Friday, February 25, 2011

Academy Awards: Time for a Celebration

Are you watching the Academy Awards this Sunday? If so, here’s some great trivia and such to get you pumped for the big event. As you already know, “The King’s Speech” is my favorite film of the year, so I’m rooting for it all the way. But here are some of my other favorites I will be cheering on as well.

First up, “Black Swan.” I loved Natalie Portman’s performance in this film and truly believe she is the rightful winner of the Best Actress award this year. Also Darren Aronofsky actually managed to turn a film about ballet into a smash hit. Amazing! Portman’s turn as a perfectionist ballerina given her first lead role in “Swan Lake,” only to become paranoid about a new dancer in the company stealing it from her, is really the child-to-adult actress’s best film to date. She lost 20 pounds to play the part (something she is glad to be the complete opposite of now with her pregnancy).

Portman did have some ballet experience before this film, taking lessons from the ages of 4 to 13. But in preparation for “Black Swan,” she started training extensively for a whole year before production began, which not only involved ballet exercises but also swimming a mile a day. Aronofsky even admitted that for seven months of that year, Portman paid for the training out of her own pocket while the production was still trying to raise money for the film. When they did have enough money finally, it was so little that they couldn’t afford a medic, something that disturbed Portman after she twisted a rib during a lift (that took six weeks to heal). She offered up her own trailer in exchange for a medic from then on.

Another favorite performance I hope wins is Hailee Steinfeld. The 14-year-old star of “True Grit” really deserved a Best Actress nomination, but unfortunately, in Hollywood politics, the film’s marketing decided to submit her for Best Supporting Actress, as they knew she couldn’t beat out Portman. But Steinfeld truly is the leading star of “Grit.” Playing Mattie Ross, the young girl out for revenge on her father’s murderer, she holds her own with costars Jeff Bridges (who should be in the Best Supporting Actor category) and Matt Damon in her debut film.

Steinfeld won the role over 15,000 other young girls from ages 12-16. The Coen brothers wanted to make sure they kept that “simple, tough as nails young woman [whose] unusually steely nerves and straightforward manner are often surprising” characteristic that drew the brothers to the book in the first place. So first they looked all over Texas, and then expanded their search, finding Steinfeld here in LA.

My final big cheer fest for this year will be for “Toy Story 3.” Even though it would be awesome for it to win the Best Picture Oscar, it will definitely win for Best Animated Feature at least. And thank goodness, because I feel it is the pinnacle of Pixar’s talent. My favorite films of Pixar are still “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-e” but “Toy Story 3” is close on their heels. It’s the heart of the story, like the other two, that get me the most. Little Andy has grown up and now both he and his toys must move on. But will they be loved again or just thrown away? It’s a story that made even my dad sniffle and tear up at the end.

The film, which took two and a half years to write and storyboard, actually was more work for the studio than you might think. Because of all the advances in technology over the ten years since “Toy Story 2,” the animators couldn’t use the original base models for all the characters. So instead they had to recreate them all from scratch. Disney had been working on a third installment to “Toy Story” many years before Pixar though. During the two groups falling out from 2004-2005, Disney developed its own sequel without the Pixar crew. In this version, Buzz had a defect and was shipped to Taiwan for repair. But when the toys learn that the company is just tossing the old Buzzes and replacing them with new ones, they all ship themselves overseas to save Buzz. Luckily, when Pixar and Disney made up, they scrapped all ideas from that brief time and started over from scratch.

So, I hope this has revved you up for the big day on Sunday. Will all your favorites win? Will mine? Or will Hollywood just implode upon itself? (Hey, you never know…you never know.) Whatever the outcome, I hope you all have a fun time watching. See you next week with more great Hollywood history. Later, gators!

(Post-tidbit: “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich's kids got to help their dad out with the film. His son Max wrote Daisy's name on Big Baby's pendent, as well as Bonnie's name on her backpack, and the others drew all the pictures in Bonnie's room.)


  1. Yay! Great post! My pick is Black Swan, Scott Pilgrim, True Grit, TS3 and King's Speech. A great collection of films! Party on Sunday!

  2. I have basically the same picks that you do. Super psyched for Natalie Portman for the nomination and hopeful win! I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure David Fincher's The Social Network will beat out a lot of the movies that it's nominating against. Not sure why because I haven't seen it, but this Sunday should be interesting non the less!!!

  3. I'm glad the the screenplay of Toy Story 3 was nominated. But I don't understand why it's in the "Adapted Screenplay" category instead of "Original".

  4. I know it's moot now, but I found out why "TS3" was in the Adapted category. It's because it's a sequel and "based on previously published material." Silly but true.