With the nominations for the Academy Awards 2012 coming up in January 2012, it is a convenient time to review and comment on the Academy Awards 2011. Here, the focus will be on two categories: “Best Picture” and “Best Actress in a Leading Role”.
As it is well-known, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the Academy Award in the “Best Picture” category in 2011, and other runner-ups were ‘Black Swan’, ‘The Fighter’, ‘The Kids Are All Right’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Inception’, ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Winter’s Bone’, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘127 Hours’. It could be argued that ‘The King’s Speech’ won the Award not because it represented some exceptional cinematographic achievement, but simply because it had no real serious competitors in that year – in the eyes of the Academy. To put it simply, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the “Best Picture” Award not because it was so good, but because other films in its category did not conform in any way to the Academy’s ideas of what the “Best Picture” winner should look like. That “ideal” was set in the past. Though such things happen at the Oscars every year, arguably, the year 2010 has seen some of the worst examples of cinematography compared to the past thirty years, with the Academy Awards’ standards falling the lowest since the early 1980s.
‘The King’s Speech’ is a historical drama, the Academy Award Committee’s favourite genre. No wonder we are now seeing the shootings of the adaptations of such great classics as ‘The Great Gatsby‘ and ‘Anna Karenina’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and Keira Knightley in the lead roles respectively, with these films expecting to come out in 2012. Hollywood really got one important hint from the Oscars 2011: such films as ‘The Social Network’ or ‘Toy Story 3′, largely due to their comic content and style, have little chance of winning an Award in the “Best Picture” category, no matter how great the film actually is. The same is largely true regarding the horror genre, and the Academy still thinks it is “above” such “trivial” genres.
The Academy Award Ceremony 2011 was no usual movie competition, it was a “slaughter”. Firstly, there are such films as ‘True Grit’ and ‘Winter’s Bone’. The former film is a western, while the latter is an indie. Neither westerns nor independent films have been very popular with the Academy in the past. Then, there is ‘Fighter’, a true contender, but for the fact that “sports” films since ‘Rocky’’s success cannot really brag as to their winning streaks at the Oscars. The last one was Clint Eastwood’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’. Nolan’s ‘Inception’ is like Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, which the majority on this planet worship and regard the best film ever made, but which has as much chances of winning the Award as Michael Jackson rising from the dead. With “Inception“‘s over-the-top special effects and a twisted plot, only Einsteins among the Academy could have voted for it to be the winner. Regarding Fincher’s ‘The Social Network’ and Boyle’s ‘127 Hours’, the situation is even worse. These films differ from such films as ‘There’s Something About Mary’ or ‘No Strings Attached’ only in being produced by celebrated directors and being based on true events, making these films “inspirational”. Although targeting the millennials, they are still a world apart from philosophical ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. ‘The Kids are Alright’ and ‘Toy Story 3’, with the former being a comedy and the latter being an animation, also never really had any big chances of grabbing the coveted Award. Finally, there is Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’. Being a hallucinations-charged brain-teaser and containing a “much-talked-about” lesbian sex scene, ‘Black Swan’ is not a film to be overwhelmingly favoured by the Academy. Then, what are we left with? With the very lucky – quintessentially British – ‘The King’s Speech’.
To compare some of the 2011 Academy Awards’ film selections, such as ‘The Social Network’ or ‘The Kids are Alright’ to such award-winning films as ‘The English Patient’ or ‘Out of Africa’ is ludicrous at best. It seems that ‘The Social Network’ got its recognition out of respect for the work of David Fincher, and, probably, because of the general popularity of the true story behind the film.
At the Academy Awards 2011, Natalie Portman won an Award in the category of “Best Actress in a Leading Role” for “Black Swan”. Other nominations included Nicole Kidman (‘Rabbit Hole’), Jennifer Lawrence (‘Winter’s Bone), Michelle Williams (‘Blue Valentine’) and Annette Bening (‘The Kids Are All Right’). With a “controversial” film story, and Portman’s claims of “very hard work”, making herself a ballerina prior and during the shooting of ‘Black Swan’, Portman seemed to bulldoze through to her win, rather than to really deserve it. There is a real controversy as to the question of who was really behind all the hard work in ‘Black Swan’: Portman or her double Sarah Lane? Lane claims that Portman are only responsible for a “five percent” of all full-body dance shots. There is no reason not to believe Lane, because the only person other than Portman who seems to contradict Lane’s claims is Benjamin Millepied, Portman’s main choreographer in the film and her latest love interest. If we are to credit actors with Academy Awards simply because they lost weight for their roles, then we are still waiting for Christian Bale’s Academy Award for his role in ‘The Machinist’ and Michael Fassbender’s Academy Award for his role in ‘Hunger’. Overall, there is arguably no scene in ‘Black Swan’ which stands out as a great piece of acting on Portman’s part. To give Portman an Academy Award in the “Best Actress in the Leading Role” category is to equate her performance with the likes of Vivian Leigh in ‘Gone with the Wind’ or Meryl Streep in ‘Sophie’s Choice’, i.e., an absurd move. There is no denying that Portman’s best performance still remains in the film ‘Leon’, and Nicole Kidman should have been the one to receive her Academy Award in that category, because of her raw, totally genuine and mesmerising performance as a grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole“.
To conclude, it is only too evident that ‘The King’s Speech’ is the only film in its category which could have won an Academy Award in 2011. With regards to Natalie Portman’s Award, it was a wholly unjustified win, and a more thorough investigation should have been made as to her actual film contribution.