Oscar Hopefuls Part 2

127 Hours – R

James Franco gives a captivating performance in 127 Hours, Danny Boyle’s inspiring, if possibly incomplete, film about adventurer Aron Ralston. Ralston’s hand was pinned under a rock when exploring a canyon, and he was stuck for five days until he severed his own arm. The film adds a lot of touches to keep the scenes of the trapped Ralston from growing tedious. We see unusual point-of-view shots from places like Ralston’s water bottle as fluid is sucked out and his camera as it rewinds his video. It also intercuts Ralston’s physical endurance with his flashbacks and hallucinations, which call to mind Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun (another amputee story, but a much less hopeful one).

2010's Not Over Yet for this Blogger

Best-of-the-year lists for 2010 are already passé, but my decision to go home for Christmas delayed opportunity for me to see a few movies. To speed the process, my cutoff will be seeing and reviewing The Illusionist, Winter's Bone and Blue Valentine since the first one is a movie I've looked forward to and the others are ones that will likely show up on the Oscar ballot. There are a few, like Rabbit Hole and Another Year, that I may write about if they get any substantial nominations, but I've drawn the line and will publish my list as soon as possible.

Oscar Hopefuls Part I

Now that the fall semester and holidays are over, I can catch up on a few Oscar contenders that I’ve been too busy to see immediately.

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s intense and dark fantasy follows Nina (Natalie Portman), an "aging" ballerina (mid-to-late twenties, but old enough to feel she needs bigger roles now) for whom the pressure of starring in Swan Lake initiates a chain of paranoia, sexuality, physical torture and overdue freedom. Portman is brilliant as both a girl who has taken too long to grow up and, in Nina's hallucinations, a carnal savage that wants to escape. She is surrounded (and her character oppressed) by a very good supporting cast, which includes a candid Mila Kunis as a rival dancer, an eerie Barbara Hershey as Nina's mother and an imposing Vincent Cassel as the ballet's director. His character is what Boris Lermontov (the impresario Anton Wolbrook played in the 1948 classic The Red Shoes) would be like if he had a libido.