Oscar Movie Review

01Jan08

Oscars

Atonement

 

This sophomore effort by Joe Wright is a directorial paint-by-numbers designed specifically to get an Oscar.  It is rigid, mechanical, and devoid of the emotions it is supposed to arouse.  The score, costume design, and cinematography are all solid, but not extraordinary.  The screenplay lacks the substance to make you believe James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are truly in love, or truly suffering for the sake of it.  The acting is good, but appears to be hindered by a director unwilling to go outside the lines and actually make a film.  Will it win?  Probably.  Does it deserve to win? No.

 

Juno

 

For what it is, this film is perfect.  The quirky dialogue, music, and animated introduction all fit together amazingly on screen.  The subject matter is somewhat controversial, the parental reactions are unconventional, but it is a heartfelt story with amazing performances by the entire cast, great editing and camerawork.  I‚m just excited it was nominated.

 

 

 

Michael Clayton

 

This is Rainmaker with a better cast, The Firm with less tension, and A Civil Action without victims or a clear understanding of the crimes committed.  John Grisham can write better in his sleep.  Editing, directing, cinematography, screenplay, acting, are all lacking.  George Clooney is George Clooney; no intensity, emotion, or drive in the character.  Tilda Swinton is barely in it, and she did a better job in The Chronicles of Narnia.  Tom Wilkinson deserves the nomination, but not the win.  He does crazy very well for 20 minutes, but we‚ve come to expect this from him.

 

There Will Be Blood

 

For a film based on an Upton Sinclair novel, this movie is unconventional and well crafted.  Long and unusual camera shots, intense acting, and a killer score highlight a brave directing style.  Day-Lewis is an intriguing and multi-layered character whose ambition is depicted very well in the first ten minutes (in which there is no dialogue whatsoever).  The sound bleeds and artistic disconnect between sound and camera, are risky moves, but work out well.  My only complaint: The last 30 minutes are too removed from the rest of the film to make any real sense, and the characters and dialogue are completely different without an explanation.

 

No Country for Old Men

 

My favorite film of 2007.  Directing was on point with established Coen Brothers style, with solid additions.  The lack of a score is still a score, as the silence is itself a character that plays well with the rest of them.  Cinematography and lighting are fantastic.  The screenplay is nothing spectacular, but the adaptation is respectable.  Performances are all seamless and tempered by simple, deliberate dialogue that allows intense emotions to come from scenes and facial expressions.  Javier Bardom is amazing, a standout performance that leaves you feeling uncomfortable and unnerved even when he‚s not on screen.  No lacking elements, and some extraordinary ones make it my Oscar pick.

 

 

Additional Picks

 

American Gangster

 

It takes a great director and great actors to produce a film like this nowadays.  It is calm, patient, and explosive at the same time.  Characters come off contradictory, but not underdeveloped.  Cinematography is solid.  Music and art design are perfect for the period.  It seems to have aspirations of Michael Mann‚s Heat, and it understandably falls short, but this film is well rounded, beautifully directed, and completely underappreciated by the academy.  That‚s a damn shame.

 

Zodiac

 

David Fincher‚s early 2007 adaptation of Robert Graysmith‚s book is dark, eerie, and well crafted. Typical Fincher, not his best, but solid.  Definitely one of Ruffalo‚s best, though Gyllenhaal doesn‚t stand out.  Editing and cinematography are worth a nod, as is the adapted screenplay.  It came out too early to get any credit.

 

 

Sunshine

 

Sci-fi films usually never get any kind of award notice.  However, this brilliant new film from Danny Boyle is a masterpiece of cinematography, editing, and stunning visuals.  It sucks that, in this genre, amazing filmmakers are overlooked, but Pirates of the Caribbean can get multiple nominations.

 

Saw IV

 

I know, I know.  It‚s a low budget horror sequel not worthy of a Golden Globe.  However, when I walked out of this film, I wasn‚t thinking about the gore, the twists, or the revamping of the franchise.  I was thinking, „Damn, that was some amazing editing.‰  I say, if The Bourne Ultimatum can get three nominations it doesn‚t deserve, maybe the Academy should think a little more outside the box.

 

The Kingdom

 

Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper have been in better films, but this was a great, non-political movie that could‚ve easily been nominated for best cinematography or sound mixing.  If I find out it‚s because it‚s about Iraq, heads will roll, Hollywood.

 

My condolences to the Academy for 2007.  It must be difficult to compile a list of nominees without being able to nominate Oliver Stone, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, or Peter Jackson.  Maybe next year.

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