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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, February 25, 2008

In which I post about Oscar, and probably sound bitter or cynical, even though I'm not

A few brief notes on the Oscars last night. Not directly connected to each other, and in no particular order.

Didn't think it was a particularly good show. A few good laughs, etc. But not much. Opening monologue had some real yucks, but then there were a bunch of political jokes that had nothing at all to do with movies. I don't mind a little political humor thrown in, if it is tied to the subject of the night. But this got silly, I thought.

The truth is, I didn't think this was a very good year for movies overall. Yes, there were certainly a few excellent movies, but I don't feel that most of the winners are the types that will become classics, and will be watched over and over down the road. Plus, I feel as if the number of really great movies this year was fewer than in most "good" movie years.

I'm really happy for the brothers Coen. I am a very big fan, as you probably know. But I must be honest. I simply don't get No Country for Old Men. I know a lot of people hated the ending. That's actually not what bugged me. And I also didn't hate the film or anything. I just don't really understand it. I liked some of the stuff along the way, and was interested, generally speaking. But all in all, I just felt empty, and not particularly emotionally affected. How was I supposed to feel? What were they trying to say or accomplish? I guess vaguely that it had something to do with fate, choice and responsibility for one's actions. But more than that, I don't know. Maybe I'll have to watch it again.

Now what about Diablo's Oscar? I truly loved Juno, and I'm excited for her on her win. It is a great story anytime anyone wins an Oscar with their first film effort. And I believe I spoke about Juno before. I was extremely impressed with the script. She accomplished much in her first screenplay that I still have trouble doing, and which I see many writers still failing to accomplish even after getting a lot of scripts under their belts. At the same time, did it really deserve an Oscar? I'm not so sure. To be honest, it was the only film in that category (Original Screenplay) that I saw. So I can't compare it to the others. Maybe it was the best of those. But in truth, I think if she didn't have the colorful backstory as a PR speaking point, she might not have even come close to winning this.

That is not to say I begrudge her win at all. In fact, I love these exciting surprise underdog type stories. I've always reveled in the fact that films like Annie Hall and Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture Oscars, since they are such atypical films for that award. So this is no different in my book. And as I said, I did really love the film. (I'd also say that combining a few of my thoughts in here, an argument could certainly be made for Jason Reitman over the Coen's for Directing. He's rapidly become one of my favorite new-ish directors.) I'm just saying that her Oscar might be more the result of PR hype than actually deserving it.

And yet, I offer her my utmost congratulations, and will definitely go see her next films!

Okay, so chime in with angry comments about how stupid I am, explications of No Country, defenses of Oscar's decisions, etc. :-)

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5 Comments:

Blogger E.C. Henry said...

You're far from stupid, funjoel. I always appreciate when you share you opinions.

I totally loved the Oscars presentation this year. The only change they should make is to allow the recepients to talk longer -- if they want to. Why? Because this may be their one time to say what's in their heart. I think they should be given a wider window to revel in a moment that they will reflect back on for the rest of their life.

Like you I TOTALLY loved "Juno." "Juno" is the kind of show that grows on you, that becomes more special when you think back on it. Billy Mernit was totally right about this movie. It probably should have been the best picture of the year.

"No Country for Old Men" is just a fun ride. The shoot-outs are top notch, and it has thrills galore. Don't try to make "No Country for Old Men" something it isn't, just enjoy what works: the best bad guy since Hannibal Lecter, a good-guy who won't back down, and some AWESOME, cinematic long shots of the Texas desert.

One of the worst things you can say is, "how am I supposed to feel" about anything related to film. Either it works or it doesn't. Sounds like "No Country for Old Men" didn't work for you. I TOTALLY enjoyed it. "No Country for Old Men" isn't a perfect film, but the Coen brothers had to do to make this film work, in my opinion, they did.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

4:24 AM  
Blogger Richard McNally said...

Joel,

NO COUNTRY and THERE WILL BE BLOOD held my interest but neither was emotionally moving. One's heart wasn't touched, only one's unhealthy reptilian fascination with killing. As G. Bataille has said: "Art isn't innocent." Amazing that BLOOD, which flagrantly violates the cardinal Hollywood rule of avoiding a downbeat ending, has received the acclaim it has.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A case can be made for Reitman over the Coens? Surely you jest. And Juno was nothing more than quirky cotton candy for the heart.

11:02 PM  
Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Anonymous, "Juno" was WAY MORE than a cotton candy movie. "Juno" is the kind of movie that opens the door for mothers to talk their daughters about pre-maritial sex and the effects that ingauging in that, before it's time can have a girl's futhure. "Juno" IS a very important movie, and I'm glad they made it.

Don't get me wrong, the Coens ARE brilliant. Love 'em both, and it's not really easy to to compare "No Country for Old Men" to "Juno." They're just so different in the affects they're trying to drive towards. BOTH are excellent and deserving of all the Oscars they got.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

4:54 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Sorry it took me a bit to respond.

E.C. -- by saying, how am I supposed to feel, that is my way of saying that it made me feel nothing, and therefore failed, in my opinion. Similar to what Richard said.

Anon -- I disagree that "Juno" was simply "cotton candy for the heart." I think the greatest strength of the script, and the single thing that differentiates it from simple cotton candy, is the complexity of its characters. They are all complex, without any purely good or bad characters. And the reason I felt that the case could be made for Reitman is that he got wonderful performances that captured this complexity without becoming judgmental.

That scene between Ellen Page and Jason Bateman's characters towards the end was one of the most emotionally moving and difficult to watch that I've seen in a long time. And yet, there is no judgment going on.

In fact, that emotional involvement I felt was exactly what I didn't feel about No Country. I won't go so far as E.C. does and say that it is an important film and that it will open these doors of communication, etc. I hope it does, but I'm a bit more cynical than that. But I don't think that anything in the Coen's film made me feel as much.

And by the way, everyone keeps comparing Bardem's character to great movie psychopaths such as Lecter. Come on. He is nowhere near as interesting or complex. He is simply someone who uses a cool method to kill, and who has a unique moral compass for his actions. But I don't see him showing nearly as much emotional depth or displaying as much of a unique and interesting set of characetristics and beliefs as Lecter.

3:29 AM  

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