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How to Fix a Drug Scandal

Rarely have I been more frustrated by a documentary production’s formal choices and how they interfere with the engaging content of the story they’re trying…


Vivarium isn’t a fun watch, and not just because it’s generally claustrophobic and insistently bleak.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Ebert reviews the Oscar winners

A look back at the films, filmmakers and performances among the 2007 Oscar winners:

Best Picture: "No Country for Old Men" From the Toronto Film Festival (Sept. 8, 2007): It’s not often you see films that are perfect.... “No Country for Old Men,” inspired by the Cormac McCarthy novel, follows a million dollars around Texas. That’s the MacGuffin. What it does more importantly is give us a character (Josh Brolin) who finds the money, a character (Javier Bardem) who is a homicidal madman who kills with compressed oxygen, a sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) who tries to protect the first from the second, a private fixer (Woody Harrelson) who is hired to find the money, and the various wives (especially Kelly Macdonald), women, employers, victims, motel clerks, corpses and deputies in their lives.


Best Director(s): Joel and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men" Reviewed Nov. 8, 2007: Many of the scenes in "No Country for Old Men" are so flawlessly constructed that you want them to simply continue, and yet they create an emotional suction drawing you to the next scene. Another movie that made me feel that way was "Fargo." To make one such film is a miracle. Here is another.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood" Reviewed Jan. 4, 2008: The performance by Day-Lewis may well win an Oscar nomination, and if he wins he should do the right thing in his acceptance speech and thank the late John Huston. His voice in the role seems like a frank imitation of Huston, right down to the cadences, the pauses, the seeming to confide. I interviewed Huston three times, and each time he spoke with elaborate courtesy, agreeing with everything, drawing out his sentences, and each time I could not rid myself of the conviction that his manner was masking impatience; it was his way of suffering a fool, which is to say, an interviewer. I have heard Peter O'Toole's famous imitation of Huston, but channeled through O'Toole he sounds heartier and friendlier and, usually, drunk. I imagine you had to know Huston pretty well before he let down his conversational guard.

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose" Reviewed June 15, 2007: Olivier Dahan's "La Vie en Rose," one of the best biopics I've seen, tells Piaf's life story through the extraordinary performance of Marion Cotillard, who looks like the singer.... Many biopics break down in depicting their subjects in old age, and Piaf, at 47, looked old. Gene Siskel once referred to an actor's old-age makeup as making him look like a turtle. In "La Vie en Rose" there is never a moment's doubt.

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men" Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is a tall, slouching man with lank, black hair and a terrifying smile, who travels through Texas carrying a tank of compressed air and killing people with a cattle stungun. It propels a cylinder into their heads and whips it back again.

Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton": Reviewed Oct. 5, 2007: [Karen] Crowder is played by Tilda Swinton, who has been working a lot lately because of her sheer excellence; she has the same sleek grooming as Clayton, the power wardrobe, every hair in place. Thinking of Clooney, Pollack, Wilkinson and Swinton, you realize how much this film benefits from its casting. Switch out those four, and the energy and tension might evaporate.... It's spellbinding to watch the Clooney and Swinton characters eye to eye, raising each other, both convinced that the other is bluffing.


Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, "Juno": From the Toronto Film Festival (Sept. 15, 2007): "She met this guy, he was supposed to be a producer, she wasn't sure, but he tells her she should write a screenplay," ["Juno" director Jason] Reitman tells me. "It takes her two months. She sends it to Hollywood, where it goes all over town and everyone wants to make it. It is one of the best screenplays around."

Best Original Screenplay: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men" Consider another scene in which the dialogue is as good as any you will hear this year. Chigurh enters a rundown gas station in the middle of wilderness and begins to play a word game with the old man (Gene Jones) behind the cash register, who becomes very nervous. It is clear they are talking about whether Chigurh will kill him. Chigurh has by no means made up his mind. Without explaining why, he asks the man to call the flip of a coin. Listen to what they say, how they say it, how they imply the stakes. Listen to their timing. You want to applaud the writing, which comes from the Coen brothers, out of McCarthy.

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