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Pros pick the Oscars

Five industry insiders share their personal favorites in the Academy Awards' top categories

By Mike Gordon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:18 a.m. HST, Feb 27, 2011


The most sought-after man in Hollywood is a bald guy who's about a foot tall, weighs 8.5 pounds and is plated with 24-karat gold. He's a sword-toting knight named Oscar, and every year he rules the biggest night in the entertainment world: the annual Academy Awards.

With Oscar night looming, we polled five film and acting professionals with Hawaii connections to find out their personal Oscar picks. They are Amanda Schull, Hawaii-born actress, former ballerina and star of the 2010 film "Mao's Last Dancer"; Anderson Le, programming director of Hawaii International Film Festival; Jason George, who stars on ABC's Hawaii-based series "Off the Map"; film director Brett Wagner, whose movie "Chief" premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; and Gina Caruso, curator of film/director at the Honolulu Academy of Arts' Doris Duke Theatre.

See how your Oscar picks fare when the 83rd annual Academy Awards are shown on a delayed broadcast at 7:30 tonight on KITV.

 

BEST ACTOR

Schull: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

"He does a wonderful job walking a very fine line making an ornery and sometimes temperamental man appear vulnerable and damaged. This makes the audience empathize with his character and ultimately encourage him through his plight."

Le: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

George: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

"Colin Firth is probably going to walk home with the golden bald guy for 'The King's Speech,' and deservedly so. His king is tremendously insecure while simultaneously confident of his regal position. That said, I'd like to see James Franco get some love for riding the emotional roller coaster that is '127 Hours.'"

Wagner: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

"Not just because he stammers well, but because he brings so much pathos and vulnerability to the part of King George without ever shedding the character's assumptions of superiority and entitlement. Egregiously missing from this list of best-actor nominees, however, is Ryan Gosling in the best performance of his career, and surely one of the best of the year, in 'Blue Valentine.'"

Caruso: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

"Colin Firth has acted in several popular foreign films that are familiar to American audiences, including 'The English Patient,' 'Shakespeare in Love' and 'Bridget Jones's Diary.' In his role as King George VI in 'The King's Speech,' he is completely authentic and believable as the future king of England who must overcome his terrible phobia of public speaking for the sake of his country. He deftly shows the many dimensions, complexities and contradictions of his character. This film establishes him as one of our greatest actors."

 

BEST ACTRESS

Schull: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

"She was so committed to her role as a ballerina, something I know a bit about. Her dedication to that role and lifestyle were obvious to someone who has lived the life."

Le: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

"This category has always been the weak link at the Oscars because there are just not enough strong female roles in Hollywood. I always have a difficult time to count how many memorable female performances there are in a given year. Portman, however, really gave it her all, and it's one of those performances where you can see that she exhausted every fiber of her being in this role as she dives deeper into insanity. Plus, it's dark and I like dark."

George: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

"Natalie Portman is 'The Black Swan.' She's the prudish angel one second and a temptress biting the dude's lip the next. More importantly, I believed she was a dancer physically and spiritually — and I know a few dancers."

Wagner: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

"She owns 'Black Swan,' occupies just about every shot of the movie and seems to tear herself to shreds to deliver this performance."

Caruso: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

"(Her) extraordinary portrait of a gifted ballet dancer pushed beyond the brink by her mother, her artistic director, her nemesis/rival and her own perfectionism is a study of the true nature of obsession. Portman is absolutely convincing in her role, which shifts from balance and beauty to a state of terrifying mental deterioration."

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Schull: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

"It seems like Mr. Bale does nothing halfway. His complete physical transformation into this other living person is both commendable and inspiring as an actor."

Le: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

"Bale is the epitome of the method actor and has that rare trait of being a true chameleon, transforming himself physically and mentally in every role. He vacillates between mainstream box-office icon ('Batman') to true art-house fare ('The Machinist'), and his role here marries the two personas into a bravura performance."

George: Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"

"Irreverent and erudite, Rush's character is bold in how he handles the king, but Rush makes certain we can see that he's painfully aware of what will happen if he messes up. Shout-out to Christian Bale, though, for another physical metamorphosis and capturing the essence of both Boston and an addict in 'The Fighter.'"

Wagner: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

"He does an amazing job portraying the physicality of a man who is both wasting away as a drug addict and formerly a gifted athlete. He manages to be sketchy and untrustworthy but lovable and even a little bit heroic. Smart and dumb in equal measure — a total human being."

Caruso: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Schull: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

"The same applies to my pick for best supporting actress, Melissa Leo. She too embodied her character with zeal. If you see Melissa interviewed, she is nothing like Alice Ward, the woman she portrays. As an actor myself, I think it is the most wonderful compliment for someone to say that they saw none of me in my character. This means the work spoke for itself."

Le: Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"

"As the matriarch of a crime family, Weaver's performance is not what you would call 'Oscar baiting.' Rather, it is very subtle, smart and nuanced as a woman who seems sweet-natured at first but becomes truly despicable in how far she will sink to get what she wants. Plus, 'Animal Kingdom,' out now on DVD, needs to be seen."

George: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

"I've loved this actress since I first saw her in 'Homicide: Life on the Street.' She disappears and only her character is left. She's so good she actually scares me."

Wagner: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

"I didn't even recognize her in this role — not because of her hair and makeup, but because she so thoroughly inhabits this not-quite-sympathetic character, who is an instigator of conflict between the sons she can't love equally."

Caruso: Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"

"In her film debut, this focused, resilient 13-year-old girl astonished audiences and critics with her superb handling of a role that demanded extreme physical and mental fortitude. If you see clips of her off-screen, she's an upbeat, bubbly eighth-grader, a personality which stands in sharp contrast to her poised, fierce characterization of Mattie Ross."

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Schull: David Fincher, "The Social Network"

Le: David Fincher, "The Social Network"

George: David Fincher, "The Social Network"

"Like another film named 'Network,' this is a film that we'll look back on and realize how much it captured these times we live in."

Wagner: Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"

"This has become an odd category, with 10 best-picture nominees and only five best directors. I'd like to quibble with the nominations themselves: I'd delete Tom Hooper, David Fincher and the Coens and replace them with Debra Granik, Derek Cianfrance (for 'Blue Valentine') and Lisa Cholodenko ('The Kids Are All Right')."

Caruso: Tom Hopper, "The King's Speech"

 

BEST FILM

Schull: "The Social Network"

Le: "The Social Network"

"'The Social Network' is truly a film of our time, with quick-fire jargon about brilliant man-children and how their creations permeate our everyday lives and redefine our spheres of personal privacy. It is the film of a generation, much like 'The Graduate,' 'Network' and others."

George: "The Social Network"

"Every time I see 'The Social Network,' something new stands out to me: the tremendous social commentary, another piece of incredible dialogue, the great performances or even its sick soundtrack (which on paper is incongruous with the Harvard setting but blends perfectly with the technological themes)."

Wagner: "Winter's Bone"

"'Winter's Bone' cast a spell like almost no other movie I saw last year, so much so that it was a surprise to exit the theater and find myself in Hawaii instead of the chilly Ozarks."

Caruso: "The King's Speech"






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