The Oscars did not break form. They joined the enthusiastic worldwide embrace of No Country For Old Men. Critics and the creative community bestowed 79 awards on this film and another 31 nominations. Indeed, by the time Denzel Washington approached the podium to announce the Oscar winner for Best Picture all suspense had evaporated. No Country’s creative team left the Kodak Theatre with four awards for Best Film, Directing, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. For the Coen Brothers this complete success fully vindicates them artistically. Their output has always been interesting but quirky in ways that left many admirers uncomfortable. The doubters will now join the fold.
And why not! Joel and Ethan Coen extended the emotional reach of Cormac McCarthy’s tale of greed, small-time cops and cheap lives. The Coens and a superb cast do not let you escape the dusty emptiness of their west Texas surroundings, or the growing sense of something deadly headed your way. It begins when Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) decides to keep $2 million in cash he finds at the scene of a drug deal gone bad. Lethal inevitability appears in the form of a psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in the surest Oscar sure-bet of the night). He is unrelenting and underscores the movie’s tag line: There are no clean getaways.
A worldwide audience strongly connected with this chase movie in which the main characters represent the greed, dread and blood lust that propel the story. Here’s my Smackdown! comparing No Country with the Coen’s highly acclaimed Fargo.
There Will Be Blood, Juno, Michael Clayton and Atonement are distinguished films that represented well. This wasn’t their year. This time the Oscars rightly acknowledged the maturing artistic vision that created No Country For Old Men. The Coens now join the rare company of 80 winners for Best Picture. The Coens will return for more. Count on it.