And the Oscar goes to… 2007

rsz_mehro49202007 was the year I first paid any attention to the lead up of the Academy Awards. As a result, I knew which movies were in the running, where most bookies were stacking the odds and what was worth caring about.

It was also the only year I ever got truly wound up about which movie won the Best Picture nomination before learning to not let myself get caught up in the politics of what essentially amounts to the world’s most prestigious circle-jerk.

And the secreted, sticky residue of that frustration is probably entirely why this whole series of retrospectives exists at all.

And the Oscar goes to… 

2007 Best Picture Winner: No Country For Old Men

The Nominees:
Atonement
Juno
Michael Clayton
There Will Be Blood

’07 was an unprecedented baller of a year for Best Picture noms. Even in the best of years there’s a weak link or two but here there’s just 5 genuinely great movies.

Coming in towards the (still very well respected) rear are Atonement and Juno, two movies that honestly couldn’t seem further from each other.  Nonetheless, both are great movies that, in weaker years, would likely emerge as genuine front-runner’s for that prized statuette. Juno is an undeniably twee indie smash-hit but wears its heart passionately on its sleeve and is all the better for it. Atonement, however is a coldly passionate period drama that builds up so strongly to such a gutpunch of an ending that it can be hard to walk away without feeling a little callous.

Speaking of walking away feeling callous, there are few movies that can inspire such frustration as Michael Clayton, the directorial debut of screenwriter Tony Gilroy. Tackling environmentalism, corporate greed, family drama, mental health stigma and gambling addiction, it staggers belief that none of these themes feel especially underplayed although the true strength of the story is that it doesn’t feel beholden to any of them. Couple that with some great performances from George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson and a well-deserved Oscar winning performance by Tilda Swinton and you have one of the strongest directorial debuts in recent memory.
Although Michael Clayton is probably only the third best movie out of all the nominee’s for 2007, it has gone on to be the movie I’ve fallen the most in love with and watched with the most frequency.

Did No Country For Old Men deserve to win?
No, it should have been a close runner up to the one true unrecognised king of this year.

What nomination should have won?
Because this was such a banner Oscar year, it makes sense that 2007 harbours one of the most divisive upsets of this century as No Country For Old Men beat out There Will Be Blood for the gold. Although there’s a lot to be said for the Coen Brother’s ability to adapt Cormac McCarthy’s dark existentialist nightmare for the screen, there’s something about There Will Be Blood that feels so much more visual and cinematic than No Country. Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘horror story about the birth of California’ is arguably the most important movie made since the turn of the millennium and has only grown more relevant with each passing year.

Wild Card winner?
I can’t even give a hypothetical alternative because there’s no topping the might of There Will Be Blood. After all, who could ever possibly defy Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Daniel Plainview? Not me, that’s for damn sure. I don’t want him drinking my milkshake!

Summary
Yesterday, I admitted that because I agreed with the Academy’s pick, the retrospective was pretty easy. 2007 wasn’t too difficult either but that’s because I honestly never stopped shit-talking about how much this win pissed me off.

I will admit that over the years, Michael Clayton has so steadily risen in my books that I’m often tempted to call it a better movie than No Country but a recent revisiting to the winner cut those thoughts short. I probably prefer the Gilroy picture but it doesn’t have the same level of craft as the Coen’s can offer.

Check back here tomorrow for my evaluation of 2008’s winner.

Agree? Disagree? Have a better Wild Card? Drop me a line in the comments!

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