Chuck Klosterman once wrote something along the lines of: “It is much harder to explain why you liked something than to explain why you didn’t like something.”  And I’m finding that to ring true as I’m going through the Oscar movies and not only trying to pick out my favorites, but explain why they are the best of the bunch.  Juno will end up being one of my favorite movies of the year, if not my most favorite.  And I’ll try (and probably fail) to express why that is.  But perhaps the simplest thing I can say is that of all the 2007 movies I’ve seen so far, Juno is the only one I’ve felt comfortable and confident recommending, no matter the person asking for the recommendation.

First, and I know I’m in the minority here, but I feel the comparisons to Little Miss Sunshine are misleading.  And I say that as someone who loves both movies, and felt that both were among the best movies of their respective years.  Yes, I understand they are both quirky indie comedies with some life lessons thrown into the mix, and did a good job casting quality actors in each major role.  But Little Miss Sunshine had defined and distinct relationships between each of the main characters, and derived comedy from those relationships, where Juno does not.  I mean that if you take, say, Alan Arkin’s character in Little Miss Sunshine, you can probably uniquely describe each of his relationships to Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Steve Carrell, and remember some funny exchange each had.  In Juno, just about all of the humor bounces off of Ellen Page.  There’s no value judgement there, just a difference.  While there’s clearly similarity in the humor, I personally don’t find the movies to have the same sense of humor.

One problem with Juno that’s been raised is that many of the jokes were already revealed in various trailers and commercials.  I actually felt this was a bigger problem for director Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking.  While I’d certainly agree that many jokes were spoiled, I still found myself laughing through most of the movie.  Really, the only other critique of the movie that I’ve been able think up is that the division into trimesters/seasons seemed a bit too subtle to me.  Oh, and I would have given Juno and Paulie Bleeker another scene together somewhere in the middle of the movie.

But that’s nitpicking, really, and the fact that I can name only two very minor problems should say something.  I found Juno to be darn close to the perfect movie.  It is, at times, funny, sweet, poignant, icky, and hilarious, while having the right mixture of storytelling for the story’s sake and storytelling for entertainment’s sake.  Michael Cera is in a role he was clearly born to play.  He, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Casey Affleck should all get some sort props for multiple great acting jobs.  I thought Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner did a tremendous job of being, in a manner of speaking, straight men for Ellen Page, while being so much more than scenery.  Heck, I even loved the soundtrack.

Juno is a fantastic character, but Ellen Page really does bring her to life.  I think it is impressive how she captured the nuance of the all-knowing main character/hero being a pregnant teenage girl who maybe does have a thing or two to learn about life, without really going over the top at any point.

Like Klosterman said, it is hard to explain why we like something.  I could recite jokes from the movie, but really, you are just better off going to see Juno.  You can argue over just how good it is, I suppose, but you can’t dispute that it is one of the best movies of the year. 

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