Best Directing: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky), The Social Network (David Fincher), The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper), True Grit (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
Best Directing is a tough award to determine, because even though a director might have their fingers in every part of a film, it’s not always clear whether credit is due to them or the hundreds of people that work under them. We chose Darren Aronofsky for his work on Black Swan because, of all the directors, his personal mark was apparent throughout the film. Because of its focus on the creative process, Black Swan seemed more intensely personal that any of the other nominations, which were excellent but straightforward stories. The nod goes to Aronofsky because the story of Natalie Portman’s tortured ballerina is told as much through the camera work and the editing as it is through plot.
Worst Directing: M. Night Shyamalan (The Last Airbender)
Best Animated Feature Film: How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, Toy Story 3
Unlike their live-action counterparts, animated films are usually a little more, well, animated. High energy, fun, and light-hearted, these movies exist to make people happy, but that in no way lessens them. Toy Story 3 is just as poignant and heart-wrenching as any film this year, and it’s made better by its wide appeal. How to Train Your Dragon threw us into a world of dragons and created the cutest creature ever. Tangled brought us back to the Disney of old, singing us a charming tale of romance. These three films were some of the best animated features to date, but Toy Story 3’s snappy dialogue, ceaseless humor, and perfect pacing, not to mention its wild emotional swings, make it the best animated film of the year. Honestly, who could resist Buzz’s Spanish setting?
Best Supporting Performance Nominees: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Matt Damon (True Grit)
Geoffrey Rush’s performance in The King’s Speech was simply sublime. His portrayal of failed Shakespearean actor turned elocutionist Lionel Logue was a delight to watch, his pleasant attitude masking a deep-seated determination. Rush was able to conjure up many laughs throughout the film, and yet his was also a deeply moving character, drawing us seamlessly into the king’s plight. Seeing him treat the king as an equal—making him swear and do silly vocal lessons—was just as excellent as watching his interactions with his family, be they acting out plays for his sons or hiding the truth of who he was training from his wife. In my opinion, Geoffrey Rush stole the show, even from a supporting role, and proved yet again how truly talented he is.
Worst Supporting Performance: Dev Patel (The Last Airbender)
Best Lead Performance Nominees: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
There are those who would argue Darren Aronofsky’s schlocky ballerina psych-thriller is not a great film, and they would have plenty of ammunition. But Natalie Portman’s incarnation of protagonist Nina is indisputably flawless. Though her character is thoroughly unlikeable, the audience still finds themselves reeling from Portman’s relentless disorientation, fear, and brittleness. Her confusion and her apprehension chill us so that we the audience tiptoe like our fragile star through the plot.
“Stop being so fucking pathetic!” Vincent Cassel’s instructor shouts at her, finally giving voice to the audience’s sentiments in the first act. Portman’s exquisite weakness is intentionally what makes her so ugly in the film, so repulsive. But as her mind and body come apart in the film’s acceleration, Portman imbues her character with a haunting and resounding spirit. That transformation is so believable in Portman’s face that one almost forgets the incredibility of the plot. Even beyond this, Portman communicates the underlying fear that lingers behind the mask of the Black Swan.
And the scene in which Portman calls her mother after getting the starring part–we dare you to name another actress in her generation who can display that level of genuine emotional complexity. Congratulations, Ms. Portman.
Best Picture Nominees: Inception, The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3, True Grit
Even though year after year we face the stifling wasteland of unoriginality, even though most films are born only to die a quick death, crippled by their lack of creativity, even though Hollywood’s fear of greatness keeps new ideas mired in the backwaters of production hell, even though all we see is sequel after sequel of popcorn-selling eye candy, I still had a dream.
I had a dream that one day someone would rise up against the confines of Hollywood orthodoxy and say “enough is enough.”
I had a dream that one day in the deserts of Southern California, sweltering with the heat of bureaucracy, writers and producers would sit down at a table of imagination.
I had a dream that one day movies would be made not because of the marketability of their branding, but because of the character of their content.
I had a dream…fulfilled.
Hollywood’s been looking increasingly weary this year, and in case you haven’t noticed, they’re all out of good ideas. But a welcome break from the churn of vampire-robot-action was Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Not only did Inception exceed every action film to have been released this year, it revealed the very structures by which our thrillers are created. In fact, it can be read as a meta-commentary on the nature of film itself. By incorporating filmmaking techniques into the structure of the story (with its random setpieces, effortless culmination of tension, and possibly untrustworthy protagonist), Inception became an action movie that was its own formula. At the same time, it offered a compelling love story, a thought-provoking concept, and bad-ass action, all wrapped up in one incredible movie. Inception immediately became one of our favorite movies of all time, and we predict that it will be appreciated for its many many layers for years to come.
There you have it. Those are our picks for 2010. From all of us here at 5¢S, we sincerely hope you enjoyed your time here at The Nickel Awards.