Time was when I saw pretty much everything, and when the Oscars came around I actually had opinions on what should win based on the movies. Well, I’ve long since learned that the Oscars are a big dumb joke, and that the things that win are usually sentimental payback (The Departed) or movies with really big casts (Crash, Return of the King, Gladiator). Think about it; all those people worked, and they all get to vote. Sort of a no-brainer. Meanwhile, prior to this weekend, the last time I managed to get excited enough about something to drag myself to the theater was when Dreamgirls opened.
But for some reason, this past week, I got some weird movie fever and became desperate to see all the Oscar nominees before the Oscars. Rather than try to make sense of this phenomenon, I just went with it. The spouse wasn’t interested, so I took myself to No Country for Old Men on Saturday, then went with the eldest to see all the animated short subjects that night and Juno yesterday.
I’m not a huge Coen brothers fan; I like some of their movies a lot, esp. O Brother and Miller’s Crossing, but I’m not jumping to see them like I would be for something by Michael Mann (let’s hope there are no sequels to Miami Vice). I also am not real fond of Cormac McCarthy; he’s a little too high-falutin’ for me, a little too anointed. So I basically only picked this one because it wasn’t as long as There Will Be Blood. Well, No Country is one helluva movie. It strikes me as light years beyond Fargo, which I always thought was a little forced/let’s-laugh-at-people-who-talk-funny. The acting is great, there are two of the most suspenseful scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie without a note of music, and honestly there’s not a bad frame in it. Tommy Lee Jones gives a knock-out performance, and provides extremely dry comic relief, which, on him, doesn’t come off oh-those-whimsical-Coens but is just funny. Javier Bardem is really really scary. Josh Brolin is charming. It’s got to be tough to pull off a morality tale (lesson: money is evil) with such a light touch and yet still deliver exactly the right density, but they do it. I’ll be glad when the spouse sees it, I do think it will be his cup of tea.
As for Juno, I didn’t think I’d like it, and …. was right. The writing is self-conscious and clever, and the whole thing exudes an Isn’t-Sundance-Wonderful? aura. Ellen Page is swell if you like 20-year-olds playing 16-year-olds with mouths full of 35-year-old Neil Simon witticisms (but updated with lots of dudes, shittys, and whatever else teenagers said last week). I fear she will probably win Best Actress. Sigh. Oh well, hopefully cooler heads will prevail and Julie Christie will get it, though that will be a pleasant surprise. Page is extremely talented, but the stuff she has to say is just too icky (it does get less cloying as the movie proceeds). Throughout Juno, I decided not to say anything in case Eldest was diggin’ it. When, 30 minutes in, she whispered, “This is awful, isn’t it?,” I sighed with relief. We decided to stay mainly because, as she put it, “Everybody’s talking about it, so we might as well say we gave it a fair shot.” There were a couple of sweet moments toward the end, but basically, it’s a movie that’s so in love with itself it’s a little shameless the way we’re all being asked to love it as well.
The shorts were very cool, and I’m glad I saw them. Peter and the Wolf was a real delight, but I have no idea how you pick something out of that batch, so I’d probably do a process of elimination if I had to vote on the best. Probably the thinnest are I Met the Walrus, which is inventive and a lot of fun but not particularly substantive, and even penguins go to heaven, which was very French and basically an extended joke. The Russian movie was gorgeous, done in this cool impressionistic/Chagall style and based on Turgenev. The most haunting in my book was Madame Tutli Putli, where an amazing Edith Piaf lookalike puppet takes this very creepy train ride. Neither Eldest nor I is quite sure what that one was about, but it definitely stuck with us.
So only Atonement and There Will Be Blood to go, as Michael Clayton, which hasn’t got a shot, is out on DVD this week. Reports later.