The Social Network, Winter’s Bone, The King’s Speech, True Grit and The Other Guys were some of my favorites. I recently caught two surefire Oscar favorites– The Fighter and Black Swan. Both are must-sees for any serious film lover.
In The Fighter, we see a tale that’s been told many times: the palooka beating the odds, trusting in himself and succeeding. But, this film based on true events throws in some interesting twists– a family that loves and manipulates so hard it’s crushing, and the perils of being trained by a crackhead.
Christian Bale is phenomenal as the washed-up older brother/trainer to Mark Wahlberg’s battling boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward.
Bale’s “Dickey” lives in his past glory days and deludes himself with dreams of rising again to be a serious fighter and contender. Until then, he has the crack pipe and his little brother to keep him occupied. The boys have an overbearing mother played by Melissa Leo, in a performance sure to get an Oscar nod. Mom is not only the matriarch of the family, she schedules upcoming bouts and manages her brood of fighting boys and doting daughters. Leo and Bale are a potent one-two punch (witness the scene in the car with the two singing).
Throw in killer performances by Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg, and you have a film best described by our firstborn son as “it’s hard to imagine a better sports movie.” Yes, yes it is.
Director David O. Russell really delivers the goods here; the pacing, camerawork, cinematography and performances are all terrific. That said, I cannot forgive Russell for the wreck that was I Heart Huckabees .The other move that should not be missed is Black Swan, a film just under two hours that will haunt you for a long time to come.
While we’ve all seen many boxing tales, we probably can’t name many gripping ballet flicks. Enter Black Swan, a movie that’s part beauty, part beast, and has the creepy edginess of Psycho throughout.
Oscar, meet Natalie Portman, shake hands and get to know each other. She’s a lock.
Portman shed 20 of her unslightly pounds for the role of Nina Sayers, and she delivers a heavyweight performance as a dedicated-innocent-living-at-home-with-mommie-pursuing-perfection- ballet dancer. Her performance as an actor and dancer are believable, beautiful and incredibly disturbing. Director Darren Aronofsky never lets up with the tension and intrigue of this compelling thiller. No matter how much you think you don’t like ballet, I defy you not to be interested in this film. Of course, some hot sex scenes can spice up any story.
The supporting cast is superb. Barbara Hershey as Nina’s long suffering artistic mom, Mila Kunis as Lily, the back-tatted beauty in the company who is either Nina’s friend, enemy or a frienemy, Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre, the fading ballerina star and Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy, the driven and manipulative ballet company artistic director.
I can say no more about the movie aside from this: Swan Lake scares me. See this film. Here’s a ballet film that keeps you on your toes. (Could I get a rimshot, here? A rimshot, please! Rimshot?!)
The Fighter and Black Swan are two great stories of finding strength from within in decidedly different ways. Between the two films, they’ll easily garner a dozen to a dozen and a half well-deserved Oscar nominations.
See them and see why.