Is there a rule that the Oscar winner for Best Actor/Actress does not come from the best movie of the year? From everything I read, Colin Firth is the favorite to win Best Actor for his performance in The King's Speech, which is apparently an excellent movie. Assuming the hype about the movie is correct, it would be an exception. Each of the last five winners of Best Actress and Best Actor has come from a movie I consider to be not much better than average. In fact, it goes way past five years. If James Franco wins for 127 Hours, that trend would continue.
I caught a post-work showing of 127 Hours today, because it was apparently the last time it will play in the Kansas City area before the Oscars. While his performance as Daniel Desario throughout the 18 episodes of Freaks and Geeks (my all-time favorite show) always came across as natural, but James Franco makes Desario look like an amateur compared to Aron Ralston in 127 Hours. The intensity of his performance gets the most attention, and for good reason given the fact that he cuts his friggin' arm off. It would be a mistake, however, to look past the humor in his performance. Even in Ralston's darkest moments, Franco keeps a touch of levity when necessary. I'm sure this has to do with the real Aron Ralston's personality, but I can't help but think a lesser actor would have played it with the straightest of faces.
With about 98% of screen time, Franco clearly owns the movie. Unfortunately, Danny Boyle decided that wasn't enough. Rather than building tension with anything basic and real, he relied heavily on gimmicks, most egregiously by splitting the screen into threes time after time after time. It distracts from the built-in tension. I found myself shifting in my seat in discomfort, not from Ralston's ordeal, but from Boyle's direction. Regardless of my problems with Mr. Boyle, 127 Hours is still worth a watch.