Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oscar Contenders - Best Actress: Natalie Portman

Originally posted on 1 Dec 2010:

Natalie Portman is the second lock this year for her boundary-pushing performance in Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller Black Swan. 

Portman plays Nina, a ballerina who has devoted her life to the art of ballet, at the expense – seemingly – of her healthy emotional development. She is prompted to push herself to the brink of obsession when her demanding choreographer, Thomas (Vincent Cassell), doubts her ability to embody the ‘Black Swan’ required to cast her as the lead in ‘Swan Lake’. Thomas’ challenge to Nina is to channel the darker recesses of her psyche to become a true artist, and this seems to be director Aronofsky's challenge to Portman as well, and Portman’s responding performances has critics raving.

This is Portman’s breakthrough performance as a proper ‘grown up’ actress (hard-earned for a child actress), and she is a ‘lock’ for a Best Actress nomination. As dark & challenging as the performance might get, Portman in real life remains lovely & lovable – a winning combo on an Oscar ballot. Whether she will campaign hard enough to beat Anette Bening remains to be seen, but more on that later.

Todd McCarthy calls the film 'Red Shoes on acid', which is, admittedly, enticing. Aronofsky's films are complex, intense, admittedly heavy, but creatively invigorating and, as AwardsDaily's Ryan Adams aptly put it, never less than mesmerising. His stories and characters may not be the easiest to watch or love, but Aronofsky is one of our most creatively potent directors, and his films are always an event. 

Black Swan Trailer: