September 24, 2020

’Tis the season for Oscar predictions

Illustration by Emily Brill

Nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards will be announced at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Below, Signal staffers offer their takes on the year’s best films and those that didn’t measure up.

Yay: “Black Swan”

“Black Swan” is perfection. Though extreme, the psychological thriller captures the mentality of anyone who has required perfection of themselves and the self-destruction that ensues, ballerina or not.

To those who protest the pervasive sexuality in the movie, I say, calm the fuck down. It’s essential to the theme and effect of the film. By creating these two extreme personalities — the pure white swan and the demonic black — Nina (Natalie Portman) is unable to exist between. There is no compromise between the two extremes (there can’t be if truly perfect), which leads to her demise.

Natalie Portman, best actress in a leading role. Or else.

— Katie Brenzel

Nay: “Black Swan”

Bulimic, mentally unstable ballet dancer with an overbearing mother? Original.

A weak plot combined with a shortage of cohesive dance sequences and an unnecessary amount of gore and

promiscuity — most of the theater’s male audience seemed to be there solely for the lesbian sex

scene — thrown in for shock value, “Black Swan” misses the mark. Pretentious, disturbing and overrated.


— Diana Bubser

Nay: “Toy Story 3”

Though, admittedly, it was adorable, “Toy Story 3” underwhelmed me. (No offense to everyone who enjoyed it.)

While it did make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, just like hugging that pink and strawberry-scented Lotso bear would, the movie didn’t live up to the hype.

The addition of Mr. Pricklepants, a Scottish stuffed-animal porcupine — complete with lederhosen and an accent, was probably my favorite part of the whole movie, and he was barely in it.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a sentimental and satisfying conclusion to the previous films, but when it’s up against movies that feature real people, as in, actual human beings, it should not rank superior.

Sure, I enjoyed it more than “The Social Network,” but compared to “Inception” or “Black Swan” … well, Andy’s dilemma of whether or not to bring his toys to college just doesn’t measure up in suspense or intensity.

Heart-warming and wholesome? Yes.

The year’s best picture?

Not so much.

— Jamie Primeau

Yay: “Despicable Me”

“Despicable Me” was definitely the best movie of the year. Sorry, “Inception.” Any movie that combines animation, Steve Carell and little adorable yellow guys just has to be good.

Even if you didn’t actually see the movie (shame on you!), you probably laughed at the commercials and ate the delicious minion pancakes at IHOP this summer. It’s a love story that’s not cheesy and a kids’ movie that children of all ages can enjoy.

Even though the 3-D version isn’t any better than the 2-D version, it’s still amazing. If you haven’t seen it yet: What the hell are you waiting for?

— Alyssa Mease

Yay: “Inception”

With films like “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” Christopher Nolan introduced us to his dark, gritty version of Gotham City.

In 2010, Nolan broadened his directing repertoire with “Inception,” a film that took crime dramas to a new level of consciousness and delivered a staple of filmmaking to new audiences.

“Inception” was THE film of summer 2010. Nolan’s ability to create a heist film which took place within a dream, within a dream, took moviegoers into a world where people could construct your dreams and where something as sacred as an original thought may not be your own after all.

“Inception” was initially showered with praise from many critics, and the often harsh movie site Rotten Tomatoes described it as “smart, innovative and thrilling.” The New York Times called Nolan a “conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set pieces.”

The ensemble cast of “Inception” includes great young actors such as Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, working with seasoned veterans Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Caine. The film’s interesting take on Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” left moviegoers with sharp memories of a mood-setting score and even drew a funny criticism from “South Park.”

“Inception” should do extremely well with Oscar nominations, and I expect wins in best sound editing, mixing and best visual effects.

— Danny Pazos

Nay: “Never Let Me Go”

Sadness often adds flavor to films. In this sepia-toned British sob story, it’s the main course.

“Never Let Me Go” stars Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan, playing English boarding school students. They’re also clones whose organs will be harvested at the government’s behest before their 25th birthdays.

Sound fascinating? It could have been.

But the film doesn’t mine the contentious territory its subject matter provides. There’s no conflict between clones and authorities. There’s not much conflict at all.

“Never Let Me Go” doesn’t paint a grand portrait of citizen vs. government, of victim vs. persecutor, of good vs. evil. It paints an intimate portrait of human despair. People brood. Teenagers lose hope. Clouds pelt a drab, grey England with rain.

It’s 100 minutes of agony — and a lot of it feels unnecessary. Though director Mark Romanek does sadness beautifully, that’s really all he does. The idea powering “Never Let Me Go” is rich, but its doomed-romance plot is trite, and, surprisingly, contains little emotional depth.

You realize about five minutes in that this is going to be a sad story. Ninety-five minutes later, you’ve realized little else.

— Emily Brill

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