Nothing Compares to You

Cinematical posted this scene today, and I’m going to post it merely to demonstrate that there is nothing… nothing… in Oscar’s Best Picture category this year  to compare to the acting, complexity, and achievement of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

Still one of my favorite films of all time, and a brilliant work on the corruption of power in religion, politics, and business.

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  • I don’t think NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN will be thought much of in 20 years. It’s a flick of the moment, much like some other winners (ala MILLION DOLLAR BABY). It is well-acted, and it is a beautiful film to look at (though there were far more striking visual offerings in 2007), but it’s not a coherent cinematic experience. It’s ultimately a bit hollow, and a bit unsatisfying.

    NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN tries the trick of being a suspense thriller and an art film at the same time, but it never really manages to strike the balance. As a thriller, it’s a huge disappointment. Its central storyline becomes a cheap device to make a kind of philosophical point, almost making the majority of the film to that point feel kind of unnecessary and gratuitous. I know the film’s fans defend the choice to cheat the viewer out of a showdown as a bold artistic move, but I don’t think it’s the kind of move that actually satisfies. The lack of the showdown doesn’t ultimately contribute all that much in thematic power, and in robbing the audience of the showdown the Coens ruin what could have been one of the great thrillers of recent years.

    And as far as all that “weighty” stuff goes, the Coens seem to think that the best way to communicate the ideas are through monologues. It’s easy to understand why the Coen brothers did this; the monologues were the strongest point of McCarthy’s novel. But using these weighty soundbites ultimately makes the film feel more like a jumble of ideas, rather than something with a unified thematic development. Speeches aren’t exactly the most cinematic manner of storytelling, either. I daresay it would have done the Coen’s well to step away from McCarthy’s book a bit, rather than just cutting-and-pasting events and dialogue into a screenplay.

    I also wish to suggest that Anton Chigurh, the much-trumpeted character of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, is something of a bore. For all the talk about Bardem’s performance, there’s little to it beyond a silly haircut, a somber expression, and monotone speech. The character could have been a very interesting one, but he’s so one-note that he’s quickly forgotten. It also doesn’t help that Chigurh is essentially a cartoon character, which doesn’t feel right given the gritty reality of the rest of the film. The character was always going to be somewhat superhuman, but the Coens would have done well to give him a more realistic coat of paint, rather than giving him a Little Lord Fauntleroy haircut and impractical weapons.

  • Josh wrote: “Isn’t it sad that it’s more fun to think about and argue last year’s great movies than this year’s?”

    YES. Exactly. And I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what, exactly, was missing from this year’s Oscars until this post came along.

    It is not that There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men were great or non-great movies; opinions will vary as they always do. But by gum, our opinions mattered, and we argued about these films, and these films gave us great stuff to argue about. None of this year’s nominees — none — are doing that.

    Oh, sure, some people whine about The Reader, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire because of how they supposedly treat social or historical realities. But who argues their merits on a cinematic level?

  • I think No Country for Old Men will be held in the same regard as There Will Be Blood 20 years from now. And it should be. It’s awesome.

  • Josh

    The overt messages of Blood put it below No Country in many critics’ minds last year. That over-the-top elements can rocket home a film’s point just seems to be PT Anderson’s style. But this is his first movie where all the exaggeration is focused through one character, and it’s easy to mistake this ploy for something farcical. No Country appears to be more subtle and multi-layered, but that could just be because no matter how crazy the situation, no one talks louder or faster.

    Isn’t it sad that it’s more fun to think about and argue last year’s great movies than this year’s?

  • THERE WILL BE BLOOD is magnificent. When people look back at this decade and evaluate the American contributions to cinema, THERE WILL BE BLOOD will be right there in the conversation, and deservedly so. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, and not only stands as one of the best from recent years, but as one of the greatest films of all time.

    As for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, I think it’s the decidedly inferior film. I don’t even count it among the Coen’s best, much less as worthy contender against a titan like THERE WILL BE BLOOD. It’s a remarkably faithful adaptation of a flawed novel that in the adaptation replicated the flaws of its source and then added some issues of its own. It has a lot to commend it, including some nice technical accomplishments, but it’s not a work of the astonishing level of brilliance that THERE WILL BE BLOOD is. It could have been great, but in the end, it’s something of a letdown.

  • i still think no country for old men was a better movie (despite that horrifically mangled scene toward the end when sheriff bell returns to the hotel). it’s probably just my personal preference but to me there will be blood was an interesting portrait of an irredeemable man redeeming himself with the horrific, hideous tools he has available to him while no country is a more expansive film with more ambition. there will be blood sought to change one’s opinion of one man while no country asks you to look at the world in a completely different way. so, in an argument of the slightest of degrees, i personally favor no country because it is, to me, the more ambitious story.

    but i agree, there’s nothing that compares to it this year. except perhaps let the right one in, which may be better in certain senses than both of last year’s oscar favorites.

  • The majority of last year’s best picture noms are better than all of this years.

  • two- words: Mary Sunday!

    breaking out into the zorba dance!

    thanks Jeffrey!