I will start with those I've seen, in descending order of my rating, then go on to explain why I haven't seen the others (yet).
- Winter's Bone - Nice that it got nominated, since it was by far the best film of the year. An intensely good story, incredibly well told (and beautifully photographed). I also think the unaffected and mesmerizing Jennifer Lawrence deserves the Best Actress statuette, but it's likely the Academy will consider her nomination to be the prize, and award the Oscar to someone more famous.
- The King's Speech - Like Winter's Bone, I loved this film and gave it my highest rating (4 stars). But the fact that such a modestly styled and historical presentation grabbed 12 nominations really underscores what a weak field we're considering. Firth and Rush together made this movie an extraordinary experience - if the world were just, they would share the Best Actor award.
- True Grit - OK, we're down to my 3.5-star rating here, which ain't bad, but it's only No. 3 on the list! Coen Brothers darkness tinges a rollicking Western with a couple of hoot-worthy characters played by Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. Both are terrific, but the kid is totally awesome. An incredible discovery. I enjoyed the film heartily, and wished I had popcorn to munch throughout.
- The Social Network - No surprise that this got a lot of noms, as it's got a super-relevant topic and very snappy dialogue by Aaron Sorkin. I gave it 3.5 stars, but ultimately found it less memorable than those listed above.
- The Fighter - An unoriginal story presented in a slightly novel way, with very, very good acting that elevated this film to a 3-star rating. I always expect greatness from Christian Bale, and here he comes close to the mind-bending tour-de-force that he accomplished in The Machinist (look it up, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is just as good). Melissa Leo was better in Frozen River; Mark Wahlberg may have been overlooked here.
- Inception - OK, the Academy gave like a hundred nominations to Titanic, so nothing surprises me anymore. This was a boring action film disguised as an intellectual thriller, starring CGI (and some actual people who did nothing to distinguish themselves, unless you count delivering laughably stupid dialogue with a straight face). I only gave it 2 stars, which means I wouldn't recommend you waste the time to see it.
Now, for the Best Picture-nominated films I haven't seen, in the order I may see them in:
- Black Swan - I have shied away from this film, despite having loved Darren Aronofsky's previous work, because I'm worried that the crazy ballerina character (seen in photo above at right) will give me unpleasant flashbacks to a couple of past girlfriends. Also, the mixed reviews. But I may buck up my courage and catch it while it's still in the theater. One more thing - am I the only person who's sick and tired of Natalie Portman already?
- The Kids Are All Right - Gets points for correct spelling of alright. Lots of people have urged me to see this film, and I like the actors just fine. But, a long time ago, lots of people urged me to see a Lisa Cholodenko film called High Art, and it also had some pretty good actors in it, but it was so horrbly written that I shut it off after 45 minutes. Finding this available from the library will probably take several months, but maybe some day I'll see it and find out that this time they were right.
- Toy Story 3 - Predecessors were wonderful, and this probably is, too. Didn't see it because I'm old and don't have kids. Also, it sort of bothers me that it has grossed $415 million to just $6.3 million for Winter's Bone. Could it possibly be 65 times more worthwhile?
- 127 Hours - Didn't go because I don't crave such a harrowing experience. Probably won't ever crave such a harrowing experience. Also, I get the impression that the guy James Franco plays is so arrogant that half the audience is glad he has to cut off his arm. Yeeeesh!
Overlooked: Babies. I can't understand why this French-made documentary isn't nominated in its category. Of the five feature-length documentary nominees, I've only seen one - Restrepo - and it was amateurish in comparison to the lyrical, beautiful, nearly wordless human nature film Babies. See it and be charmed by who we are.