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Friday, February 22, 2008

Oscar Series: Best Picture

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Atonement, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster
Juno, Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith
Michael Clayton, Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent
No Country for Old Men, Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
There Will Be Blood, JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi

Here we are. What is the best picture of the year? When I look at these nominees, I can honestly say that to name only one of these films "Best" is a shame. Five great films are in what I really think is one of the best lineups in recent memory. Still, only one film can win. Let's take a look.

Atonement many people consider is lucky to even be here. As I've stated on this blog I really liked this film. I didn't think it was a waste of two hours. It's a powerful story about decisions and consequences. And most importantly, how you live with them. This film was the frontrunner way back when this season began. It won the Golden Globe and BAFTA. There should be some support for it throughout the European population of the Academy. Although, it shouldn't matter. This film lacks the mass appeal and support to make it a serious threat.

Juno is this year's indie darling. A little film that "maybe" could. It's heartwarming and makes you feel good when the credits roll. Compared to the other nominees, it's the feel good picture. It has a likable lead in Ellen Page. If there is a split between No Country and Blood, then this would be the obvious benefactor. Some serious Oscar pundits like its chances. I wouldn't rule it out, but I can't see this winning. I don't see the vote splitting to be that much of a factor and when was the last time a film that was a comedy actually won?

Michael Clayton is hard to get a read on. It's a contemporary political thriller with a big star and a strong supporting cast. Its writer/director, Tony Gilroy, is an industry veteran and Sydney Pollack not only is in it, but is also a producer for this film. I just feel like it's the film people like, but not love. It lacks the passionate support to get enough votes. It has the major nominations for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay, but I won't be surprised if it gets shut out. A win here would be shocking to say the least.

No Country for Old Men is the frontrunner and it would be shocking if it lost at this point in the game. It has plenty of critics' awards (NYFC and BFCA to name a couple), DGA, PGA, SAG, and WGA. That is a great combination of critical and guild support. The Coens have created a film for the ages with a haunting villain, who will go down in cinema history. The cinematography and editing is top notch. It's hard to find something not respect from this film. Regardless of the ending, I don't think that should turn away enough voters. The support is too strong. The Coens are also favored to win Best Directing and Adapted Screenplay. They should get their moment on Sunday along with producer, Scott Rudin.

There Will Be Blood has the best shot for an upset, but will it happen? Paul Thomas Anderson's epic masterpiece is too dark to gain enough support. It's a film you either love or hate, and that hurts it. Blood has done well with the critics (LAFC and NSFC to name a couple), but that doesn't translate to Oscar success. Daniel Day-Lewis created a character that will be forever remembered in what I honestly believe is the performance of the decade. Robert Elswit executed stunning cinematograhy, Jack Fisk created a beautiful world to look at in the desert, and Jonny Greenwood composed a score that will haunt you in your sleep. Still, a film like this turns away voters and I bet a good portion of the Academy didn't even watch it. It's too bad, really. I will say this, people will remember this film for years to come. And really, that's the most important thing.

An upset of No Country for Old Men in this category would probably rank up there with '98 (Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan) and '05 (Crash over Brokeback Mountain) as recent Best Picture shockers. If it is going to happen I like There Will Be Blood, then Juno. I just don't see it happening.

Check back tomorrow for my final predictions for the 80th Annual Academy Awards.

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