The year 2007 was, in any estimation, a high-quality year for films. It had its ups and downs, but, for the most part, it was a solid year and much better than 2006. Suffice it to say, this year’s Oscars are anything but predictable. While there are front-runners in several categories (for example, Javier Bardem for Best Actor in a Supporting Role), nearly every contender in the Best Picture race has won some prestigious award. While “There Will Be Blood” and “No Country for Old Men” lead the pack in terms of nominations, are they poised to win? Not necessarily, for as recent history shows, the favorite does not always win (in 2006, “Crash” upset the heavily favored “Brokeback Mountain”). For now, let us look at the major categories and see who should win, but also analyze who will win, while taking possible spoilers into account.First up is the top prize, Best Picture. The question of who should win and who will win can be said to be one in the same: “No Country for Old Men.” “There Will Be Blood” is another favorite and has been listed as the best picture on several top ten lists, but “No Country” is, simply put, a better film. It moves much more fluidly and lacks the dull moments that plague “There Will Be Blood.” While Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance is astounding, it does not make up for the fact that the film is flawed.
Like George Clooney in “Michael Clayton,” if the film had any other actor in the lead, it just would not have worked. “No Country” required the effort of all involved and it succeeds in being the best film of 2007. The possible spoiler in this category is “Juno,” which has become the most profitable of the nominees. However, when it comes right down to it, “Juno” is not a film that will take away the top prize, despite how smart and well-crafted the film is.
Next on the list is Best Director. This award will and should go to Joel and Ethan Coen for “No Country.” Paul Thomas Anderson does a remarkable job with “There Will Be Blood,” truly capturing the oil boom that took over this country in the early 20th century. Anderson also paints a remarkable landscape with his empty shots of western America.
However, the Coen brothers succeed in creating a great deal of tension. The lack of background music and the use of silence to convey the emptiness of West Texas make this film more breathtaking to watch than “There Will Be Blood.” “There Will Be Blood” relies a great deal on Jonny Greenwood’s score to create tension, while the Coens create a more atmospheric tension.
Furthermore, the action shots in “No Country” move flawlessly and make the film that much more intense. The Coen brothers also received top honors from the Directors Guild and various critic circles. No other director will play spoiler in this category because, frankly, it is a two-horse race.
The awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role are virtual locks. In the Leading category, Day-Lewis will more than likely take home the prize. His performance as Daniel Plainview is riveting and he carries the film throughout. The downfall of Day-Lewis’s performance could be that it is very reminiscent of that in “Gangs of New York.” However, George Clooney’s performance as the title character in “Michael Clayton” may play spoiler. Clooney makes “Michael Clayton” work and without him, it would not be possible. Also in the race is Johnny Depp for his performance in “Sweeny Todd.” Depp, though, is not the Academy favorite that Day-Lewis and Clooney both are. The award will still go to Day-Lewis despite other quality performances.
In the Supporting Actor category, the award will and should go to Javier Bardem for his performance as Anton Chigurh in “No Country.” Bardem transforms into Chigurh and embodies the role. He is devoid of all emotion and perfectly represents the unstoppable evil that is prevalent in all of the Coen brothers’ films. There simply is no other performance in this category that even comes close to matching Bardem’s intensity.
In the Best Actress categories, there are many remarkable performances, but once again there are front-runners who are poised to take the home the accolades. In the Leading category, Julie Christie looks to be a lock to win for her performance as a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in “Away From Her.”
Like Helen Mirren last year, Christie has swept all awards that serve as precursors to the Oscars. She has already received a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award. While Ellen Page’s performance in “Juno” deserves the praise it has received, Christie is guaranteed to win.
In the Supporting Actress category, there seems to be more variability. While Cate Blanchett is the front-runner for her performance as one of the incarnations of Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” do not count out any of the other nominees. Ruby Dee’s performance in “American Gangster” is powerful and she plays the spiritual crutch to Denzel Washington’s Frank Lucas. Amy Ryan’s performance in “Gone Baby Gone” is also another garnering significant, well deserved praise. Her turn as the drug addicted mother of a kidnapped child is mesmerizing. While Blanchett will most likely win, seeing as she looks exactly like the famed folk singer and stands out among a cast of six major players, it is still likely that some other performance could snatch away the prize.
All in all, this year’s Academy Awards look to be an interesting race. For the first time in a while, every film and performance seems deserving of these honors. The Academy Awards will air Sunday, Feb. 24 on ABC.
Chris Bashore is a fourth-year student majoring in political science. He can be reached at CB588901@wcupa.edu.