February 11, 2008
By J.D. Cook
What do a psychotic killer, righteous lawyer, guilt ridden girl, capitalist gone wrong and pregnant teen have in common? They are all major characters in the films up for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. The nominees are No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, Atonement, There Will Be Blood, and Juno. Each film, with the exception of Atonement, has received almost entirely positive reviews, and it will be a surprising victory no matter which film comes away with the golden statue.
No Country for Old Men is about Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who unwittingly stumbles upon two million dollars left after a drug deal gone wrong. Llewelyn does what anyone would do; takes the money, and runs, but as the poster states, “There are no clean get-aways”, and Llewelyn is soon being hunted by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), “the mother of all bad asses”. At first glance this movie may seem simple, but as Rolling Stone magazine says; “Good and evil are tackled with a rigorous fix on the complexity involved.”
Michael Clayton follows the story of a lawyer (George Clooney), and his battle against corporate corruption. The Website MonstersAndCritics.com called it “One of the best mystery thrillers of the year.”
Atonement is, without a doubt, the one film up for best picture that is getting bad reviews. The story follows a young girl who makes a terrible decision as a young child, and is forced to “atone” for it latter in life. In the words of New York Times writer A. O. Scott; “The film, after a tantalizing start, sputters to a halt in a welter of grandiose cialis from canadian pharmacy imagery and hurtling montage.”
According tof M. Dargis, “Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic American nightmare arrives belching fire and brimstone and damnation to Hell.” Dargis is, of course, referring to There Will Be Blood. Daniel Day Lewis once again turns in a fantastic performance; this time as an oil tycoon in the early twentieth century. The “epic American nightmare” follows Lewis’s character Daniel Plainview as he rises from an average worker to a rich industrialist – losing all sense of goodness as he does so.
If there was an underdog in the Best Picture category it would be Juno. Roger Ebert said it best when he said, “It’s the kind of movie you almost insult by describing the plot, because the plot sounds standard and this is a fresh, quirky, unusually intelligent comedy.” Juno is a young girl, played by Ellen Page, who must grow up fast after she becomes pregnant at age 16.
All of these films (with the exception of Atonement) are well worth the cost of admission, and could all receive the Best Picture nod without much fuss. Whether it is the quirky humor of Juno, the nail-biting suspense of No Country for Old Men, the imagery of There Will Be Blood, or the real-world feel of Michael Clayton you will find positives in all of these films.
No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood are clearly the front runners in the race, but the Academy likes to throw out surprise choices. Shakespeare in Love certainly was a shock in 1998 beating out Saving Private Ryan. It will be fun to watch the Oscars on February 24th, and see which film the Academy finds just that much better then the others.