- Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
- Achievement in Cinematography
- Achievement in Directing
- Achievement in Film Editing
- Best Motion Picture of the Year
- Achievement in Sound Editing
- Achievement in Sound Mixing
- Adapted Screenplay
Um. This is a tough review to write. Not because I didn’t enjoy the film — I really did. And not because I can’t think of both good things to write and criticisms of the film; I have both. I just don’t know where to begin.
My conundrum is at least partially because I don’t know how to describe the film. What was it about? After the movie was over, I was … puzzled. I knew what had happened in the movie, but I really didn’t know what, if anything, it meant. The day after, thinking I missed something, I read the long and detailed plot synopsis on IMDB. Fortunately, after reading the plot recap I became satisfied that I had indeed seen all the things that happened in the movie. Unfortunately, I was no closer to understanding what the heck it was supposed to mean.
And that’s where I am now.
So I don’t know where to begin.
Here’s how oscar.com summarizes the plot:
When Llewellyn Moss comes upon a corpse-strewn drug-deal-gone-wrong in the middle of the barren West Texas range, he takes the bag of cash he finds at the scene and soon draws the attention of the county sheriff investigating the crime. Sheriff Bell will become Llewellyn’s best hope for survival, however, when he finds himself the object of a relentless pursuit by hired killer Anton Chigurh, a murderous sociopath.
Yup, that’s what I remember happening in the film as well. There’s lots of pursuing, shooting, and killing. And that was all fine. There were lots of surprises in the film as well, inasmuch as (spoiler alert) one of our main heroes dies, just about everyone dies, and the baddie walks away, albeit with a really badly broken arm.
These were good choices — the film didn’t follow the easy path and have good triumph in the end, and that was refreshing to see. In this film, the good people die, or are morally fatigued and defeated. Cool, I can dig that.
Since I am struggling to find my voice on this film, let me try and focus my comments with respect to the nominations:
Achievement in Cinematography: The film was beautifully shot. You know, the cinematography category is really interesting this year. Atonement was also shot gorgeously. I guess I’d give the nod to No Country for Old Men at this stage, since it was a much superior film overall, but neither choice would be a travesty.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: The nomination of Javier Bardem in the supporting actor category is certainly justified, but he didn’t blow me away. He was certainly creepy, and scary, and he had a tremendous panache in the way he killed … everyone (literally!). I haven’t seen the other nominees in this category yet, so I’ll reserve final judgement. For now, let me say that if he wins, I can live with it. Solid performance.
Achievement in Film Editing: This film deserves to win in this category hands-down. It is is a category that sometimes eludes me, I’ll admit, but No Country for Old Men is the perfect example of how a film should be cut. There were so many deaths in this movie, but never was the easy choice made of how to convey them to the reader. Often the grizzly moment needed to be inferred, as the film was cut to some point in the future, even well after the event. That was really well done, and indicated an appropriate level of trust in the ability of the audience to figure things out without being bludgeoned over the head with the plot. Well done.
Achievement in Sound Editing and Achievement in Sound Mixing: I don’t know. I completely prefer this movie over The Bourne Ultimatum (also nominated in these categories), but probably not as much as Ratatouille. I’m not really an expert in what makes a winner in these categories, but I’m guessing that if No Country for Old Men starts sweeping its nominated categories, it will win in these as well (whether it deserves to, or not).
Adapted Screenplay: Gosh, I don’t know. I have a hard time advocating for a win, since I didn’t really get what the hell the movie is about. Still, it sure as hell is better than Atonement. I suspect it is a three-way race between this film, Away from Her, and There Will be Blood; my guess is that either it, or Blood will prevail.
Achievement in Directing: Given the brilliant shots, the above par acting, great editing, and intelligent, thoughtful choices made in the making of the film, I say yes in this category. Full disclosure: I think I’ve liked every Coen brothers movie I’ve ever seen, so I am predisposed to like their work. Still, they pulled together so many elements in making this movie, that I think their win here will be well deserved.
Best Motion Picture of the Year: A few things act against a win as best picture: Tommy Lee Jones (unmemorable, and in fact may have caused the meaning of this movie to be lost in his fatigued performance). The repeated, lazy, overuse of Anton Chigurh’s props: his air cattle gun as a door opener, and a coin as a determination of fate. One use of each was enough. And then there is the fact that the movie may, in fact, not have any meaning at all, but rather may just be a violent romp through a series of rather interesting events. Don’t get me wrong, a lot really worked in this movie, and I do really like it. I’m just not sure it deserves to be in the pantheon of best pictures. However, it sure as hell is better than The Departed (blech), so if last year’s winner sets the standard, this film more than deserves Oscar.