- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

Best Picture

Heart says: “No Country for Old Men.” “There Will Be Blood” was a dark doozy of a film and one of 2007’s most acclaimed, but it just doesn’t pack the same firepower as “No Country for Old Men”: a winning combination of edge-of-your-seat suspense, wry humor, social commentary and some of the finest performances of the year.

Head says: “No Country for Old Men.” It sears where the Golden Globe-winning “Atonement” and the other nominees just sizzled.

Best Director

Heart says: Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” The artist-turned-helmer directed my No. 1 film of 2007, the devastatingly beautiful “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” He and his cast perfectly convey the sentiments of the original source material, the memoir that former French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby literally blinked out after suffering a massive stroke.

Head says: Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men.” While Mr. Schnabel’s foreign-language film earned him the Golden Globe, the Coen boys are due for a win, having never received best director honors (only best original screenplay for “Fargo”).

Best Actor

Heart says: Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood.” The actor completely dissolves into his role as a rage-filled turn-of-the-century oilman, giving an unforgettable performance as the kind of despicable character we’d all like to forget.

Head says: Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood.” If you’re the betting type, let’s just say he’s a sure thing but won’t pay out much.

Best Actress

Heart says: Ellen Page, “Juno.” This not-quite-newcomer showcased impeccable comedic timing and tremendous depth as “Juno’s” titular pregnant teen. The actress was the perfect match for her mouthy, whip-smart character.

Head says: Julie Christie, “Away From Her.” The Oscar-winning veteran actress is likely to pull rank with the academy. In this affecting film, she nails the nuances of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, creating a character that’s infinitely layered and absolutely heartbreaking.

Best Supporting Actor

Heart says: Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men.” Hal Holbrook tugged at my heartstrings with his lonely old man in “Into the Wild,” but Mr. Bardem’s villain ranks among the most frightening psychopaths we’ve seen on film — and not just because of that hideous haircut.

Head says: Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men.” Mr. Bardem has this one wrapped up.

Best Supporting Actress

Heart says: Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone.” The Tony-nominated actress steals the show as the grieving mother of a kidnapped child, torn between her parenting instincts and her personal urges.

Head says: Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There.” Todd Haynes shocked a few people by casting a woman, Miss Blanchett, as one of the six Bob Dylans in this biopic, but the bigger surprise was how successful his selection was; the actress delivers the strongest personification in the bunch.

Best Original Screenplay

Heart says: Diablo Cody, “Juno.” First-time screenwriter Diablo Cody’s baby has got the goods: grade “A” wit, snappy lingo, rich characters, a whole lot of heart and a novel take on an age-old dilemma.

Head says: Diablo Cody, “Juno.” Positive.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Heart says: Ronald Harwood, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Pay no attention to the man behind the dreadful “Love in the Time of Cholera” — unless, of course, you’re talking about his practically perfect script for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which more than makes up for the former.

Head says: Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men.” The brothers’ take on Cormac McCarthy’s book is electrifying, with nary a misplaced nor inauthentic line of dialogue. Plus, it’s in English.

And One Unpardonable Omission

As stellar as Mr. Bardem was in “No Country for Old Men,” the movie succeeded because of its trifecta of talent: namely Mr. Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. So why did Mr. Brolin get shut out of this year’s Oscars? And why was Mr. Jones nominated instead for “In the Valley of Elah,” an inferior work?

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