Viewing Guide to the Oscars – In the Know for the 2011 Academy Awards

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Are you going to watch the Oscars next Sunday?  The 2011 Academy Awards will air on Sunday 2/27/2011. If you haven’t seen all the nominated movies, or even if you have, here’s a Quick Viewing Guide with notes about each movie.  I’ve put them in the order of my favorites.  Have fun exploring and I hope you enjoy the show next week.  If you like twitter, look for the hashtag and watch along with fellow enthusiasts.  It might be #Oscars or #AcademyAwards – check them both.

What is a “Best Picture”? For me, the Best Picture, should have an outstanding story, performances, and timelessness.  A Best Picture should be a film I want to buy and watch again and again.  It should make me think and feel things that I wouldn’t have, had I not seen the movie.  It’s the movie that I tell my friends to go see.  The movie that has layers – as time goes by after I’ve seen the movie, I remember new and different aspects.  It’s an added bonus, if I learn something watching the movie.  On to the nominees!

My choice for Best Picture is:

The King's Speech

1.  “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers

Starring:  Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter

Other Nominations:  12 Nominations, including Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Screenplay, Sound, Costume

What It’s About: Colin Firth, plays Prince Albert (England, just before WWII), who has a severe stutter that is preventing him from speaking in public and perhaps rising to the thrown as King of England.  Helena Bonham Carter, plays his wife, who refuses to give up in searching for someone who can help him overcome his speech impediment and become the man she knows he can be.  She discovers Geoffrey Rush, who is a pioneer in speech therapy but who has secrets of his own.  In those times, a Prince and a commoner do not socialize and the two men must cross barriers of class and their own inhibitions to become friends.

My Take: I’m choosing this as my favorite of the year.  I narrowed it down to this one, and The Fighter.  Both to me are remarkable films that will stand the test of time and become classics.  Colin Firth’s performance had me cringing for his humiliation, applauding for his successes, laughing with his humor, and cheering his successes.  He portrayed the spectrum of emotions with honesty and believability.  I forgot time and cared about the character and what happened to him – signs of a Best Picture, for me.  Did you see it?  Did you feel that way too?

Worth Seeing on DVD? Absolutely!  If you can, try to catch it at a theater, it’s still around at a few, but if not, definitely see it when it comes out on DVD.

Click here for my full review of The King’s Speech

Running a very close second:

The Fighter

2.  “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers

Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo

Other Nominations: 7 Nominations, including Director, Supporting Actor, 2 Supporting Actress, Screenplay

What It’s About: Based on the true story, of two brothers who are both professional boxers.  Christian Bale plays Dicky Eklund, the charming favorite-son who finds trouble everywhere he turns.  His mother’s favorite, he takes the easy way through every situation.  Mark Wahlberg, plays his younger brother,Micky Ward, who is pushed by their mother into rescuing  his brother and family.  Usually, at his own physical and mental expense.

My Take: I loved this movie.  I’m not a fan of boxing and honestly, closed my eyes and turned away during the boxing scenes.  But there is more than enough substance to this film to stand strong.  It explores the relationships of a. the brothers; b. the mother and her sons; c. Micky and his girlfriend; d. Micky and his father – all while telling the story.  Micky is the central character and you feel his struggle to do what’s right.  He has the integrity and character that his brother is often lacking.  The dynamic between his mother, sisters and girlfriend is humorous and sad at the same time.  This movie, like life, doesn’t have a clear hero, choices aren’t obvious, and sometimes the “bad guy” is so likeable, it’s hard to condemn him.

Worth Seeing on DVD? Absolutely!

Click here for my full review The Fighter

The Kids Are All Right

3. “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers

Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo

Other Nominations: 4 Nominations including Best Actress, Actor in a Supporting Role, Screenplay

What It’s About: Family.  Similar to The Fighter, this movie is about family.  Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, play a lesbian couple, who were artificially inseminated and have two children.  Their oldest is 18 and old enough to contact their biological father, played by Mark Ruffalo.  Like any family, the relationships between them are imperfect and Mark Ruffalo is the pressure that may cause those relationships to fail.  Picture a piece of fabric with some torn threads trying to support a heavy object.  The threads begin to fray and tear – are the remaining connections strong enough to hold the fabric together?

My Take: This movie has all the elements to be a Best Picture except one and it has one major flaw.  The acting is strong, the story is good, it has layers, I would tell my friends to go see it.  What is it missing?  I don’t think it will stand the test of time.  Ten years from now, I think it will be dated.  The major flaw?  Unnecessary sexual content.  (Minor Spoiler Alert)  The couple watches “adult” movies and one of their children finds and views parts of it.  For me, the film makers chose to show too much of the *adult* film.  It was unnecessary.  Oddly enough, I thought the sexual scenes between Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were tasteful and handled well.  It was the *adult* film and heterosexual scenes that went too far.  Instead of enhancing the movie, they distracted.  When that happens, it’s a flaw.

Worth Seeing on DVD? Absolutely!  It is out on DVD now (that’s how I watched it).

The Social Network

4.  “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers

Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

Other Nominations: 8 Nominations including Actor, Director, Screenplay, Sound, Editing, Cinematography

What It’s About: Social Network tells the story of the development of Facebook and it’s founder, Mark Zukerberg.  Zukerberg is the youngest billionaire in history for originating Facebook.  But did he?  He’s being challenged by the Winklevoss twins, who say he stole their idea.  Along the way, he also moves away for original partner, Eduardo Saverin, at the urging of his new partner, Sean Parker.

My Take: This movie has won numerous awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, Director and Screenplay.  I liked it – but – I wasn’t in love with it.  The story focused on Zukerberg’s inability to connect with the people around him and ironically, this movie just failed to connect with me.  I just didn’t care what happened.  It was interesting and entertaining but that’s all.

Worth Seeing on DVD? Sure.  Even if it’s just to know what everyone’s talking about.  But if you only have time to see one of the ten nominated movies?  Nope, skip this one.  Will it win Best Picture?  It might.  My opinions are not predictive of what the Academy will vote.


5.  “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

Other Nominations: 8 Nominations including Art Direction, Screenplay, Sound, Visual Effects, Cinematography

What It’s About: This movie was visually stunning.  I left the theater saying “Wow.” and “Cool.” The main character is Cobb played by Leonardo DiCaprio. He “shares” dreams and invades peoples minds to steal their secrets. Corporations hire him to find out information they can’t otherwise access. It’s called, extraction. But now, Cob has been contacted by someone who wants him to try “inception”, putting an idea INTO someone’s mind, not take it out. And he dangles the thing Cobb wants most in the world – it’s too irresistible and Cobb takes the bait.

My Take: I was frustrated at the beginning of the movie, but by the end, I loved it.  It is very complicated, convoluted, and difficult to figure out.  But when you do, it’s brilliant.  Similar to Black Swan, it was difficult for me to know what was real and what was a perception.

Worth Seeing on DVD? Absolutely!  It definitely is a movie better seen on a large screen, but with DVD, you can watch it twice!  I would like to see it again, knowing what I know of the story now.

Click here for my full review of Inception

Winter's Bone

6. “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt

Other Nominations: 4 Nominations including Actress, Actor, and Screenplay

What It’s About: Jennifer Lawrence (Ree Dolly) plays a 17 year old girl, caring for her mentally ill mother, younger brother and sister in the Ozark Mountains.  It’s a different world where loyalty and family are the law.  Ree’s father, when arrested again, puts up their home as bond and he’s disappeared.  If he doesn’t show up for his court date, Ree and her family will be “thrown out like dogs”.  Ree is a “bread and buttered” Dolly and although she knows the rules, she’ll do anything to save her family and keep them together.  What that ends up meaning?  Whew, she’s one tough girl.

My Take: While I think this movie did belong as a nominee, I don’t think it was strong enough to win.  Like the unnecessary sexually-explicit scenes in The Kids Are All Right, some of the scenes in Winter’s Bone felt like they were there for the shock value.  They are part of the story and an important part, but it wasn’t developed enough – it felt “stuck in”.   Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was amazing.  She is going to be someone to watch in future years.  Jennifer Lawrence portrayed the strength, persistence, loyalty of her character with incredible skill and talent.

Worth Seeing on DVD? Absolutely, this is a good movie and earned a place in the top ten for the year.

True Grit

7. “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld

Other Nominations: 10 Nominations including Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Art Direction, Sound, Cinematography and Screenplay

What It’s About: Have you seen the John Wayne classic from 1969?  Well, that’s it.  Hailee Steinfeld plays a young woman whose father is murdered by outlaw.  She accompanies (follows and then joins) a Federal Marshall and a Texas Ranger to hunt down and bring the murderer to justice.  As they get to know each other, their first impressions are discarded and mutual respect takes root.

My Take: This is an excellent movie, great performances by the stars, great story.  So why am I rating it as seventh on my list?  It was done before and done well.  I want to see the 1969 movie again – and I wish I had before I wrote this post, but I’ve had trouble finding it.  Because as I remember, the 1969 movie was excellent.  For me, if you are going to do a remake, you have to do something better – a better story, better performances, better something.  And although I would say this version was just as good, it’s not better than my memory of the first one.  Anyone else seen both of them?  What did you think?

Worth Seeing on DVD? Yes!  My opinion?  You could watch either version, but watch one of them – absolutely!

Black Swan

8. “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel

Other Nominations: 5 Nominations including Actress, Director, Editing and Cinematography

What It’s About: Natalie Portman plays a ballerina, Nina Sayers, trying out for a role in Swan Lake.  The director (Vincent Cassel) is interpreting it in such a way that the same dancer will play the White Swan (innocent and pure) and the Black Swan (dark and seductive).  He thinks that Nina can play the part of the White Swan quite easily, but questions her ability to show a dark and sexy side.  As Nina sinks further and further into mental illness, it is difficult to tell (for her and the audience) what is real and what she is imagining.  Her relationships with her mother (Barbara Hershey), another dancer (Mila Kunis) and the director, become dark and twisted.

My Take: I did not like this movie.  I know it received much acclaim from critics but I found it shallow and salacious.  Yes, it was an amazing performance by Natalie Portman, but there just wasn’t enough storyline for me.  The portrayal of the ballet world was exaggerated.  The main character’s mental illness is an excuse for the unreal situations, but not a good enough one for me.  Natalie Portman is a favorite actress of mine and I expected more.

Click here for my full review of Black Swan

127 Hours

9. “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers

Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara

Other Nominations: 6 Nominations including Actor, Screenplay, Editing, Song and Original Score

What It’s About: From “127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he is finally rescued. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers, family, and the two hikers he met before his accident. Will they be the last two people he ever had the chance to meet?”

My Take: This is the only movie nominated for Best Picture that I did not see.  I’m not sure why – something about the story just didn’t appeal to me.

Toy Story 3

10.  “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack

Other Nominations: 6 Nominations including Actor, Screenplay, Editing, Song and Original Score

What It’s About: Welcome to Sunnyside…….it sounds like a great idea. Andy is going away to college, the toys haven’t been played with in years, the attic is lonely and dusty. If the toys go to a cute and sunny day care, there will be lots of kids to play with! But…… at Sunnyside, there is, dum, da dum dum, DUMMMMMMM (think scary noise, but not as scary as say, Chucky), Lotso the Bear. Lotso was lost from his owner years ago and has never been the same since.

My Take: This is a very funny, heartwarming movie – I saw a tear or two in the audience at the end. It was a little too long for me, but for a true Toy Story fan, I’m sure they will love every second of it.  The humor strikes at every age group, from the youngest innocent humor to some risque Barbie and Ken banter.  Why only tenth on my list?  It’s a great movie but it’s animated!  Belongs in the Best Animated Picture category.

Click here for my full review of Toy Story 3

A Movie I Wish Would Have Been On The List? The Town.  I thought The Town was a great movie and I was disappointed when it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.  It only received one Oscar nomination – Jeremy Renner for Best Supporting Actor.

I hope you enjoy watching the Oscars!


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    There’s a couple movies in this list I still want to see. I guess I should hurry up and watch them before Sunday, huh? Haha! Thanks for the overview.

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    I wish I had time to watch adult movies. :-( When we watch movies they are typically animated or at least have talking animals. LOL!

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    I hate that I’ve never seen most of the movies. I’ll be watching for the clothes!

    Happy tumble Tuesday

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    Thanks for the information, the only movie on the Best Picture list that I’ve seen and the only one I am at all interested in is Toy Story 3. I just don’t watch a lot of dramatic movies.

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    I love watching the Oscars – and there are several very, very good environmental movies nominated!

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    Thanks so much for this rundown! I almost always look at the list for Best Picture and haven’t seen many of the movies – this year is no different. Now that I know what some of them are actually about though, I’ll throw them on my Netflix list :-)

    I’ve Stumbled your post. Here is mine –

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    We just watched Social Network this weekend= Great movie!! I haven’t seen some of the others, but liked reading about them :)

    Great post :)
    I stumbled you!!

    Shopper Gal

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    Those are all such good movies. If I had to guess, it’ll be the kings speech that wins.

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    Really great overview! I enjoyed a lot of these movies too … I think I have Toy Story 3 memorized. :-)

    Happy Stumble Tumble! I’d love it if you could stumble me back …

    ~ Devon

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    Can’t wait til Sunday!! I love love love the movie world and never miss an awards show! LOL. I have only seen The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right (I agree with you on that one)…I really found The Social Network intriguing. Not Best Picture intriguing, though!

    Stumbling! Here’s my post:

    Kristin :)

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    There are only a couple movies on this list I even want to see. I find I often disagree with mainstream critics, so I find award shows interesting, and sometimes contrived. I’ll be watching, if nothing more than to shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking.

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    I adore The King’s Speech – it’s nice to see someone else pulling for it as well! :) Unfortunately I’ll have to work during the live broadcast.

    I found you through the Stumble Tumble Tuesday event! My post is

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    I can’t believe how many movies are in the best picture since they changed the rules! I’ve only seen Toy Story 3 and Inception so far but have the Social Network from Netflix.

    I stumbled your post! Would love if you stumbled mine:

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    wow this is a comprehensive list. i’m impressed and also embarrassed that i only saw one movie. i guess i’m not a movie goer. i love colin firth and all things british so i’m gonna vote for that movie, however, i do love me some toy story (and i’m purposely avoiding #3 because i dont wanna cry).

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    Im another that hasnt seen a grown up movie in about 6 years (since kids were born). I still watch all the awards shows or atleast DVR them to watch.

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    The one out of all those that I really want to see is The Social Network. The other ones look good though too but its the one that seems the most appealing to me.

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    I have only seen a couple of the movies on the list. I will have to check the other ones out.

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    Hi! I stumbled your post
    Here’s mine

    I also added myself to your GFC, happy blogging!

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    I think that if The King’s Speech doesn’t win it will be a shock to lots of people. I haven’t seen it yet, but the hype over it has been tremendous.

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    On the list I’ve seen Inception, which was freaking and Toy Story 3, which rocked!

    Great recap!

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