A most sacred tradition for the cinema, the Academy Awards provide an opportunity to reward the year’s exceptional films with distinctions in twenty-four different categories. They can define a film in ways that transcend the bounds of profit and fame and note a film’s contribution to cinema as a whole. They serve as an important reminder that film is a respectable art form born from talent, extensive knowledge of craft, and sheer creativity.
This year there was a true showcase of good films, each of which contributed to cinema in some way or another. While it’s impossible to say who will win, we can speculate. The following is a list of our predictions for the 2011 Academy Awards.
Visual Effects: Inception. Here is a film that redefines gravity, folds a city on top of itself, and constructs a vast dreamscape that is both bizarre and completely credible. The zero-gravity fight scenes with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the hotel hallway are particularly stunning. To further solidify its chances, the creators used rotating sets to apply the effect of gravity shifts – a tactic first used in 1968 for 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001 won the Academy Award for its visual effects, and so will Inception.
Sound Editing: Inception. The film will sweep up its second technical category for its ability to choose and apply sounds for the purpose of enhancing the story, as opposed to merely for the sake of viewer satisfaction. For example, the music that acted as a “kicker” for people in a dream state helps us to differentiate between dreams and reality, depending on how fast the music is playing. Also, the iconic horn recurrent in the film’s score is, in fact, a stretched-out derivation of the same “kicker” tune. No sound of any other film this year was as decisive or as effective as the sounds in Inception.
Sound Mixing: The Social Network. Sound mixing is different from sound editing in that sound mixers take the sounds that are chosen by the sound editors and adjust their many properties to enhance an intended effect. In other words, sound editors provide the music, and sound mixers adjust them. The Social Network will win this category mainly for creating intricate conversations in difficult locations, like a Silicon Valley nightclub. Additionally, the early scenes chronicling the creation of the Facemash site showcased exceptional skills in how the music, dialogue, and narration were mixed to optimize fluency and establish its style.
Original Score: The Social Network. Its soundtrack is the backbone of the film, a modern-era composition that supports the film’s central themes of innovation, determination, and conflict. It drives the narrative home boldly and brashly, much like the film’s hero, and establishes the film’s texture and style. It is the most fitting and effective soundtrack of any film this year.
Makeup: The Wolfman. No other choice, is there? With only three nominees in this category, one can expect the makeup artists for The Wolfman to take home the prize for transforming Benicio Del Toro into a convincingly deformed and hairy monster.
Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland. I imagine that the Academy will reward the film with the most outrageously creative designs, rather than those that add the most depth and precision to the character that wears them. For this reason, I predict that Alice will take home the award for the vibrant and intricate designs that reflect the imaginative landscape of Wonderland.
Art Direction: The King’s Speech. A film’s art direction is directly proportional to its credibility. The sets and set locations of The King’s Speech, therefore, are an important part of the film because they embody a Romantic-Era style that defines much of the architecture in the United Kingdom. They are beautiful, intriguing, and complex, and they offer a potent visual texture to the film.
Editing: The Social Network. The editing is among the film’s greatest features. The scenes are flawlessly cut and mixed with considerable decisiveness and expertise, which is a daunting task given Sorkin’s intricate and ultra-fast-paced screenplay. The editing was so important in the film because many of the scenes, notably the chronicles of Facemash and the regatta scene, depend heavily on timing and a careful distribution of images. These two scenes were edited wisely, and the execution was nothing short of masterful.
Cinematography: The King’s Speech. This category is particularly competitive. The Social Network could take home the prize for its innovative use of the RED camera, which records a high resolution image digitally rather than on film. This technology captures light that would go unregistered on film, providing more naturalistic lighting and texture.
Our prediction, however, goes to The King’s Speech for how it captures the setting of wartime Britain. The framing is perfect. The angles are diverse, ranging from fish-eyed close-ups, medium character shots, and long scenery shots. The lighting has a light blue consistency that properly reflects the gloom and internal conflict of the film’s hero, as well as the state of a nation under a foreign threat.
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3. It would be unwise to go against conventional wisdom and not choose the Pixar nominee. Toy Story 3 will win.
Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network. The script dares to enter a realm of litigation and controversy, revolving the story around a character that is still alive and thriving in power. It creates characters so real and believable, and so tragic, and sets the true story of the creation of Facebook as a stage for artistic and metaphorical interpretation. The storyline of The Social Network is bold, brilliantly written, and extremely relevant.
Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech. The screenplay takes a historical figure of grand stature, breaks him down to his most human components, and rebuilds him to serve as a metaphor for hope, leadership, and the true story of a triumph over tyranny. It is very well constructed and the characters are thoroughly developed and realistic.
Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter. Leo’s character is pivotal in illustrating The Fighter’s central themes of ignorance and oppression. She embodies a blinding force that holds Mickey Ward back from reaching his potential. Without her strong performance, the story simply would not have worked.
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter. For sure. No if’s, and’s , or but’s about it. This is a breakthrough performance in Bale’s career, and by far the best of all actors in supporting roles this year. Consider it a lock.
Lead Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan. Portman gave a concerted effort in preparing for this role. She reportedly lost a lot of weight, trained for months in ballet, and she executed the role perfectly. There are no clichés in this performance; it was completely raw and pure, filled with a great deal of complexity and intrigue. This is Portman’s breakthrough performance.
Lead Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech. Firth gave a stellar performance, one that carried much of the weight of the film. While it is a shame that young actor Jesse Eisenberg is given less credit than he deserves, Firth had bigger shoes to fill. And they were filled, all right.
Director: David Fincher, The Social Network. David Fincher, a veteran director, has made several good films in the past, but none of them received recognition from the Academy. Now, at the peak of his powers, he has jumped back in the race with his newest and best film – a story that challenges convention, inspires, and enlightens. Fincher’s direction is responsible for most of the factors that made The Social Network, a potentially average B-film, a decidedly great film. Every technical aspect of the film is executed flawlessly, and the cinematographic style that is characteristic of all of Fincher’s films is surprisingly perfectly suited to this story.
Picture: The Social Network. This film is not only deserving of this award, but it is also one of the best and most influential films in recent years. Here is a film with the audacity to face real people, real lawsuits and real controversies to provide insight into the motives and strategies of our generation’s leaders. It takes a powerful route in filmmaking by analyzing the faults and vulnerabilities of a single character, and using them as a platform to extend to loftier themes of considerable literary value. In this way, it is comparable to cinema greats such as Citizen Kane and The Godfather. At the same time, it is as enjoyable and entertaining as any other movie. The Social Network is a monumental film that exceeds all expectations and reigns as a modern marvel in cinema. It deserves to win, as it probably will.