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.

I won’t be watching the show. I think it might be tomorrow night, though I’ve been hearing about it for ages. Between speculation about whether the WGA strike would allow it to be held in the first place to feverish coverage of Juno‘s screenwriter and Javier Bardem’s pageboy hairdo in No Country for Old Men, it’s been pretty impossible to miss.

I won’t be watching them because I have no real desire to see any of the nominations. I think Juno is really only this year’s version of Little Miss Sunshine, and the only reason I saw that one was because I went with my best buddy. I enjoyed the latter, certainly, and it was certainly well crafted, well written, and well structured, and it certainly had a lot of heart

–but.

(you knew there would be a ‘but’, of course). I don’t know; it was technically good, and enjoyable, but mostly– well, let’s just come right out and let me admit I like blowing shit up. My favorite movie is Shakespeare in Love, but my top ten is filled with the likes of V for Vendetta, Casino Royale, and Mission: Impossible III (also: The Sixth Sense). I’ve never been a huge fan of smaller indie movies (that last I mentioned because it comes about as close as I get). Grosse Point Blank is, I think, the closest I come to indie, and while it doesn’t blow anything up, there are silencers around.

So the full disclosure is that I’m not sure I’ve seen anything nominated, but when has lack of knowledge ever prevented anyone from writing about something, especially on the Internet? Tha Interwebs were invented for unfounded opinions from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, weren’t they?

In keeping with blowing shit up, how about some bullets?

-I’m tired of hearing about Diablo Cody, although I’ve begun to consider renaming myself The Jesus Casidy. With one ‘s’, because it’s cooler.

-The Coen brothers are interesting enough that I want to see No Country despite everything good I’ve read about it, but that’s because I like they’re stuff. I’ve always liked their stuff (though I think it’s a little too quirky just for the sake of being so). Intolerable Cruelty might be George Clooney’s best movie, and this from a guy who loves the entire Ocean’sfranchise (dear Mr. Soderbergh: you’re going backward. What we want is Ocean’s Five, with Damon, Pitt, Clooney, Cheadle, and Izzard, pulling off a low-tech heist of a low-tech casino, shot like Full Frontal. Get right on it, please).

-I’m more impressed that Daniel Day Lewis has cobbled shoes by any of his performances I’ve ever seen. Not that they were bad, mind, but he seems a poster child for the whole “Life’s too serious to be taken seriously,” as are work and craft. Dear Mr. Day Lewis: you’re an actor. Lighten up. Unless you want to do more cobbling of shoes, in which case, I wear an 8. Thank you.

***

I think one of the reasons I’m so disappointed is that two movies I loved were completely ignored. Zodiac is very nearly as close to perfect a movie as I’ve ever seen; it’s a lot like The Shawshank Redemption in that it manages to tell precisely the story it set out to in precisely the way it needed to, without gimmick or spectacle. A perfect example of a director really letting the story do the work. It’s the sort of movie someone who knows about how movies are made watches and thinks, wow, that’s well done, because the craft of it is just about invisible. It’s so subtle.

Also: Gone Baby Gone was robbed in just about every category. Best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay . . . in a truly awesome world, Affleck would have won his second, third, and fourth Oscars for this movie, though it would have been a damned close race with Fincher.

But congratulations, Oscar, for nominating Casey. Just a shame you got the wrong movie.