Friday, February 29, 2008

Golden Muriel Award for Best Film, 2007

And the Muriel goes to...

(207 points/17 votes)

“The first time I saw No Country for Old Men there was a man in front of me who stood up as the last of the end credits faded and said to his date, “That was good. I’m gonna have to think about why it was good, but it was good.” Over the course of the first few weeks of its release, somehow this brutal, demanding, and elliptical thriller managed to burrow its way into the culture and get people who might not normally take time to seriously ponder a movie to think about what it was up to, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. Questions of “plot,” like who ultimately ends up with the money, soon gave way to richer discussions about thematic strains that wrestle with the enduring nature of human brutality, and the function of genre in light of the movie’s much-debated ending. Well, as the devil-worshiping rocker once said, you can’t always get what you want. There has rarely been a movie that ropes an audience in with the expectations of genre and then so effectively detours them onto darker, more disorienting ground than No Country for Old Men. Nor have there been many as confident as this one is in its storytelling. Joel and Ethan Coen, in adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel, give their audience credit for understanding why scenes that would be climactic, essential scenes in a lesser movie are rendered here in taut visual geography that demands the audience’s attention, or elided altogether. They’ve created a masterpiece that honors the haunted sensibility of the original author and simultaneously reverberates with a pleasure in filmmaking that is strictly their own. Maybe that guy I overheard was simply trying to wrap his head around the feelings the movie stirred up inside of him. Maybe, like many of us, he’s still stirring. No Country for Old Men is haunting that way, and it is itself haunted by fears too pervasive to ever be summed up. It moves like a ghost in a dream, gliding into the deep, dark black of a shared history and an uncertain future.” ~ Dennis Cozzalio

Other praise:

“When Marcel Duchamp and the dadaists started making intentionally nonsensical art, it was a reaction to the world they lived in. It was a way of saying that if World War I is sensical, then we can only be nonsensical. By the same token, the Coens brilliantly hold a mirror back to ourselves. They say: If you want a world that is [all about] money, and that’s all that you trade on, then don’t expect humanity to be found anywhere when you catch hold of your reflection.” ~ Martin McClellan

“For most of its running time, No Country for Old Men works primarily as an uncommonly exciting chase thriller, in which the overmatched Lewellyn Moss struggles to stay ahead of stone-cold killer Chigurh (Javier Bardem). But while first two acts of the film are enough to mark it as the Coen brothers’ best work in years, it’s the final act, which avoids the expected confrontation between Chigurh and Lewellyn in favor of something more philosophical, that the film to another level of greatness altogether. An observer for most of the story, Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) suddenly comes face to face with the idea that even if you run from the evil that you fear may be hiding behind one door, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be waiting for you behind another. ‘You can’t stop what’s coming,’ indeed.” ~ Paul Clark

“My expectations going into this movie were enormous, begging to be unmet and disappointed. In the end, they were easily exceeded and I wonder now how I could ever have thought otherwise. I got exactly what I wanted and somehow left the theater with more than I thought possible. Though I have ultimately treasured them all, I’ve never so unreservedly loved a Coen Brothers movie on first viewing as much as I did No Country for Old Men. Is it the best Coen movie ever? Maybe. Ask me again later when the Texas dust has settled and the blood has had time to dry.” ~ Craig Kennedy

No Country for Old Men is the most quietly ferocious movie you'll ever see. I can't stop thinking about the brilliant sound design choices by Joel and Ethan Coen that lift the movie from a simple genre exercise into another level of terror and excitement. In the same way Ennio Morricone fashioned a theme out of creaks, drips and cracks for the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West, here we have an entire "score" made out of footsteps, desert wind, breezes through an open window, distant passing trains and simply the sound a man makes when he's contemplating what his next action will be that won't result in his death. All these sounds are heightened because no note (whether dialog or effects) goes wasted, wrapping the viewer in silence and putting us in the same mindset as the characters, where fate seems to be waiting behind the corner.” ~ Adam Ross

“It’s occured to me that, with its understated, handsome style, it could have just as easily been directed by Clint Eastwood at his best as by the Coens. I say this not to echo the common claim that their Cormac McCarthy adaptation announces their newfound maturity - they were always old souls, even when they were goofing off - but to highlight the understatement and economy they bring to every frame of the film. It's an approach that befits their trio of laconic main characters, and grounds the film's apocalyptic vision with a sharp, unsentimental eye.” ~ Andrew Bemis

“Near perfection in every sense and far and away the best film I saw this year. The Coen Brothers cut down on the camera tricks and let the forward momentum of a chase thriller carry the difficult adaptation of a novel with almost zero description and in the process made what may very well be the best film of their heavyweight careers.” ~ Bryan Whitefield

“Not since 2003’s Lost in Translation has a motion picture left me so speechless, so eager to cling onto the way that it made me feel rather than to dissect it into wordy pieces. In fact, I can’t really say what it is about this film that allows me to respond to it in the way that I do… [But] even if I’m not sure of the reason, I do know that No Country for Old Men is a masterpiece. I’ve already seen it twice and all I want to do is see it again.” ~ Danny Baldwin

Click here for complete results


James said...

This is the second year that my top pick received its only vote from me! That makes me a rebel. Or a square.


Thanks for the surprise quote, Paul!

I'm surprised GONE BABY GONE did so well, but the rest of the choices seem pretty good to me and very much in line.

What a Muriels, see you all next year!

Craig Kennedy said...

A great choice for number one.

Terrific choices everyone and I enjoyed the hell out of reading your thoughts on all these great movies. The extended love for No Country for Old Men in the end was particularly excellent.

Thanks Paul for putting all this together, for keeping it running and for asking me to participate.

Give Muriel some lettuce and tell her it was a job well done.

Pat R said...

no country for old men is unassumingly clever... tons of unexpected plot twists but it never goes over the top. well done from a movie making angle, dumbfounding form a moral angle.