February 24, 2008

Oscars. Winners.

No Country for Old Men "No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen's chilling confrontation of a desperate man with a relentless killer, won the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night, providing a more-than-satisfying ending for the makers of a film that many believed lacked one," write David M Halbfinger and Michael Cieply in the New York Times. "No film ran away with the night, however, as the 80th Academy Awards gave a bruised movie industry a chance to refocus its ever-inward gaze on laurels instead of labor strife."

"The show, with Jon Stewart as host, seemed less polished than usual but not much more spontaneous," writes Alessandra Stanley.

And here's the list of nominees and winners.

Updated through 2/29.

A Los Angeles Times photo gallery parades "the highlights - and lowlights - of the three-hour, 22-minute love-fest." Another pairs shots of the winners and what they had to say.


"[T]he show was so overstocked with clips from movies - from this year's nominees and from Oscar winners going back to 1929 - that it was like a TV show with the hiccups," writes Tom Shales in the Washington Post.

Initial reactions in general: Aaron Dobbs, Jim Emerson, Jonathan Lapper, David Poland, Gabriel Shanks and Anne Thompson.

They live-blogged it: Ty Burr and Wesley Morris; Nikki Finke; Christian Hamaker; Peter Hartlaub; the House Next Door; Glenn Kenny; Harry Knowles; Jason Kottke; Mick LaSalle & Co; Joe Leydon; Lou Lumenick; Jeffrey Overstreet, Nathaniel R and Television Without Pity.

And of course, here's the full transcript of the GreenCine live blogging event (click "Replay").

"Oscar turned 80 tonight, and his birthday party, aka the Academy Awards, had the tone and pace suitable to an octogenarian's temper," writes Time's Richard Corliss.

"Logically, the so-called Foreign Language Film Oscars category should be eliminated, and all films regardless of language (as for performers) should qualify for all the awards," argues Ronald Bergan. Also blogging for the Guardian, Ken Levine: "We ended the writers' strike for this? Jesus!" Also: "Is there now a chance - and a danger - that Tilda the magnificent maverick could become mainstream?" wonders David Thomson.

Jon Stewart learned a few things from his first time out and was pretty good this year, argues Aaron Barnhart.

"There was a strong appetite for normalcy this year, and the Oscars mostly delivered, partly by not deviating from a big tent philosophy in which all categories were treated equally and homage to the lions of Hollywood was assumed to be of general interest," writes David Carr.

"So what happened?" asks ST VanAirsdale at VF Daily. "Was the writer's strike just too much to overcome? Was the extinguished beacon of Vanity Fair's Oscar party an insurmountable psychic burden for all involved? Was it just an off year? Indeed, I'm putting last night together one minute at a time—literally, in fact, thanks to Mahalo Daily, which offers this short, handy highlight reel for delicate memories."

David Edelstein evidently took notes throughout the evening and the result is a pretty amusing email to Lynda Obst.

Premiere has a linkage roundup. Glenn Kenny: "Good gosh, there's just no pleasing some people. You give 'em pageantry and they complain that there's too much pageantry, it's too long, the pageantry is boring. You give 'em brevity and you get Finke's 'This wasn't an Oscars. This was a slightly longer version of the Golden Globes.' Great. You know what. I really hope they do bring Pilobolus back next year."

Flickhead captions a few photos.

FishbowlNY rounds up reviews of Stewart's night.

"Hollywood is always a lopsided reflection of the political situation we're in," writes Cintra Wilson in Salon. "In this sense, performing artists, classically a fairly high-strung, hypersensitive lot, have always been pretty effective canaries in the cultural coal mine. What they've been telling us, lately, is that we have a very, very sick culture on our hands." Oh, and she writes about the Oscars, too.

"Like Martin Scorsese last year, the Coens are beloved of film critics and movie geeks but not necessarily mass audiences," writes Shawn Levy. "But Hollywood is running out of unsung heroes to award with prizes."

"What do you think about [Brad] Renfro being shut out of Oscar's 'In Memorium'?" asks Kim Voynar at Cinematical.

"The peculiar and sometimes tense dynamic between the Coens and the media is not a vaudeville act, or a false front," writes Andrew O'Hehir. "It's driven, in large part, by the private relationship between them. I still don't think No Country for Old Men is anywhere near their best work, but, you know, so what? Here's a news flash: Oscars get given out for all kinds of funny reasons. Those guys have made good and great films and almost no bad ones. Long may they wave."

Scott Kirsner wonders why the Academy won't let people watch the YouTube clips from the telecast they so obviously want to see.

Among Yair Raveh's highlights: "Isn't is incredible to realize that the roaring monster of a man that was Daniel Plainview was actually played by a soft-spoken, shy and gentle pirate sporting a haircut worse than Anton Chigurh's?"

Bill Maher's entry at the Huffington Post, in full: "My favorite movie of the year was the one about the heartless con man who's obsessed with finding oil. Its called No End In Sight."

David Carr gathers quotes worth noting.

Michael Sippey started "iveblogging reading some of the liveblogging of the oscars." Then, he stopped.

ST VanAirsdale hands out "The 2008 Oscar Liveblog Awards."

Updates, 2/26: "The three-plus hour show plunged to a record-low average of 32 million total viewers, according to early figures from Nielsen Media Research," reports Scott Collins. "That's a 21% dive from last year's ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, and the least-watched Oscars in more than 20 years. It sank even beneath the mark set by the 2003 Academy Awards show (33 million), which was marred by the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq."

Also in the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan argues that those who still watch do so not to find out who'll win but to wallow in their emotional outbursts when they do.

"[T]here is more to No Country's Oscar supremacy than the Academy getting over the Coens' hermetic weirdness," writes the Guardian's Andrew Pulver. "Principally, you would guess the film's success is largely down to voting demographics. No Country's basic message is that old geezers are wiser than young geezers: a theme perfectly attuned to the silver-surfer generation that comprises the Oscar votership."

Stop the presses! "With attention focused on glamour and celebrity, little of the reality of daily life in the US found expression in the broadcast," reports Hiram Lee at the WSWS.

Bob Turnbull shares his random notes.

"Here's one writer who can stay on strike for good, as far as the Siren is concerned: the one who decided it would be a kick to mock Sunrise during the Oscars." Similarly, the Boston Globe's Ty Burr.

Updates, 2/27: "I need the Oscars," writes Michael Musto in the Voice. "I need the unmitigated joy of seeing four people lose in every category."

"I went completely crazy when Tilda Swinton won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar on Sunday night," writes Nick Davis. "Jubilation crazy. Rhapsodic crazy."

Dennis Cozzalio comments on that one - and other awards, too.

The Oscars need a "face-lift," argues Patrick Goldstein. "Like the evening news broadcasts, the Oscar is a relic, a cobwebby holdover from a bygone media age when Big Events earned Big Audiences. Those days are going, going, gone.... In an era where everyone's lives are twice as busy and their attention span has been cut in half, it is simply suicidal to put on a pokey three-hour-plus award show."

Also in the Los Angeles Times, Deborah Netburn asks editors and bloggers how the Oscars might be saved.

Variety's Anne Thompson finds a few post-Oscar nuggets.

Nathaniel R's been having fun.

Online listening tip. For NPR, Madelaine Brand talks to a few comedians about livening up the show.

Update, 2/29: "There is good news and bad news about the 80th Academy Awards," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. For him, the bad news is No Country's four wins. The good news, though, may be longer lasting: "It isn't just that the calibre of filmmaking is improving; it is also the case that the Academy is acknowledging this creative shift, just as it did in 1968 (when the counter-cultural hits Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate made the cut) and 1975 (when The Towering Inferno resembled a damp squib next to Chinatown and The Godfather: Part II)."

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Posted by dwhudson at February 24, 2008 10:07 PM


‘‘If you can go past those awful idiot faces on the bleachers outside the theatre without a sense of the collapse of the human intelligence; if you can stand the hailstorm of flashbulbs popping at the poor patient actor, who, like kings and queens, have never the right to look bored; if you can glance out over the gathered assemblage of what is supposed to be the elite of Hollywood and say to yourself without a sinking feeling, "In these hands lies the destinies of the only original art the modern world has conceived"; ... … If you can stand the fake sentimentality and the platitudes of the officials and the mincing elocution of the glamour queens; if you can do all these things with grace and pleasure, and not have a wild and foresaken horror at the thought that most of these people actually take this shoddy performance seriously; if you can do all these things and still feel next morning that the picture business is worth the attention of one single, intelligent, artistic mind, then in the picture business you certainly belong, because this sort of vulgarity is part of its inevitable price.’
Little has changed about the Academy Awards since Raymond Chandler penned the above in March 1948.

By the way, I think the Coen Brothers, whose work I once admired for their originality, and, in fact, whose biography I wrote, have made a hateful film.

Posted by: ronald bergan at February 25, 2008 2:01 AM

Okay, Ronald... in what sense is it 'hateful.' Don't make such a captivating statement and then leave us sitting around scratching our asses for dingleberries...

Posted by: at February 25, 2008 8:22 AM

In the past, what made the Coens interesting up to O Brother, was their quirky take on genre movies and their irreverent, referential attitude. Now, maybe for box-office reasons, they have plunged into a genre in a straight-faced manner. They are now complicit with the Hollywood mainstream. Aside from a few good quips, their latest is an irredeemable gore fest, which, like it or not, colludes with the killer - a one-note performance by Bardem. Even the only character that comes near to being a recognisable human being, Tommy Lee Jones, is a cliché - we’ve seen this world-weary philosophical performance many times. The Coens lost their originality and distinct personality when they started adapting other people's works. What a falling off there has been from Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski and Fargo. The reason I wrote the first edition of their biography was that they were among the most exciting, innovative, intriguing and amusing American film directors around. They were not content to use the tools of conventional narrative, but sought to explore the supremacy of the image. In film after film, they found the appropriate visual style for the subject. They could be appreciated by sophisticated adults who got the references, as well as by those who enjoyed them on a less cerebral level.

Posted by: Ronald Bergan at February 25, 2008 9:16 AM

I just love that the guy who approvingly quotes Chandler bemoaning "awful idiot faces" then takes less than two hundred words to get around to accusing the Coens of making a "hateful" film. Nice one, Saint Francis...

Posted by: Glenn Kenny at February 25, 2008 10:01 AM

I don't think any of that has changed. In fact, what most have liked so much about No Country is its use of form, the visual language. There are sequences in the picture that are as good as anything I've ever seen (the opening, the dawn chase, hotel shootout), and those will become standard in film schools. Also, I don't think the movie relies on genre cliches, so much as Coen cliches -- some have accused the Coens of recycling from their previous efforts like Arizona or Fargo.

But to suggest this movie was a Hollywood sellout is unsustainable. This movie's success is a fluke. It's not commercial at all -- not with that third act. It was a success in spite of itself. And I think whatever backlash there's been is more the result of its success against the odds. The Coens were always quirky outsiders -- and the only way they could've achieved a success like this is if they'd capitulated to the mainstream (so the argument goes). Either that, or some preferred There Will Be Blood, and needed to denigrate Men to bolster their admiration.

Men isn't perfect. Not by far. But it has perfect sequences in it. And, honestly, that's all we should ever really hope for.

And if that's not good enough for you, perhaps you'll at least enjoy watching George Clooney shoot Brad Pitt in the face in their next movie.

Posted by: at February 25, 2008 10:13 AM

I laughed out loud when what's-her-face won for Costume Design. The clip they showed featured Cate Blanchett looking more like Ronald McDonald than Elizabeth I. (And how Oscar-worthy is it to just let out the costumes from her previous outing as Elizabeth I?)

Posted by: jennyy at February 25, 2008 10:54 AM

So, basically there weren't enough cutesy accent jokes in it for you?

Actually, it was pretty hateful. Maybe that's why I liked it so much.

Posted by: Wiley at February 25, 2008 11:55 AM

Sorry if this is a naive question, but isn't there a difference between a hateful film and a film full of hate? That is, with at least one, if not two, hateful characters in it - does that make it a hateful film? Is the argument as simple as that? And while No Country is a different film technically (with larger budget and the Coens now having many more years of experience in their belt) than Blood Simple, it shares with it a neo noir worldview that alternatively fascinates and repels, but both films grab you from the get-go. I am not the first to say this, but that it reminded me of Blood Simple (even more than Fargo) in these ways was one of the many things I appreciated about it.

I'd agree with Mr. Bergen about some of the Coens' other recent films, they seemed to regress for a time, but I don't think it fair to lump this one in with the others at all. This has about as much in common with The Ladykillers as Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway has with his Alice. To each their own, I suppose, but I hardly see No Country as a sign the Coens have been fully absorbed by Hollywood. Its success there seems a fluke.


Posted by: Craig P at February 25, 2008 12:53 PM

Personally, I find No Country for Old Men to be the Coen's best film because it's the only one that doesn't wink all the time at the audience for being so clever. Sure, it's a bit more 'straight-faced' but it's also a bit more mature. It's also not mainstream. Sure, due to marketing and word-of-mouth [and awards] it made bank but the story structure is hardly mainstream.

Posted by: Matt at February 25, 2008 1:46 PM

Where's the Heart, or the Hateful in a Still Life, or a Landscape?

Posted by: Jerry Lentz at February 25, 2008 2:04 PM

Def: Hateful: odious, detestable. Craig, if I didn't know the difference between a hateful film and a film full of hate, I've been in the wrong business for 30 years. I think I explained above why I detested the film. For instance, I recognise that The Night of the Hunter, a distant cousin of No Country, is a beautiful parable of good and evil, its bold visual style derived from German Expressionism and American primitive paintings as well as echoing the rural dramas of D. W. Griffiths. No Country has no such resonance. It is a well-trodden film country, which offers nothing new either in stylistic or narrative terms. I don't think it's non-commercial. Graphic violence usually does well at the box-office. Yes, their earlier films were 'nudge nudge' to a certain degree, but then so were many of the French New Wave films and Bunuel. The Coens haven't matured, they've become ossified. I suggest you all buy my book with the cleverly original title of The Coen Brothers (Orion. Phoenix updated version 2001) to get my views of their previous films. I will not bother to see Pitt shooting Clooney in the face in their next film, but I look forward instead to the next film by 100-year-old Manoel de Oliveira, who never 'matured'.

Posted by: Ronald Bergan at February 25, 2008 10:47 PM

I think No Country was the Coen Brothers once again trying to do something entirely different than what they had done previously. With all the talk about this movie on here it seems like you forget that its quite a precise adaption of a novel. Its obviously something they both read, connected with, and wanted to see if they could take Cormac Mccarthy's story and vision and adapt it to film.

Is it a hateful film...probably. But so what? Is the world and especially America not a hateful place? Why should violence, or any subject for that matter need to be handled in a quirky or offhand manner?

I respect the coens for trying something different. I think it was a powerfull and effective film.

Posted by: MATT at February 26, 2008 1:07 AM

My use of the word 'mature' was not meant to say that their previous films were childish. It means that their focus and approach to filmmaking seems to have become stronger and more convincing. At least to me. This could be because of the material - afterall it as adapted from Cormac McCarthy rather than something they came up with in their heads.
Anyway, I too look forward to Manuel D'Oliviera's latest. As well as anything by Jean Luc Godard. Playful, beguiling and ground breaking cinema can also be mature cinema. That said, yes, the Coen broke no new ground with No Country.

Posted by: Matt at February 26, 2008 1:44 PM

I'm beginning to wonder whether the word 'hateful' has a different meaning in the USA from that in the UK. By definition, one cannot like anything that is hateful (despicable, dreadful). Another misrepresetation by Matt is that I'm against the film for its dark subject matter. Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink and Fargo were all very dark and had a less than rosy view of America. I just think that stylistically No Country has far fewer of the post-modernist, experimental and eccentric aspects which attracted me to their films in the first place. They have moved into an area of cinema that holds no interest for me. But perhaps that says more about me than the Coen Brothers. All three of us have moved on...

Posted by: Ronald Bergan at February 27, 2008 8:09 AM