Academy Applications: A Look at the 2011 Best Picture Nominees

By James Cassar
The Oscars: an awards show about as old as motion pictures themselves. In 2011, the Academy Awards are celebrating their 83rd ceremony at the end of the month, and there are several films on the ballot this year, all voted on by the esteemed committee that all directors and actors aspire to be under the scrutinizing eye of. The ‘Best Picture’ is the final statue dedicated to arguably the best movie that hit theaters in 2010, with some past winners being Rocky, Little Miss Sunshine, and even Beauty and the Beast.
With every year, there are always some basic criteria that a film has to follow and exceed to be considered for this coveted prize: a gripping storyline, an underlying theme, and rave reviews. But are there some nominees that fall short of these requirements this year?
Not necessarily. The Coen Brothers’ remake of John Wayne’s classic western True Grit was applauded for its faithful adaptation and superb acting. Summer smash Inception could easily have been a unanimous nomination, what with astronomical ticket sales and universally fantastic reviews from critics, not to mention the highly original story and visuals. Like every group of nominations, the Oscar committee has predictably chosen pictures that deal with more mature themes, like the nonfiction 127 Hours and David Fincher’s The Social Network. Hours, heralded by James Franco of Pineapple Express fame, tells the edge-of-seat true story of a young hiker who gets trapped and the life-altering decision he has to make. Critically acclaimed, The Social Network chronicles the genesis of Internet giant Facebook and the messy lawsuits and friendship disintegrations that followed its success. The acting, capitalized by the performances by Zombieland’s Jesse Eisenberg and megastar Justin Timberlake is one of the most believable displays in modern cinema and the events unfold to the backdrop of a wonderfully appropriate industrial score by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.
Nevertheless, there are some surprises on the ballot. The conclusion to the wildly popular Toy Story überfranchise (aptly named Toy Story 3) is a contender, which continues to show the sweet spot the Academy has for Pixar films (2009’s Up was nominated last year). But can it stand up to an esteemed list of cinema gold that also includes Black Swan, The Fighter, and others? Audiences everywhere will know the answer when the envelope’s seal is broken.
The 83rd annual Academy Awards are February 27th at 8:00pm on ABC. Don’t forget the popcorn.