The stand out film rentals due for release on Blockbuster online as of the 27th May 2011 form a double helping of Oscar nominated might. The Coen Brothers’ True Grit, nominated for ten Oscars and David O. Russel’s The Fighter, nominated for seven; two of which it managed to win.
The nominations that The Fighter pivotally managed to convert into wins were Christian Bale taking ‘best performance by an actor in a supporting role’ as the fallen boxing hero turned crack addict, Dicky Eklund. Along with Melissa Leo, who beat out some stiff competition to be awarded ‘best performance by an actress in a supporting role’ for her representation of the overbearing ghetto-matriarch, Alice.
The Fighter is the finest boxing film since Million Dollar Baby, managing to have both an accessible ‘only in America’ underdog plotline, while still heaping in depth, character and a little ambiguity. It is based on the real life figure of Micky Ward (earnestly played by Mark Wahlberg, who is also credited as a producer and was one of the driving forces in the film’s creation). It follows his efforts to ‘make it’ despite being held back by the anchor that is his family; particularly the aforementioned, crack addicted brother Dicky and the disproportionate affection given to him by their mother Alice.
As the ten Oscar nominations would suggest, there is pretty much no area where True Grit appears weak. It was a controversial move for most award organisers to nominate Hailee Steinfeld for best ‘supporting’, rather than 'lead' actress when she dictates the action with her commanding presence as the sharp tongued, quick witted Mattie Ross; and all this at only thirteen (during production). The film’s writers/directors, The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) are adamant that their film is based solely on the novel of the same name, rather than being an adaptation of the 1969 film. Despite some telling and revealing changes to that John Wayne vehicle, it still tells the tale of the young Mattie, determined to hunt down her father’s killer, hiring the renowned bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who is barely decipherable in his drunken ramblings. Not that this detracts from the enjoyment, rather it adds a further layer of comedy to what is already a sharp script delivered superbly by all involved (Matt Damon being another stand out performance). The film perfectly conveys the rift between wilderness and civilisation in this mythic western setting, along with clearly illustrating the fundamental role that commerce and free market principles played in North American expansion.
These decorated blockbusters would both make complete and well rounded rental movies; entertaining, but with real substance.