Itching for an Oscar:

Andrew Burford

With the announcement of the nominations for the 2008 Academy Awards just days away, there finally comes an appropriate time to get past the dismay of the Writer’s Strike and look forward to an actually worthwhile awards-viewing experience: Oscar Night. After reducing the Golden Globes to an unfortunately pathetic news conference, audiences across the country can hopefully rest assured that for Oscar Night, the show will go on… one way or another. Yet for the night to truly be satisfying, a quality awards show must come with quality films to accept the reward. Hence, we’re left with the question: Did 2007 have any great movies? Will anyone actually care about any movies come Oscar Night?

Fortunately enough, the answer is most certainly, “yes.” Beginning with the release of Michael Clayton last October, America gladly witnessed an influx of Hollywood magic. Starring George Clooney and set in present day New York, the film (shockingly) follows Michael Clayton, a former criminal prosecutor, as he faces the biggest case of his career. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who also wrote all three films in the Bourne trilogy, Michael Clayton was nominated for four Golden Globes and appears to be a frontrunner in both the Best Picture and Best Actor categories.

Soon after came the release No Country for Old Men in November. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, whom are also responsible for such classics as Fargo and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, the film carries with it the frightening plot of a manhunt in which Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin, is forced to run from the maniacal Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, after coming across a substantial amount of money that Anton feels compelled to retrieve. Faithfully based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name, No Country for Old Men is one of the favorites for the Best Picture category as well as for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor categories.

As November left us with the depressing realization that yet another Colgate winter would soon enough overstay its welcome, December thankfully brought with it three movies that all have significant shots at scoring on Oscar Night.

First off was Atonement, a period drama that surprised everyone by winning the top prize at the Golden Globes just one week ago. From Joe Wright and Keira Knightley, the director and star of Pride and Prejudice comes the story of writer Briony Tallis, who changes the lives of her older sister and her sister’s lover after accusing him of a murder he did not commit. Look for the film to take nods for Best Picture and Best Actress.

Next was Juno, the second of two 2007 comedies that deal with unplanned pregnancy, the first being June’s classic Knocked Up, a critically and financially successful film from Entertainment Weekly’s “Smartest Person in Hollywood” Judd Apatow. From Jason Reitman, the director of Thank You for Smoking and Diablo Cody, a first time stripper-turned-screenwriter comes the witty Juno MacGuff, a high school junior that is forced to grow up fast after facing an unplanned pregnancy with the best friend she secretly loves, Paulie Bleeker. Starring the relatively unknown cutie Ellen Page and the hilarious Michael Cera (from everyone’s favorite Superbad), Juno is another critically and financially successful film that could end up surprising at the Oscars. Look for the film to score nominations for Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and possibly even Best Picture of the Year.

Last but not least came There Will Be Blood, a period epic that focuses on the decline of Daniel Plainview, an ambitious oil prospector that battles the institution of religion after slowly but surely becoming enveloped by his own personal greed. From writer and director P.T. Anderson (who is most notably known for his work in Boogie Nights and Magnolia) and star Daniel Day-Lewis, look for the film to be recognized as one of the favorites to win Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Picture of the Year.

While each of these films is getting plenty of attention, it would be unfair to exclude several other excellent movies from 2007. Among these include March’s Zodiac, May’s Away From Her, June’s Knocked Up, Once, La Vie En Rose and Ratatouille, August’s Superbad, September’s Into the Wild, 3:10 to Yuma, Gone Baby Gone and Eastern Promises, October’s Lars and the Real Girl and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, November’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I’m Not There and American Gangster, and December’s The Kite Runner and The Savages. Expect many of these films to earn nominations as well.

Finally, please enjoy the best season of the year for movies! Look for No Country for Old Men, playing now at the Hamilton Theater for all those interested.