A Look Back at The 80th Academy Awards

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by Jason Koenigsberg

It is Oscar Season and some people hold the Academy Awards in very high regard as telling the general public what should be considered a great film. Some years they get it right like last year with Moonlight taking home Best Picture. Other years they pick a movie like The English Patient (1996) which I wrote about last year. With the Oscars coming up soon, let us take a look back and see who the Academy chose to honor ten years ago and if they made the right call. 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

 

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Daniel Day-Lewis in ‘There Will Be Blood’

WINNER

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS

There Will Be Blood

NOMINEES

GEORGE CLOONEY

Michael Clayton

JOHNNY DEPP

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

TOMMY LEE JONES

In the Valley of Elah

VIGGO MORTENSEN

Eastern Promises

 

Did the Academy get it right? 

2007 is often revered as a very special year in motion pictures with so many beloved titles deserving of recognition that there was not enough room to honor them all. Go back and look at the list of films from 2007 and it was a year with rich and diverse selections all compacted into 52 weeks. A truly terrific year with many memorable films still admired today. The Best Actor category was a rich one. The clear front runner was Daniel Day-Lewis who took home his second Best Actor Academy Award for There Will Be Blood. He definitely deserved it. 

What Should have won:

No qualms with the Academy’s selection for Best Actor. George Clooney and Viggo Mortensen gave terrific performances in Michael Clayton and Eastern Promises respectively, in any other year they might have been the front runners but Daniel Day-Lewis was a notch above the rest. I would have like to have seen Emile Hirsch nominated for Into the Wild and Christian Bale nominated for his work in Rescue Dawn. Both are very emotional and physical performances that involve characters surviving against nature. Regardless of the other nominees the Oscars clearly made the right choice in this category.

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Javier Bardem in ‘No Country for Old Men’

WINNER

JAVIER BARDEM

No Country for Old Men

NOMINEES

CASEY AFFLECK

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN

Charlie Wilson’s War

HAL HOLBROOK

Into the Wild

TOM WILKINSON

Michael Clayton

Did the Academy get it right? 

This is a tougher call. Javier Bardem commanded the screen as a ruthless and emotionless serial killer despite a Prince Valiant haircut that almost distracted from his cold and calculated performance. I was originally not a fan of No Country for Old Men, but after repeat viewings and noticing certain aspects about its ambivalent ending, I have come around on this film and it deserves all the praise, and awards it received. 

What Should have won:

Personally I would have given it to Tom Wilkinson for his outstanding work as a man who posed a threat to the firm that once employed him in Michael Clayton. That film had terrific performances from it’s entire cast. Also would not have minded see Hal Holbrook take home the award for Into the Wild, but in all seriousness Javier Bardem winning is just fine in my book. 

 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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WINNER

MARION COTILLARD

La Vie en Rose

NOMINEES

CATE BLANCHETT

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

JULIE CHRISTIE

Away from Her

LAURA LINNEY

The Savages

ELLEN PAGE

Juno

Did the Academy get it right? 

No way. Marion Cotillard was virtually a no-name actress in the Western Hemisphere and won for her breakout role. I am not familiar with the life and work of Edith Piaf but allegedly Cotillard was a dead ringer for the French singer. I guess in that regard the Academy made the right selection. Sadly I think this film and performance are often forgotten by movie goers when discussing the films of Marion Cotillard. She is mostly known for her mainstream English language work in this part of the world than her foreign roles despite the fact that is what she won the Oscar for. 

What Should have won:

Personally I was partial to Julie Christie’s heartbreaking performance as a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s in the phenomenally understated Away From Her. The fact that they honored a foreign language performance and it was not Carice Van Houten for Black Book or Anamaria Marinca for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is mind boggling. Those were two of the best performances from any non-English language film of the decade. 

 

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Tilda Swinton in ‘Michael Clayton’

WINNER

TILDA SWINTON

Michael Clayton

NOMINEES

CATE BLANCHETT

I’m Not There

RUBY DEE

American Gangster

SAOIRSE RONAN

Atonement

AMY RYAN

Gone Baby Gone
Did the Academy get it right? 
Swinton won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Michael Clayton as she works for a law firm protecting a chemical company that has done some seedy acts to stay rich. A smart sophisticated adult drama that holds up very well and deserved the Oscar nominations and wins it received. I wrote about her performance here  and compared her work to the way many Republicans view Hillary Clinton as ruthless, cunning and willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. 

 

What Should have won:

I agree 100% with the Academy here. Tilda Swinton was the right choice and her performance along with Clooney and Wilkinson really made Michael Clayton such a smart and effective picture. Maybe Marcia Gay Harden could/should have won her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Mist but she was not even nominated. 

DIRECTING

'A Serious Man' film photocall at the Rome International Film Festival, Rome, Italy - 22 Oct 2009
Joel and Ethan Coen

WINNER

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

NOMINEES

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY

Julian Schnabel

JUNO

Jason Reitman

MICHAEL CLAYTON

Tony Gilroy

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Paul Thomas Anderson
Did the Academy get it right? 
I love the Coen Bros. and was very happy to see them win a Best Director Oscar which they should have won for Fargo (1996) and easily could win for almost any of their films. It is also interesting that the Oscars acknowledged one of the more unconventional films with their top awards. It certainly starts off in a matter of fact way, looking like their earlier films Blood Simple (1984) or Fargo in the Texas desert instead of covered under snow. But then it starts to veer into uncharted territory and the end is a real head scratcher that lost a lot of viewers. I give the Academy credit for honoring the Coen Bros. for their bleak and bold vision. 

 

What Should have won:

I agree with the Coen Bros. winning Best Director, but not for this film. Paul Thomas Anderson directed the Best Picture of the year and one of the best films of the decade with There Will Be Blood. He deserved the Oscar the most out of all the nominated filmmakers in this category. 

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Martin Scorsese
The Coen Bros. showing off their Directing and Writing Oscars with Martin Scorsese

WINNER

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

NOMINEES

ATONEMENT

Screenplay by Christopher Hampton

AWAY FROM HER

Written by Sarah Polley

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY

Screenplay by Ronald Harwood

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Written for the Screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
Did the Academy get it right? 
The same things I said in regards to the Best Director Oscar could be applied here. I appreciate the Academy honoring two of the most talented writer/directors of all time for their uncompromising adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel but…

What Should have won:

I still think Paul Thomas Anderson wrote an even better script adapting Upton Sinclair’s book ‘Oil’ and turning it into the motion picture There Will Be Blood. It is a loose adaptation to say the least. At the time I felt The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was the best screenplay, however I have since read the book the film was based on and as much as I admired the film, the source material had a sense of humor to it that the movie did not capture. 

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

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Diablo Cody

WINNER

JUNO

Written by Diablo Cody

NOMINEES

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

Written by Nancy Oliver

MICHAEL CLAYTON

Written by Tony Gilroy

RATATOUILLE

Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird

THE SAVAGES

Written by Tamara Jenkins
Did the Academy get it right? 
Every so often there is a movie that takes the Oscar season by storm and becomes the talk of the town. Then once the storm has settled, people start to realize that the movie they celebrated was not that special. This has happened before with Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Dances With Wolves (1990), and Life is Beautiful (1998). Well in 2007 that movie was Juno. I am just as guilty of overpraising this film. I loved it and it won the Pan and Slam award for Best Screenplay Comedy. It is a terrific film with a very down to earth sensibility, just probably not the instant classic critics, audiences and voters declared it to be. I have no problem with Juno winning Best Screenplay. 

What Should have won:

But with hindsight being 20/20 I cannot honestly say it deserved to win especially over its fellow nominees Michael Clayton and Ratatouille. One was a taut script that kept the audiences riveted for the entire film, the other kept them on the edge of their seat with its humor and inventiveness. Both total opposite styles of writing, but both two of the finest examples of the powerful, diverse and absolutely entertaining movies 2007 had to offer. 

BEST PICTURE

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WINNER

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers

NOMINEES

ATONEMENT

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers

JUNO

Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers

MICHAEL CLAYTON

Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers
Did the Academy get it right? 
This is probably getting repetitive but I give the Academy credit for picking such an uncompromising and unsettling Best Picture from two visionary auteurs that stuck to their vision and won accolades of awards and admiration. They already had respect and a well earned Screenplay Oscar for Fargo eleven years prior. But Best Picture is usually a different animal. They will give a screenplay Oscar to a lot of great films, very few Best Pictures are as bold and unconventional as No Country for Old Men

What Should have won:

That being said I still preferred Paul Thomas Anderson’s bold and unconventional vision of There Will Be Blood about how oil, and all the greed, lust, headache, heartache and death has been caused because of our nations reliance on fossil fuels. From looking at the Oscar results that year one might thing There Will Be Blood was only good because of Daniel Day-Lewis’s brazen performance. That could not be any further from the truth. Yes he dominates the screen the entire film as he does in practically every movie he is in. The cinematography (which it also won for), the writing, Paul Dano’s supporting performance, the music score by Jonny Greenwood, all could or should have been recognized. There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the century thus far and one that we will continue to cherish and admire for years to come. 

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