Monday, February 7, 2011


 There were a few surprises when the Academy Award nominations were announced late last month. Aussie Jacki Weaver usurped a fictional Jackie's nomination in the Best Supporting Actress race and Canada-Italy co-production Barney's Version quizzically snagged a nod for Best Make Up. While the majority of the noms were as predicted, the nominations in this post were mostly unforeseen in true dramatic fashion.

Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film

 Quebecois director Villeneuve's work has been submitted as Canada's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar twice before. In 1998 for August 32nd on Earth and for his brilliant, multiple award-winning tale of an edifying fish and wrongful death, 2000's Maelström. The story of twins who venture to the Middle East after their mother's death, Incendies marks Villeneuve's first Academy Award nomination after his two unsuccessful attempts. According to critic's picks complied by, the film is in a tight race to bring home the gold. Out of the twenty-two critics polled, Incendies and In A Better World from Denmark are tied with eight votes each. The six remaining critics chose Spain's Buitiful as the likely winner. Canada has won in this category once; for Denys Arcand's Les Invasions Barbares.

Incendies trailer (French with English subtitles)

Mike Leigh, nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Another Year

 The screenplay categories are where you will occasionally find first-rate, independent films that deserved additional nominations (see The Squid and The Whale, Ghost World, Election) but were muscled out of other categories. Leigh, the British sentimentalist scribe who brought us tales of off the map obstetricians (Vera Drake) and untamed optimism (Happy-Go-Lucky,) has landed his seventh nomination for penning Another Year. It's unlikely he will finally win a statue this year (he's 0-6 so far), as he's up against favourite The King's Speech and other strong contenders The Kids Are All Right and Inception. Oscar voters first took notice of Leigh in 1997 when they showered Secrets and Lies with five nominations. Since then, Leigh has continually brought realistic English characters to life with writing that is consistently touching and transparent. Another Year doesn't stray far from Leigh's formula, chronicling a year in a happily aging couple's life as they deal with their downcast friends.

Another Year trailer

Michelle Williams, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Blue Valentine

 Although nominated for a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award for her role in Blue Valentine, Michelle Williams is the dark horse of the Best Actress category. Hilary Swank took her spot in the Screen Actors Guild nominations, which many see as a reliable precursor to the Oscars. Although nominated once before for her supporting role in Brokeback Mountain, Williams was passed over by the Academy for her understated performance in 2008's Wendy and Lucy. Perhaps members had a tinge of voter's remorse this time around. After all, as Katherine Hepburn once said "the right actors win Oscars; for the wrong roles." William's role as Cindy, one half of a crestfallen couple, has been close to ten years in the making. Williams likens dealing with the heart-wrenching material over the course of a decade to running an emotional marathon.
"I’ve been working on Blue Valentine since I was 21. So it makes sense in my mind that promoting it should have the same kind of effort and endurance behind it that being committed to it and finally making it had,” she told
Williams went on to say that playing the role of Cindy may not have changed her outlook; however she now understands how to make a relationship work.
“My romanticism and my optimism have not been diminished, but I do think you have to be vigilant and willing to compromise. It’s something you have to stay ahead of."

Blue Valentine trailer

Darren Aronofosky, nominated for Best Achievement in Directing for Black Swan

 Each of Aronofsky's movies to date has dealt with misery and mania. Whether it be the quest for answers (Pi,) the need to boost one's ego (The Wrestler,) insatiable cravings (Requiem For a Dream) or chasing the illusion of perfection (Black Swan,) you could say that Aronofsky is obsessed with obsession. Straddling the boarder that separates drama and horror, Black Swan has become the director's highest grossing release. This tale of a ballerina who goes bonkers is poised to break the $100 million mark this month. The film landed five nods, however Natalie Portman's bid for Best Actress is the only nom likely to result in a golden statuette. Independent film fans have been fixated on Aronofsky's work for years and countless critics agree that his first nomination is long overdue.

Interview with Darren Aronofsky

Nina (Portman) dances the Black Swan

Exit Through the Gift Shop, nominated for Best Documentary

 The heated debate over whether this doc is an elaborate hoax or a truthful tale of an artist's rise to fame is feverishly burning now that the film has been nominated. Exit Through the Gift Shop documents street art aficionado Thierry Guetta's journey from videographer to street artist to mainstream art star. Guetta goes from admiring and filming underground artists to emulating their craft under the pseudonym Mr. Brainwash. Guetta eventually turns a huge profit, which is where this doc's title comes into play. The film is not only a chronicle of the obstacles street artists face; it is also a comment on the commercialization of art. The film's director, Bansky, is the anonymous mastermind behind the most creative and cheerless Simpsons intro (below) ever to be inked. Bansky was one of Guetta's heroes/subjects/inspirations in the documentary within the documentary. It's obvious that Banksy's primary motivation for presenting Exit Through the Gift Shop is to expose Guetta for the fraud that he is; that is if the film is fact and not fiction as many people have speculated. 
"Obviously the story is bizarre, that’s why I made a film about it, but I’m still shocked by the level of skepticism. I guess I have to accept that people think I’m full of shit. But I’m not clever enough to have invented Mr. Brainwash," Bansky wrote to

Exit Through the Gift Shop trailer

Bansky's Simpsons intro

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