Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No Country for Atonement of Michael Clayton in the Wild

I finally got to see all the major films nominated for Oscars and other awards this year. It was actually quite an impressive batch of films. These were my favorite:
  1. No Country for Old Men - always loved the Coen Brothers, this was probably their most eloquent and poetic film, yet remaining enigmatic and unique throughout. I still enjoyed Raising Arizona most of theirs, but No Country is a more classic artistic success, both giving tribute to film noir without just copying the style and taking it to perhaps a new level in expression, much the same as Pulp Fiction did to the dime novel style of crime fiction.
  2. Atonement - this had the best epic feel of classic movies, bringing to mind David Lean and classic Victorian novels and perhaps even Brideshead Revisited, the epic TV series. This was also the best story of any of the award films. Vanessa Redgrave gave an Oscar worthy performance in five minutes. The long tracking scene of the main character arriving at Dunkirk, that follows him along the beach and past a bandstand, carousel, finally to the deck of a cantina overlooking the entire scene, is one of the most memorable in recent films. It calls to mind scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge Over the River Kwai, The Longest Day and other epic war films. The green dress designed for Kiera Knightly is simply the most seductive dress in all of film history.
  3. In the Wild - this true story of a non-conformist Georgia youth searching for himself and wisdom in the solitude of nature is a terrific near-mythic parable of individuality in primal nature. Director Sean Penn raises it to an almost religious exerience. Not to be missed.
  4. Michael Clayton - I liked this story a lot, and the Oscar-winning performance of Tilda Swinton. I can't say much without giving away something, but an excellent legal drama with good plot twists.
  5. The Bourne Ultimatum - Enjoyed all the Bourne films, this one is perhaps the most exciting, won a couple of Oscars for sound. Make sure you've seen the first two however, as the story of Matt Damon's title character is a progressive one (connected to memory loss) including those of all the peripheral characters as well.
  6. Pirates 3: At World's End - I've enjoyed all three Pirates of the Caribbean films (Dead Man's Chest the most), I can see how they appeal to both children and adults, with specials effects that dwarf Indiana Jones, and totally preposterous events, such as the swordfight inside the rolling water wheel in Dead Man's Chest. Everything about these is actually quite perfect, and are the first pirate movies to ever make a profit, believe it or not. Not sure about the Best Acting nomination for Depp in the first however, not among his best performances of Finding Neverland, The Libertine, and Sweeney Todd.
  7. Elizabeth: The Golden Age - simply ethereal costumes, which deservedly won an Oscar. This story was not as lyrical or mythical as the first, however, not as interesting, just didn't grab and hold you like the first.
Just a word about other recent films: Thank You for Smoking, from last year, was also nearly flawless, a very underrated film, and a comedy that made an important statement, or several. The Departed, though very good, wasn't Scorcese's best recent movie: Gangs of New York was a major achievement, as epic a movie about U.S. history as you'll ever see, and Daniel-Day Lewis' performance of Bill the Butcher is one of the all-time great movie villains, totally unforgettable, who won every award that year except the Oscar (go figure).

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