Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Site Search
   Search Metroland.Net
 Classifieds
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
 Personals
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 Columns & Opinions
   Comment
   Looking Up
   Reckonings
   Opinion
   Letters
   Rapp On This
 News & Features
   Newsfront
   Features
   What a Week
   Loose Ends
 Lifestyles
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
   Leftovers
   Scenery
   Tech Life
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
 Music
   Listen Here
   Live
   Recordings
   Noteworthy
 Arts
   Theater
   Dance
   Art
   Classical
   Books
   Art Murmur
 Calendar
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
 AccuWeather
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad

And the Oscar Goes To . . .

A look at the films, filmmakers and performers competing for Hollywood’s most prestigious awards

By Laura Leon and Shawn Stone

 

Best Picture

Was it only two years ago that films as weak as Crash, Munich and Brokeback Mountain vied for Best Picture? Matters have improved considerably.

It is a good thing that Juno is nominated in this category. It’s a reasonably well-made comedy; it has launched the career of a terrific young actress, Ellen Page; and it is popular. Hollywood has forgotten that popular movies need to be recognized, too; remember when Fatal Attraction earned a Best Picture nomination simply by being a box office and cultural phenomenon? Juno has won the hearts and dollars of moviegoers across America—well, except mine—so, fine.

 

Slinky: Keira Knightley in Atonement.

Atonement is an intriguing if ultimately bungled literary adaptation, with a setting (England) and a period (the 1930s) that the Academy loves to reward. It won’t win, however, because it was ignored in every other major category.

Michael Clayton is a smart, morally compelling thriller with a solid script and a dazzling ensemble cast. In any other year it would have a good shot a winning, except that this is the year of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

 

No Country is the Coen brothers at their best. They didn’t indulge themselves in the ways we’ve come to expect, and dread: There are no plot digressions or extraneous characters crowding the drama. There is no surfeit of dumb-ass jokes.

To me, both Boogie Nights and Magnolia seemed overdone; I thought Paul Thomas Anderson came into his own with the deeply twisted Adam Sandler comedy Punch-Drunk Love. With There Will Be Blood, Anderson has made a masterpiece. If I prefer it to No Country, it’s because the Coen brothers’ source material—Cormac McCarthy’s biblical vision of a Southwestern apocalypse—is much less compelling than the lead-pipe capitalism and epic rage of Anderson’s gloss on Upton Sinclair. No Country for Old Men will probably win, but it shouldn’t.

—S.S.

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson delivered something just shy of a masterpiece with There Will Be Blood, his adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, among other sources. Every single scene is imbued with his vision. In a weaker year, I think the Oscar would be his, but unfortunately for him, he’s got to contend with the Coen brothers, whose No Country for Old Men is somewhat more accessible, if bloodier. Unlike in most other years, however, Anderson and the brothers have other very viable contenders. Consider Tony Gilroy, whose Michael Clayton shimmers with intrigue and power, or Jason Reitman, who surprised many with his strong handling of excellent screenplay and cast in Juno. If it were up to me, I’d give the gold to Julian Schnabel, who, like Anderson, imbues his movie, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, with immense personal vision while maintaining the integrity of the original. Indeed, transforming the story of a publisher felled by a stroke to the extent that only one eye can blink, and doing it in such a way as to continuously engage the viewer, is a mighty feat. If anybody is going to steal the Coens’ thunder this year, count on Schnabel.

—L.L.

Best Actress

Sneaky: Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton.

Two nominees in this category can best be described as perennial “celluloid crushes” shared by Academy members and movie critics: Cate Blanchett and Julie Christie. Unfortunately, fine as Blanchett was in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, she wasn’t fine enough to transcend the film’s numbing mediocrity. Christie, on the other hand, was sly and heartbreaking in the Alzheimer’s drama Away From Her. Ellen Page was excellent in Juno. In The Savages, Laura Linney succeeded in being both sympathetic and ghastly as a failed New York City bohemian, which is no small achievement. (The scene in which she explained to her incredulous brother exactly what kind of grant she had been living on was amazing.) Marion Cotillard was mesmerizing—and I don’t use that term lightly—as tragic chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. The emotional and physical demands of the role were enormous, and Cotillard met every one. If she doesn’t win, it will be because of that four-decade crush on Christie. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

—S.S.

Best Supporting Actress

As with what’s happening in the Democratic presidential primaries, I feel like I’ll be tarred with the prejudicial paintbrush when I say that Ruby Dee doesn’t belong on the list. Yes, I know that nearly every mention of her is precluded with something like “the incomparable” or “the legendary,” and I appreciate her talent as well as her convictions, but you’re telling me that scant minutes on screen and a slap across Denzel Washington’s face is worthy of an Oscar? I think this nomination is the Academy’s subconscious realization of mainstream America’s desire that today’s parents, be they white or black, slap their arrogant, selfish, law-breaking kids upside the heads once in a while. . . . I strongly believe that Kelly Macdonald’s poignant turn in No Country for Old Men is far more deserving. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Academy will once again honor that other incomparable, Cate Blanchett, for doing Dylan. Nothing says Oscar more than cross- dressing, unless it’s making yourself ugly, and with Blanchett playing Bob, she gets to do both. Amy Ryan is a freaky treat as the drug-and-alcohol-addled white-trash mom in Gone Baby Gone, which, combined with her frosty ex-wife in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, show just a bit of this stage actress’s considerable range. Expect more from Ryan in the future. Finally, Saorise Ronan illuminated the screen as the confused, spiteful tweener in Atonement, whose actions kick-start a tragedy of events. If somebody beats Blanchett, count on the kid.

—L.L.

Best Actor

What an incredibly strong stable—I mean, field of talent. Without a doubt, it’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ turn again, as he delivers a showstopping performance in There Will Be Blood. The beauty of his performances is that he never goes over the top into unbelievability. It’s bravura and scary work, and one wonders what it was like for his family at home, once filming wrapped. I was thrilled to see Tommy Lee Jones’ name on the list for his too-little-seen In the Garden of Elah, but I thought that he should have been tapped in the supporting category for his against-type, fading sheriff in No Country for Old Men. George Clooney was very strong in Michael Clayton, and, should a dark horse win, he’d be it. In Eastern Promises, Viggo Mortensen really proved that he can drive a movie, and I don’t mean just on sex appeal alone—although his nude fight scene in the Russian baths was something to behold. I’m happy to see him nominated, but in a year with this many strong contenders, he’ll have to wait. I list Johnny Depp on my Oscar chart as the person who shouldn’t be there, and by that, I don’t mean to take away from his remarkable turn as Sweeney Todd. I mean, who knew the guy could sing? But again, in a year this tough, I think that Depp’s place should have been taken by either Tom Hanks, playing against type in the underappreciated Charlie Wilson’s War, or Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Savages.

—L.L.


Screwed: Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men.

Best Supporting Actor

There are five strong nominees in this category. The Mike Nichols-Aaron Sorkin geopolitical comedy Charlie Wilson’s War may have been unfairly overlooked in other categories, but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s hilarious turn as a rogue CIA agent received its proper due. Wildly entertaining as a bipolar corporate lawyer off his meds, Tom Wilkinson is the redemptive heart of Michael Clayton. As the grandfatherly park ranger in Into the Wild, Hal Holbrook is that rare performer in a Sean Penn film not to overact—an Oscar-worthy feat to be sure. A case can be made that the other two nominated supporting performances, Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, were actually lead performances. (Tough luck, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson!) Both were excellent, but Bardem will win for being the scariest movie killer in ages.

—S.S.

 

 

Best Original Screenplay Best Adapted Screenplay

Original screenplay is another strong category. Tony Gilroy, who crafted the screenplays that made the Bourne series so interesting, gave us the ethically complex characters of Michael Clayton. Nancy Oliver made it possible for Ryan Gosling to fall in love with a doll in Lars and the Real Girl. Brad Bird made a rat gourmand the hero of Ratatouille.

It’s Diablo Cody, current Hollywood darling, who will win the Oscar for the glib wit in her original screenplay for Juno, however. But she shouldn’t. With The Savages, Tamara Jenkins gave us an unsentimental, incisive portrait of an estranged brother and sister dealing with their father’s dementia, and made it blisteringly funny, too.

The nominees in the adapted category are almost as strong. It was the direction that sank Atonement for me, not the work of screenwriter Christopher Hampton. Sarah Polley did a fine job with Away From Her, but the race comes down, again, to the Coen brothers against Paul Thomas Anderson. While I think that There Will Be Blood is the greater film, this award should go to the Coens for turning a big fat novel into an intimate film.

—S.S.

Random Observations

This is a weird year for the Oscars, and by that, I don’t mean anything to do with the writers’ strike. For the first time in too long, there are categories (notably screenplay and score) for which I can’t come up with a name to insert in the “overrated” line on the Oscar chart. The same can’t be said for the acting categories, for which, in the main, my “overrateds” are there not because I think the performances are unworthy, but because I think that there were better ones out there worth tapping.

Similarly, there are categories for which I am completely torn. Case in point: best adapted screenplay. While I know of some people who detested what Christopher Hampton did to Atonement, I was blown away by his ability to re-create the meaty substance and delicate undertones of the original. It helped that (overlooked) director Joe Wright’s vision and Dario Marianelli’s score solidified the all-too-rare achievement of bringing a literary masterpiece to celluloid life. But then, so too did the Coen brothers master the perhaps trickier act of translating Cormac McCarthy’s dense and bloody No Country for Old Men into something entirely new and palpable. Like I said, I’m completely torn.

One category that has me on the edge of my seat is that of Best Original Score, for which the following are nominated: Atonement (Dario Marianelli); The Kite Runner (Alberto Iglesias); Michael Clayton (James Newton Howard); Ratatouille (Michael Giacchino), and 3:10 to Yuma (Marco Beltrami). While I did not see The Kite Runner, I can attest that the scores of the other four, particularly those of Marianelli and Beltrami, are absolutely integral to their respective films. Let’s hope this marks an end to the usual “big bang” type productions—John Williams, anyone?—that usually take home the gold.

My biggest disappointment with this year’s nominations has to do with this category: the exclusion of Jonny Greenwood for his brilliant, evocative and downright spooky score for There Will Be Blood. In no other movie this year does the music play as much a role, and while I realize that there are rules and that Greenwood mined pieces he’d written years ago, I think it’s a shame.

This year’s nominees for best animated feature once again prove why this is the category most in need of clarification. I absolutely adored Ratatouille, with is rich patina and liberating storyline. I swooned and cried over Persepolis. That these vastly diverse and disparate pieces, bound only by their equally diverse animation styles, should be in the same category as the vastly forgettable Surf’s Up, is simply confounding.

—L.L.

The 80th annual Academy Awards will be broadcast Sunday (Feb. 24) at 8 PM on WTEN-10.

You Know?

Metroland movie critics predict and critique the Academy’s choices

 

Best Picture: Leon

Will Win: No Country for Old Men Should Win: No Country for Old Men Overlooked: 3:10 to Yuma Overrated: none

 

Best Picture: Stone

Will Win: No Country for Old Men Should Win: There Will Be Blood Overlooked: Zodiac Overrated: Atonement

Best Director: Leon

Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Should Win: (tie) Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood and Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Overlooked: Joe Wright, Atonement Overrated: none

 

Best Director: Stone

Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Should Win: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Overlooked: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Overrated: none

Best Actor: Leon

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood Overlooked: Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War Overrated: Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd

 

Best Actor: Stone

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood Overlooked: Christian Bale, 3:10 to Yuma Overrated: none

Best Actress: Leon

Will Win: Julie Christie, Away From Her Should Win: Julie Christie, Away From Her Overlooked: Amy Adams, Enchanted Overrated: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

 

Best Actress: Stone

Will Win: Julie Christie, Away From Her Should Win: Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose Overlooked: Wei Tang, Lust, Caution Overrated: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Best Supporting Actor: Leon

Will Win: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men Should Win: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James Overlooked: Russell Crowe, 3:10 to Yuma Overrated: Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild

 

Best Supporting Actor: Stone

Will Win: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men Should Win: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men Overlooked: Woody Harrelson, No Country for Old Men Overrated: none

Best Supporting Actress: Leon

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There Should Win: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton Overlooked: Kelly Macdonald, No Country for Old Men Overrated: Ruby Dee, American Gangster

 

Best Supporting Actress: Stone

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There Should Win: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton Overlooked: Kelly Macdonald, No Country for Old Men Overrated: Ruby Dee, American Gangster

Best Original Screenplay: Leon

Will Win: Diablo Cody, Juno Should Win: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton Overlooked: none Overrated: John Carney, Once

 

Best Original Screenplay: Stone

Will Win: Diablo Cody, Juno Should Win: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages Overlooked: none Overrated: Diablo Cody, Juno

Best Adapted Screenplay: Leon

Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Should Win: (tie) Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men and Christopher Hampton, Atonement Overlooked: Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War Overrated: none

 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Stone

Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Should Win: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Overlooked: Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War Overrated: none

 


Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
   
 
 
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.