I’d planned to do my own Best Movie Oscar nominees post, but the effort was hampered by… well, life. However, in the last week or so I've had the opportunity to watch both The King's Speech and Black Swan and other than both being Best Movie nominees and both the actors playing the main characters nabbing an award, they also have another thing in common,.-.... Hype. Okay, so another word for it is word-of-mouth, buzz, excitement, but at a certain point just before the Oscars when things go arguably a tad crazy, hype sort of covers it.
I was very much looking forward to watching both of these two movies in particular, but discovered that one lived up to hype and the other one didn't. There was nothing I didn’t like about The King's Speech - the acting was phenomenal, the script incredible, the direction wonderful and I want to own this movie so I can watch it on a regular basis. And not just because I have a long-term crush on
Mr. Darcy Colin Firth. Everything in this movie about a quiet man being forced to do something he doesn't want but feels duty bound to do touches your heart and your mind. It's about something real and is a surprisingly intimate film. Black Swan, on the other hand, not so much. On the one hand, I enjoyed watching the depiction of the daily grind of a ballet company and learning just a little about the kind of dedication it takes to be a dancer. On the other hand, the story itself is just a little too melodramatic - okay, a lot too melodramatic. There are too many salacious aspects, such as a drug use, the lesbian fantasies, the slimy leader of the company, the crazy aging ballerina and the demented stage mother to end all stage mothers and I think it takes away from the story of the main character. I might have believed her story more if it hadn't been surrounded by such operatic melodrama. And it means I don't think it qualifies as a possible Best Movie. I think part of the problem is expanding the field of Best Movie nominees to 10 instead of five. Although it can be difficult to choose just five for best movies, canisters ridiculous. I mean, including an animated kids’ movie as Best Moving? I don't care how good it is, there is no way it is on par with something like The King's Speech.
In terms of the Best Actor and Best Actress wins, they also differ. Colin Firth is his usual, wonderful self, disappearing into the role, changing the way he carries himself, walks and does a wonderful job of capturing the way Bertie speaks. Natalie Portman, on the other hand… Well, I'm confused. She spends most of the movie looking tense and frightened and it wears on you after a while. The last half hour is amazing, but if I have to wait an hour and a half to get pulled into a story, to be moved to the point of not wanting to look away, you don't really deserve the nominee for Best Movie. I've seen Natalie Portman do better and I saw Natalie Portman do much better in the last 30 minutes of the movie, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she won the Oscar for throwing herself into the role of a ballerina the way she did, complete with weight loss, intense year-long training, etc. In terms of the dancing and physicality of the character, she did do a terrific job, but the tense and frightened just got ridiculous. Was the problem that the role was written this way? Was it that the hour and a half before we got to the really interesting part was too long, would it have worked better if they'd shaved off 10-15 minutes? Either way, I did not believe that the leader of a ballet company would choose this person to be the lead in Swan Lake and if I don't believe that, then nothing else works.
I could also write a post about how there was really no surprises in terms of who would win Best Actor and Best Actress because the actors portraying the characters with disabilities always wins. You have the guy with a speech impediment, the crazy girl and if we expand the field to television, as well, the autistic girl (Claire Danes for Temple Grandin - very well deserved). However, I'll leave that one for now.
It's rare that a movie or performance lives up to the hype and I think Natalie Portman's performance suffered from it. Had I not been expecting much more, I may not have been so picky about the tense and frightened, because the last half-hour definitely qualified her as excellent. On the other hand, everything that had been hyped about The King's Speech lived up to my expectations. And that was a treat.