RARA-AVIS: Re: There Will Be Ham

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 28 May 2008

Dave wrote:

> I could not disagree more. This was a fascinating and rich story of
> two men's obsession to accumulate wealth and power (one through oil,
> the other religion) and their eventual ruin. And this movie actually
> has a satisfying (and shocking) ending, unlike the fraudulant Oscar
> winner this past year, No Country for Old Men.

A fraudulent Oscar winner? What does that mean? That the fix was in?

Or that you just disagreed with the choice?

I dunno. Day-Lewis' milk shake scene left bite marks on every piece of scenery in the film -- and possibly on the seats in the front rows. BLOOD makes his performance in GANGS OF NEW YORK look subtle. If he keeps it up, he can drink his milkshakes in some other theater than the one I'm in.

His performance certainly had "Oscar" written all over it -- he did everything but wear a "For Your Consideration" T-shirt.

There was much to like about Blood -- the off-kilter, deliberately clanky score, the achingly bleak cinematography, Day-Lewis' more subdued moments, but overall -- and despite the fact most people didn't appreciate its cold water ending -- I preferred NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I watched BLOOD and enjoyed it, and wanted to see what would happen to them.

But I felt involved in NO COUNTRY. I just thought it was a much more gripping and intense story. I actually cared about the characters in it and what would happen to them. I had an emotional investment in them I never felt for any of the characters in BLOOD.

There were a lot of subtle, lived-in performances in NO COUNTRY, and the acting drew me in. It didn't make me think "Ooooh! Someone wants another Oscar!"

Brolin or Jones could just have easily been nominated for their performances as Javier Bardem was, or even the woman who played Brolin's wife. Jones' turn as the world weary small town sheriff who's seen too much bodes very well for his turn as James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux in the upcoming IN THE ELECTRIC MIST.

In fact, NO COUNTRY recalled for me the Coen's very first film, BLOOD SIMPLE, stylistically and thematically, one of the more neglected crime films of the last thirty years or so and one of my favourites. What with MILLER'S CROSSING, FARGO and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, the Coens might just be the most consistently rewarding crime filmmakers we've had in a long time.

And as I've mentioned before, Ethan's collection of short stories, GATES OF EDEN, is well worth reading for any pulp fans here. His tongue-in-cheek approach to various crime pulp and cinematic tropes (I hope I used that right) reveal both his (and presumably his brother's) familiarity and affection for them.

* * * *

Back to the fraudulent Oscars (presumably kept in the same box as
"stolen elections" and "fictitious wars" ): I'm not sure if NO COUNTRY "deserved" its Oscar either, although I'm glad the Coens did win, I guess.

But I was disappointed that a few other worthy (and arguably hard- boiled/noirish) crime films were a little light on nominations. I thought both AMERICAN GANGSTER and GONE BABY GONE in particular deserved a little more Oscar love than they received.

It's okay, I guess, to discuss movies now? Or at least crime movies?

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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