February 22, 2008

A Half-assed Look at the Oscars

I love movies. I like the Oscars. It's fun to watch peers celebrate their work. Hell, if there were local actor/copywriter awards, I'd vote and attend. It'd be an honor just to be nominated. So I understand Hollywood's yearly festival and enjoy participating on some level.

This is why I offer up this movie-lover's version of the Oscar race.

Why label it half-assed? Well, because I am not a film critic, I didn't see all of the movies nominated and, while I like watching the show and reading bits leading up to it, I don't find much joy in prognosticating. I have friends who are good at it and I leave it to them. I do have an opinion, however. I don't care about sentimental favorites or who has the most buzz going into Sunday. Like my dad always said, "If you can't do something well or right or with enthusiasm, just do it half-assed." (He never said that.)

I have left out (for the most part) nominees and films I didn't see. They don't get consideration here. I saw many nominated films. Probably more than the average person. So going on what I saw only, here is what I would pick and why.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises"

Pardon the pun but Depp's performance felt a little one note. I still really enjoyed the movie it just isn't a best actor performance. I loved Viggo's. A lot. Probably the most consistently great performance here (gasp!) but Lewis had more unbelievably amazing moments scattered throughout TWBB and gets my pick.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men"
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild"

Holbrook was super. Bardem was epic. Bardem is my pick. Now would someone tell him to get OUT of my nightmares, please?!

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Laura Linney in "The Savages"
Ellen Page in "Juno"

This one is tough. Both are fine performances. But I enjoyed Page more even if Linney's movie was better. Page wins.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement"
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"

I hated Ronan's character. She should get nominated for Best Villain at the MTV Movie awards. Serious. Little brat. Life destroyer. Ever hear of death-bed repentance? She was good though.

However, Amy Ryan made me feel like I was watching "Cops" or "Dr. Phil" or some reality program. She was sooooo gosh damn hell good in "Gone Baby Gone." This movie deserves more attention, viewers and credit. Rent the DVD.

Best animated feature film of the year
"Surf's Up"

Shut the eff up, penguin movie. "Ratatouille" was so awesome it should have replaced "Juno" in the Best Picture category.

Achievement in art direction
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
"There Will Be Blood"

I'll give this one to "Atonement" because it seemed like the more challenging movie to art direct. They all looked great in this department so I really won't mind who wins.

Achievement in cinematography
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"It

For me, it's not TWBB. So, that leaves No Country and "Atonement" in a tie until ...

"Atonement" has that one following steady-cam shot that is amazing. And you know what? Once I became aware of the shot, I stopped watching what was happening in the story and started admiring the shot. A shot that takes a viewer out of a movie is rarely worth doing. Maybe a cinematographer out there can refute this. And I understand the budgetary, set-up and time concerns that led them to go with the shot in question but still ... it didn't keep me in the moment. My pick is No Country.

Achievement in costume design
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

The way I remember "Atonement" from a costume perspective is sundresses and uniforms. Sweeny gets my vote. Collen Atwood, the designer for Sweeny, is ALWAYS Oscar-worthy. She already has two or three under her belt.

Achievement in directing
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Not "Juno," not even for .5 seconds. "No Country for Old Men" is more consistent, better-paced, and showed more restraint than TWBB. I love PT Anderson's movies but give it to No Country, please.

Side note: Does that director of "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" seem like a first-rate assjack to anyone else? Maybe I don't "get" his sense of "humor" but every interview I have seen or read makes him out to be a prick in my book.

Best documentary feature
"No End in Sight"

This movie is sitting on my counter in a Netflix envelope. I will watch it Saturday night. It is my pick. I hate Michael Moore. He can go Sucko himself. (Although, his movies are always really well put together and done well. I hate that paradox.)

Achievement in film editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"Into the Wild"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

You know why I can't pick the Bourne movie? And it's probably not the editors fault. But that scene when they are in the restaurant ... they still use Shaky Cam! They are sitting there at table and the camera is still all shaky. Loved the movie. Shaky Cam doesn't bother me when it has a point but, in the words of my wife while we watched that dinner moment, "Lock it down!"

"Into the Wild" was so good I cried. But how much of that was the editing and how much of it was Sean Penn punching me in the face? Jk. Jk.

Here we are again, No Country and TWBB. I pick No Country again because it felt more efficient and every frame of film seemed like it deserved to be there.

Achievement in makeup
"La Vie en Rose"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

I didn't see Rose. But I saw the cover of a screener DVD. I'll give it to Rose because of that mostly because I currently hate anything that has to do with pirates or Pirates.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"3:10 to Yuma"

I prefer Yuma's score over Atonement and Ratatouille's over Yuma's. The rat movie gets it.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from "Once"

There was not a better song in all of film all year. The moment this song happens in the movie is the moment I turn into a blubbering fool. And I'm fine with that.

Achievement in visual effects
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

You mean those cars couldn't REALLY do that???

Adapted screenplay
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

We thought "Atonement" had some adaptation and/or writing problems. So no thanks. The edge in the remaining two films goes to ... surprise! ... not, really ... No Country. It was engaging on more levels than TWBB. Inconsistency seems to be TWBB's biggest problem in my mind. It rises a little higher, at times, than No Country but dips often. No Country rises fast and stays there.

Original screenplay
"Lars and the Real Girl"
"The Savages"

I wish I had seen Lars. I wish. Can I vote for it based on its trailer? No. I'll go with "Ratatouille" over the mature and heart-wrenching content of "The Savages" and the cute, snarky and unlikely dialogue of "Juno."

Best motion picture of the year
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Here we are. The finale. To me, there were movies better than both "Juno" and "Atonement" that weren't nominated here: Sweeny, the rat movie, "Into the Wild," "Gone Baby Gone," and "3:10 to Yuma." It's a shame, really. Not that I didn't like "Atonement" or "Juno." I did. I really enjoyed them. But the others I list each felt like better movies and had more of an impact on me than they did. They were seemed like they each achieved more.

But, in the end, even if any of those others had made it into contention, "No Country for Old Men" is my pick. Now ... if you were one of those people bothered by its ending or by certain people in it having certain outcomes, then you picked the wrong story and the wrong character to invest in. Sorry. Now, those of you who liked the movie take a minute to think long and hard about it. Ponder every element: the writing, the camera work, the editing, directing and acting. Think about how it looked. How it engaged you. How it made you feel from beginning to end. Really think about it. When I do this, I get only one internal response. There really wasn't a better film all year long.

Thanks for reading. Did I miss something? Do you disagree? What are your thoughts this Oscar season?


The Grunt said...

I think people wanted a Hollywood ending for NCFOM and that is why they ended up not liking it. The ending made perfect sense to me. Good picks!

Big Pappa said...

No Country for Old Men was outstanding. That hitman, really conjured up some scary emotions during the movie. I just didn't like the ending. Seemed to open for me.

Amelia Merritt said...

He is an ass jack. But he's Julien Schnabel. He gets to be. Google him. If I were him I'd be so full of myself I'd burst myself open with myself.