Best Picturesque: The 83rd – The King’s Social Grit

In this project, I’ll be watching each Best Picture winner, regardless of if I’ve already seen it, at random years, and then watching the two nominees with the most Oscar nominations for that year to find out, in my pompous assessment, if the Academy made the right choice. If I’ve already seen the subsequent nominee, I’ll move on to the next most nominated for that year.

The 83rd Academy Award Best Picture nominees I watched: The King’s Speech, The Social Network (8),  True Grit (10)
bold = winner italics = losers (nominations) ]

When I watched these:

March 18th – March 22nd, 2018

The snacks:

Shrimp, chips and dip, too many peanut butter M&Ms

The year:

2010

Did I skip any of the movies?:

Inception also received 8 Oscar nominations, but we happen to own it.

So why did the other movies lose?

Everyone in the U.S. was getting on the Facebook train in 2010, which explains the film’s popularity, the country’s fascination with the brilliant Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and his billions, and why it was given a Best Picture nomination. The movie looks sharp on screen, and runs at the pace of Zuckerberg’s mind, cataloging in dizzying detail what he achieved while at Harvard, how he darted around his competition, and the sort of trouble he encountered along the way.  The idea behind this film is to be clever using the non-linear plot and the hilarious and brash double-cast Armie Hammer as the protagonist(s) Winklevoss twins, but Eisenberg rather portrays entitled petulance, which is possibly an accurate take but nonetheless makes us unsympathetic, and the film reeks of condescension as we’re forced to deal with Zuckerberg’s tantrums, and then his “revelation” and “redemption”. Timberlake makes an appearance as a convincing buttface, but it’s not enough.

True Grit makes for a better Oscar nod, bearing only trivial shortcomings. The admirable Jeff Bridges plays the scruffy drunk marshal (is there another kind in the “Old West” genre?) “Rooster” Cogburn, who accompanies/leads the snippy Mattie (Steinfeld) across the plains to locate her father’s murderer. It’s a compelling plot, and — yes — a gritty picture, full of ugly demises. The body count isn’t high, but each death is difficult to bear, because True Grit humanizes every character. Mattie is endearing and certainly holds her own — see the scene where she’s (barely) holding a gun at Chaney — but might be a gimmicky role. Bridges really carries this film; Damon, on the other hand, is a bit whiny and is sort of an afterthought. But for a worn-out genre, this neo-western is fun to watch and beautiful to behold.

So why did The King’s Speech win?

The King’s Speech might be one of the better filmed and well-written movies I’ve seen.  Colin Firth as Prince Albert is immediately compelling and relatable.  Who hasn’t stumbled over words, and frustrated themselves with miscarried ideas? There isn’t much “content” — the film is basically about Albert’s tribulations as he is given elocution lessons from Captain Barbossa (Rush) — but it’s filmed so beautifully, and Firth’s performance so convincing — that we’re sort of swept into his struggles and triumphs. No role is wasted; Bonham Carter plays the supportive wife of Albert, with reduced sass in comparison to other characters, and Pearce convincingly portrays Albert’s sleazy brother, who abandons the throne for a sleazy girl. The film leans toward Oscar bait territory with the World War II context, but it doesn’t lean on this, instead painting the canvas with a stunning musical score, cinematography, and tremendous dialogue.

The movie that should have won: The King’s Speech

Nolan fanboys might disagree and say Inception, arguably his best film, was snubbed, but Tom Hooper’s breakthrough makes more sense overall and allows the actors space to do their jobs. Inception is a wildly entertaining flurry of ideas and has a deeply thought-provoking premise, and it’s hard to dismiss Hans Zimmer for anything, but occasionally the story is lost in the abstractions and the characters are flattened in all the cleverness. DiCaprio has better roles, and in my opinion Nolan’s Dark Knight is his best work. True Grit is a close contender for Best Picture as well, so this is by no means a landslide.

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