Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oscars! (Writers Guild permitting)

The nominations for the oscars were announced yesterday. Unusually for me I've actually seen 4 out of the 5 best films so here goes my best 5 in reverse order:

  • Atonement - The book is a writerly conceit and the film is very close to the book. Just as manipulative as the most trite Hollywood schmaltz only dressed up in cut-glass vowels and fancy frocks. However, Keira Knightly does deserve some kind of award for really, really wearing that green dress.
  • Michael Clayton - The one I haven't seen. Looks worthy but dull.
  • No Country For Old Men - Gut wrenchingly riveting and gripping on the first viewing. Desert landscapes, silence, stolen money, cattle guns, Tommy Lee Jones, what could go wrong? Well, on a second viewing the whole thing falls apart. I just didn't buy it, especially the Chigurh character, a figure of death and destruction but one without context. Matthew and I have argued long about this but suffice to say, I'm right.
  • Juno - Brilliant! Funny, intelligent, non-judgemental, unpredictable and with great performances all round. Seen this three times now and it just gets better and better.
  • There Will Be Blood - I may embarrass myself here... Quite simply one of the best films I have ever seen. Paul Thomas Anderson, the director, made Boogie Nights, Magnolia and the much underrated Punch Drunk Love. He hasn't made a picture for 5 years and I think in that time he's been to the crossroads and made a deal... An allegorical and symbolic history of the twentieth century no less this extraordinary film taken in part from an Upton Sinclair novel starts with men literally pulling oil out of the ground with buckets and ends with an act of unparalleled madness and brutality. The film is apocalyptic and visionary and I have no problems comparing it to Bosch or Grunewald in its intensity and beauty. The performances are all excellent but Daniel Day-Lewis is just an elemental force of nature. I've seen this three times also and different parts of Day-Lewis's character reveal themselves on each viewing he simply is Daniel Plainview. It's a genuine delight to come across a work of art in your lifetime that you just know will be considered as one of the greats across time. This film should win everything it's up for, which means, of course, it won't.
Please let there be an Oscars!


  1. Re the decontexualised psycho in No Country For Old Men, surely the film is a parable for the powerlessness of good to conquer pure, determined evil, hence the lack of context? Context would explain the evil, and make for a very different kind of story.

    I have always assumed that the book was written in the wake of 9/11 as an expression of bewilderment in the face of the savagery of the attacks, at a time when for many Americans and others it was too soon to start contextualising and explaining. You might disagree with the politics, but the character serves the purpose of illustrating that particular worldview.

    Of course, I don't actually know when C McC was writing, so I could be wrong, but even so, for me the fear and therefore the power of the film comes precisely from the character's unknowability.

  2. I just don't believe in pure, determined evil. I don't find it interesting or powerful. Evil is a flaw or a weakness, that is where it becomes compelling.

    When you see There Will Be Blood, you'll know where I'm coming from.

    And don't you think the character is actually totally knowable and therefore totally predictable.

  3. I don't disagree with what you say in general, but it makes more sense if you take the film as a parable (which I did). While the purity, relentlessness and undefeatability of evil on an individual level might be - is - implausible, if you think about the characters as symbolising humanity, it comes together: the presence of evil within humanity is inevitable and terrifying and there is nothing we can do about it. The film asks the question: how do we defeat evil? And answers it: you can't. I believe that and so for me the film is chilling.

    But it's OK, if it didn't work for you it didn't work for you, I can't exactly change your mind about that!

    There Will Be Blood - I know, I know - greatest film ever bla BLA bla bla, but it just looks so... how can I put this? Boring.

  4. Hi,

    I really enjoyed No Country for Old Men and was considering going to see it again to get the bits I didn't get first time round. I think I'll give it a miss as I still want to like it! I'll read the book and go and see there will be blod instead. Thanks for the warning