This weekend, the eyes of over a thousand million spectators, from 200 countries around the world, will be focused on the Kodak Theatre at intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. So, get out your finery, practice your speeches, and look radiant, even if you don?t get lucky, because, this Sunday, it?s the film-lovers' hottest date: the Oscars are here.
The countdown to the Oscar Awards gala has begun. The decisions of the 5,775 Hollywood Academy members have been sealed in the envelopes and there are just three days to go before we all know the names of the lucky ones who will be called to get their golden statuette. At the Kodak Theatre and the neighboring Chinese Theatre preparations are frantically underway: this is Hollywood, and everything has to be perfect. But let's take a moment to review the real competitors of the big night, beyond the high fashion and abundant hair spray.
While 2010 wasn't a particularly great year cinematographically speaking, the Academy members have decided that, like at the previous Oscars gala, ten films instead of five are in competition for the prize for best production. The King?s Speech, by Tom Hooper, the surprise hit of the year, has garnered 12 nominations. Next comes the Coen brothers' True Grit, a remake of the Henry Hathaway Western, which has earned ten nominations, quite an achievement after being completely ignored at the Golden Globes. David Fincher's biopic about the creator of Facebook, The Social Network, with eight nominations, makes up the trio of aces with the best chances of winning the title ?film of the year?.
Since its release, The King?s Speech
has been showered with praise and honors. Colin Firth captivated America as King George VI, and walked off with the Critics' Awards in both New York and Los Angeles for the first time in history, as well as the Golden Globe. With this track record, no one can doubt that this English gentleman is likely to win the coveted statuette which eluded him last year, despite his superb performance in Tom Ford's A Single Man. Charismatic Geoffrey Rush, winner of the Best Actor Oscar in 1996 for his tormented pianist in Shine, and Helena Bonham Carter, who gave a solid performance, far removed from her outlandish Tim Burton roles, are Firth's companions in arms in the battle for Oscars for acting. Director Tom Hooper is also competing in his category, having contributed a brilliant, classic rendering which reaches great heights of emotional impact while being entertaining at the same time, which is probably what has won over the public on five continents.
The critics paid no attention whatsoever to True Grit
, considering it a lesser work, but audiences have made it the Minnesota brothers' biggest box-office hit ever. The film surprises viewers with its classic yet innovative style and Jeff Bridges'
wonderful performance as a one-eyed, drunken sheriff. However, the Academy is unlikely to go for him again. He got the Oscar last year for another hard-drinking westerner in Crazy Heart
. Some of the other nominations - cinematography, costume design, art direction, sound, adapted screenplay and, of course, directing - will probably go to the Coens, while the film's real achievement is the discovery of the very young Hailee Steinfeld, nominated for best supporting actress for her spine-chilling role as an orphan on the hunt for her father's killer.
While it stirred up all the media hype and controversy which could be expected from such a project, the truth is that The Social Network
has been a hit worldwide. It tells the true story of a Harvard student who developed a project on his computer ? a tool which would change the way people communicate in our society: facebook. The film triumphed at the Golden Globe Awards, winning four top prizes: Best Drama Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Music, and has also won some prestigious awards from critics and others at the most renowned festivals in Europe. Aaron Sorkin may get to be the winner of the Adapted Screenplay category this year, but leading actor Jesse Eisenberg will find it difficult to beat the Colin Firth's stammering monarch.
Six nominations place The Fighter firmly in the other corner of the ring. This brutal story, based on a true story, is about two brothers struggling to triumph in the world of boxing in the eighties. David O'Russell, until now considered a second-rate director, has assembled a cast of stars in circumstances very different from those we normally see them in. Many will be surprised by the absence of the lead, Mark Wahlberg, from the nominations for Best Actor, but everyone's money is on Christian Bale, his trouble-making drug-addict brother, for Best Supporting Actor. In the same category but for female roles are veteran Melissa Leo, as the protagonists' intrepid
mother, and Amy Adams, playing the boxer's rebellious, flighty girlfriend. Both were nominated in previous years, for Frozen River
, respectively. The film already won awards (for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo) at the Golden Globes, but is unlikely to be declared Best Picture at the Oscars so soon after the success of another boxing drama, Million Dollar Baby
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan has had to make do with just five nominations, though three of these are for the key categories of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. Presented at the last Venice Festival, the film portrays, through a disconcerting, ?Aronofsky-esque? lens, the struggle of a ballerina to attain
perfection in a highly competitive world. Natalie Portman could win the Oscar for Best Actress, after receiving a Golden Globe and a BAFTA from the British Academy. However, despite its complexity, good directing and script, it's been twenty years since the Academy gave the top prize to a scary psychological thriller ? namely, The Silence of the Lambs.
Actor James Franco is the cornerstone of 127 Hours, Danny Boyle's return to the red carpet after his triumph with Slumdog Millionaire. Faithful to his penchant for stories of overcoming insurmountable obstacles, here Boyle tells the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountaineer who, in an accident while climbing, is forced to take drastic measures in order to survive. The film is competing for six statuettes (Best Picture, Directing, Actor, Music, Editing, Song, and Adapted Screenplay). But, it has failed to win much acclaim so far and its chances don't look good. Its lead actor is likely to fare better in the future. This film, with its brilliant monologues, will be a milestone in his career.
Like every year, either out of real conviction or as a gesture, an independent production has made it onto the shortlist of nominees. This time, it's the turn of Winter's Bone
, by Debra Granik. The surprise hit at the Sundance Festival, it got the Best Film award, while the heroine, newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, won the Best Actress there. Lawrence, definitely another of this year?s big discoveries, plays a teenage girl desperate to find her father, a drug dealer, to avoid losing their family home. Set in a poor rural area, the film skillfully combines elements of Westerns, thrillers and film noir, and has been a big hit on the alternative film circuit, for example at the Spirit Awards.
It's been a long time since Christopher Nolan's long-awaited movie Inception came out in cinemas, and it seems that its popularity has waned over the months, despite its eight nominations. However, this film about a
thief (Leonardo DiCaprio
) who steals industrial secrets from people's minds while they sleep was a big hit with audiences and critics worldwide. The complexity of the story, Nolan's directing, and the film's innovative special effects are its strong points, which could still make it a winner on the night.
Pixar continues to outdo itself with each new film the company makes. Its Oscar-nominated offering this year is Toy Story 3, without a doubt the most touching and open to all kinds of audiences of the saga introduced in 1995. It's in the running in the categories of Best Motion Picture, Screenplay, Sound, and Song. While an animation film has never captured the Best Motion Picture prize, it will be a shoe-in for the Animation award, which it has also been nominated for.
Annette Bening remains in top form at 52, as shown by her nomination for her part as Julianne Moore's
lesbian partner in The Kids Are All Right
by Lisa Cholodenko, a film with four Oscar nominations. It's about the anxieties of the children of this couple, conceived by artificial insemination when, as teenagers, they decide to look for their father. Miss Benning who won the Golden Globe for the performance of her delightful and engaging character, and Mark Ruffalo
, who pulled out all the stops to
be warm and friendly to the children he didn't know, got nominations for Best Actress and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for their work in this somewhat vaudeville comedy which explores a hot topic these days.
There are plenty of other possibilities beyond the Best Motion Picture nominees. New arrivals on the Oscar scene are Hailee Steinfeld and Jennifer Lawrence, joining 63 year-old veteran Jacki Weaver with the intriguing Animal Kingdom. However, there are plenty of other very familiar faces who will be strolling up the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre. Nicole Kidman, who already has an Oscar on her mantle-piece for The Hours, is nominated for Rabbit Hole, a drama about a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son dies in an accident. Aaron Eckhart gives a memorable performance as
Kidman's husband. Another film dealing with a troubled relationship is Blue Valentine
, with the return to the Oscars of Michelle Williams, following the Supporting Actress nomination she received for Brokeback Mountain.
And, we can't leave out Spain's bid at Hollywood's big gala of the year. Javier Bardem is up for a Best Actor Oscar for the third time. In Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful, he masterfully plays a terminally ill man wandering the poorer barrios of Barcelona on a quest for inner peace. Although it didn't get a Golden Globe
nomination, the Motion Picture Academy has honored this film as one of the five Best Actor nominees and Bardem has had the way paved with his win of the Goya Award for this role. His chances this time around, though, are slim, taking into account his recent win for No Country for Old Men and the opposition from Colin Firth, who goes into the Oscars as the odds-on favorite this year. Spain is yet given some consolation because, while Biutiful is participating as a Mexican entry, it has had Spanish participation in its production and could get the award for Best Foreign-Language Film.