In the face of the impeding writer’s strike, Academy Award nominations were released last week. With emphasis on both solemn and contemplative fare, “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” led the pack with eight nominations apiece.
As with every year, there were several notable omissions. Gems such as “Sunshine” and “Zodiac” went ignored, “Eastern Promises” and “Into The Wild” were underrepresented and a late questionable call disqualified Jonny Greenwood’s superb score for “There Will Be Blood.” Meanwhile, the overrated “Atonement” racked up seven nods, while the abysmal “Norbit” can somehow call itself an Academy Award nominee, picking up one for Best Makeup.
Out of the films which did garner nominations, here are those I enjoyed the most:
“3:10 To Yuma” 2 Oscars, including Best Original Score
Christian Bale and Russell Crowe excel as men on either side of the law, and Ben Foster is a scene-stealer as Crowe’s ruthless right hand man. The story focuses on its characters yet manages to deliver plenty of action, proving all hope is not lost for this once great genre. The best western since 1992’s “Unforgiven.”
“The Bourne Ultimatum” 3 Oscars, including Best Editing
Matt Damon returned for a third outing as superspy Jason Bourne, and it matched the high bar of its predecessors. The action scenes are superbly staged, another adept display from director Paul Greengrass (“United 93”), and the film exhibits an unusual amount of smarts for a Hollywood blockbuster.
“Juno” 4 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay
Not only was it the breakout hit of the year, it was also the year’s best comedy. Buoyed by a star-making turn from Ellen Page, the story’s real charm lies in the script from rookie screenwriter Diablo Cody, made up of wildly inventive dialogue and wholly amusing characters.
“Michael Clayton” 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director
A character-driven, legal thriller centering on a man caught in a moral crisis. Tony Gilroy’s sophisticated screenplay is brought to life by one of the best casts of the year — George Clooney has never been better, and Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton excel in support.
“No Country For Old Men” 8 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography
The Coen brothers’ strongest outing to date turned out to be the best of the entire year. Highlighted by an impressive cast, including the phenomenal Javier Bardem, it is impeccably written and executed. How much you like the film hinges on its unconventional ending, which has generated a significant amount of debate among viewers.
"Once” 1 Oscar – Best Original Song (“Falling Slowly”)
The stirring Irish musical incorporates songs naturally into its storytelling style. The indie soundtrack is stellar, and first time actors Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová deliver heartfelt performances in a down-to-earth movie devoid of Hollywood conventions.
“Ratatouille” 5 Oscars, including Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score
Pixar bounces back from 2006’s disappointing “Cars” with one of their best yet. Directed by Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”), it is cute and full of humor, yet unafraid to tackle existential themes for older audiences.
“Transformers” 3 Oscars, including Best Visual Effects
A widely entertaining popcorn extravaganza with some of the best visual effects ever seen in a film, it is director Michael Bay’s (“The Rock”) most accomplished work. It also features plenty of humor, especially from budding star Shia LaBeouf.
“Sicko,” “Sweeney Todd” and “There Will Be Blood.”