The "flower" of Hollywood's creativity (yeah, right), the Oscar nominations for Best Picture (for 2007) were just announced. The good news is that the serial-killer musical Sweeney Todd was not nominated (what a dark and dreary viewing experience). It's too bad Eastern Promises wasn't nominated (very good cast).
The nominees are: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There Will be Blood.
Here's my take on the nominees.
ATONEMENT. My rating: ** (out of four stars). Directed by Joe Wright; starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. British romance set in the years just before and at the beginning of World War II. This film seemed like a "poor man's Titanic." I didn't care for the characters at all. The film's middle section dealing with the evacuation at Dunkirk was the most interesting for me. The introduction of the story's author in the final fifteen minutes was an insult to the audience. I thought, "What? Do you think we're all stupid?" And then the author's rationale for what she did was incredibly self-serving. Also: the film score drowned out a lot of the action on the screen — it's way too heavy-handed. (Idle thought: has Keira Knightley decided to stop eating?)
JUNO. My rating: ***. Directed by Jason Reitman. Starring Ellen Page and a fun supporting cast. A charming, breezy film! Story of a sixteen year old's unplanned pregnancy and her plans to have a mid-30s couple adopt the child. The real star of this film is Diablo Cody's screenplay; the writing is quick, quirky, and humorous. Ellen Page is quite good as well (she received a best actress nomination). If you like unexpected pregnancy films, you should also check out The Waitress.
MICHAEL CLAYTON. **1/2. Directed by Tony Gilroy; starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton. (Also appearing is director Sydney Pollack as the law firm's boss; I wish he'd act in more films — he's quite convincing.) Dark legal crime thriller about a corporate "fixer." Big business is the bad guy, although this film isn't quite as preachy as Clooney's recent Syriana. Tom Wilkinson is a hoot as the bi-polar lawyer gone over-the-deep-end!
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. My rating: ***1/2. Directed by the Coen Brothers; starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones. I'm a big Coen Brothers fan and this film does not disappoint. Long-time Coen brothers' cinematographer Roger Deakins is at his best here; lots of great shots. Set in early 1980s Texas, this is the story of a drug deal gone bad, and the ensuing search for the missing money. I liked Josh Brolin's work here (he's also quite good in American Gangster). Most memorable, though, is the character of Anton Chigurh, the money-seeking hit man who is played by Javier Bardem. I hope Bardem wins best supporting actor. The only thing I wish the Coens would change is how they treated the last 60 seconds of the film. (I won't spoil it; but I feel the ending could have been wrapped up in a different way.)
THERE WILL BE BLOOD. My rating: ****. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Paul Dano. Cinematography by Robert Elswit (lots of great shots). Based on Upton Sinclair's novel "Oil," "There Will Be Blood" is the turn of the century story of a greedy wildcatter and his dealings with a young hustler-preacher. Daniel Day-Lewis is astoundingly powerful: this is a performance for the ages! I'm a big PT Anderson fan, and this is clearly his best and tightest film. (If you haven't seen them, check out some of his early films such as Hard Eight and Boogie Nights). Also, if you want to see Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano together in very different roles, check out The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005) directed by DD-L's wife Rebecca Miller.
I'd like to see There Will Be Blood win Best Picture, but I wouldn't be disappointed if No Country for Old Men took the Oscar in this category.
Who would you like to see win?