin fashioned a story that is witty, fast-paced, thrilling and never boring. Director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) takes you on a frenetically paced ride into the world behind Facebook, with fascinating revelations and disclosures along the way. The Social Network is expert storytelling with beautiful cinematography and a brilliant lead performance by Jesse Eisenberg.

Blank Swan
Black Swan is the story of Nina Sayars (Natalie Portman) a professional ballerina struggling to come of age when she fulfils her lifelong dream of landing the lead part of her company’s latest production, Swan Lake. The thrill of this accomplishment is tarnished by the fact that she is unable to deal with her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), questionably ethical director (Vincent Cassel), taking over the throne of the former star lead (Winona Ryder) and competing with free spirited newcomer (Mila Kunis). The performances in this film are not to be believed. Natalie Portman is amazing. Her performance was nerve wrecking, and she actually makes us feel the horror rising in her character as she discovers that she is slowly moving from the good to the evil side in an effort to hold onto everything she has ever worked for. Black Swan is a dark and surreal ride that takes us down some surprising turns and, like the ballerinas, keeps us constantly on our toes.

The Fighter
A candid and powerful portrayal of a dysfunctional family and how the fighter copes with these issues to achieve success. The movie starts rather unspectacularly but soon builds into a strong, compelling dramatic story about two incredibly strong characters, one of whom is sick, who stick with each other and help each other overcome their personal obstacles. The nature of the family dynamics and how they affect the main characters are presented believably. Instead of being corny or contrived, the story is presented in a straightforward manner that lays out the issues. Mark Wahlberg and Melissa Leo are outstanding, but this movie is a showcase for Christian Bale whose performance is remarkable bordering on incredible. Mr. Bale portrays a character who by any reasonable standard should be detested yet by the end of movie is worthy of admiration. The Fighter is a true knockout.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) leads a highly skilled team, specializing in stealing secrets from people’s minds by entering their dreams. When they are hired by a mysterious businessman, Cobb finally has a shot at redemption, but not before achieving the near impossible. Rather than stealing an idea, they must do the complete opposite: Inception. Planting the seed of an idea. The plot of this movie is very pleasingly intricate with a twist-and-turn, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat type feel. Christopher Nolan has given us a smart film that is appealing to the eyes as well as the brain. The visuals are used in a way that makes things feel like an amazing dream. The story is interesting, and the actors all do a great job. Leonardo DiCaprio as usual is fantastic. Others like Michael Kane and Ellen Page also are great.

The Kids Are Alright
Stuffed with humor, power and insight, this film helps to remind us what a family is really all about. It’s also a cautionary tale: Passionate sex, by its self, does not automatically make for a good relationship. Strong feelings can overpower our better judgment. Being dishonest with those we love causes a lot of suffering, but it can be a forgivable offense. A long-term relationship is a big investment – emotionally, financially and spiritually and it should not be easily discarded when something substantial goes wrong. Same-sex couples can have the exact same problems opposite-sex couples do.
“The Kids Are All Right” proves Hollywood can make an enjoyable film about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered people without it having to be violent, depressing or insulting. One of the great movies of 2010.

127 Hours
127 Hours is about Aron Ralston struggling to get out of a situation he was stuck in for 127 hours. Aron is an ordinary guy working as an engineer in Intel. One day he decides to get away for a weekend to Utah for mountaineering without letting anyone know about it. He packs up his bag and off he goes on his bike. Later, while mountain climbing, he is involved in an accident where a very large bolder gets dislodged and drops on his right forearm pinning him. This movie details Aron’s next 5 days alone as he tries to dislodge his arm from the boulder and save his life. Even though his eventual outcome is known world-wide, the gritty direction, gorgeous cinematography and flat-out brilliant performance by James Franco keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

Toy Story 3
One of the year’s most engaging, laugh out loud funny and deeply moving movies. It unashamedly goes for the heartstrings in the final act as Andy leaves home to go to his freshman year at a US college. And that’s what this film is all about, the loss of childhood and what that means to a young man as he comes of age. Toy Story 3 is a true comedy classic full of slapstick, crazy chases and… as usual for a Pixar movie… a brilliant plot. The script sizzles and the acting (by the usual humans – you know them all by now) is universally outstanding. Randy Newman has made the franchise his own with his bittersweet and mostly beautiful music. Perhaps the highlight in this installment is Buzz Lightyear’s fantastic Spanish rendition of “You’ve got a friend.”

True Grit
True Grit is an outstanding movie that stands alongside other great westerns such as Unforgiven and Tombstone. A remake, this movie follows more closely the book than it does the John Wayne original film. The story is far richer, and the characters are given greater depth. Jeff Bridges does an excellent job filling the very big shoes of John Wayne in his famous portrayal of Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon plays Texas Ranger LaBeouf, and is perfect. Barry Pepper plays Lucky Ned Pepper and even looks a little like Robert Duvall from the original movie. But the real star of the film, and the person around whom the story revolves is Mattie Ross, who is played with Oscar-worthy depth and skill by the unknown actress Hailee Steinfeld. Expect to see much more from her after this movie.

Winter’s Bone
Jennifer Lawrence delivers an unforgettable performance as Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old living in the Ozark who cares for her mentally disabled mother and two younger siblings. Ree’s rural existence is threatened by a legal framework which threatens to repossess her home and woodland if her criminal father Jessup fails to appear for a court date. Determined to track down her crystal-meth-producing dad in order to save her family, Ree is forced to request the assistance of cold hearted relatives who treat her with more than passing contempt. Adapting the story from Daniel Woodrell’s novel, co-writer/director Debra Granik takes full advantage of the harsh Missouri landscape in order to examine the cruel mindset of some of the meanest people you’ll ever encounter. Winter’s Bone is a film that turns over a rock of backwoods American reality and studies the beautiful and ugly things that crawl there.