Let it be said: Paul Thomas Anderson wuz robbed. No Country For Old Men is a fine film and well worth seeing, but There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece. What a weekend! The finest movie of the year was overlooked for Best Film and Best Director. And if that weren't enough to bear, Ralph Nader's at it again. He's becoming the Gloria Swanson of Presidential politics. He's ready for his close-up, CB.
I didn't engage in Oscar predictions this year, despite my uncanny record of accuracy (well - once), because I hadn't seen all the nominees. But I have seen No Country, and it's no contest. It's compelling to watch and brilliantly filmed, with some terrific performances (including Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Rodger Boyce, and a stunning turn by Barry Corbin.) But it loses some energy as it goes along. It also seems to fall prey to that postmodern idea that it's somehow unhip or unartistic to give audiences a satisfying ending.
And I'm one of the very few who thought that Javier Bardem, a brilliant actor, was unsatisfying in the villain's role. Anton Chigurh was much more terrifying in the book. There's goofy as frighteningly crazy, and there's goofy as ... well, goofy. I thought the portrayal fell into the latter category.
Not that I'm anything but a huge Coen Brothers fan. I'm a shameless devotee. The Big Lebowski's one of my favorite films, and I've watched it ... well, quite a few times. It's filled with brilliant throwaway lines, including one the Huffington Post's own Tom Hayden should appreciate. That's the one where The Dude says he helped write The Port Huron Statement - but not "the compromised second draft."
If that weren't enough, our childhood Rabbi and close family friend Jerry Lipnick moved from our hometown in Utica, NY to Minneapolis and became the Coen family's rabbi. They've honored him more than once by naming a character Lipnick. So we're stepbrothers, or something. But I gotta call 'em as I see 'em.
There Will Be Blood was gripping and brilliant, from that first twenty-minute scene without dialog all the way through to the end. (Well, except for one scene where it went off-track. No spoilers here. Let's just say that the 'milkshake' scene didn't work for this writer -- but every other frame did.)
Paul Thomas Anderson did something brave. He made a movie that didn't rely on the vocabulary of earlier directors and genres. He wasn't channeling John Ford, or Akira Kurosawa, or Alfred Hitchcock. He wasn't trying to borrow from film noir, or Hong Kong action films, or 1930s serials. People have made great films that way, but Anderson went a different route. He worked strictly in his own voice, which was a choice that showed courage and integrity.
And performances? Daniel Day-Lewis earned his award, but Paul Dano's stunning work didn't even get him a nomination. What's up with that? Dillon Freasier was terrific as Plainview's son, and so was David Willis as Abel Sunday. All in all, this film was underappreciated by the Academy.
As for Ralph Nader, what can we say? He deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award for his early work, but there comes a time to bow out gracefully. Even those who think we need a third party have no reason to vote for him, since he's never used his campaigns to catalyze a third party movement. They're vanity projects, pure and simple. He's trying to drink the Left's milkshake. He's become Harold Stassen without the glamor, Lyndon La Rouche without the gravitas.
Ralph, if you think we need a third party, build one. But please, no more campaigns that take Republican money to promote your name and face. Otherwise we'll be forced to conclude that politics hasn't gotten big. You've gotten small. Last Night's Oscars demonstrated that one unsatisfying election in 2008 is more than enough.
Follow RJ Eskow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rjeskow