Monday, February 4, 2008


The Oscars are less then a month away (and according to reports it looks as if the WGA is on the verge of ending their long strike)… In anticipation of the upcoming ceremony, I wanted to take a further look at the Best Picture nominees.

I think it is one of the best classes for Best Picture nominees in the Academy’s 80 year history. I enjoyed all 5 of these films, with 3 of them placing in my personal top 10 of the year. One aspect I enjoyed about these films and many others from this year was the way they reimagined old-fashion cinema in a variety of different methods.

I’d like to take a closer look at each nominee by offering a few encore films as possible recommendations. This is not intended to discredit the originality of these nominated films, but instead provide a deeper connection to their place among history.

I will post each of the nominees individually over the next few weeks leading up to the Oscars…

ELENA AND HER MEN (1956, Jean Renoir)
The great French filmmaker Jean Renoir was master in (among other things) details. In one of his lightest comedies, Elena and Her Men, Renoir used politics under the surface of a romantic farce. It focuses less on plot details then it does on characters, on visual compositions, and on colors. Details in Renoir films are always very rich, and I think the best of Juno captures some of this both visually and in the characterization.

HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971, Hal Ashby)
The world that the great filmmaker Hal Ashby creates is somewhat recaptured here, specifically in tone. Of course the most obvious tonal comparison is the distinct way in which both films use music to set the mood and the characterization. Juno’s use of The Moldy Peaches is not dissimilar to the way Ashby uses Cat Stevens in Harold and Maude, a film that also expressed the beauty of life and of individualism. Bottom line, if you enjoy Juno, the work of Hal Ashby will certainly be worth checking out!

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS (2007, Cristian Mungiu)
This gripping Romanian film just reached American theaters in January. It is probably the complete opposite of Juno, but it is an interesting counterpoint both stylistically and thematically. Both films deal with unexpected or unwanted pregnancy in different ways. They each present opposite views but ultimately both films are less focused on the political issues of pro life or pro choice, instead focusing around the way the characters deal with it. The world of these films do not revolve around these characters, instead they simply inhabit them. As lead protagonists Juno’s Ellen Page, and especially 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days Anamaria Marinca, each give phenomenal performances.


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