Any fan of movies new that it was just a matter of time before the visionaries that are the Coen brothers would one night rule the Oscar party and in 2008 (movies made in 2007) they did just that, taking best director(s) and best picture and best adapted screenplay all for No Country For Old Men. It truly was master Coen brothers movie, blending their sharp yet dark humor with fine acting and dialogue with characters not to soon be forgotten. So we examine was it the best movie of the year?
One thing is for sure, it was a banner year for nominations. In fact it was one of the years that may have lead to the expansion of the category.
One of the most visually stunning and at times harrowing films was Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! With a lead role that solidified Daniel Day-Lewis as possibly this generations most talented actor. It had one of the most unique musical scores in recent memory which gave the movie a haunting quality and lead to a fear of Day-Lewis’ character. It’s truly a love it or hate it movie but it was without question well directed and acted therefore leading to it’s nomination.
Keeping in theme with the diversity of the movies on the list next is the legal thriller Michael Clayton with multiple nominations including best supporting actress winner Tilda Swinton. The twisting thriller surrounding corporate law firm Kenner, Bach and Ledeen features Tom Wilkenson as manic depressive attorney who turns on his own client in an effort to expose their greedy yet deadly practices while fellow attorney Michael Clayton played by George Clooney attempts to clean up yet another mess dumped on the partners while he can’t keep the aspects of his life in order. Featuring one of the last and great performances of Sydney Pollocks extensive and diverse career, it was an engrossing movie with razor sharp dialogue and confrontation scenes that left you enthralled from the first minute.
As always there is usually a great surprise and a movie that in a way is honored just by having it nominated. The light hearted story of Juno Macguff was this movie. with a heartfelt script of an all too common dilemma faced by too many young women today in the form of teenage pregnancy and that not everyone let’s it ruin their life and how it can become the joy of another’s. A breakthrough role for young Ellen Page and fine night for first time screen writer Diablo Cody.
As per usual the finely acted British film made it’s way in with the WWII love story, Atonement based on the best selling book. With a unique look at love it won the hearts of many women but not the Academy on that night.
Still many others didn’t receive the recognition they so justly deserved. Most notable was the Sean Penn helmed Into The Wild based on the true story and book by John Krakhauer. With a dynamite soundtrack exclusively by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder it tell about a man who gives up all earthly possessions to live in the Alaskan wild to leave off the land and truly be a happy person in nature.
Also of honorable mention was the directing debut of Ben Affleck who directed his brother in the movie based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, Gone Baby Gone. Back to a root he knows, south Boston, he showed the tough living and tough life of the locals as they rally around a local missing child.
Ridley Scott again teamed up with Russell Crowe in American Gangster alongside Denzel Washington as longtime Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas and Crowe as the detective who stumbles upon him and his massive operation and then becomes his attorney.
Also left to at least be mentioned was the Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Whalberg in We Own The Night about police and their fight on drugs in NYC in the early 80’s. Charlie Wilson’s War told the story of a playboy congressman who single handedly fought the Russian communist in a covert way to help the Afghan’s defeat them. Last was Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in the western story The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford based on the novel which had elements of truth to it with a very visually engrossing and beautiful picture of the American west.
So what was the best? No doubt a case could be made for almost all these movies. With the diversity and quality in this year it seems only fitting that the duo that is the Coen brother’s would win since their movies are the most diverse and have been called a genre of their own. The biggest misstep by the Academy was not giving former bad boy, Sean Penn more recognition. If not a best picture nomination most deserving of a best director nod. It is a year rife with debate possibilities only the fans could decide the best for this year.