Racing to Oscar – Part 2

Since my last prediction, we’ve had the release of this year’s Oscar nominees… Which put a slight dent in my “The Adventures of Tintin for best animated feature” theory. We’ve also had the Directors Guild of America Awards… And fun fact: In the last decade, every single person to win the DGA Award for feature films goes on to win the best director Oscar. And since 1948, only six DGA Award winners have failed to nab the best director prize.

I think that the DGA Awards have put the final nail in the coffin for Scorsese’s Hugo (Which I’ll only get to see this coming Friday, unfortunately) and have largely cleared the path for The Artist. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are tonight, and that should give us a slightly clearer picture of who should win in the acting categories.

My predictions have largely stayed the same since the nominees were announced… But we’ll see.

Week 2 – 29 January

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Best Actress: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady 
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer – The Help (No way in hell Melissa McCarthy will get this, I’m afraid.)
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist (DGA Award won’t hurt)
Best Animated Feature: Rango (If Puss or Kung Fu Panda wins this, I swear…)

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Black mark on ‘Black Swan’?

Black Swan

Natalie Portman (or Sarah Lane?) in 'Black Swan'.

Quelle horreur! Natalie Portman didn’t do all of her own dancing on Black Swan? *dramatic gasp*

Oh wait, we knew that already. And even if we didn’t know it, we should have guessed. After all, the 32 fouettés that Odile (the “black” swan) performs in the coda are hardly something even your most talented amateur dancer would be able to perform.*

The issue at hand, however, is how much of the dancing Natalie did herself. Benjamin Millepied (Black Swan choreographer and Natalie’s fiance and the father of her baby) claimed that Natalie did 85 percent of the dancing. After reviewing all his footage, Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky believes its closer to 90 percent.

But Sarah Lane reckons that’s all a load of rubbish. She claims that she did 90 percent of the dancing, and that only around 5 percent of the full-body shots were Natalie.

Now, if you had to ask who Sarah Lane was, you’re probably like everybody else on the planet not closely related to her. Sarah Lane is Natalie’s body double – who went largely unnoticed during the hoorah of awards season and *gasp* didn’t get a mention in Natalie’s Oscar acceptance speech. She was apparently only listed as an extra in the credits, too. And now she’s determined to make everybody aware that Natalie is no prima ballerina.

It smacks of attention-seeking behaviour… And Lane has admitted that yes, she was peeved by the lack of recognition. But what else did she expect? Her career to suddenly take off, offers to join other ballet companies to start piling up at her doorstep? Instead of being gracious about it, going “well done, Natalie” and moving on, she’s caused a massive spat.

But, she says, she’s only talking about because she feels so personally insulted that we think that Natalie could possibly be a real ballerina.

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Reviewed: 127 Hours

127 Hours

James Franco as Aron Ralston in "127 Hours".

Originally published on iafrica.com

Much like 2003’s Phone Booth, the strength in 127 Hours lies in the intensity of its star’s performance. And James Franco’s performance will go down as one of the greatest of a generation.

The film – helmed by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle – is based on the remarkable true story of Aron Ralston, an avid hiker and mountain climber who becomes trapped underneath a boulder while on a solo hiking expedition in a Utah canyon. To free himself, he amputates his arm using a blunt Leatherman knockoff, still managing to hike around eight miles before he’s finally rescued.

The beauty of this film is not in the plot. Ralston’s story is well-known and the film itself is based on Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place. But Boyle manages to take an almost legendary story and film it in such a way that even though you know he’s going to be okay, your heart is in your mouth for most of the film. It’s terrifying, awe-inspiring and a truly intense experience.

Even though the majority of 127 Hours is filmed in a cramped, dusty space, Boyle manages to keep the film moving at a rollicking pace. The movie starts imbued with a sense of pure joy – Ralston loves what he does, and he’s such a frequent hiker he doesn’t even bother to tell anybody where he’s going anymore. He runs into two female hikers and leads them on a side-trip to a massive waterhole, before jogging back over the mountains on his way. “I don’t think we figured in his day at all,” they quip – and it’s true.

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It’s that time of year again…

Black Swan

Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan'

The nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards have been announced – and let’s be honest, there weren’t that many surprises. But there were one or two…

Most noticeably absent in the Best Director category was Inception helmsman Christopher Nolan. He was bumped out of the category by the much more Academy-friendly Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, anyone?). Yup, it seems the Academy is allergic to all things science-fiction, and while Inception picked up eight nominations it’s hardly the runaway favourite in any of its categories.

Also absent – which was, in my opinion, a travesty – was a supporting actor nomination for The Social Network star Andrew Garfield. His on-screen chemistry with Jesse Eisenberg produced one of the stand-out partnerships of the year – and while Jesse scored the nod for his role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, Andrew was absent. [Note: My huge crush on Andrew Garfield aside, he’s ridiculously talented. Go rent Boy A. Now.]

I still think it’s a little too earlier in the season to start accurately predicting the winners, but I think Colin Firth has the best actor award in the bag. He’s simply astounding in The King’s Speech ­– which itself is nominated for 12 Oscars, despite its made-for-BBC feel.

Natalie Portman for Black Swan also seems a sure thing – I haven’t seen the film yet (our press preview is only tomorrow) but I’m chomping at the bit. She’s hands-down the strongest contender in the best actress category – Annette Bening was fabulous in The Kids Are All Right but the Academy tends to prefer darker roles for their leading ladies.

Best Picture I think is a clear three-horse race between The King’s Speech, The Social Network and True Grit. I haven’t seen True Grit yet (that preview is only in February) but the critics are simply raving about it – as well as 14-year-old star Hailee Steinfeld , who picked up a nod in the best supporting actress category.

My other, less certain predictions? Christian Bale for best supporting actor in The Fighter – he was sensational.  Best supporting actress nominees Melissa Leo and Amy Adams – Bale’s The Fighter co-stars – were fabulous, though everybody’s going crazy about Steinfeld’s performance – so I think this category’s pretty open, with Leo leading by a hair. In fact, the only person who wasn’t nominated in The Fighter was its leading man – Mark Wahlberg. I’m not Wahlberg’s biggest fan – I find him terribly bland at times – but he does play the unlikely hero so, so well.

And if Toy Story 3 doesn’t win the best animated feature film Oscar, I’ll march down to the Kodak Theatre with a pitchfork myself.

See the nominees in the other, more technical categories here.