One of the greatest benefits of being a Film Studies major -- other than personal enrichment, of course -- is the heightened ability to be a braggard. I get to spend my time reading Entertainment Weekly, scouring IMDb and Wikipedia, and watching anything on E! and Vh1, while telling myself is all research. All the time I spend in a matinée at the Laemmle or with a DVD on, I consider to be studying for an edge in my path through the Industry. So it is with great vindication that I announce myself as the winner of this year's Oscar pool. Now, I only won $6.25, but this was my first Oscar pool ever, and it is with pride that I toot my own horn. So here is my amateur account of the results of Sunday night's almost-didn't-happen 80th Academy Awards.
Best Picture - No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, unsurprisingly took top billing at this year's primo awards show. While I would never have voted for it as being the best of anything, it certainly had wonderful performances across the board, interesting filmmaking choices (notably the lack of music), and portrayed an unusual worldview. In my opinion, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood deserved the award more, but No Country was always going to win.
Best Directing - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Hand in hand with the best pic award for the film (just seeing Sam Rudin on TV gives me shivers), Joel and Ethan Coen were awarded their second Oscar for directing. I keep promising to watch Fargo, and I loved Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou, so I can see why they won even if the film wasn't my favorite. Just like PTA did in Blood, they counterbalanced violent characters against sweeping pastoral landscapes, but the claustrophobic world within a motel room was where the Coens shone with this film.
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Had Daniel Day-Lewis not been awarded Best Actor, there absolutely would have been blood, if I had anything to say about it! *rimshot* He has shown, once again, his devotion to the craft of acting (when he's not making shoes, of course), and his superhuman ability to transform into another person so completely. His Daniel Plainview was so believable a lonely tyrant that I couldn't help but feel for him even when I couldn't agree with his actions. I'm past due for a Day-Lewis retrospective, as it's been years since I've watched My Left Foot or Last of the Mohicans. So hammy Sir Olivier takes issue with Method acting, if it makes Day-Lewis turn out the kinds of performances that he does, then I say to hell with Olivier! [/vitriol]
Best Actress in a Leading Role - Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
I haven't seen La Vie en Rose, so all I can say about Best Actress Marion Cotillard's performance is secondhand. Her physical transformation, at least, was remarkable, and everything I've read about her dedication to learning how to mirror Edith Piaf's tics and performance styles has been incredibly respectable. Of the performances I did see, my vote was for the wonderful Laura Linney, but I can see why the Academy would have gone for a perhaps more demanding performance than one as restrained as Linney's.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
No one was surprised that Javier Bardem won Best Supporting actor, so I don't have much to say here. He certainly put on quite a show as Anton Chigurh, which is evident once you see how adorable he is in interviews. Also, I'm reminded to finally watch El Mar Adentro, as I've wanted to for years. Also, Bardem is about as Spanish as they get. Did you see his mama's jewelry?
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Though I expected Cate Blanchett to win Best Supporting Actress, I'm not surprised that this would have been the category to get Michael Clayton as award. Unfortunately, traffic kept me from the screening I was hoping to attend the other night, so I have to wait until it comes in my Netflix soon. I can say, however, that Swinton's eccentric acceptance speech was just what I wanted from her. She is the one reason why I can't fully regret having seen Constantine (in theaters, no less - it was not my decision), so I'm glad to see her so well-respected.
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) - Diablo Cody, Juno
Diablo Cody's win for Juno was both expected and endearing. I read her screenplay after I saw the film, but it's definitely for more than just her previous employment choices that she's Hollywood's "It Girl" new screenwriter. Some of the dialogue is a bit hamfisted ("honest to blog," seriously?), but the relationships and themes are so believable, and the voice so unique, that I'm very glad she won. I know she's gotten flack for being a one-trick pony, but I think that her ability to write a smart young female character, and an aging manchild more believable than anything Matthew McConaughey might play, is hard to find these days.
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
I haven't read Cormac McCarthy's novel, but against Atonement and There Will Be Blood, I can understand why this award-sweeping film's screenplay would have won. I haven't read Upton Sinclair's Oil! either, but I've read that PTA took a lot of liberties with his adaptation, and I certainly would never have voted for Chris Hampton's take on Ian McEwan's outstanding novel. As for the other two nominees, I'm afraid I'm out of the loop.
Best Cinematography - Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood
Of all of the beautiful shots in all of the nominated films in this category, There Will Be Blood was absolutely saturated with them. It's difficult to tear your eyes away from the characters whenever they're staring each other down, but there are certain moments when the world of the film just screams with poetic juxtaposition. The most striking of these occurs when Eli Sunday marches towards Daniel Plainview, determined to get an answer about a previously made promise. He strides past a pool of oil glistening on the scorched California earth, and the clear expanse of blue sky dotted with unassuming clouds is perfectly, crisply reflected in the black gold. Stunning.
Best Music (Score) - Dario Marianelli, Atonement
Marianelli is officially the only Joe Wright return collaborator that I am impressed with. Though I enjoyed Atonement greatly, it wasn't that swell of an adaptation, and Keira Knightley was only slightly less obnoxious than she was in Pride & Prejudice. [Though I must say, she perfectly fits McEwan's physical description of Cecilia.] The film's score is one of the most enrapturing elements of the beautiful story, tying together a wonderfully WWII appropriate piano theme with recurring intrusions of typewriter sound. Without the score, this film would have been something entirely different. Take that, Dogme 95!
Best Music (Song) - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, "Falling Slowly," Once
John Stewart, who did a much better job hosting this year than he did a couple of years ago, totally won my "favorite Oscar host ever" award when he (or whichever of the show's producers, whatevs) let Marketa go back onstage to give a speech after she was cut off the first time around. Once and its beautiful music affected me so strongly, I don't really know how to quantify my pleasure at the fact that it got some critical recognition during awards season. Please, please, for the love of art, see Once. Oh, and Amy Adams is a darling, and I hope that she gets cast in the first run of the inevitable Broadway adaptation of Enchanted, which would do very well on stage.
So, I can't really say much about the other "big" categories...editing/mixing? Well, I saw some of the dailies from the Bourne Ultimatum, and it was so shaky that I can't imagine I'd be able to sit through the entire thing without a little dizziness. Ratatouille as best animated feature? Couldn't watch it, as I dealt with a horrifying rodent problem last year when I moved into a new apartment, and I don't think I will be seeing it anytime soon. I will be seeing Persepolis this weekend though, after I finish reading Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel. I thought it had a shot of winning as it wasn't eligible for Best Foreign Language feature, but apparently Ratatouille was the fan favorite of the year. I didn't see any of the shorts or the foreign language nominees, I'm afraid, so all I can say there is that The Counterfeiter looks pretty fantastic.
Again, sorry for being so lax with posting these past few months. I'm trying to up my media intake, so hopefully I'll be able to vent my musings with some frequency in the future. That's all, folks!