Here Comes Oscar!

As I explained to Christopher yesterday, the Academy Awards is to me as the World Cup is to him. I was trying to convey how much I like watching the Oscars and his response was… “But the World Cup happens every four years and the Oscars happen every year. You should liken it more to the Superbowl.”

Okay… whatever gets the point across, right?

I love the dresses, the red carpet, the interviews, the stars being themselves. I love seeing the movies that get nominated even though the Academy is hardly exempt from choosing the winners on a political basis rather than the merits of the film alone. But I love to see the craft of writing and directing and acting all come together to make something great. Did I mention the dresses? ;-)

I did see all the movies nominated for best picture this year, so I thought I’d give you my opinion on each one. While this year’s nominees pale in comparison to most years as far as I’m concerned, and nothing really stood out to me as deserving of “Best Picture,” here’s my quick take…

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
While I think Daniel Day Lewis certainly deserves the Oscar for best male actor in a leading a role for his performance in this film, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the movie itself. My general opinion on 2 1/2 hour movies is that they probably could have been told in 2 hours and someone (namely the producers) were too in love with the movie to cut the fat. The film is basically a character study about a man obsessed with success and competition (Christopher could relate ;-) ), an obsession which ultimately leads to his professional, personal, and psychological downfall. Will it win best picture? I’m not predicting it will… nor do I think it deserves it.

ATONEMENT
(Sorry– this one includes a spoiler)
I pretty much hate period pieces– and I also don’t like movies that have huge time gaps because they bring me out of the story. While this was probably my least favorite of the contenders, I think it has the best chance of winning simply because this is the “type” of film the Academy usually graces with an Oscar. I didn’t find any of the performances to be particularly noteworthy and while the concept of the story itself was good (depressing, but intriguing nonetheless), the “happy” ending followed by the “unbearably depressing” ending left me feeling more irritated than impressed at the lead’s half-assed attempt at atonement.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
(Sorry– spoiler here too)
A typical Coen brothers film– violent, unpredictable, dark. It’s a fun ride while you’re in the thick of it, but unlike FARGO, it leaves you wondering what the point really was. Sure, it reflects a reality where greedy bastards sometimes come out on top and there is no character that’s purely good or purely bad. Everyone’s bad and good, stupid and smart. The person most in control can easily be knocked off his high horse by something as random as flirting with a woman sitting near a pool or not paying attention to a car about to run a red light. The film offers its own sense of justice and morality, where keeping one’s word ranks superior to allowing innocent victims to live. Peppered with incredible performances and dialogue I’m jealous I didn’t come up with, I don’t think it will win best picture, but it’s certainly worth seeing.

MICHAEL CLAYTON
Not incredibly original, it felt more like a showcase for George Clooney than anything else. Somewhat ploddy at times, too much effort was spent on poorly integrated subplots, making the film about 15 minutes too long. Don’t get me wrong, Clooney’s certainly easy on the eyes and emerges as a likable protagonist early on, but does it deserve to be remembered along side other Best Picture winners like PLATOON and THE GODFATHER? No. But none of the nominees this year come close. I think the real competition will be between this film and ATONEMENT, even though my personal advice would be to wait until it comes out on DVD. Oh wait… it already has.

JUNO
My personal favorite of the bunch. A simple story told in an original way, but it’s the only movie I told people I’d go back and watch again in the theater if they wanted someone to go with them. Is it worthy of an Oscar– I don’t think so. It’s a great movie, not an amazing movie, but the writing, Ellen Page’s performance, and the directing all really came together in all the right ways. While Diablo Cody’s rather flippant attitude about her success is annoying to say the least, it’s that persona that had a big part in creating the funny, quippy dialogue and rather immature perspective on life and relationships Juno so lovingly embodies. I left the theater feeling uplifted, which in my opinion, sets this film apart from the others. It didn’t just tell a story, it hooked you emotionally in a way the others didn’t. If it were up to me, I’d give this film the Oscar, but I don’t predict the Academy will view it as Oscar-worthy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed though– just in case.

:-)