Best Picture Nominees

Before the Christmas break I resolved to see all the Golden Globe nominees for “Best Dramatic Picture” so that, for once in my life, I can be fully qualified to judge. It doesn’t matter that the Golden Globes ceremony isn’t going to happen. It’s better that way. I like the awards but not the self-congratulatory bullshit and overwrought speeches. Those are not needed to celebrate what has been a good year in film.

I notched the last of the nominees, The Great Debaters, on Saturday and soon after I was vomiting[1]. I meant to write about the nominees sooner, before the Critics Choice Awards were given out earlier in the week, but I’ve been struck down by a sick, wicked and nasty case of Norwalk virus the last few days. It seems the bug is working its way through Toronto this season.

As with most of 252 other Top Ten lists, my top two are No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Though No Country gets my number one distinction it does so by a small degree. Both are truly great films and while they share a number of similarities (greed, that sense of isolation and of the world working against you, the vastness of the landscapes, great cinematography) it’s their differences that make them hard to separate in my mind.

Above all else There Will Be Blood is a character study and its success lies solely on the shoulders of one person, Daniel Day-Lewis. To say that he carries it well would be an understatement; the awards are flowing in and he’s the front-runner for the Oscar. The whole weight and drama of the movie depends on what he does. In No Country For Old Men the characters are less prominent, victims of happenstance, sucked up in a storm that they can’t avoid. While their decisions still bear weight and have impact, chance, being at the wrong place at the wrong time or a flip of a coin, decides the fate.

Both films are bleak. It’s that force of Daniel’s character or the force of nature (or progress or violence, or however you want to interpret it) that drives you towards their seemingly inevitable conclusions. Indeed, There Will Be Blood is one of the most menacing film titles ever. It’s that kind of uneasy trip that I enjoy so much: the looming sense of despair, the uncertainty, the almost nihilist conclusions (no Hollywood endings here.) The kind of films that can depress the living shit out of you, I love them. So it’s very easy to pick these two as the top two films of 2007 and the ones most likely to get the hardware to prove it.

After those two movies, there’s a huge gap.

Under that gap are the five remaining nominees. All good films, with Atonement receiving the bulk of the buzz, but none have the lasting impact that my top two did. Of the bunch I’d have to say that Michael Clayton is my favourite, if only because I find it to be the least flawed. Considering that it starts with a failed assassination attempt on the lead character with the rest of the film taking place in the days leading to that, there’s a certain looming theme there that, as I’ve established, appeals to me. The good acting[2], decent script and editing helped too.

So, in conclusion, number one film and favourite to win the Golden Globe (and Oscar): No Country for Old Men. Number two, runner-up: There Will Be Blood. Thanks for playing: everything else.

  1. My vomiting should not be construed as commentary about The Great Debaters‘ quality.
  2. Including a performance by Tilda Swinton who was in another very menacing, looming (and really, really slow) movie this year, Bela Tarr’s Hungarian film The Man from London, which I caught at TIFF this year.
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