And The Nominees Are… 2007

THE 2007 BEST PICTURE NOMINEES!

05. Juno (Jason Reitman, USA)

A funny, sensitive and accurate tale of your typical hipster – however, this one is pregnant. A typically light story with plenty of jokes and ironic lingo is good fun – but it isn’t a cut above comedies like Superbad as some would assume given Juno’s best picture nomination. For one, the film contains a few dramatic subplots boiling as the film progresses – which leaves me to wonder why the protagonist in the film is never truly conflicted or has issues managing her pregnancy throughout the course of the film. To me, this is a major flaw because the film wants the audience to be involved, but also wants to be taken serious, and with that glaring oversight how can it? All it winds up being is a fun 90 minutes with undeveloped characters and a warming message at the end. Not exactly best picture material, but not exactly a bad movie either. [7/10]

04. Atonement (Joe Wright, UK)

A tragic poem of a film that lacks consistency in strength. Often mucky in pacing, but lovely in design – Atonement is a visual masterpiece among the likes of Malick’s best work. Unfortunately, the script isn’t as well thought out as the cinematography. Often the story contradicts itself in terms of theme a few times throughout the course of the film – including Wright’s take on war and the overall complacency about “atonement” – resulting in an ineffective and messy revelation at the end. The brooding performances clash well with the frail visual design, which is where the majority of the films success lays. With a stellar ensemble, harrowing score and well-intentioned storytelling, it isn’t at all a poor feature. However, in terms of “where the film wanted to arrive” it missed its mark by a fair margin. [7/10]

03. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, USA)

Upon first viewing a year and a half ago, the film appeared to be a melancholic tale of the politics behind big business and nothing more. Fragile, empty and well-written, but nothing of a cinematic staple. Upon revisiting it a month ago, I saw a much more complex and remarkable tale. With a small ensemble consisting of grade A actors (three of which got Oscar nominated) working with subtly deep characters, each one is able to examine them as a piece of art and give intelligent and contrasting performances. One of the few films in which the protagonist is a true anti-hero; his job entails him to do dirty deeds and he has no moral ambiguities. The only time where he truly picks a side is when harm comes close to him. It’s tragic because you see a glimmer of moral hope in Michael Clayton, but he consistently declines being the man all want him to be. And the scene that everyone was talking about after they’d seen it – the ‘shocking’ one – that’s my definition of harrowing. One of the best scenes of 2007 – deliberate, depressing. and enraging. All in all, Michael Clayton is a great metaphysical study of your typical man, as well as a powerful and interesting feature about the big stories that no one hears of. [9/10]

02. No Country for Old Men (Joel + Ethan Coen, USA)

The film that won Best Picture – the second Best Picture nominee created by the Coen brothers; a duo known for their dark humor, intricate themes and manic plots. This film is no different and perhaps on some level a rehashed collection of prior films (Fargo and Blood Simple most notably). Nonetheless, their consistency in features is no different here – with brooding and conflicted characters, the stories are genuinely interesting. The best aspect of No Country for Old Men is the Coen’s lack of favoritism in creating the three main characters – Anton, Ed Tom & Llewelyn. One isn’t emotionally deep, but rather depends on fate in his existence; one is a tired man who is trying to catch the worst criminal he’s been associate with; and one is just trying to surpass a menial existence with his wife. They are none similar which adds to the intricate themes I spoke of earlier. The Coen’s work diligently on contrasting elements – from businessman and criminal to man and woman – which also appeals strongly to me, because when executed and sustained intelligently, it makes for some pleasant afterthought and mental exercises. Constantly reiterating that violence isn’t something to adore, but rather be afraid of is an aspect almost no crime/thrillers attempt to elicit – and if they do, they certainly don’t distill it as the Coen’s do. An interesting and metaphorical film that appeals to all for it has two layers – the exhilarating front of a thriller and the deep intelligible story that lays beneath. A great winner. [9/10]

01. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

Alright, so as you may know this is my favourite film ever – so here’s my attempt to put that into words. There Will Be Blood is Paul Thomas Anderson’s grandeur – a rather malicious story on all levels; all stemming from the antagonist Daniel Plainview. His crooked (or perhaps straight) lens of society is the backbone to all of his actions. From trying to manage an entire town with his greed to attempting to crumble the inner peace of man; whether it be the religious or the fellow greedy oilmen, his hatred for humanity holds no bounds. An inspired film as this is clearly PT Anderson’s kiss to cinema’s past (this may be considered a flaw to some, but to me this just adds that drop of passion that every film needs to be memorable.) From the similarities between Eli’s “Get out Ghost” monologue in the church and Elmer Gantry’s dysfunctional and burst-bubble breakdown in Elmer Gantry to the similar landscapes found in The Bridge on the River Kwai to the pristine silence opening compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey this is a passion piece on every level. Considering the film takes on many themes that scroll from the promises and desperation of religion to the desperation and dark depths that man can reach when unfulfilled, it hits me personally. Even through all of this depression and depravity, the 160 minutes fly by. To those who spoke the criticism “the film left me cold” well I do believe that is the reaction Mr. Anderson was aiming for – he never tries to glamorize or oversell sadness, but rather twists it into hate. So if you shed a tear, you shed a tear for man – if you never feel the sensation of catharsis, the story has done its job in making you as miserable as Daniel Plainview. [10/10]

All in all a great top three – a fair bottom two. Three of the nominees make my personal lineup, which I believe is the most for any year this decade. So kudos, Academy!

01. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
02. Sleuth (Kenneth Branagh, USA)
03. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, Romania)
04. No Country for Old Men (Joel + Ethan Coen, USA)
05. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, USA)

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