So...the 83rd Annual Academy Awards are this Sunday. Are you watching? No? Yeah...didn't think so. The Academy Awards have always been known to snub genre specific films no matter the quality. In fact, the only two real horror films that were ever nominated for best film were 1973's The Exorcist and 1991's The Silence of the Lambs with the latter actually pulling off the win. It's a shame, really....when you consider some of the great horror films of all time never taking home anything other than a place in horror fandom history. Rosemary's Baby, The Thing, Let the Right One In, Psycho, The Shining, Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all represent quality solid films that should have been recognized by the Academy. Despite some of the subject matter involved, all of the films mentioned could be considered some of the best of all time. But, alas, they live on in the hearts of every true horror fan. Just not Oscar....he fuckin' hates horror.
This Sunday there will be 2 films that have some disturbing subject matter within. One is nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress In A Leading Role and the other is nominated for Best Actor In A Leading Role. While both films don't really fit the true criteria of pure horror, they are the closest thing to the genre that Oscar has seen in two decades. Today I would like to take a look at both of these films.
If there were any true justice in Hollywood, then James Franco will collect the Best Actor statue this Sunday at the ceremony in Los Angeles. Danny Boyle's latest about the true story of Aron Ralston and the horror that he suffered within the canyons of Utah is a gruesome account of a man's struggle for survival. Much like the film Buried, 127 Hours is mostly a one man show. It is James Franco's one man show. Aside from the hikers he meets in the begininning, by way of genre lovelies Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn, he is the one who takes up most of the screen time in the film. Quite frankly, I didn't know Franco had it in him. I mean, don't get me wrong...I've always liked his style of acting...I just never thought he could anchor a film like this one. Especially a Danny Boyle film.
127 Hours truly begins once Aron Ralston's hand gets caught between a rock and a hard place. From then on, it is a tension-filled premise based on survival. Rich hallucinations are presented in a way that only Boyle is capable of. He is a master director and really has a sense for beautiful film making and, although the scale is miniscule in this one, he truly takes the film to greater heights than an average director would be capable of doing. Danny Boyle is one of my favorite directors and I can't wait until he's done fuckin' around with these little beautiful films and gets his ass back behind a camera for a horror film. He's been talking about doing the eventual return to his 28 Days Later films for quite some time now.
But, anyway.....back to Franco. He transcends the role and becomes something more than just some actor playing a real-life survivor. He has become one of Hollywood's elite actors. In a class with the Benecio Del Toro's and Johnny Depp's of the world. Although Depp's usual brand of acting is getting rather tiresome as of late....he has done some fine work in the last couple decades. James Franco has proved that he can carry a film....and not just that...but, he can do it with pure acting and a smart charisma that can hold your interest and tension for an hour and a half. He has arrived...and he deserves the gold on Sunday. Will he get it? Sadly..........no.
One such actress who may very well land the golden statue this Sunday is Natalie Portman in her role as the fragile Nina Sayers, a talented ballet dancer who yearns to embrace her darker side in which to pull off the lead in the new production of Swan Lake. It is an obsessive story told through the direction of another favorite director of mine, Darren Aronofsky.
Much like Franco, Portman transcends the role of the torchered dancer and becomes much more than just the sum of her parts. She takes the psychological premise and adds her substance to the role and delivers a memorable performance so haunting in so many different layers. It is a moment in film that stands out as a young actress stepping outside of her usual safe place and taking on something bigger than she ever has in her career. In fact it is a career definer....a game changer for Portman.
Aronofsky adds his usual dark flavor to the film and, although this is really Portman's film, he does a fine job of crafting another of his signature classics. Just like 127 Hours, Black Swan is a fine combination of director and actor achievement and Natalie Portman should take the Oscar on Sunday. Will she? Perhaps. What do I know? I'll probably be watching the unrated cut of Hatchet II for the third time.
But...as I said earlier.....Oscar doesn't give two fucky fucks about a horror film....so, it's good that films of obsessive soul searching horror and gruesome gory survival fun get recognized because you'll never see anyone from a film like A Serbian Film walking across the stage collecting a golden statue for Best Achievement In Fucked Up Headless Corpse Fucking anytime soon.
Thanks for reading,