A look at how a rich and varied year in film should be reflected at the 80th Academy Awards.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
With a muckraking tale of black gold, a psychopath armed with slaughterhouse air-gun, Tic-Tacs that lead to teenage pregnancy and a memoir written with blinks of an eye, 2007 was a wonderfully mixed year in film – writer’s strike or not – which portends an eventful Oscar night this Sunday, Feb. 24. Here, a peek at who will get what they deserve, and who won’t:
The Sure Shots
Paul Thomas Anderson, probably the best filmmaker of his generation, masterminded There Will Be Blood, a flick that racked up eight nominations, including Best Film and Best Director.
The historical look into a villainous oil mogul’s rise to wealth is a cinematic opus, a symphony with perfect orchestration.
Watching Daniel Day-Lewis act in any film is like watching Renoir paint. Anderson respects Day-Lewis’ command of his character Daniel Plainview, and allows him to freely explore each seamy scene as if it were an open canvas.
In one brief but potent scene on the beach two-thirds into the film, Day-Lewis exposes a furiously psychotic brand of frustration just by using the twitches of his cheekbone and eyes that shoot spears – I know you are lying about being my brother. Javier Bardem, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for No Country for Old Men, told Entertainment Weekly that Day-Lewis “creates sculptures of the soul. He is beyond performing. He is about being.” Day-Lewis’ performance was arguably the best in recent years. He’s a sure thing for best actor.
There Will Be Blood’s only viable competition in the big-ticket categories is the Coen Brothers’ grittily beautiful yet slightly overrated No Country for Old Men, also nominated for eight Oscars.
Each scene of the film is treated as if it is a new painting. Some scenes are quiet, serene landscapes of the barren Texas wasteland; others are post-modernist portraits of a sociopath with a Bob-cut (Bardem) sitting cross-legged and nude on a toilet seat calmly digging into his thigh with a switchblade to remove a bullet. Aside from Bardem’s flawlessly unremorseful portrayal of lunacy as Anton Chigurh – and Roger Deakins’ miraculous cinematography – the film’s fizzle of an ending leaves a void. No Country doesn’t hold a candle to the Coens’ previous Oscar–ridden film, Fargo. While it has already been slotted as the favorite for Best Picture and Best Director, it only deserves Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography.
As for the Best Actress category, Julie Christie’s acute portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease in Away From Her is both memorable and effortless. Christie, a four-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner, has been dazzling audiences and peers since the early ’60s and, with this, shows she’s still on top of her game. She deserves the award without equivocation.
Meanwhile, newcomer Diablo Cody won America over with her Juno screenplay and will take home Best Original Screenplay, though it will be a close win over Brad Bird’s Ratatouille.
The Long Shots
Sassy ball of fire Ellen Page has demonstrated more domination of her craft at age 20 than most actors display in a lifetime. Juno gives Page the chance to truly demonstrate her gift as a wise soul trapped inside of a pregnant 15-year-old’s body. Though Page is the dark horse for Best Actress against Christie, unexpected upsets do occur when 13.5 inch gold-plated statuettes are in the building. The Diving Bell and Butterfly, nominated for Best Director (Julian Schnabel), Best Screenplay Adaptation (Ronald Harwood), Best Cinematography and Best Editing, is the second best film of the year behind There Will Be Blood, but will most likely walk away awardless, a crime more common in Hollywood than Cannes. The true story of French Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s rare stroke that leaves him paralyzed except for his left eye is comparable to the work of Goddard and Truffaut. Schnabel, born nowhere near France, has revived the cinematic poetry of the French New Wave with his third feature-length film.
Anytime a wildly over-celebrated, Jane Eyre-wannabe like Atonement garners seven nominations, you know someone was unfairly shunned.
The Academy skimmed over Werner Herzog’s immaculately directed Rescue Dawn as well as Nicole Kidman for her spot-on work as a personality-disordered mother in Margot at the Wedding.
Just to mix the Oscar bag a tad, the bathroom-humor-laced Superbad definitely could have picked up a nomination for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s original screenplay. As juvenile as it is, there is good reason it was the best-reviewed film of the summer.
THE 80TH ACADEMY AWARDS, hosted by Jon Stewart, will air on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 5pm on ABC.