September 21, 2015
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Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” – FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

By Sean O’Connell Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” closed AFI Fest 2010 Thursday night, sending several critics and Oscar pundits to Twitter post-screening to sing the film’s praises.

The words “brilliant” and “masterpiece” were used so often, I’m surprised they weren’t trending on the social media tool. And IndieWire’s Anne Thompson hit the nail on the head when it came down to the film’s chief Oscar chance.

“Black swan: it is portman vs. Bening now.”

Well, and probably Nicole Kidman and maybe Julianne Moore, as well, but you get the idea.

Portman does deliver a roundhouse-to-the-gut of a performance, one that the Academy needs to recognize (and probably reward). The actress guides us on a staggeringly deep descent into her character’s personal, insecure hell that, ghoulish as this sounds, entertains us – the captivated audience – with every self-doubting glance or terrified shiver of the ballerina’s crumbling body. Portman’s occupation of Nina’s psyche is complete. She is fearless, forceful, yet vulnerable. Yes, these are characteristics we attributed to Mickey Rourke when he danced with Aronosky for “The Wrestler,” and that’s why these projects are kindred spirits in more ways than one.

So Portman started winning fans on Thursday, just as she did in Venice, Telluride, Toronto, Savannah and beyond. She’ll earn even more when the film opens on Dec. 3. And even more, undoubtedly, when Oscar nominations are announced in January.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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