I rather like the ten-nominee system of the past few years. It's allowed some interesting films to get recognition when they normally wouldn't. So here are the ten Best Picture nominees and my assessment of their Best Picture changes:
1. Toy Story 3: A solid film, but animation is still struggling to gain equal acceptance with live-action films. Its a shoo-in for Best Animated Feature, which will be the extent of its wins.
2. Winter's Bone: One of my favorites of the year. Fantastic acting, a real, gritty sense of danger, and an excellent surprise. It doesn't stand a chance.
3. 127 Hours: In short, it's too gruesome to win Best Picture.
4. Inception: Popular, yes, but it's dense as granite and it's sci-fi, which traditionally cleans up in the technical categories and gets overshadowed in the Best Picture race.
5. Black Swan: Too crazy to win.
6. The Kids Are All Right: It's a talky, character-driven family drama with a bitter touch of comedy. All bode well, but it's missing the epic quality of some of its contenders. Just like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, it's more attractive as a Screenplay winner than as a Best Picture.
7. The Fighter: This one is really an acting showcase. Melissa Leo has a strong shot at Supporting Actress and there's no way Christian Bale can lose Best Supporting Actor, but the movie as a whole is all over the place.
8. True Grit: A real contender. As I wrote in an earlier post, it's the least-awful Coen Brothers movie. It's a big story in a big setting with big characters, but perhaps the actors are getting more attention than the film itself.
9. The Social Network: It has up-to-the-minute relevance and tells a compelling story, but I feel that its screenplay is the real star, rather than the actors or directing. Also, from a visual standpoint, it's not much to look at.
10. The King's Speech: It's a period historical drama tempered with appropriate levity, it deals with epic events on an intimate scale, and it's filled with notable performances. And the costumes and sets are top-notch. The King's Speech fulfills every criteria for a Best Picture and, unless voters decide to get all modern and edgy this year, I think it will win Best Picture.