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‘Big’ and ‘small’ are relative terms.

According to Box Office Mojo, the production budgets for this year’s Oscar Best Picture nominees are as follows (in million of dollars):

Toy Story 3:  200

Inception:  160

The Social Network:  40

True Grit:  38

The Fighter:  25

127 Hours:  18

The King’s Speech:  15

The Black Swan:   13

The Kids Are All Right:  4

Winter’s Bone:  2

Strange that we call some motion pictures ‘movies’, and others ‘films’.  Other than the generic meaning which is used interchangeably, they sometimes denote certain inherent differences. The money that goes into making them just might be a factor: The higher the cost, the more likely it’s a movie… the lower, a film.  A movie is likely a Hollywood studio production, with better-known stars, big budget marketing, and aims at popularity among a wider spectrum of viewers.  A film is more or less associated with indie, art-house, and caters to a much smaller range of audience.

Such was the dichotomy between last year’s Oscars’ David and Goliath scenario: Avatar and The Hurt Locker.  And I was glad to see the little guy win.

But this year is a bit different.  Many of the Best Picture nominees are small budget productions.  They draw big buzz because of the pictures themselves, the quality of their productions, their subject matter, and the characters that drive the story.  They all depict little persons achieving big, however reluctantly.

Here’s a small glimpse of what’s big in some of these stories:

127 Hours:  The real life, harrowing ordeal of Aron Ralston, who is caught in a small crack of a big boulder and how he used a penknife to cut his arm off to free himself.  James Franco nominated for Best Actor.

True Grit:  A small, 14 year-old girl by sheer guts and determination, ventures out in the big, wild West to seek justice for her father’s death. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Winter’s Bone: A teenaged Ozark Mountain girl trying to keep her family intact in utter poverty, and save the shack they call home by finding her father who has fled bail for drug dealing, an act that threatens the big crystal meth economy of the area. 20 year-old Jennifer Lawrence nominated for Best Actress.

The Fighter:  A down and out boxer with a small name like Micky Ward from a dysfunctional home in a drug-infested neighbourhood bounces back to win the WBU champion.

The Social Network:  A college student called Mark Zuckerberg in his little dorm room launching a big business by changing the way people in the whole wide world connect and socialize. Jesse Eisenberg nominated for Best Actor.

The King’s Speech:  A big role of a king being filled by a small, shy man hampered by a debilitating stammer big as cancer.  It could be all psychological, sure, that’s why it’s insurmountable… and overcoming it takes big courage.  Colin Firth nominated for Best Actor.

A small person overcoming big obstacles one small step at a time always makes a good story. It is so with the little character, true also with the little film.

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