And so, the first annual Wertzies. My loving and mildly slipshod contribution to the 2010 Motion Picture Awards Season. While other awards may be built by committee or drawn from a more legitimate cross section of the year’s films, The Wertzies come with the personal guarantee of being authentically my opinion. Of the films released in 2010, these are the Directors, Actors, Actresses, Screenplays and Pictures that impressed me the most.
As for organization, each award will be a breakdown of the award winner, any runners up, and brief thoughts on the award category. There will be a maximum of five Runners Up and no minimum, and each one will be listed in order from first runner up to last. As for my thoughts, these will primarily focus on whatever I consider to be the most compelling aspect of that contest. Otherwise this should be fairly straight forward, and, as always, thoughts are appreciated.
The Social Network
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Screenplay by Joel & Ethan Coen
Story by Charles Portis
Toy Story 3
Screenplay by Michael Arndt
Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan
The King’s Speech
Screenplay by David Seidler
Screenplay by Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman and John J. McLaughlin
While The Social Network is an obvious choice with Sorkin’s typewriter dialogue and epically relevant tale, and will probably end up taking home the Oscar on February 27th, True Grit was a surprising late entry. The Coen’s latest is great in many arenas, but it’s the film’s screenplay that adheres the pieces. Writing historically accurate dialogue in a believable, and more importantly enjoyable way is no small feat, and one Joel & Ethan accomplish with style. Though the script is certainly helped by its actors, there’s rarely any struggle between words and performance. It’s a beautifully seamless bit of writing.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – The Fighter
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Chloe Moretz – Kick-Ass
Barbara Hershey – Black Swan
Amy Adams is my choice to nab a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, with her refreshing turn as a brassy, bitchy angel to Mark Wahlberg’s fallen warrior. But the most electrifying member of this category for me is Chloe Moretz. While Moretz’s Let Me In performance was intriguing, her Hit Girl was a revelatory moment of explosive and violent excitement. Few child actors have broken on to the scene quite so forcefully. This was a role that called for utter commitment and a swagger few adult actors could muster, and Chloe Moretz delivered her Scarface-caliber dialogue with a sneer. A sequel sits somewhere on the horizon, and I’m curious to see how the role handles Moretz’s age; curious to see if Hit Girl should even come back to the screen. Either way, the actor’s breakout won’t be soon forgotten.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Andrew Garfield – The Social Network
Richard Jenkins – Let Me In
Andrew Garfield – Never Let Me Go
Nicholas Cage – Kick-Ass
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech
Though Christian Bale is probably the surest bet to take it, this, for me, is the deepest category in the Oscars. In a sparser year, any of these actors could make a serious case for primacy, but there’s one in particular who made his case for Best Newcomer (if there were such a category). Andrew Garfield was essentially a no name when he was suddenly found successfully sparring with Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue in The Social Network. Though Jesse Eisenberg was the notable and the driver, Andrew Garfield was the film’s heart, and not an inconsiderable one. Every villain (even the most complex ones) needs a victim, and for Zuckerberg it was Saverin. And then, after playing a pivotal role in one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year, Garfield turned in another hearty performance in the quietly heralded Never Let Me Go. As Tommy, Garfield was naive and sweet and fiercely sad; a role not so complex, but no less affecting. Garfield is in the process of shooting the latest iteration of Spider-Man, and while his surely protracted commitment to a thoroughly explored franchise makes me more nervous than eager, the roots of the actor’s success are no weaker for it.
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Carey Mulligan – Never Let Me Go
I’m excited about Natalie Portman’s assured nomination for Black Swan, as I think that it’s certainly earned. I’m also hesitant to expect too much for her since I haven’t seen some of the key performances in the nomination talks. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right have all garnered a lot of conversation, leaving this category more open than the others. Nonetheless, Portman’s commitment to the role and subsequent performance are her most stunning to date. Whoever her competitors, she is sure to remain a contender until the envelope is opened.
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
James Franco – 127 Hours
Joaquin Phoenix – I’m Still Here
Kodi Smit-McPhee – Let Me In
Colin Firth is phenomenal in The King’s Speech. There’s no disputing it. Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco are both legit and put in outstanding performances. The best of their careers. Still, since these three actors are almost guaranteed nominations and plenty of talk from other reviewers, I would like to use this space to answer the question on all of your minds right now: “Joaquin Phoenix?!” Yes. Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix and Director Casey Affleck pulled a fast one, which wasn’t necessarily the most scrupulous way to handle their assay of celebrities and their glaring spotlight. Since the film’s arrival the hype has diminished a bit, but peeling back all the distractions from I’m Still Here reveals a great actor doing great work. This kind of utter immersion and self-indulgence is obviously going to divide audiences and critics. It’s a shame too, because you could easily call this one of Phoenix’s best characters. Toying with that perpetual chasm between what the general public think they know about a celebrity and what they actually know, he takes the most disgusting and turgid, naive and foolish parts of himself and let’s them rise and bubble on the surface. In the film’s pivotal scene, with Joaquin sitting at the Letterman desk and catching hell from Dave and his sycophantic audience, the character becomes somehow sympathetic, despite how entirely he is the one to blame for his lot. Not only has he gotten us to believe that this is the real Joaquin Phoenix, but he’s gotten us to feel sorry for him in the relentless spotlight of fame. It’s surely no small feat.
David Fincher – The Social Network
Christopher Nolan – Inception
Joel & Ethan Coen – True Grit
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
David O. Russell – The Fighter
If The Social Network is to be the dominant film at the Oscars, than it seems assured Fincher will nab his first Best Director win. Nolan wowed us once again with the surreality and visual opulence of Inception, The Coens’ True Grit constructed a darkly humorous tale in a very genuine Old West, and Tom Hooper assured his future in film with The King’s Speech. But The Social Network is an achievement on far too many levels for Fincher not to be awarded. Of all the great films this year, this is the one that feels the least flawed. Every component, from screenplay to soundtrack to casting to the film’s enriched mise en scène feels as though it was Fincher’s primary focus. His attention to detail is notorious, and while it has helped him construct classics like Seven and Fight Club, it has never before been so apparent. Fincher’s latest may also be his best, and for a director so accomplished this is no small allowance.
TOP 10 FILMS
1. The Social Network
2. Toy Story 3
3. The King’s Speech
4. Black Swan
5. True Grit
7. Never Let Me Go
8. Let Me In
9. The Fighter
10. Exit Through The Gift Shop
A few of these titles made my “Top 5 of 2010” list, and the one’s that didn’t are probably familiar enough by now to go without explanation. As far as the Oscars go, I personally would be happy with any of my Top 3 getting Best Picture, though, despite it not being my favorite film of the year, I’m quietly rooting for Toy Story 3. It’s too rare that we see animated films getting real consideration for real awards, as they’re so often relegated to some specialty category. It’s a shame, as nobody really thinks that animated films can’t tell a story just as well as a live-action ones, and it seems to stem mostly from the stigma of animated films being for little kids. This is obviously not always the case, and certainly Pixar (and to a lesser extent Dreamworks) has done wonders for the standards of animated features, telling tales parents and kids can enjoy and consider and learn from. Toy Story 3 is the epitome of this, and Pixar’s best film to date. It is their usual melange of wit, charm, and existential meditations wrapped in gorgeous settings and carried out by beloved characters. It is, more plainly, the perfect film for the Academy to award with a Best Picture Oscar.