Crowd-Pleasers Top Favorite Oscar Contenders

By Theresa Iker ‘14Staff Writter

As a movie enthusiast—and someone who arguably has too much time on her hands—I have seen most of this year’s Oscar-nominated films. It has been interesting to chart the past few awards seasons, as the Academy has been making valiant efforts to eradicate their reputation for exclusivity. They aren’t just picking those edgy, disturbing indies that no one really knew were out. This is why there are now 10, rather than the usual five, best picture nominees. Why the flashy Oscar website now has a “Your Picks” section, where you can assign a pixilated Oscar statue to your favorite films. And why the young and attractive James Franco and Anne Hathaway are this year’s hosts. The name of the game this year (with only a few exceptions): crowd-pleasers. On this basis, here are some of my top picks for 2011.

Best Picture: “The Social Network” I know this is a cliché, but I mean it this time: this was a tough year. There were many amazing options for Best Picture, but “The Social Network” is the obvious choice

given its solid cast, amazing director-screenwriter duo and surprising critical acclaim. It has the added bonus of a wide viewership, as it made consistently good box of-

fice numbers due to word-of-mouth notoriety throughout its theatre run. Finally, it’s about Facebook and its dialogue is sharp and funny in a pop culture kind of way,

which is exactly the kind of film the Academy needs to award if it is to become truly relevant and respected outside of the incestuous ivory tower of the film community.

Honorable Mention: “Black Swan”

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” “Black Swan” was a relatively low-budget film with some seriously disturbing subject matter, so not everyone and their grandmother saw it. However, it has made almost $100 million at the box office so far. Natalie Portman absolutely embodied her tortured character. She spent an ascetic year transforming into a ballerina and did a magnificent job performing most of her own dancing. Watching this beautifully filmed, dark thriller with Portman in nearly every shot literally catapults the viewer into the character’s delusions. And it doesn’t hurt that Portman will be a glowing mother-to-be on the red carpet; being a pregnant nominee definitely doesn’t hurt, as seen in the cases of Meryl Streep, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rachel Weisz.

Honorable Mention: Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech” Aside from being one of my number one favorite actors (for both his acting and aesthetic gifts), Colin Firth has been seriously underrated by the Academy despite his slew of wonderful performances—this is the man who has played Mr. Darcy three times! Luckily, this is Firth’s year: he gave a truly touching, outstanding portrayal of the stuttering King George VI in what could have been just another stuffy English costume drama. A win for Firth would also be something of a lifetime achievement award, not unlike what was done last year with Sandra Bullock (since “The Blind Side” wasn’t exactly cinematic genius).

Honorable Mention: James Franco, “127 Hours”

Music, Original Score: Hans Zimmer, “Inception” Not only was “Inception” a smash hit this year, its music perfectly accentuated its heart-racing plot. Hans Zimmer brilliantly incorporated the haunting trombones from the Édith Piaf song “Non, je ne regrette rien” (which was a plot device) into the entire soundtrack. Combined with the action and vivid special effects of the film, Zimmer’s music causes a two-hour adrenaline rush.

Best Animated Feature Film: “Toy Story 3” It’s Pixar—need I say more?