In my normal, reasonable moments, I say the logical thing:
"The Social Network" is the year's best movie and it will almost (but not quite) win big Sunday at the Academy Awards. "The King's Speech" and its star (Colin Firth) will win for best picture and actor. Natalie Portman will deservedly get best actress for "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" will get both supporting awards. "Social Network" will settle for an Oscar for Aaron Sorkin's script.
There are times, however, when I have second thoughts about who deserves to win. Maybe the magnificent little "Winter's Bone" is the best picture; maybe its star, Jennifer Lawrence, is the best actress.
Shot on a micro-budget for $2 million, "Winter's Bone" catches the rich textures of a violent and impoverished world in which people have their own strong sense of right, wrong and decency. It's the kind of movie you remember long afterward.
At least, "Winter's Bone" has two chances this weekend -- the Independent Spirit awards on Saturday and the Academy Awards on Sunday. Here's a story I sent to papers, about the Spirit awards:
By MIKE HUGHES
Each year, two opposite movie awards
share a weekend.
The Oscars have big budgets and
gorgeous gowns. The Independent Spirit Awards have something else.
“Independent film is more of a pure
art form,” said Joel McHale, who hosts the Spirit ceremony.
Those awards are for films with budgets
of less than $20 million – sometimes much less. “Winter's Bone”
cost $2 million – a tenth of the Spirit limit … a hundredth of
“Inception” or “Avatar.”
That's independent filmmaking, McHale
said. “You are more constricted by money, but less constricted in
your art.” And sometimes, these two worlds merge.
Look at this year's five Spirit
best-feature nominees and you'll see four – “Black Swan,” “127
Hours,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Winter's Bone – among
the 10 Oscar nominees for best picture.
Then check the six Spirit nominees for
female lead: There are all five Oscar nominees for best actress.
(In both cases, the lone exception
involves the comedy “Greenberg.” It has Spirit nominations for
best feature and for its female lead, Greta Gerwig.)
On slim budgets, people make movies
that are simultaneously Oscar-worthy and Spirit-worthy. “Black
Swan” – an artful film about a troubled ballerina – has
approached $100 million at the box office, with Natalie Portman
dominating best-actress awards. “It's kind of crazy how good it
is,” McHale said.
And “Winter's Bone” may be the
ultimate example. With that tiny budget, director (and co-writer)
Debra Granik filmed in Ozark locations of Missouri where the novel
was set. She used local buildings, clothes and, often, people. “The
little girl actually lives on the property in the movie,” McHale
Some of its actors have TV credits.
Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, both Oscar nominees, were the
daughter on “The Bill Engvall Show” and Sol on “Deadwood.”
Mostly, though, the actors are unknowns
– just as the setting is. “Winter's Bone” describes a violent
rural world that still has its own strong moral code and decency.
Within it, a teen (Lawrence) tries to find her dad – or prove he's
dead – because he put up their home for bail.
“It's a world most Americans are
unaware of,” McHale said. “I cried at the end. It was one of the
best and sweetest moments I have seen.”
His job description, however, doesn't
include weeping. McHale – star of NBC's “Community” and E's
“Soup” – will be there to be funny. “Most of it will be in
Spanish, just as a challenge,” he joked. “There will be an
opening (filmed) sketch …. Hopefully, there will be no major
Some people will emerge with awards.
The next day, they'll try for more at the Oscars.
– Independent Spirit Awards
– 10 p.m. to about 12:15 a.m.,
Independent Film Channel (generally via satellite or digital cable)
– Best feature: “Black Swan,”
“127 Hours,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Winter's Bone,”
– Female lead: Natalie Portman,
“Black Swan”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter's Bone”; Annette
Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”; Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”;
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”; Greta Gerwig, “Greenberg.”
– Male lead: James Franco, “127
Hours”; Ben Stiller, “Greenberg”; Aaron Eckhart, “Rabbit
Hole”; John Reilly, “Cyrus”; Ronald Bronstein, “Daddy
– Also: Categories for directors,
scripts, cinematography, foreign films (“The King's Speech” is
nominated), first features, low-budget films (under $500,000) and
more. See www.spiritawards.com.