Friday, February 22, 2008

A local movie theatre will be showing a marathon of all 5 movies nominated for Best Picture Academy Award this weekend. Great for film fans who need to catch up. Only thirty bucks and an endless bucket of popcorn. But if you really wanna impress your Oscar party friends this weekend, why waste more than half the day when in no time you can get the scoop (with minor spoilers) from your ol’ pal Mikey. You provide the popcorn.

No Country for Old Men: This was the first of these films I saw, and it started out strong. The Coen Bros. at their best -- the eerily open spaces of Texas reminded me of the chilling snowy expanses in Fargo, but Joel & Ethan don’t just make travelogues. I loved how most of the story was shown, not told, and when there was dialogue -- notably the coin-toss gas station scene -- it was just as riveting. But then the cat-and-mouse story abruptly ended, and it focused on old dog Tommy Lee Jones, moping and discussing the deeper meaning of all this. I suppose this was an artistic choice, perhaps returning the narrative closer to Cormac McCarthy’s novel. But the awkward film title was enough of a hint at the theme, thanks. At least they had an epilogue with Javier Bardem’s character -- you never get bored watching that menacing Mushroom Head.

: Excruciating soundtrack aside, I enjoyed Juno. Its merits go beyond the media’s comparisons to a tiny girl getting big, much like the movie making millions more at the multiplex than the mega-studio monstrosities. That normally gets my cynical Spidey sense tingling and I usually take issue with cutesy quirky characters, but the clever quips were limited to Ellen Page and her teenage friends. And the biggest surprise is learning the truth about the family planning to adopt Juno’s baby, especially Jason Bateman’s character -- anyone who’d consider leaving Jennifer Garner is a total douchebag. Ben Affleck, I hope you’re reading this.

Atonement: Loved it. Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my old age, or I just had something in my eyes during this entire movie. I wish I had read the book -- no, scratch that, I’m glad I didn’t, ‘cause the screenplay was surprisingly awesome. Unlike most of the films out there, this one understood the idea of telling a tale. Only at one point, the director (noticeably not nominated) seemed to be showing off with his sweeping uncut CGI’d scene of Dunkirk soldiers. But later, I learned the resonating reason for this British Saving Private Ryan shot and something irritated my corneas again. Atonement probably won’t win Best Picture, but it would if it were up to me… but only because Knocked Up wasn’t nominated.

There Will Be Blood: Seems to be the frontrunner for Best Picture. Just like American Beauty back in ‘99. Remember that? And then a year or two later most people hated that movie? Mark my words, soon everyone’ll be scratching their heads about this overlong crude oil epic, saying “What were we thinking?!” Maybe with some perspective, they’ll see how beautiful scenery of an gusher fire doesn’t make up for a meandering story. What was that movie about anyway? Plainview’s relationship with his phony half-brother, or his deaf son, or with Eli and/or twin brother Paul, who may or may not have been the same person…? Some would say all three. I say don’t know, don’t care. By the time that “I drink your milkshake” scene came around (and there finally was blood), I wanted to shake Paul Thomas Anderson ‘til all his self-indulgence seeped out and all that was left would be a film narrative worthy of Daniel Day-Lewis. His Oscar will be a belated award for doing a slight variation on his performance as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. Sorry, D-Day -- you deserved better than There Will Be Boredom.

Michael Clayton
: A fine film, but I liked it better the first time when it was called The Verdict.


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