Really, Oscar? Really?
I just watched the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. It was ostensibly a Western based on the book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, starring Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones, about a man who happens across a drug-running deal gone awry and finds a satchel full of money. How much, you ask? Not sure, but it was a small satchel full of hundreds, so probably a million, tops. Not much more, certainly.
I’m very proud of myself for having written the above paragraph without saying anything actually negative about the film. My mother always said if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything, but I managed to say something without its being not-so-nice.
Though I could. Oh, boy how I could.
I’ve not seen A Simple Plan, with Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton, but I’d wager the movies (and their books) had similar themes; you happen across money procured via ill-gotten ways, and you try to keep it, and Bad Stuff Happens. ™
Javier Bardem seems to have gotten a lot of press and respect for a bad haircut, but John Cusack played a much better, more layered hitman in Grosse Point Blank. I realize the movies are pretty much on opposite ends, but the only thing Bardem’s character lacked was a mustache he could twirl as the sociopathic villain sans sense of humor. Monomaniacal in his single-minded pursuit of the money. Hired by someone? I never caught that. He just shoots a lot of people, sometimes with a little attachment dohickey on the end of an oxygen tank. Which Tommy Lee Jones mentions completely non sequitur in a completely unrelated scene, because, as you know, Bob, this is how cattle ranches work.
Tommy Lee Jones was certainly the best part of the movie. There really weren’t any characters to care about. Josh Brolin, while certainly not unlikable, wasn’t all together sympathetic, either, and he wanted only one thing clearly; to survive with money. As motivations go, certainly, it’s what we all hope, but he does some fairly stupid things several times along the way (like chucking the briefcase over a border fence it’s not clear why he’s crossing, anyway).
I think what most disappoints me is the movies ignored. I mentioned both Zodiac and Gone Baby Gone in a post the the other day; as crime movies go (and No Country was, pretty much, a crime movie set in the Southwest), both were far superior in their own ways. Casey Affleck’s troubled detective fought hard to save the life of a young girl despite that her mother was not the most responsible person in the world; a definite motivational dilemma that sought but never found an easy answer. Even the den–denou–climax/resolution was layered and nuanced.
Zodiac was even better, and was the sort of movie Fincher should have been recognized for. Fincher is an easily recognized director, stylistically; watch Fight Club and Panic Room and there are telltale signs it was the same guy. In a good way. Even his lesser appreciated fare (Sean Penn: better in The Game than in anything since he was Spicoli? Discuss) has his fingerprints all over it.
Until Zodiac. He was completely invisible, like Scorsese was finally invisible in The Departed. Fincher finally gave his utmost attention to simply telling the story well, without tricks or gimmicks, and man did it ever work. Even Gyllenhaal gave the sort of performance that makes you forget your watching Gyllenhaal.
Zodiac was not my favorite movie, but it was certainly one of the most perfectly conceived and executed films I’ve ever had the distinct pleasure of watching.
And it should whooped No Country all over the place last night.
Which ultimately means that the only thing the Academy actually got right last night was the award it gave Once.
February 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm
I heard this was Josh Brolin’s groundbreaking role. But, then, has Brolin ever showed much promise?
My whole thing about the Oscars this year was that, save that Tommy Lee Jones/Charlize Theron/star of the month movie, it was the only one recognized that remotely addressed our current political situation. I’d really like to see more movies deal with problems happening in contemporary America…or, I dunno, movies that deal with relationships on all levels–not just one note issues that are vague/dull at best.
Laura Linney was the only worthy nominee, IMHO (besides Once). Making pretty people ugly does not warrant nominations…or, worse, wins.
February 29, 2008 at 6:23 pm
Probably one of the reasons I would never see No Country for Old Men is because I prefer films like Lions for Lambs and The Bucket List. Notice neither of those films made the short list for the Oscars.