I’ve been trying to whip together a New York Post article about the parallels between Oscar contenders of 2007 vs. 1967. Norman Jewison, director of In The Heat of the Night (which won the Best Picture Oscar), was kind enough to promptly call back today and offer some thoughts. At the end of our chat we digressed a bit and got into Best Picture Oscar talk.
I asked Jewison if he’s heard any talk about Juno as Best Picture. “That escapes me,” he said. “It’s a very smart script… what I call smart-ass dialogue. I think it has a brilliant performance. But I don’t like what it says. Yeah, have a baby and then you give it away. It’s pro-life, at least. Go have a baby, give it to that crazy [character played by Jennifer Garner]? I didn’t like what the film said. That aside, it’s smartly directed and well acted and very well written piece.”
What about No Country for Old Men? “Nobody I’ve talked to, including some very smart [professionals], hasn’t been a little disturbed by the ending of that film,” he said. “They say it this way. They say we don’t mind you killing off the hero…we don’t mind that at all…but not to show it is wrong. There is a little bit of…there are people who find that unsatisfying. I myself think it’s the best picture of the year. I really like the Coen Brothers. I adored Fargo.”
What about There Will Be Blood? “A very strong and intense performance [by Daniel Day Lewis], maybe even stronger than the film. But those first 20 minutes with no dialogue are brilliant. The realism of films today is a signature thing. When I was coming up it was the neo-realism of Italian cinema of the late 40s and early 50s. That was the influence, the thing that everyone was looking at. But today violence…it’s become an element [unto itself]. Beating some guy to death with a bowling pin?”
Michael Clayton “is talking about morality, it’s got something to say, it’s brilliantly executed, the performances are strong, the direction was tight and the editing was tight. So you’ve got a good strong film, and if you don’t like violence, if that turns you off then maybe Michael Clayton is [the ticket].”