Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kaleidoscope 2010

With the season for film awards, we can hope to watch some acclaimed international films in the fray for the most prestigious awards in the film world. The Golden Globes in January had interesting results. The Best Actor’s award was given to Colin Firth for his brilliant performance of a stammering King George VI in The King’s Speech. The Best Actress Award was clinched by Black Swan’s leading actress Natalie Portman, who stunned the world with her versatile performance of a timid and nervous ballerina transforming into her haunting and seductive alter-ego symbolized by the black swan. The Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture - Drama was given to The Social Network with its fast paced narrative and its excellent editing that straddles various time frames in a linear sequence without losing clarity. While Inception was hugely popular in 2010, it remained only a nominee for all the major categories and failed to impress the Golden Globe critics. The BAFTA awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) went largely to the same films as the Golden Globes, revealing a vein of similarity with its American counterpart in its taste for celluloid art. The King’s Speech was a sure winner in the category of Best Film even as Colin Firth swept away a BAFTA award in the Best Actor category. The King’s Speech also won Supporting Actor and Actress award for Geoffrey Rush as the King’s speech therapist and Helena Bonham Carter as the queen. The Best Actress BAFTA award was given again to Natalie Portman for Black Swan. Inception received the Special Visual Effects and also the Best Sound BAFTA award while The Social Network got its share of recognition through the Best Editing award.

The Academy Awards better known as the Oscars are known to be every actor and director’s dream. The recent ceremony had largely predictable results, with Portman and Firth winning Best Actress and Actor categories. Some critics rated the The Social Network as a more skillfully crafted film than The King’s Speech however, they noted that the theme of a social networking site taking off globally would hardly be one fit for an Academy Award. Again, The King’s Speech reaped its share of glory with an Oscar award for Best Picture.
The 36th annual César Awards known to be the French equivalent of the Oscars were held on February 25th. They were presented by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma. The Best Film winner was a 2010 French drama directed by Xavier Beauvois called Of gods and Men (Des Hommes et des Dieux), starring Lamber Wilson and Michael Londsale, who won a Best Supporting Actor award. The Best Actor award was clinched by Eric Elmosino for his performance in Gainsbourg while Sara Forestier won Best Actress for Les Noms des Gens. Best Supporting Actress went to Anne Alvaro for Le Bruit des Glacons.
The two films The King’s Speech and Black Swan which have been the most acclaimed films of the year, have some of the best performances when it comes to individual talents. Here is a little background into these films:

The King’s Speech: This is a film about King George VI of England who has no choice but to assume the throne as his elder brother abdicates in order to marry. George ‘Bertie’ suffers from a deep rooted inferiority complex because of his stammer and dreads the office of the king which requires meeting people and making speeches in front of large audiences. His stammer becomes a matter of concern to his loving wife Queen Elizabeth I and she sets out to find someone who can help him. She finds Lionel Logue, an unconventional speech therapist, who helps Bertie overcome his fears and to find his voice. In a memorable scene from the film, Lionel asks Bertie to read a passage aloud as he simultaneously plays loud music. Bertie cannot hear his own voice and is overwhelmed with pessimism halfway through the passage although he does not know that not hearing his own voice has made him read the passage flawlessly. The unconventional speech sessions which involve the king spewing a long string of swear words in order to relax his muscles are some of the funniest scenes of the film. In conclusion, this film is not only an original take on a piece of history, it portrays with skill the mutual dependence of a king and his subjects. It gracefully acknowledges that kings are also human.

Black Swan: As the title and the image suggest, the association of ballet and swan brings to mind nothing else but Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. This is a film about a ballerina, Nina Sayers played by Portman, who is a dancer in a New York City Ballet company run by Thomas Leroy (Cassel). Ballet is her only passion and she lives her life under the vigilant and controlling eye of her mother and former ballerina Erica Sayers. Things start to change in Nina’s life as she gets selected to play the lead in Leroy’s new season production of Swan Lake. However, she has competition in the form of Lily, a new dancer. Swan Lake in an original interpretation requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side - a recklessness that threatens to destroy her. In a sequence of surreal events whose reality is left for the audience to decide, Nina glimpses her dark side through tangible reflections that are independent of her in the mirror. She hallucinates and commits murder as the black swan consumes her only to fight with her own dark side. As the Swan Lake performance comes to an end with the death of the white swan, Portman herself succumbs to the black swan as her purity and innocence are forced to die with the white swan. This is also a veritable cinematography masterpiece as the director explores the various relations with white and black.

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