A-Z: Izzo, Jzzo, Kzzo


Our A-Z has intermittently provided you with a preview of 83rd Annual Academy Awards contenders. The nominations are now out, and the time for the ceremony is nigh. That doesn’t mean that those without nominations are no longer worthy of our notice. As I wrap up the rest of the alphabet for 2010’s best, you’ll see some people and films on the list you would expect, and maybe some you didn’t. The following presentation of 2010’s IJ, and encompasses that range quite nicely. 

The first thing that strikes you about I Am Love (I) is the beauty–not just the landscape, and not just the woman. This Italian romance embraces the modern aesthetic of Milan, while delivering colourful assaults to the senses that accompany scenes of quiet abandon. Directed by Luca Guagagnino (Melissa P.), I is as much about restriction as it is passion. This is perhaps best illustrated in the contrasting principal locations of metropolitan Milan and country San Remo.

Executive Producer Tilda Swinton really outdoes herself in the lead role–and not in the typical avant garde way you’d expect from this androgynous Academy Award winner. Swinton plays Emma, a Russian expat who has married and completely assimilated into Milanese culture, admirably and ably speaking Italian for the duration of the film. Life in her modern chic villa is full of restrained joy, as per the fairly oppressive regime of decorum. A favourite son returns a runner-up in a historic race, but is celebrated all the same and named the co-heir to his grandfather’s textile empire, much to his father-and-co-heir’s chagrin. There’s a fine crack in the smooth surface of this family’s facade, and the audience will see it shatter by the end of the film.

From the graceful and operatic soundtrack, to the cinematography, to the passionate performances, should be seen by film enthusiasts everywhere. While it sadly, did not make the Oscar’s short list for Best Foreign Film nominees, I goes down as the most luxurious production of 2010. Watch it for the beauty, but be prepared for the depth of the storytelling and human feeling to be found in this foreign entertainment. By the time the explosive ending rolls around, you’ll be astounded by everything the film achieved in 120 minutes.

You have to admire the collective balls behind the Jackass franchise. Not only did Johnny Knoxville and company delve into the world of 3-D with their third film and, according to our Andres Bolivar, make entertaining use of Phantom camera technology, they asked for recognition for their work of the highest order. Jackass 3-D (J) may not represent the last film we’ll see featuring all the pain and glory the former MTVers have to offer, but this may be the last film that it made sense for the boys to make.

With the technology that thrust so many pleasant things in Americans’s faces, how could these jackasses refuse the opportunity to do the same with all the shocking visuals they hold so dear? Even Jon Stewart said that Jackass and 3-D were meant to be. Hell, it screened at MoMA. These guys don’t take themselves that seriously that a) they honestly care if you think their art has no merit, or b) that they should quit while they’re ahead, nor c) that it is ridiculous for a low-brow opus such as J to publish “for your consideration” ads pushing for Best Picture, Art Direction, and Cinematography awards, among others. J saw none of these nominations come to light, and one suspects, the boys never expected them to. This is one stunt that even a non-fan such as myself can appreciate. 

Since its late-2010 release, The King’s Speech (K) has rapidly gained ground at the box office and represents main Best Picture contender, The Social Network’s largest threat. K , directed by Tom Hooper, tells the story of King George VI’s struggle to reconcile his meek nature–encapsulated by a debilitating stutter–with his unwanted role as ruler of the English empire, set against  a backdrop of impending war and the rise of Hitler. By now, you’re probably very familiar with the story. Still, it took a long time for people to get excited about this rounded, feel-good picture compared to other Best Picture nominees, like the Facebook movie and Black Swan, despite taking home the People’s Choice Award, i.e., the top prize at September’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Maybe you heard it from your mom, or your best friend. Just today, I heard it in my workplace cafeteria: K is really good. Colin Firth delivers an excellent performance as the reluctant king and deserves his lead position in the race for the Best Actor trophy. He is not so much supported, as he is complemented, by the stately performance of Helena Bonham Carter and the always compelling Geoffrey Rush. The movie has come under criticism for some apparent inauthenticities in the narrative, though these largely seem to come down to what is omitted in the story’s telling, not fabricated.

Christopher Hitchens spoke out recently on the portrayal of Churchill and England’s relationship with Hitler Germany, always noting a lack, where frankly, there isn’t meant to be an emphasis. That movie has already been made. What struck me about K was the emphasis on family dynamics, not politics, which one can see is the focus when viewing Albert’s royal life in contrast with the modesty of his speech therapist’s home and family. It is no coincidence that the second most moving scene in the film after the titular speech (though, for me, the first), involves the newly crowned King kissing away any fear in his daughters that their father has changed or cannot love them the same as their king, which was Albert’s own unfortunate story with King George V. If one wants to argue about history, than many films the Oscars have awarded need to be revisited. K is certainly no less truthful than The Social Network, and to many, including me, it’s the better film.