The Academy Awards are kicking off in a matter of hours, and I thought I'd write out some thoughts about the various nominations. 2007 was a a really great year for movies, not just because the general quality was good, but because so many of the high-quality movies were also really fun to watch. My favorites this year, in reverse order:
5. 3:10 To Yuma
This is more of a sentimental pick than anything else. There's a kind of magic in well-executed Westerns that I find really irresistible and 3:10 just really kicks butt all the way through. Christian Bale and Russel Crowe are powerhouses here, and young Ben Foster is ridiculously intimidating. I had two other movies that were pushing for the #5 spot -- American Gangster and Gone Baby Gone. All three of these were about the same level in my opinion, although 3:10's subject matter managed to give it a slight edge. (And interestingly, none of them were nominated for Best Picture, which is a testament to just how tight the race is this year.)
I thought this movie was trademark P.T. Anderson in that you can't really expect to understand and appreciate it fully the first time you see it. It's a complex film about a ruthless oil tycoon at the turn of the century, and Daniel Day-Lewis gives a Godfather-level performance in it. The range of this guy is truly incredible -- watch him in The Last of the Mohicans before you see this film; he's almost unrecognizable. If Blood doesn't win Best Picture, Day-Lewis should at least win the "Best Actor Ever" award.
Director Jason Reitman performs a precarious balancing act with this quirky story about teen pregnancy: Juno is funny without being ludicrious, familiar without being cliche, and sentimental without being cheesy. Best comedy of the year, easily, and some critics have actually predicted that this might take home the Best Picture Oscar simply because it's the odd man out.
I've never liked how the Oscars marginalized animated movies by creating a separate "Best Animated Picture" category for them in 2001 (only Beauty and the Beast has ever received a Best Picture nomination). Ratatouille is not only the best movie out of Pixar -- a studio reknowned for making extremely impressive films -- but it's also one of the finest films of this year, and should have been nominated in the regular "Best Picture" category.
This one will win the Oscar for sure, unless Juno pulls off the biggest upset in Academy history. It's probably the most pitch-perfect movie I've seen in the past 5 years; brilliant performances from Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem (creepiest mofo since Hannibal Lecter), deliberate and methodical cinematography by Roger Deakins, and dialogue that's so sharp you could poke your eye out with it. (The Coen Brothers will probably take home the Direction and Screenplay awards for this movie as well. It's just that good.)