The 80th Academy Awards: A Preview

Welcome to the 80th Annual Academy Awards! We hope.

This year’s Academy Awards were almost met with unmitigated disaster, even more so than the years that Whoopi Goldberg hosted. With the Writer’s Guild on strike, this meant that 1) there would be no jokes told; 2) most, if not all, of the actors, actresses, and Hollywood executives would boycott it; and 3) this would virtually assure that four fifths of the ceremony would be elaborately staged dance numbers, forcing everyone in America to get up and go to the bathroom for the duration and never come back. Granted, with all these problems, at least everyone could look forward to a show that wasn’t about nineteen hours long.

But, of course, a last-minute vote by the guild was taken and the strike has been lifted, meaning that the awards show will proceed as normal. Of course, this means that the show will be filled with a bunch of hurriedly written jokes and ideas that were hastily strewn together, but most analysts suspect there will be no noticeable decline in quality.

This year, the five best picture nominees seem to reflect an adequate cross-section of the motion picture industry, assuming that we’re not talking about action films, animated features, family movies, romantic comedies, science fiction, horror, anything religious, anything released before December 25th, or anything that isn’t warmed-over pretentious nonsense that goes out of its way to point out that America isn’t, the last anybody noticed, France.

This year’s Oscars are vastly different than last year’s because this year I have actually seem two of these movies, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. This is a drastic departure from years past, when the only way to see any of the movies nominated for best picture is to drive to an arthouse in Manhattan for one of the three showings available to the public before released in an overpriced “Collector’s Edition” DVD next September. So while I haven’t seen all the movies released this year, or in fact any movies at all except these two, I have a lot more insight than in the past about what movies may win. Though probably not.

Atonement: Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to say too terribly much about this movie, since I do not meet the strict requirements necessary to watch it, primarily because 1) I am not female. It is the story of a woman who falsely accuses some guy of rape, basically destroying about eighteen dozen people’s lives, who all sit around in period costumes lamenting about it for an eternity and a half. I think they actually watch the entire showing of The English Patient in its entirety in the middle of this movie. Supposedly there is some erotic activities involved in this movie, which I assume would be an incentive to go see it, but since this is set in England before the war I assume that the coupling takes place when both parties are fully clothed, approximately a hundred miles from each other, and in the presence of their valets who do all the actual work. Keira Knightly stars in this, a rising star that for some reason every guy in the world thinks is incredibly hot but I find her to resemble an anorexic emery board with about as much of the acting range.

No Country For Old Men: Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s comic book (or, sorry, “graphic novel”), No Country is a modern western in the sense that it takes place primarily in Texas and the southwest and pretty much everyone who appears onscreen, up to an including the key grip whose reflection shows up in the car window, (spoiler alert!) gets shot. To be sure this isn’t too terribly much different than most modern crime dramas or the Philadelphia evening news, but it has the added bonus of Woody Harrelson showing up and wasting about twenty minutes of screen time that doesn’t appear to advance the plot in any meaningful way. Still, it’s one of the few chances moviegoers will get to see Tommy Lee Jones, at the end of the movie, deliver (spoiler alert!) an incredibly boring and meandering monologue.

Michael Clayton: See: Brockovich, Erin

Juno: While I haven’t seen Juno, I can gauge pretty well that this will be an awesome, awesome movie, since two of the nine hundred main characters in the television series Arrested Development, hands down the single greatest cultural achievement of mankind, star in it. Jason Bateman, of Valerie Hogan’s Mildly Extended Family or Some Nonsense Like That From The 80’s, and Michael Cera, recently of Superbad fame, both produce, I assume, excellent comic timing matched with equal parts wit, charm, and throwing the middle finger at America for not watching Arrested Development and forcing the greatest cultural achievement of mankind to be cancelled. Of course, it would be illegal for me not to mention that this movie, primarily about some girl that gets knocked up and her passive-aggressive attitude towards what to do with the situation, was written by a female named Diablo Cody who 1) started off as a journalist; 2) became a stripper; 3) wrote about being a stripper; and 4) then her movie got nominated for an Oscar. I’m pretty sure I’m missing some steps here, but for some inexplicable reason no one seems to really care, least of all her publicist.

There Will Be Blood: There Will Be Blood, based on Upton Sinclair or possibly Sinclair Lewis’s novel Oil!, is the tale of an aspiring oilman who, in the course of his business dealings, crosses a small-town preacher. The two of them form an intense dislike of each other so much so that the next two and a half hours of the movie are spent in a violent, no-holds-barred blood feud that eventually escalates to a massive, awe-inspiring, bloody massacre filled with cruelty, revenge, and excess brutality. That, of course, is a blatant lie. It’s mostly a drawn-out affair of psychological positioning and Daniel Day Lewis going batshit crazy on people by yelling odd things at them, which in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Alas, I was fooled into thinking that a movie named There Will Be Blood would actually have some blood in it earlier than the two hour, thirty-two minute mark. Silly me.

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