Saturday, January 29, 2011

Music in Film: 2010

When it comes to my entertainment, I rarely know much about the music industry. I mostly see where it collides with film and television. So with that being said, here is a look at my personal favorite scores and soundtracks for films that came out last year. Apologies for any spelling or grammar errors, I'm typing this late as I got the idea for it a few hours ago and I spent a while listening to tracks from the films on Youtube and I also have a hard time going in depth when it comes to music. With those disclaimers out of the way, here it goes...


5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I by Alexandre Desplat
Something that helps me determine my favorite film scores are the emotions that the music creates and here, Desplat creates so many. He uses the Harry Potter theme created by John Williams in such an effective manner. For example, whenever anything remotely nostalgic occurs, Desplat returns to that theme and we flashback to those early moments in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone where Harry was just a boy and things weren't as dark and dangerous. The score gets to the point where each character and mood have their own themes and they often invoke darker feelings due to the subject material. The best use of music in the film is in the opening scene where we flash between Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. Without ruining the plot, I can just say that it is very powerful.

4. The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
I have very little to say about the score because it is quite minimal. It is used when it is needed and it is therefore very effective. This is one of the most darkly ambient scores I've ever heard and the music alone just sends a chill down your back similar to how cold the subject matter of the movie is. The score is a great mix between organic and electric sounding music and almost feels experimental at times when it matches with the edits and imagery. Reznor and Ross announced that they plan to continue to work with Fincher by scoring his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I just can't wait to see what they come up with. They went against the grain and the end result will probably win them an Oscar.

3. 127 Hours by A.R. Rahman
This score heavily relies on the use of the guitar (both traditional and electronic sounding) and it really speaks to the character for the score to rely so heavily on one instrument. Aron Ralston was a loner, so here we have his singular state of mind represented by a singular instrument. The score also avoids becoming too dark (when this is perhaps a darker movie than the two previous ones mentioned above) and that actually makes a lot of sense. Aron is not a dark character so the music therefore does what Rahman's score for Slumdog Millionaire did best, it becomes an extension of the character.

2. Black Swan by Clint Mansell
The film is about Tchaikovsky's ballet of Swan Lake and Mansell therefore decides for the score to be about Tchaikovsky's music. He takes important elements from the production's original music and then adapts it effectively. It's very complimentary of how Aronofsky uses Swan Lake to tell us another related story; Mansell uses the music to play with our emotions similar to how the storyline plays with the characters. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (they hand out the Oscars) ruled the score ineligible because of the use of unoriginal music. Well, if you actually listen to the score you hear the differences. At least 75% of the score is Mansell's own work and it's a shame that he won't be recognized for this achievement.

1. Inception by Hans Zimmer
The scale of the film is quite epic, so the score has to match that both in scope and emotion. The only other score I can think of that exudes such a grandiose feeling is either by Zimmer or I think of Ennio Morricone's score for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Now, the whole film isn't always thematically epic. There are some moments that are intimate and Zimmer, like any great composer, knows when to dial certain elements of the score down to their appropriate levels. My top two favorite film scores are by Zimmer- The Thin Red Line and Black Hawk Down. The man is the master of the reason why Michael Giacchino won the Oscar last year for Up. You just have to close you eyes and the music tells the story for you.


5. Greenberg
The soundtrack was supervised by James Murphy (the founder of DFA Records) and looking at the music he has been involved with, it makes sense for him to create such a soundtrack. The characters in the film played by Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig are music buffs. There is a fantastic scene where they discuss The Kinks that really serves to bring their characters closer and deal with the themes of the film. They both go back and forth on their similar and different tastes in music, but the best moments of the soundtrack come when Gerwig gets on stage and sings by herself. Her voice is like her character, youthful and still full of maturity.

4. Kick-Ass
The title song, sung by Mika, meets a very important criteria. It's self-aware at how cheesy it is similar to the movie itself. Kick-Ass is much more of an effective deconstructionist view of super-hero movies than say Zack Snyder's Watchmen. So therefore, the title song has to do for the movie what the movie is doing for its genre. All of the other songs in the soundtrack are about empowerment such as Stand Up or Bad Reputation. It reflects what the characters played by Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz are trying to achieve while still adding an element of fun and excitement to the soundtrack.

3. Get Him to the Greek
Jason Segel, Russell Brand, and Nicholas Stoller have come with several songs that are just as funny as they are legitimately well constructed. In a year that was not that great for comedy, this film provided some great musically comedic moments while still not being too much of a gimmick. One could compare this soundtrack to that from This Is Spinal Tap and I frankly hope Infant Sorrow continues to release some new music. The highlight from this movie for me is without a doubt, The Clap. It isn't actually as funny or perhaps catchy as the other songs, but it is used at the right point in the film for the right reason- as a way to put Aldous Snow back on everyone's minds.

2. 127 Hours
I talked about why the score was so great and the soundtrack is great for the exact same reasons. It reflects Aron's character while also still dealing with the themes of the story. The movie begins with Never Hear Surf Music Again as a way to really hype up Aron's personality and ego. In the middle of the movie, when Aron wakes up still stuck under the rock, Lovely Day by Bill Withers begins playing. Boyle and Rahman use that song both as a way to enlighten us with irony and to once again keep the energy high during this montage sequence. The film ends on the original song If I Rise by Dido and A.R. Rahman and it plays as Ralston comes out from under the rock and finally discovers both freedom and himself. Absolutely genius.

1. The Fighter
The film with the best ensemble cast of the year also has some of the best music. You can look at the soundtrack to see all of the songs that David O. Russell and his collaborators chose to bring us into the world of Micky Ward, but I want to focus on one song in particular. How You Like Me Now by The Heavy is used three times in the film. During the introduction where Micky and Dicky walk the streets of Lowell, in the middle of the film where the brothers are training, and towards the end of the film when Micky wins the title. Each time, the song is asking a question and each time the answer is different. It reflect Micky's journey while also still being as loud and ear-catching as it should be. Oh, and another great musical moment comes when Alice finds Dicky at his crack house. Dicky charms his mother by sitting her down and reminding her how they used to sing I Started a Joke by The Bee Gees and Christian Bale and Melissa Leo deliver a scene that will deservedly earn them both an Oscar.

On a side note, if you are a fan of any of the scores I mentioned above, please check out these chronological recommendations for each of the five composers...

Desplat- The Queen, The Painted Veil, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Ghost Writer, The King's Speech

Mansell- Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Smokin' Aces, The Wrestler, Moon

Rahman- Slumdog Millionaire

Ross- The Book of Eli

Zimmer- Rain Man, The Lion King, As Good As It Gets, The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Sherlock Holmes


I figured I'd post a list of the shows I watch and recommend, as I'm finally caught up on all of them. TV is going through its golden age at the moment and the quality often rivals that of some of the best films being made. Take a look...

30 Rock (NBC)
The Big C (Showtime)
Big Love (HBO)
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Bored to Death (HBO)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Californication (Showtime)
Community (NBC)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Damages (DirecTV)
Dexter (Showtime)
Eastbound and Down (HBO)
Entourage (HBO)
Episodes (Showtime)
Friday Night Lights (DirecTV)
Fringe (FOX)
Human Target (FOX)
Hung (HBO)
In Treatment (HBO)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
Justified (FX)
Lights Out (FX)
Mad Men (AMC)
Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
Modern Family (ABC)
Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
The Office (NBC)
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Rescue Me (FX)
Shameless (Showtime)
Sons of Anarchy (FX)
Southland (TNT)
Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Starz)
Treme (HBO)
True Blood (HBO)
United States of Tara (Showtime)
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Weeds (Showtime)

I'll post again with an update in perhaps April/May.

The Mechanic

Good action movies are pretty hard to come by. You really have to match the escapism with a dependable story. As far as I'm concerned, John McTiernan's Die Hard is probably the best action movie ever made, but every year there is at least one truly dependable action movie. Last year we had Joe Carnahan's The A-Team, a film that was as exciting as it was well-acted and shot. The film, for me, was a guilty-pleasure adrenaline ride. The Mechanic, the new film from Simon West (Con Air), is somewhere in between being a fun movie and a truly ridiculous movie. Not as skillfully made as The A-Team was (and I'm in the minority on The A-Team even being enjoyable), but it still has some escapist moments despite a dull story.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is known as a "mechanic," a slang term for a hit-man. His mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), is killed by the company they both work for because McKenna may have started selling out the company's employees. Arthur is then introduced to Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster), who wants to follow in his father's footsteps. There is more to the plot in the early moments of the movie, such as who is really behind Harry's death, but I'll leave those plot-points to be discovered when one watches the movie.

Jason Statham is one of my favorite action stars at the moment. Yes, he does some bad movies even by "B-movie" standards, but every so often he does a good bit of character acting (Snatch, The Italian Job, The Bank Job) and I'm personally waiting for him to do something that shows he has range (I'm not sure how alone I am in believing that he even has "range"). I'm just waiting for him to do a film more like The American than this. So with Statham doing his action-star bit, that leaves what little emotional elements the film has to be picked up by Ben Foster. He embodied pure villainy in 3:10 to Yuma and was emotionally raw and powerful in The Messenger, so he is simply one of the best young actors working today. He has the grungy, rebellious youth down pat, but the film's story doesn't give him much to work with.

Like I said, it was fun, but at times it sets itself up to be way too serious of a movie and then some physically impossible feat happens. It will get stupid at times, but if you believe in the idea of there being entertainment where you "turn your brain off," then you'll enjoy yourself. I personally, just sat and waited for something exciting to happen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

East Asian Directors Marathon #12- The Ice Storm (1997, United States, Ang Lee)

"When you think about it, it's not easy to keep from just wandering out of life."

When it comes time to write a review for a film, I often read what other critics and bloggers have wrote just to remind me of what I watched as well as generate some ideas about how to analytically approach something. Usually if I don't do this, then my scatter-brain tends to forget a few details here and there and my response to a film comes up rather short. As you can tell from looking at this series, some films from East Asian Directors, I had a ton of thoughts on while others just had a few ideas pop up into my head. Maybe I should start taking notes during a movie. I only say this because I was completely blindsided by The Ice Storm and come up with little to say. I've waited about an hour after finishing it and I'm still too overwhelmed with emotion to really offer up any sentiments other than, "damn, that was good." The story is just so deep and is overall a very thematic piece of film with some of the best characters and acting I've seen. Similar to when I first saw Schindler's List or more recently Black Swan, I'm just so overwrought with my response to the film that I already know it's the feeling I get when I've seen something that belongs at the top of any list of favorite films I ever make.

Hopefully, if anyone isn't familiar with the premise, me just talking about the characters should get you interested. Set in 1970's suburban Connecticut, Ben and Elena Hood (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) are a couple that have some problems to work out. Their marriage has simply lost its spice and they haven't bothered reconnecting with each other that much. They have a son named Paul (Tobey Maguire) who goes to college and he is trying to start a relationship with Libbets Casey (Katie Holmes), but Paul's friend Francis (David Krumholtz) keeps getting in the way. Ben and Elena also have a daughter named Wendy (Christina Ricci) who is still in high school and has begun to seriously sexually experiment with the 'same-age-as-her' neighbor, Mikey Carver (Elijah Wood). Mikey is the oldest of two boys in the Carver family and is the son of Jim and Janey (Jamey Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver). Janey is also carrying on an affair with Ben, and Elena is starting to suspect something. Two events happen in the middle of the film that sends these characters to emotional extremes. First, there is an ice storm. Second, the adults all find themselves at a key party thrown by neighbor Dot Halford (Allison Janney).

So what is the film ultimately about? The answer would be family and sex. The 1970's are shown and known to be a time period where values in both were changing. Director Ang Lee and writer James Schamus know how to tell a story and get some deep themes across while still holding our interest with these characters. Speaking of, these characters just want to feel. They hunger for an alternative to their lives and seek feelings both new and old just so they can recognize themselves as human beings. This applies to every character from these two families- Ben, Elena, Jim, Janey, Paul, Wendy, Mikey, and Sandy. I'd also say that the performances from each of the actors ranks as some of their best work. I give props to the head of the cast, Kevin Kline, whose acting I'm starting to become obsessed with because of the dedication he gives to embody his roles.

There is a scene at the end where the Hood family goes to pick up Paul at the train station and they all get into the car. After the events of the ice storm the night before, Ben just begins to cry as his family looks on... and the movie ends. It's a fitting ending once you see what gets you there. It's almost too powerful for any words that I could come up with to express about the film. To sum up my thoughts, this film is raw, emotionally raw. Just the way I'd prefer it to be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Company Men

I believe that to make a socially conscious film, you really have to capture the state of the world around you at the time. I believe you have to be sure you are accurately showing the common experience faced by many and still express some very specific emotions so we as the audience can react. When someone says "socially conscious filmmaking" I think of Sidney Lumet's 1976 film Network or Spike Lee's 1989 film Do the Right Thing. The last movie I saw that I felt really did a great job of being so very in-the-moment was Jason Reitman's 2009 film Up in the Air. Writer and director John Wells, in his debut film, tries to make such a film. He comes up a little short, but he certainly gives it a good try (some of his writing and directing credits from television include working on ER, The West Wing, and Southland as well as adapting Shameless from the UK, and creating the shows Third Watch and Smith).

The beginning of the film shows the firing of Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) who was a successful corporate salesman at GTX, a transportation manufacturing company. Also in danger of being let go are Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones). Phil has hit the age where his life is his job and Gene thinks he will be fine since he is best friends with the company's owner (Craig T. Nelson) and is having an affair with the woman in charge of the lay-offs (Maria Bello). In the meantime, Bobby returns home to his wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and as the film goes on, he finds himself working under Maggie's brother (Kevin Costner) and installing drywall. Quite a shift, but is it supported with the right emotional tone?

We should feel really bad for these characters, but the film came off to me that they were more directionless without a job than in dire need of financial support. By two thirds into the film, Bobby has only moved from upper middle class to middle class. Towards the end is when he starts to get desperate, but that happens right when he finds a way to cope with his problem. I'm not saying we needed to see these characters on the streets and panhandling, but I at least needed something more than what I witnessed to give an emotional meaning to these characters and their actions. Yes, Bobby has to turn to his family for help and Gene takes another look at his marriage, but the only character that really seems the most desperate and therefore the most convincing is Phil who turns to alcohol and throwing rocks at his former office's windows.

This all leads to some typical scenes where characters argue with those closest to them and all that does it lead to the occasional but quickly resolved conflict. An example would be that in the beginning of the movie, Bobby is part of a motivational exercise that he doesn't participate in, but later in the movie (and this is in the very traditional and typical trailer for this kind of film) he repeats it triumphantly. That moment doesn't work for me because the cliches of the "guy makes it through a tough time" story just doesn't connect me emotionally to these characters and especially not to their actions.

On the plus side, the obviously talented cast does a good job in their roles. Ben Affleck works best when he is part of an ensemble where other actors help carry the weight of the story (like in Hollywoodland and The Town). I also normally can't stand Kevin Costner, but he has such a minimal part in the movie that we don't spend much time with his character. There are some very well edited montages (the opening scene, golfing, playing football with unemployed co-workers) and the score was appropriate. Past that, this film is unfortunately forgettable and didn't leave much of an impact on me. Commenting on things as tangible as the economy and the job market needs to simply be done with more feeling.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Way Back

When we think of the great directors, we think of authorship. Those that have distinct styles and tell distinct stories, so that we can watch moments of their films and take an educated guess at who made them. I'd be damned if Peter Weir isn't among the great modern, living, and active directors and yet his films are somewhat incomparable. He has been nominated for six Academy Awards (he also wrote some of his films) and three of his films have been nominated for the award for Best Picture. Are there any similarities when you take a look at his work? Someone on Wikipedia did a fantastic job of coming up with some ideas about how his films overlap and include dangerous situations (Gallipoli, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), constrictive social environments (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Dead Poet's Society), foreign cultures (The Year of Living Dangerously, Green Card), unfamiliar customs (Witness), or new ways of interpreting the world (Fearless, The Truman Show). Maybe that is why The Way Back isn't as strong as most of Weir's successful efforts. Although the whole film chronicles a dangerous situation, it only brushes over some of these ideas that Weir has shown he can strongly express in a cinematic format.

When a Polish POW named Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is sent to a Siberian prison in the early 1940's for espionage, he quickly figures out a way to escape and recruits several prisoners to join him. Among the prisoners wanting to escape there is a priest with a dark past, an accountant with a humorous outlook on life, an artist and occasional cook, and one guy who is nearly blind. These characters (who range in nationalities from Russian to Polish to Yugoslavian to Latvian) are all played by talented unknown actors who do a good job, but I'll talk more about that in a bit. Two other imprisoned characters that help Janusz are an engineer named Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) and a criminal named Valka (Colin Farrell). They are American and Russian, respectively. Obviously, this wouldn't be much of a movie if they didn't escape, so of course they do and along the way they meet Irena (Saoirse Ronan), an orphaned Polish girl who is also on the run.

I was very much looking forward to this film, so I went and read some reviews and a major complaint was that there was not enough emphasis on the characters. I disagree as I felt we knew enough to care about them to a necessary extent. I may have not cared about them as strongly as other characters in ensemble films, but for something that is "supposedly" based on a true story (I'll later explain why I say "supposedly"), we obviously knew enough to understand their common motivation- surviving and escaping to a better place. If I had to take issue with something, it would probably be the story.

Now, I understand how difficult it must be to craft these types of films. Aside from trying to remain faithful to the source material, there comes the question of how much time do you spend on aspects of a story where most of the time the characters are walking? You obviously have to show the prison, but did we spend enough time to effectively be sure we understood how bad conditions were? You obviously have to show the different environments the characters are in (they walked from Siberia to India), but did we see enough of how the transition from cold to hot weather played with hearts and minds of the escapees? Does the movie give us the feeling of trying to survive without things we take for granted such as shelter, food, and water?

I can't be sure if Weir, both as the writer and the director, kept the focus on the right things at the right moments. I only say this because the movie didn't have much of an emotional impact on me and I'm searching for why. Perhaps it could also be because it was discovered that the book this film is based on was found to be essentially a lie or more accurately a tall tale (then again, I've heard stories of people walking far across the terrain of Europe during WWII to escape the oppression they felt... so this isn't a complete "out-of-thin-air" fabrication). Knowing this while going in to see the movie made me feel like the film was trying to do justice for a story that didn't exist (it opens with a dedication and closes with an unnecessary reminder of how bad the reign of Communism was). However, the reason I probably didn't respond to the film is most likely because there was a lack of dramatic conflict that would normally hang in the air.

The two strong elements of the film for me was the cinematography and the acting. The film looked gorgeous on the big screen, whether we were in a tight shot in the mines of Siberia or viewing a sweeping shot of the snow covered Himalayas. The performances were mostly solid, although the occasional line of dialogue would fall flat and feel insincere. Ed Harris and Colin Farrell were both the true stars of the film. Harris plays a character who is very unsympathetic and although he claims that is what keeps him alive, he soon learns (thanks to the youthful Irena) that caring in such dire times is not a bad thing. Farrell plays the "powder-keg" of a character who does the unexpected and it really demonstrates a well-rounded performance.

Once again, I don't much understand the criticism of the characters. Critics also apparently had a hard time literally differentiating between who was who among the unknown actors and I really didn't see much problem with that. They weren't the strongest of characters, but I suppose people were expecting too much. Then again, that is understandable considering Weir's past films. This was not as perfect as his previous outings, but still pretty damn enjoyable despite the fact I'm still grasping at straws about what prevented me from really connecting with the story.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Green Hornet

I remember how when the first trailer for The Green Hornet premiered on the Internet, a lot of people were saying how poorly made the movie looked. I held out hope. When it comes to your typical movie-goer, I sometimes feel like advertising tries to truly appeal to the lowest common denominator. I mean, a film written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (co-writers of Superbad and Pineapple Express) and a film directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Block Party) couldn't be that bad. Yes, everyone was complaining how Seth Rogen was miscast, but he proved he could handle more serious material with Funny People and he has two somewhat dramatic films being made right now.

I always liked the idea behind this character. In this incarnation, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a spoiled trust-fund adult who parties his life away. His father (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies leaving Britt in charge of the fortune and his father's employees which include Kato (Jay Chou), who designed really cool cars with weaponry for Britt's father. When Britt and Kato spend a night out on the town fooling around, they end up saving some lives, but get bad press the next day and are labeled criminals. This gives Britt the bright idea to masquerade as the Green Hornet, a crime-fighter who pretends to be like the villains, but secretly takes them down from the inside. With the help of his father's newspaper company editor (Edward James Olmos) and his new criminology-minded secretary (Cameron Diaz), Britt and Kato plan to take down the gangster known as Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). So, like I said, I didn't think The Green Hornet could turn out that bad. It sounds like it might even be fun.

Well, I was quite wrong. Now, The Green Hornet had been in development hell for quite a while with many actors, directors, and writers attached. The closest we ever came was Jake Gyllenhaal, Stephen Chow, and Kevin Smith respectively. Kevin Smith's more serious version is currently being published as a comic book by Dynamite Entertainment and he treated the super-heroics the way they should be treated- seriously. Goldberg and Rogen decided to turn this into an action-comedy. We know they can write action (see Pineapple Express). The comedy part also wasn't that bad, in fact I laughed a few times. It just wasn't appropriate for this movie. If anything, it made everything feel too childish where nothing would have any emotional consequence. In fact, the core problem of this movie is the emotionless script. The dialogue does very little alongside the events to advance the plot or characters giving us the stereotypical PG-13-itized action-comedy movie that we saw a lot of in the early 2000's.

The cast didn't do the best job either. Cameron Diaz simply stood around and smiled so the camera could pan over to someone attractive, sadly I don't think Jay Chou was ever trained in acting (he is apparently a popular musician in Asia), and Christoph Waltz pretty much just sneers and acts villainous every so often. The worst miscasting of this whole thing is unfortunately Rogen. In fact, I can't complain much about the rest of the cast when Seth Rogen is shouting over them with improved lines about how his character is a party-boy and loves drinking and women. Unfortunately, Rogen and Chou also don't nail the relationship dynamic needed between Kato and the Hornet. In fact, the relationship is more competitive if anything and we spend more time with that aspect than their camaraderie with each other.

In terms of Gondry's influence, he makes everything flashy and look like one of his music videos. That isn't a bad thing, it just does nothing for the story. I did have the chance to see this in 3-D and that was a bore as well. I'm "thankful" we have technology to show us that Kato was standing behind Britt because "apparently" without 3-D, I can't tell that just from looking at a two-dimensional shot of them. I don't mean to be too harsh to this film, it is harmless much like another recent action-comedy (well, unintentional comedy) The Tourist. In fact, comparing it to The Tourist is a fair comparison because both movies had so much potential to be something truly cool and fun. In this case, Goldberg and Rogen's story takes one miscalculated turn after the other and is only made worse by mediocre performances.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My UPDATED 2010 Oscar Picks

-127 Hours
-Black Swan
-The Fighter
-The Kids Are All Right
-The King's Speech
-The Social Network
-The Town
-True Grit
-Toy Story 3
Just missed the cut- Winter's Bone
Will and should win- The Social Network

-Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
-Danny Boyle (127 Hours)
-David Fincher (The Social Network)
-Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
-Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Just missed the cut- Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (True Grit)
Will and should win- David Fincher (The Social Network)

-Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
-Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
-Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
-James Franco (127 Hours)
-Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)
Just missed the cut- Robert Duvall (Get Low)
Will and should win- Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

-Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
-Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
-Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
-Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
-Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Just missed the cut- Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right)
Will win- Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Should win- Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)

-Christian Bale (The Fighter)
-Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
-Jeremy Renner (The Town)
-Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
-Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Just missed the cut- John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Will and should win- Christian Bale (The Fighter)

-Amy Adams (The Fighter)
-Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
-Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
-Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
-Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Just missed the cut- Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
Will and should win- Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

-Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right)
-Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman, and John McLaughlin (Black Swan)
-Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy (The Fighter)
-Christopher Nolan (Inception)
-David Seidler (The King's Speech)
Just missed the cut- Mike Leigh (Another Year)
Will win- Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Should win- Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right)

-Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, and Aaron Stockard (The Town)
-Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3)
-Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle (127 Hours)
-Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (True Grit)
-Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Just missed the cut- Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (Winter's Bone)
Will and should win- Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)