Monday, November 21, 2011

Academy Awards Best Picture Revisited: Juno (2007)

Well this was a fun weekend, my friend Keith came to visit from New York City.  We had a good time, and I thought after he left I would let my liver rest, but I went to Tremont 647, a Boston bar/restaurant and drank.  When I got back I past out and woke so I did not get to watch Juno until  late at night, but I was able to watch it.  Unlike typical Academy Award films, Juno is quick watch, and much more entertaining.   Juno was one of the first films I saw three times in the movie theatre, I have never seen a movie more than three times.

Juno is the product of team of two minds, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody.  Jason Reitman is the son of director Ivan Reitman.  Ivan Reitman was the mind behind Ghostbusters, and several other films.  Jason Reitman  has done  more than inherit his father' talent he has done something better he has created some of the best films within the last ten years.  Jason Reitman's directorial feature film debut was the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking. Smoking was a brilliant debut, and one two of his films that he wrote.  Reitman's second film was Juno.  Juno launched him into the spotlight.  Reitman then made Up in the Air (which he co-wrote), and this year has a another film with writer Diablo Cody. This was Diablo Cody's first film; she was a former stripper, turned screenwriter.  Cody was the film's lone Oscar winner, and has gone on to write for television; she wrote and created the the show United States of Tara which lasted three seasons.  Cody wrote the terrible film Jennifer's body, and now Young Adult with Reitman, which looks hilarious.  The pairing of Reitman and cody seems to work so well their dark wit combines so well!

2007 was one of the darker years in the history of Academy Awards.  The two films main films competing for this award were No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood.  Both of these films masterpieces, and two of the best films of the decade.  No Country for Old Men was the winner, and it deserved this award.  I would have awarded Paul Thomas Anderson Best Director for Blood, but the Coen Brothers won for No Country for Old Men.  Where does Juno fit into all of this?  Juno had four nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress-Ellen Page, and Best Original Screenplay (which it won).

The five Best Picture nominees were Atonement, Juno,  Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There will be Blood. Three of the five deserved to be there!  Atonement was not as good as the book, it was a solid effort, but not one of the five best.  Michael Clayton while a solid film was not deserving of this honor.  I actually forgot it was a nominee in this category until I started writing this again.  When a film is forgettable I think that ruins its lasting impact.  Looking back at this year, this was a weaker year.  I would replaced these two nominees with Zodiac (David Fincher) and Into the Wild (Sean Penn).  The other two solid films that could have been contenders were the French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel) and Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg).

Juno deserved the recognition it received!  I am not sure I would have nominated Reitman for directing, and I would have nominated Jennifer Garner for her supporting role; she was just great. Every time I watch this film I am moved with both laughter and love watching the character grow as she gives up her child.  This is an incredibly heartfelt film that resonates still, and is a classic in my book.  Ellen Page gives a wonderful performance; her humor and naivete mix well.  I like her performance because you actually see her grow throughout the film.  Garner's performance is incredibly real, and raw; she wants a baby so bad.

I realize my own personal bias is that I love sarcastic films.  Throw in a hamburger phone, and I am sold home skillet.     I am glad films like this are honored.  The Academy Awards is always heavy on the drama, especially this year.  This film was a much needed breath of fresh air!

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