Welcome to th last edition of the Flixist A-Z, counting down 2010's potential winners and losers in anticipation of the Academy Awards. The A-Z also gives notice to those films and people left out of the running for an Oscar, but who are still worthy of our attention.
The Social Network has been pegged as 2010’s S since it first landed on cinema screens and took number #1 at the box office of it’s opening weekend (and subsequently the next). S also became one of the most talked about films all year. The question is, why? Who were the audiences that made this film a success? Were people interested in Mark Zuckerberg, or David Fincher, or reliving The West Wing through the mouths of twentysomethings? I suspect it came down to one word: Facebook, not to be confused with the man who founded it.
In the eyes of millions, Facebook connects them to their many friends, not Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a godterm in our postmodern age, wielding its own power as an ideological entity. S made you care about Zuckerberg, but people showed up for Facebook. Considering this, it’s not so surprising that Sorkin and Fincher had to glamourize and sexualize Facebook’s pragmatic beginnings to make it resemble the kind of lifestyle the site is now famous for chronicling -- petty human interaction and partying. Kids showed up to see themselves on screen, and that’s what they got. People who showed up for Fincher and Sorkin got what they wanted to, and together, they elevated S to its current position as top-tier contender for the Oscar for Best Picture.
The story that could have been told about Facebook--it’s boundary-resistant reach and community spirit--was bucked in favour of fantasy and entertainment value, and I think audiences were done a disservice as a result. What I witnessed were all the reasons I do not personally hold a Facebook account. S taught us nothing that we don’t already know about money and greed, and gave a college dorm room far more importance than it should ever have. The crises felt small and out of proportion to reality. However, I also know that Mark Zuckerberg (the real and fictional one) is not Facebook; it is the people that it connects. There would be no phenomena without the millions who make it a success, and the positive and negative implications of this now embedded medium of communication would have made the better film, certainly the more useful.
Oh Joel and Ethan Coen, will you ever lead me astray? The fraternal directors produced one of the most highly anticipated films of 2010, in part, because it didn’t release until we were on the cusp of 2011, as some awards contenders are want to do. Of course True Grit (T) is an awards contender. It boasts of all the best Coen articisms but also resists being so readily labeled a Coen film. It probably goes without saying that this less branded style started with the Coens’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. My household was cheering for P.T. Anderson the year the Coens's neo-Western masterpiece and There Will Be Blood went head to head, but they are both amazing. No Country may have been a zenith in their brilliant career, but T feels like a fresh, perfectly made breeze after braving the likes of Anton Chegal.
If anything, the Oscars are like a film hall of fame. Picture it out there in California. You can attend when the feeling strikes, or take their definitive gestures as suggestions. (Alternatively, keep abreast of The Spirit Awards; they're on tonight.) T is a contender because it’s a perfect offering to the film gods--an homage and inspired adaptation, and it has teeth. It may seem a sad observation as far as compliments go, but it bears saying: a Coen movie is always worth it. They don’t waste your time or your money.
Bridges’s nomination honours his committed characterization and classic ability. Bridges entered the ranks of famed winners last year with his award for Crazy Heart, and he’s deserving of the title--a Joe DiMaggio of acting in no uncertain terms. He’s not there to win this year, however, but represent the greatness of T; if anyone should take Firth’s near Oscar, I honestly think it would be Bardem, or Franco as an outlier. Rookie of the year goes to Hailee Steinfeld, and though haters gonna to hate, no one will scoff when this little lady walks the red carpet, and if there were a film god, wins a Best Supporting Actress prize to make up for the Best Supporting nomination.
Women. They are muses. Just ask Darren Aronofsky. He was quoted in the Vogue cover story for Natalie Portman saying she’s so beautiful “it hurts,” which is to be expected after countless hours of watching her metamorphize into the Black Swan. As for Jennifer Lawrence, she is everything Blake Lively wishes she was; I frankly find her stature and presence disarming. Another Best Actress nominee’s ears were ringing when Ryan Gosling said he’s “never seen better than” Michelle Williams, and I once called her a button. Best Actress nominee for Blue Valentine, Williams (W) hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but it has been a silent and methodical approach. Apparently I can’t be faulted for missing that glow of hers on Dawson’s Creek. The Academy Award nominations, haunting personas, and muse qualities were all part of W’s plan, while Jen Lindley, more than just an act, was a front:
"You set up a shop selling pizza but in the back you're laundering money. You're doing one thing in plain sight and secretly plotting something else," W told Popeater about her time on the Creek. "I was plotting my tastes, my interests, my beliefs and hopes for what I could be."
No, it was no coincidence that she turned up playing Warhol muse, Edie Sedgwick, in Todd Hayne’s I’m Not There, and will soon be America’s favourite muse, playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. W is as fantastic in Blue Valentine as she has been in everything since 1999, which is just to note where I see her turning point, a one-two punch of political and social satires Dick and But I’m a Cheerleader. I can speak so emphatically because, looking back on her filmography now, I realize I’ve witnessed much of this career come about and am again surprised that the recent charm I took to the actress has always been there. I am rediscovering past fickle finds, but fast loves, like The Station Agent and Me Without You. W has been on the right track the whole time and will be right where she should be come tomorrow night. If my predictions for Portman’s win were wrong and W joined the winner’s circle instead, it would not be an upset. Except maybe for the pregnant lady.
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