NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
I'll examine these films one by one:
Michael Clayton is one of the most overrated movies of recent memory. It's not that it's awful or anything, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've seen a dozen films this year that were far superior to Michael Clayton. It wouldn't even make my top 20 list. Maybe I don't enjoy "legal dramas" or I'm not interested in the lives of wealthy people, but I found it just ok, a decent old-school establishment movie like Network. And I was amazed it got so many nominations, including all the major categories. Tilda Swinton's role was pedestrian at best, and there wasn't any interesting directorial flashes, it was a fairly by-the-numbers film that could have been made any time in the last 40 years. I feel this movie is being considered so seriously because it's so safe for the Academy: George Clooney is a safe actor that reminds these Academy fogies of Carey Grant; the film is a safe movie that's reminiscent of Hollywood's "good ol' days". I wouldn't be surprised if this film is gonna be the big upset, winning over superior films like Crash a couple years ago. Which would be a shame.
Atonement is a good movie, incredibly well-shot and well acted. The first half hour is particularly great: you feel like you are really with these people on this fateful summer day, with flies buzzing overhead and sweat dripping of your forehead. And there is the single most impressive scene this year, the five-minute tracking shot that says more about war than an hour of dialogue could. However, the last half looses steam, and I didn't like how they tried to market it as a "tragic love story" a la Romeo & Juliet or Brokeback Mountain. And the final scene is so cliche.
Juno is such a great inspiring story of the power of cinema. This little-movie-that-could, which was made for $7 million, has raked in $130 million and counting and has opened up the masses minds to independent, "different" movies that will affect the independent film scene for years. However, it is not, as the hype would suggest, the greatest movie ever; I thought last years similar independent nomination, Little Miss Sunshine, was a better film. But I'm a Juno fan, and I'm glad that the film is touching so many people. Go Carol.
There Will Be Blood is a beast of cinema. From the great performance of Daniel Day-Lewis, to the incredible directing and set design, to the bleak themes of where capitalism and religion meet, this is the Great American Movie, our generations Citizen Kane, our "Gatsby". However,
It had to come out the same year as There Will Be Blood. This film was the greatest film since Pulp Fiction, a true masterpiece and a modern Western for our troubled times. It's incredible in it's bleakness: most of the film is silent, there is hardly any dialouge, with no moral compass to lead the way. And the ending is pure poetry. A true work of art.
UPDATE: No Country For Old Men won! I'm glad the Academy got it right this year, this was truly a remarkable film and deserves the classic status of "Best Picture".
You are what you like.