FILM FORUM: Oscars Edition #1


I know we agreed to inaugurate this feature by discussing Charlie Wilson’s War. Certainly that film offers much to discuss — Philip Seymour Hoffman’s mumbling genius is worth 2,000 words alone. However, I thought that it might be fun to widen the focus a little bit. So instead of talking solely about Charlie Wilson’s War I think we should talk about the Oscars (an award for which PSH has been nominated, and deservedly so). I think we’ll be able to squeeze a few sentences about CCW into a conversation of the year’s best films.

Since neither of us are film critics I don’t expect that we’ve seen and thought seriously about all of the films and performances that have been nominated this year. I know I haven’t. But I don’t think that’s a problem. I trust that we’ve both seen enough of what’s been nominated to be able to talk thoughtfully about those films (or at least enough so that we can rely on our liberal arts education to fake appearing thoughtful). For the rest… Well, there’s a lot out there and much of it gets passed over by the cadre of Oscar voters. Maybe we can fill in those gaps as well.

I’ll start and I’ll start at the top: Best Picture.

Didn’t see Atonement (and I doubt I will) and I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t seen There Will Be Blood (aiming to take care of that this weekend), but I saw Juno, Micheal Clayton, and No Country For Old Men and I’ll say this: Eastern Promises was way better than Juno. I mention Eastern Promises in particular because it beat out Juno for the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival. For the life of me I can’t see how Juno is superior to Eastern Promises. This is not to discredit Juno. I like it quiet a bit. Ellen Page carried the film in a way that was pleasantly surprising, and Micheal Cera was perfect as The Guy Micheal Cera Always Plays. But come on. Could you see either of them naked in a steam room fighting off two hired thugs, finishing the last one off by knifing him in the eye? And if there ever were a litmus test for awesomesness then it surely is naked man-fighting that manages to be bad ass.

As for No Country For Old Men, it was typical Coen Brothers, which is a good thing in my book. I’m not sure I’m feeling the ending as much as some people, but if you get typical Coen Brothers for the first two hours then what do you expect from the ending? *** SPOILER WARNING *** Of course it was going to end with And then I woke up.” That’s how they do it. There weren’t going to cut things off with Anton Chigurh limping away after the accident. (Speaking of Anton Chigurh — what a character! Javier Bardem has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor and rightly so.)

The last Best Picture nominee is Micheal Clayton, a film that has grown on me considerably since I saw it a few months ago. Walking out of the theater I was deeply satisfied by both George Clooney and Tom Wilksinson’s performances, but on the whole I didn’t think the film would crack my top five of the year. Then I sat quietly atop a mountain and found a great sense of satisfaction. As someone pointed out to me, MC is a seriously efficient film. Nothing is wasted and each element is used to great effect. And if you weren’t equal parts excited and curious by the opening monologue then I don’t think you have a pulse or active imagination. Wilksinson does bluster like no other. He sounds like a stage actor, but not in that annoying way stage actors sound on screen, if that makes sense. I’d gladly watch him freak out any day of the week.


Sehban Zaidi is a Chicago-based filmmaker


~ by Scottie Ferguson on February 15, 2008.

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