Thursday, March 13, 2008

A country for great movies

If you’re looking for two great movies, you need to see No Country for Old Men and In the Valley of Elah. Both star Tommy Lee Jones, both had plenty of Academy Award nominations and No Country took away 4 Oscars, including Best Picture.

I read Cormac McCarthy’s book, No Country for Old Men last year (it was great to see him sitting front and center at the Awards). I’m a McCarthy fan and it was a riveting, spare, tough gritty story. As for the Coen Brothers, the cinematography is outstanding; the pace is perfect (slow, real and dripping with tension). The three protagonists, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem, are incredible. Bardem plays a psychopathic, coin tossing killer who steals the movie. Apart from anything else, he has the haircut from hell. I read that the stylist, a Canadian Paul LeBlanc is pleased to be associated with what Bardem described as “one of the most horrible haircuts in history”. That maybe so, but through his performance he has turned it into an icon. I’ll pass on calling it a Lovemark at this stage but it does show you the impact of a great creative idea. Back to the movie, I can tell you it has an ending that hits you smack in the gut.

In the Valley of Elah was in and out of U.S. theaters at lighting speed. For me, it is our generation’s Deer Hunter. The film tells a story of the Iraq War which is totally reminiscent of the movies I saw 30 years ago about Vietnam. Tommy Lee Jones plays a retired military policeman investigating the death of his son on his return from Iraq. This has got to be Tommy Lee Jones’ career high. He was up against tough Oscar competition with Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will be Blood (who I always thought was too hard to beat). And so he was.

Both these movies portray the seedy side of life in the belly of today’s USA. They are the antidote to most of the garbage being turned out by the major studios.