james debate
james debate

Friday 28 March 2008

A bit late perhaps, but now having seen all of the major Oscar picks from this year's Academy Awards ceremony I think it is high time I give you the lowdown and let you know which of all these highly rated movies are really worth a viewing, and the ones who's presence in this most prestigious of movie award ceremonies are quite frankly ill deserved.

Beginning with Juno.
We might as well start with my favorite of this year's big movies. The word "quirky" has become the quick and easy way to describe films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Garden State that straddle the lines between indie and studio films and comedy and drama. Following in their footsteps this year is Juno, and it may well be the best yet. First of all it is necessary to tell the remarkable tale of Diablo Cody, the writer of Juno. Previously working as a stripper, this is Cody's first ever screenplay, and what a way to mark a drastic career change, she went on to win the Oscar for 'Best Original Screenplay'. Watching her tear-filled acceptance speech is surely enough to warm anyone's heart. As for the film itself. It is exceptionally well written, if a little heavy handed in 'street lingo' in some of the opening scenes. On top of this it is very well acted; this film serves as yet another example of why Superbad and Arrested Development's Michael Cera is one of Hollywood's most talented youngster, and yet this pales in comparison to the stunning Ellen Page, surely the breakout actress of this year, who was nominated for 'Best Actress' for this role, remarkable for such a tender young age. However it would be criminal to overlook the effect of Jason Reitman's fantastic directing, which in the end is what gives the film it's quirky, unique quality that makes it so unmissable.
Verdict: Must Watch

Followed byNo Country for Old Men.
Ah the Coen Brothers. Anyone here who has not seen Fargo, I will allow you a 3 hour break to go watch it right now, as you have been badly educated. Very much in a similar mold is the sibling duo's latest film No Country for Old Men. The tone is highly understated, and the plot is not earth shatteringly fresh, but it is layered, and it is directed with such technical brilliance, heart stoppingly tense and sweetened by brilliant cinematography. Javier Bardem deservedly won the Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actor' and is frankly bone chilling as a no-nonsense psychopath, as ruthless as he is cunning, on top of which Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones very ably add to the acting talent on screen. However it must be noted, this film is not for everyone; the understated tone can come off as far too inaccessible for many people and this will likely only please a certain kind of audience.
Verdict: Only if you have the patience for a dark and subtle movie

But is it better thanThere Will be Blood.
A film that will likely be remembered for it's lead performance, There Will be Blood is a dark and unsettling tale of one man's ruthless quest for power. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for 'Best Actor' for this role and indeed he is very impressive, however many watchers may be somewhat distracted by his constant and pretty much perfect copy of John Huston. This movie is a similar watch to No Country for Old Men, but slightly pacier, possibly a bit better and even darker. This film is ultimately highlighted by highly ambitious directing from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and only time will tell if he has pulled it off, for this film to be remembered as a masterpiece. From my point of view, love or hate the ending, it is hard to fault his work here.
Verdict: Not to everyone's taste, but certainly worth a watch if you like westerns, period pieces or overly dark movies.

And the forgotten manCharlie Wilson's War.
This is a movie largely overlooked by the Academy, despite getting one nomination, Phillip Seymour Hoffman for 'Best Supporting Actor', who eventually lost out to Javier Bardem. However this does it a disservice in this observer's opinion. Not only is the film written with a lightning quick wit, and ably directed, but bolstered by fine acting performances. Tom Hanks is, as usual, effortlessly charming and believable in his role, and he is matched by the perfect foil, yet another absolutely flawless performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who surely came within a whisker of winning his second Oscar, on top of which Julia Roberts also reminds us that she is in fact a highly talented actress with her portrayal of a texan socialite. The story is engrossing, amusing, exciting and finished off by a classic sting in the tail, leaving a bitter taste in the viewers' minds, lending itself to what is without a doubt one of the more enjoyable films this year. I think it is a worrying sign that the general consensus in the Academy appears to be that a film has to be depressing and dark in order to be a good movie, but pay no attention to them, and watch this wonderfully enjoyable and well realised film.
Verdict: Must Watch

What are they doing here?
How 'Surfs Up' and 'The Golden Compass' found there way in here, we will never know. Surfs Up is, quite obviously, for kids, and highly dismal for anyone else, and frankly far worse than a number of other animated movies from this year (the Simpsons for example, and any number of indie productions) The Golden Compass is a disappointment, hard even to recommend to fans of the books. I was a massive fan of the books, and the mesmerizing stage production at the National, but even I could barely stomach the butchering of the film's ending. Up until that point it was adequate, and with a glorious cast I was prepared to enjoy it. At the end of the day Phillip Pullman wussed out, and allowed the studios to dumb down the controversial anti-religion subject matter of the books in an attempt not to offend anyone, and then committed an even worse sin by cutting the ending of the film to be a 'happy' ending, as opposed to the wonderfully stinging twist at the end of the first book. For shame.
Verdict: Hard to recommend either

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