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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Gambit guide to the Oscars

Posted By on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 2:16 PM

  • Photo by Alan Light

The Academy Award nominations are out, which means you have 32 days to cram if you want to dominate in your office's Oscar pool or impress everyone with your informed predictions during the Feb. 27 ceremony.

2010 was a relatively boring year for film, so if you couldn't guess at least some of the Best Picture nominees, you must have been living under the rock you got stuck under while canyoneering in Utah. But we're here to help in case you missed out on some of the nominated films. The Prytania Theatre screens four of the Best Picture nominees between now and March 3, and it also screens the films nominated in the Animated and Live Action Short Film categories (Feb. 11-Feb. 17). AMC Theaters does its annual Best Picture Showcase on Saturday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 26 (AMC will announce this weekend the screening schedule and which local theaters will participate). Both the Prytania and the Theaters at Canal Place are hosting Oscar viewing parties this year.

Hit the jump for more information on all the Best Picture nominees and films nominated in other categories, as well as information on the viewing parties. Also make sure to vote for your Oscar picks in our C'est What? poll!

127 Hours

This is the one where James Franco’s character saws his arm off. That’s pretty much all you need to know. The film already has some Oscar clout because of director Danny Boyle, who nabbed the 2009 Best Director Oscar for Slumdog Millionare, but some say a Best Picture win is unlikely — it didn’t do well at the box office (but neither did The Hurt Locker), people are a little squeamish about the climactic amputation scene, and wouldn’t be a little much for James Franco to host the ceremony (along with Anne Hathaway) and pick up the big award?
Oscar stereotype: Inspiring true story (Franco plays Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who cut his arm off with a dull knife after getting it stuck under an isolated boulder while canyoneering.)
How to see it: It's currently not playing in local theaters or available on DVD, so you'll have to catch it at the AMC Best Picture Showcase.

Black Swan

Although she’s since moved on to rom-coms with rape jokes, Natalie Portman gave one of the year’s best performances in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Portman stars as a repressed ballerina who deteriorates, mentally and physically, while trying to tap into the Black Swan aspect of her lead role in Swan Lake. In terms of Aronofsky’s past works, it’s an unflinching character portrait like The Wrestler and a thriller that quickly careens into the surreal like Requiem for a Dream. It may not win Best Picture because many critics considered its themes to be too heavy-handed, and we all know the Academy has a history of voting for more subtle films, like Titanic or Crash.
Oscar stereotype: Arthouse
How to see it: Still playing at local theaters. At Prytania Jan. 28-Feb. 11.

The Fighter

The story isn’t anything new — the inspiring boxer tale! — but what stands out in The Fighter, the true story of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his unpredictable family, are the performances. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo (Toni Bernette on Treme) are unrecognizable in their roles as Micky’s crack-addicted brother/trainer and his overbearing, and often petty, mother. The film’s more likely to pick up acting awards — Bale, Leo and Amy Adams (she plays Mickey's girlfriend Charlene) are nominated for their performances — than Best Picture, but the Academy loves both boxing/wrestling stories and Boston accents, and this film has both. So you never know.
Oscar stereotype: About boxing/wrestling, set in/near Boston
How to see it: Still playing at local theaters. At the Prytania Feb. 25-March 3.


If you didn’t see this one, it’s likely you heard its booming noises while trying to enjoy Babies in the screening room next door (ahem) or had to listen to someone bloviate about the myriad “theories” surrounding the film. I’m not going to even try to explain the plot of this.
Oscar stereotype: The blockbuster
How to see it: Available on DVD, or just drop by a university dorm room on any given night. Follow the weed smell.

The Kids Are All Right

Lesbian couples: they’re just like us! They argue! They embarrass their children! They also enter tricky relationships with their anonymous sperm donor after said children invite him to dinner. Just like us.
Oscar stereotype: The feel-good indie
How to see it: Available on DVD.

The King's Speech

The historical drama leads the pack with 12 Oscar nominations, and deservingly so. Colin Firth is great as the stammering King George IV, who takes the throne after his playboy brother abdicates. Helena Bonham Carter is great as Queen Elizabeth. Geoffrey Rush is great as the king’s speech therapist. Everyone is great! I don’t know if it resonates enough to win Best Picture, but I can see it picking up awards for acting and the Original Screenplay categories.
Oscar stereotype: History movie (although it’s supposedly riddled with inaccuracies)
How to see it: Still playing at local theaters. At Prytania from now until Jan. 27.

The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) wrote this one, so naturally David Fincher’s film about the controversial ascent of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is filled with smart, snappy dialogue (a shoo-in for Best Adapted Screenplay). It cleaned up at the Golden Globes, which seems auspicious — but then again, the Hollywood Foreign Press thought The Tourist was a musical or comedy, so the Golden Globes probably aren’t real.
Oscar stereotype: The zeitgeist-y one
How to see it: Available on DVD Feb. 8, or wait to catch it at the AMC Best Picture Showcase.

Toy Story 3

You didn’t see this? What’s wrong with you? If this one wins, it’ll be the first animated film to do so. It was one of the best-reviewed films of the year, so it could definitely happen (but it probably won't).
Oscar stereotype: Pixar movie
How to see it: Available on DVD, and you probably already watched with your siblings and parents on Christmas day while in a deep food coma.

True Grit

It’s another great film from the Coen brothers — with a strong box office performance, to boot — but the adaptation of the Charles Portis novel (which was made into a 1969 movie starring John Wayne) could be overlooked, since many of the other nominees were more favorably reviewed. On a related note, Hailee Steinfeld — arguably the protagonist of the film —was nominated for Best Supporting Actress instead of Best Actress. Hm.
Oscar stereotype: Coen brothers film
How to see it: Still playing at local theaters. At Prytania Feb. 18-24.

Winter's Bone

This is the one you may not be as familiar with, but you should be. Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence gives an incredible performance as a teenager who navigates the meth head underworld of the Ozarks to hunt down her deadbeat father. The bleakness of her environs and the dangerous characters she encounters make the film very haunting. It could be this year’s The Hurt Locker, the underdog with a lot of support.
Oscar stereotype: The one you've never heard of
Where to watch it: Available on DVD.


Lucy Walker's Waste Land (reviewed by Will Coviello here), nominated in the Documentary Feature category, was extended at Zeitgeist. Other documentary nominees Restrepo (reviewed here) and Exit Through the Gift Shop are available to stream instantly on Netflix.

Dogtooth, the Greek film nominated in the Foreign Language Film category that played at Zeitgeist last year, is available to stream instantly on Netflix.

Michelle Williams is nominated for her role in Blue Valentine, which Canal Place is getting this Friday, Jan. 28. The film screened during the 2010 New Orleans Film Festival. Nicole Kidman is also nominated in the same category for The Rabbit Hole, which is currently playing in local theaters.


WGNO hosts a viewing party at Canal Place that benefits the Southeast Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross. The event features food and drinks from the theater's Gusto cafe and a silent auction. Visit the event website for details.

The New Orleans Film Society hosts its annual Oscar party at the Prytania at 6 p.m. Last year, tickets cost $25 and included food, wine, popcorn and a small fountain drink. And there was also film trivia games during commercial breaks that awarded prizes, and lots of people in fancy outfits. Check the Prytania and the New Orleans Film Society's websites for more details.

We'll update with more information on these viewing parties when it gets closer to the ceremony.

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