It's that time of year again.
Oscar Time. for the first time in several years I saw every movie nominated for best picture. I haven't seen many movies since I've been back in Jersey. New Jersey pales in comparison to the city of Seattle when it comes to venues to see good movies. The best theaters are in Manhattan but an hour and a half trip into the city to see a good movie when it comes out.
I have to wait awhile to see a good movie around here. It usually has to have a good word of mouth like "Juno" or mainstream fare.
So when the Oscar nominations came out I had only seen one film nominated, "Michael Clayton". I made it a point to see the others, one by one, two of them made it to my local theater and the other two I saw out of town.
My thoughts about the films? In no particular order...
Michael Clayton :
This was the only movie I saw the week it came out. I'm a George Clooney fan. He chooses good projects to work on. This film is no exception. It is a dramatic thriller that deals with the intrigues of the corporate world. It has a cool feel in tone and dialogue. George Clooney gives a solid performance as those the rest of the cast. It has a decent payoff in the end but the film is not quite up to Best Picture standards. It may get a nod for supporting acting and maybe cinematography but I don't see it getting much else.
Juno had played in my theater for a few weeks. I set aside some time to see it because I wanted a good laugh. It's a cute movie dealing with teen pregnancy. It has a good solid cast including Superbad's Michael Cera, Spiderman's J.K. Simmons, and Jennifer Garner. Ellen Page gives a good performance as the title character and the witty banter between father and daughter was a pleasure. I was won over by Jennifer Garner's performance. I'm not a fan of hers and her character was at first unsympathetic and a caricature. Conversely, Jason Bateman's character was at first hip and seemingly a slave to his wife's whims but soon was revealed to be a cad and rather pathetic. Juno was cute but not funny enough to win best picture. It was actually quite obnoxious in the beginning, with its dialogue and music trying hard to be hip. Still the movie, like "Little Miss Sunshine" is the little engine that could, buzzing along, getting more notice as time goes on.
There Will Be Blood:
An excellent movie by the director who gave us "Boogie Nights". I waited a long time to see it because it was not playing anywhere near me. Finally, it played in my theater. It's a sprawling epic of a movie dealing with an oilman from early in the 20th century. Daniel Day Lewis was superb as the ruthless oilman who cons his way into grabbing oil rich land from local townspeople to obtain his riches. There is a great interaction between the oilman and a preacher played by Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano. The cinematography was splendid, the period detail felt spot on. I think it's the best movie of the year and will definitely win for Daniel Day Lewis.
This was a movie I wasn't really keen to see, It has Keira Knightly, who I feel is THE most annoying of the young actresses in movies today. I felt that I should give it a chance anyway. I was surprised. First, Keira Knightly was not annoying at all. Second, it's not her movie. It's really Saoirse Ronan's movie. She plays the young girl with the over active imagination who is a would be writer. She falsely accuses her older sister's boyfriend of raping their 15 year cousin. He goes to jail, and the rest of the movie deals with the atonement of the young girl when she gets older and played by a different actress. It shows different points of views of the same events. Atonement features an incredible scene involving a very long take on a war torn French beach. I was saddened by the revelations of the events of the movie and I don't think it has buzz enough to win any Oscars except for adapted screenplay. Still, I think it should win for best supporting actress for Miss Ronan. She was extraordinary.
No Country For Old Men:
I went all the way to south Brunswick to see this film. I needed to see it to complete the list. It's a Coen Brothers movie. I'm a huge fan of their films but this one is not really of their style. Or maybe it is, because they tend to emulate genres of the past and No Country For Old Men feels like a movie from the 70's. It should, because it takes place in 1980. Filmed in the same area as There Will Be Blood, it has a wide expansive feel outdoors and a claustrophobic feel indoors. Javier Barden gives a chilling performance, creating an iconic character, Anton Chigurh. Every scene he's in and many in which he's not there is a sense
of dread. His tool of choice, a cattle stunner is present throughout. The three main characters have almost no interaction. As a matter of fact, Tommy Lee Jones does not share any screen time with either Javier Barden or Josh Brolin as trailer park thief. The ending was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying. It may win best picture, I'm not sure.
I will make only one prediction for Oscar night is that Heath Ledger will win...for biggest applause for the roll call of the dead.