Two more great nonfiction films

The two films I’m writing about in this post were both nominated for best picture last year – 127 Hours and The Fighter. So it’s not like they need any help from me. That’s why I’m combining both reviews. But both films deserve to be on my end of year best of list.

This past year there were four nonfiction films nominated for best picture. The other two nominated nonfiction films were The Social Network and The Kings Speech. All four are deserving movies, and we all know that The Kings Speech won. This bodes well for nonfiction films.

127 Hours written by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle and directed by Danny Boyle
Rating **** 1/2

Before seeing this film I had seen the Dateline special about the real Aron Ralston. I have not read the book, but I felt that I knew the story well enough from the dateline episode. So I was curious how I would react to the dramatization. Even though I knew most of the story and had even seen the location where most of the story takes place, the dramatization added another layer to the overall story.

There’s no question that James Franco did an amazing job and deserved his nomination for best actor, but Danny Boyle also deserves equal credit. This is a very stylized film. He basically took a one character, one location film and made it compelling.

In the Dateline episode, they juxtaposed Aron’s predicament with the efforts of his friends and family to find him. Danny Boyle decided to focus entirely on Aron’s story of being pinned by a boulder inside a narrow canyon and then concluding that his only chance for survival was to cut off his arm. And while you can’t argue with the end result, I would have gone the Dateline route. I think it would have added more drama. One reason for going with just one story is obviously money. If you were to dramatise the other part of the story, the search for Aron, you then add multiple actors, locations, and the need for a longer script.

It’s been a while since I saw the movie, but I don’t remember any DVD extras other than some video of the real Aron Ralston at the end of the film while the credits rolled. I would have liked an audio commentary with the filmmakers and Aron. And that is the only reason this film didn’t get five stars.

If you haven’t seen this one because of expectations of gruesom images, put those fears aside. You’ll find more gore in most horror movies than you will here. So go see it.

The Fighter written by Paul Attanasio, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy and directed by Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell
Rating *****

Christian Bale won the best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in this film. And while I don’t want to take anything away from Christian Bale, who was certainly deserving of the win, my vote would have gone to Geoffrey Rush in The Kings Speech. Christian’s performance was more of an imitation. He had the real person on the set for most of the film. Geoffrey’s performance was his alone. That’s my opinion.

As for the film itself, this is just another great nonfiction film. Real people. Real conflict. Real redemption. It was also shot on location with most of the main people portrayed in the film contributing in some way to the final product. All of this led authenticity to a fine film about two brothers striving for greatness.

Mark Wahlberg does a great job. And Jenna Lamia, who portrays Sherri Ward, plays a role completely against her type and pulls it off. Let’s say I’m a fan of Jenna’s.

This DVD had a making of documentary that contained many of the real people portrayed in the film as well as an audio commentary. So it gets the full five stars.

So now that I’ve seen and reviewed all four Oscar nominated nonfiction films of last year, which one do I think deserved the best picture Oscar? My vote goes to The King’s Speech.


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