Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hindsight Oscars: 2007

Best Picture
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men (winner)
There Will Be Blood
Should have won: THERE WILL BE BLOOD edges out NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, though I love them both.
Should have been nominated: 2007 is known by many cinephiles as one of the greatest years in recent memory, and two of the reasons why (COUNTRY and BLOOD) were recognized by the Academy. But the third of the year's trifecta of instant classics- David Fincher's ZODIAC- went sadly overlooked, and that's a pity, since while it's surgically precise and filled to the gills with information, it also stands as perhaps the defining film about the unwieldly, lumbering nature of our law-and-order system in practice. It may very well stand the test of time better than any other film of 2007.

Best Lead Actress
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose (winner)
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
Should have won: In a fairly lean year, Page runs away with this, giving a deft, star-making performance that finds her successfully navigating some ornate and overly-precious Diablo Cody dialogue without losing the character's heart.
Should have been nominated: Carice Van Houten gave the year's female lead performance in BLACK BOOK, but for a great overlooked performance from someone we know the Academy likes, why not Nicole Kidman in MARGOT AT THE WEDDING? In a role that takes advantage of her stylized and almost brittle screen presence, Kidman is pathetic and caustically funny.

Best Lead Actor
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (winner)
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Should have won: Day-Lewis. There's a reason this character became so iconic so quickly. It's impossible to imagine anybody else in the part.
Should have been nominated: Sam Rockwell is one of the great sadsack character actors of modern cinema, and he often utilizes his motormouth persona as a rebuke to a world that seems to be bypassing him (or at least his characters). What makes his performance in JOSHUA so effective is that he can no longer hide behind the buffer of comedy. As a dad struggling with a son who clearly has it in for him, Rockwell seems to represent every happless dad dealing with the idea that his little boy isn't the chip off the old block he'd always hoped for, only taken to horrifying extremes.

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men (winner)
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Should have won: The Coens did a masterful job and Schnabel worked wonders with tricky material, but THERE WILL BE BLOOD is much more of a director's showcase, and Anderson made it sing.
Should have been nominated: Bong Joon-ho turned his Korean blockbuster THE HOST into perhaps the greatest Spielberg movie not actually directed by Spielberg. And five years before ARGO, Ben Affleck used GONE BABY GONE to prove to anyone who was actually paying attention that he was already more talented as a director than he was as an actor.

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men (winner)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
Should have won: Bardem took a potentially ridiculous character- that murder weapon! That hairdo!- and made him singularly unnerving. Though Affleck would've been a worthy choice as well.
Should have been nominated: Kurt Russell's been one of Hollywood's most reliable man's men for so long that it came as a surprise to see him take his persona in an altogether different direction in GRINDHOUSE, first as a smooth-talking, coldhearted psychopath, then as the simpering baby that's found within every true bully. Bardem made for one of the great villains of modern cinema, but I'd argue that Russell's performance was even deeper.

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton (winner)
Should have won: Solid as Blanchett and Swinton are, no one touches Ryan's brilliant turn as a trashy mother suffering in the fallout of her daughter's abduction.
Should have been nominated: All right, so I'm bending the rules a little, seeing as how the Academy has never really gone for omnibus films. But can anyone who's seen Margo Martindale in the "14th Arrondissement" segment of PARIS, JE T'AIME really say she doesn't belong here? Martindale anchors the film's most memorable section- in broken French, no less- as she navigates the story of a Midwestern tourist in Paris from fish-out-of-water comedy to something approaching transcendence.

Best Original Screenplay
Juno (winner)
Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
The Savages
Should have won: Combining an absurd yet irresistible premise with some of Pixar's tastiest and most sophisticated dialogue, Ratatouille should have walked away with this one.
Should have been nominated: HOT FUZZ cleverly cross-breeds a number of venerable big-screen genres- police shoot'em'ups, Agatha Christie-esque murder mysteries, even a dash of eccentric-village comedy. That it works so well is a credit to how much screenwriters Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg honor their inspirations, even as they kid them.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Away From Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men (winner)
There Will Be Blood
Should have won: No Country for Old Men, which found the Coens refusing to goose their source material and instead tweaking it subtly to make it as Coen-esque as anything they've done.
Should have been nominated: Does anyone in Hollywood know who Richard Shepard is? Only one of the most singular comedic filmmakers currently working, that's who. THE HUNTING PARTY takes a fairly standard war-in-the-Balkans storyline and injects it with loose-flywheel comedy that's dark yet sincere.

Best Animated Feature
Ratatouille (winner)
Surf's Up
Should have won: Ratatouille, hands down. I respect that Persepolis aimed for adult audiences, but its reliance on cheap crowd-pleasing moments (um, "Eye of the Tiger" anybody?) made it lose a lot of its charm.
Should have been nominated: Uh, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE? I'm drawing a blank here.

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