x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Oscar finalists receive local backing

UAE-based film critics and filmmakers describe Oscar nominees as "festival darlings", and say the trophies will be shared evenly.

Natalie Portman in a scene from Black Swan.
Natalie Portman in a scene from Black Swan.

Abu Dhabi // A historical drama about a stammering king, a ballerina thriller and the remake of a 1969 John Wayne Western were among the leading films announced last night as Academy Award nominees.

The King's Speech led with 12 nominations, including best picture. The movie, starring best actor nominee Colin Firth, will vie against nine others including Black Swan, True Grit, Facebook drama The Social Network and boxing film The Fighter for the top Oscar at the February 27 Hollywood ceremony.

Rounding out the category are The Kids Are All Right, the survival story 127 Hours, sci-fi dream thriller Inception, Toy Story3, and Dubai Film Festival favorite Winter's Bone.

"These are prestige films with box office buzz, and festival darlings," said local filmmaker John Sammon. "Of course people who were nominated before were nominated again, but there will always be newbies of course."

Firth, True Grit star Jeff Bridges and Jesse Eisenberg, who portrayed Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, were among those who received best actor nods for their roles. James Franco in 127 Hours and Javier Bardem in Biutiful were also nominated.

Competing in the best actress category are Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right; Natalie Portman in Black Swan; newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, in Sundance Film Festival winner Winter's Bone; Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine; and Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.

Portman's portrayal as a disturbed ballerina in the psychological thriller Black Swan was especially powerful, said local film producer Jac Mulder. "There was such an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and immersion, of being tied into the emotions, and a feeling that the character was twisted and yet you could not stop watching her," said Mulder, who is director of the Dubai-based post-production and visual effects company Muddville.

"The lucid feel of this movie, and the fact that it was sort of risky, has inspired me for one of the features I am working on."

The movie is "a real stunner and a black horse," said Sabir Haque, a local documentary filmmaker and professor of film studies at Manipal University in Dubai.

Still, "There won't be a single film taking home a lot of trophies - it looks a mixed bag to me," he said.

Among supporting actor nominees were Christian Bale in The Fighter, Geoffery Rush in The King's Speech and John Hawkes in Winter's Bone. The supporting actress category includes Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech, Melissa Leo in The Fighter and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit.

Last weekend The King's Speech was an upset winner at the Producers Guild of America Awards, often an indicator of which film will claim the best picture Oscar.

The Social Network, meanwhile, was named best drama at the Golden Globes and was chosen by key critics' groups.

Films released closer to Oscar season generally get more favour, said Mulder. "People tend to forget about the older movies," he said.

Four nominees - The King's Speech, True Grit, Black Swan and The Fighter - are currently in the top 10 at North American box offices.