The Grouches have plowed their way through all of the films nominated for the big eight awards. Now we make the case for which film or performance we WANT to win. Doesn’t mean we think it will win or even have a shot at winning. But if we had a vote on the nominees, here’s who we would pick, and why:

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood

BRIAN

I’m on the record saying that The Savages belonged in this quintet, but you won’t find me hollering like I did last year with Children of Men’s pathetic exclusion from the Oscars. There are four very solid films in the group, three great films, and I will be pleased whatever name is announced at the end of Sunday night (or early Monday morning?)

Unsurprisingly, Atonement’s the film that doesn’t belong. One-third of a movie plus a breathtaking tracking shot doesn’t cut it. Yet to be the lowest rung on the ladder and not suck is saying something about the quality of films this year. Good for you, Hollywood.

I appreciate George Clooney’s candor from Time magazine, “Our film is the best it can be in that genre. But there’s a ceiling on that genre.” And he’s right… Michael Clayton was riveting and exciting, but fell short of the greatness that I’d demand of an Oscar winner.Juno was a lot of fun to watch, had a great mix of characters and a heartwarming story. I found it too quirky by half. Any movie where all the women our age I’ve met calls it “so cute” has something wrong with it. To reference Music & Lyrics again, it was dessert, not dinner.

No Country was thrilling, exciting, and left me pondering its meaning and plot for the next 24 hours; There Will Be Blood left me pondering its meaning for the next 24 days and counting. Both are fantastic films, with magnificent scenery and horrific characters. I enjoyed both of them, but TWBB comes out on top for me for the variety of reasons I wrote about in my review.

To repeat myself, it was the most original film I’ve seen in years, and Daniel Day-Lewis brought us into his head and never let us leave. I’m still spooked by it.

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ADAM
Winner: Juno

This category is totally what I think should win. I am fairly certain that No Country for Old Men will win. However, I can’t, in good conscience, pick it when I have already said I am picking what I think should win. I liked Juno more than NCfOM. I understand why NCfOM will win (if it does), but in my mind, Juno was a flawless movie. Everything in it worked. Every piece of it was well done and complimented the other pieces. There is nothing in the movie I would change. I did not feel the same way about No Country for Old Men. The other thing is, I do not think Atonement should be anywhere on this list. I – and I believe my blog-mates will agree – was completely under-whelmed by Atonement. There are definitely other movies that should be up here instead: Sweeney Todd, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and The Savages to name three.

Ranking:

1. Juno
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Michael Clayton
4. There Will Be Blood
5. Atonement

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JOHN

This is actually a good slate of nominated films. It’s unrealistic to expect the Academy to reach a consensus and laud all your favorite films so just having a slate of good, interesting films is good enough for me. Usually that doesn’t happen. I liked all of these films, though some more than others.

Atonement has a lot of good parts to it and the beginning third of the film is terrific. I think it is too uneven and too over-the-top, though. The melodrama is just dialed up too high for much of it. The Brionys were all terrific while Keira Knightley and James McAvoy overdid it. The film always looks good from the country manor to the beaches of Dunkirk and that long tracking shot is technically awesome if a bit out of place. I did marginally like the film, but there are several dozen others that I thought were better.

There Will Be Blood is a grandiose descent into the worst in man. I liked it and its style, but it’s often too meandering for my tastes and frankly I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. The acting was terrific and I imagine some of the scenes will enter movie lore. As with many films that dwell in complete negativity, I sort of wonder what the point was.

Michael Clayton was okay the first time I saw it. The second time I loved it. Yes it’s a rather straight-forward thriller and I think there was some disappointment after the first viewing about it played out in such a commonplace manner. But it’s really not a plot-driven movie, it’s more of a character study. Knocking it for wanting some more twists and turns is missing the point. Superb performances all around, as noted by the fact that it’s the only film to have multiple acting nominations.

Juno and No Country for Old Men are at the top for me. This is a tough choice. If we were talking about favorite movie, I’d give the edge to Juno because it had the intangible qualities that really appeal to me. The characters are so well-drawn and the snappy dialogue is delivered so sincerely. I love how we see layers of characters pulled back and how nothing in the film plays out as movie logic would usually dictate. Juno warmed my heart.

Maybe I’m making a baseless distinction between “favorite” and “best,” but I think No Country for Old Men is a better movie even if I liked Juno a bit more. I still loved No Country but it didn’t quite grab me like Juno. However, I think it will be the film that holds up best over time. It draws on powerful and timeless themes and is so technically well-crafted. The performances, the characters, the sound (and lack thereof), the visual style are all great. The ruminations on changing times, impending evil, and fate still have me thinking. But it’s not all cerebral. The tension is expertly ratcheted up when the film plays as a top-notch thriller and Anton Chigurh will go down as a classic movie villain. Everything about him can just send shivers down the spine. No Country for Old Men is the film we’ll still be talking about in two decades.

Snubs: When my favorite movies of the year include such films as Knocked Up, Superbad, and Hairspray, I don’t expect my and the Academy’s tastes to dovetail. And, as I said earlier, as far as Best Picture slates this pretty good. I know I’ve seen a lot worse. But, looking at films that have a reasonable expectation to receive Oscar love, The Savages and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford are two great films that I would have loved to see included in this category.

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JARED

You know, I think these nominees really capture the Oscar-type movies this year. Yes, they were ultimately disappointing. But they were very very solid. Lots of years there are some movies that you wonder if the Academy put them up there as a joke. Even though I wouldn’t agree with most of the picks, I understand the rationale behind them, and I’m not particularly upset.

Michael Clayton wasn’t a good movie. People who think it was are reading way too much into it. And Clooney is wrong when he said it was a genre movie that reached the top of its genre. That was the fault of the movie, George. I’ve talked about No Country so much as this point, that I’m not sure what else I can add. I don’t agree with the vast majority of people on this movie, and it isn’t just the ending. I absolutely agree it was technically proficient and had a stellar cast. But this movie needed the strong script that everyone thought it had. Same thing for There Will Be Blood. In most ways, actually. Obviously they are different movies, but I think they had very similar problems.

Atonement should have been a contender here, and it kills me that it isn’t. Why oh why couldn’t we have had someone else look over the script, make a few fixes in the middle? So much potential piddled away. Had this movie risen to challenge the dominance of No Country, I would have been happy. Alas, it hasn’t, and rightly so.

Obviously, Juno is the only right choice here. It was the best movie of the year, which is why I’m surprised it was nominated. I’m also surprised, because heading into Oscar season, before I watched any of these movies, I probably would have called it as the movie to which I was most looking forward. So that was nice. But yeah, you know the movie was funny, sweet, hilarious, touching, and amazing. Was it perfect? No. But close. And the only one of these movies I really liked.