I had an Oscar vision, and it scared me. In this vision, No Country for Old Men won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, in addition to other categories.
Don’t get me wrong. No Country is a tremendous work, and Joel (at right) and Ethan Coen (second from right) deserve every award they win. Yet while the Coens are the presumed front-runners to win Picture, Director, and Screenplay, there’s one other person who’s also nominated in all three of those categories — There Will Be Blood director, writer, and producer Paul Thomas Anderson (left). It would be an utter shame if Anderson went home empty-handed, but that may happen if everyone sides with the Coens.
You see, the Oscar voters have an interesting dilemma here. Many fans of No Country for Old Men seem to also be fans of There Will Be Blood, and I’d imagine that voters may want to reward both the Coens and Anderson. But how can they do that? Which categories do you give to whom?
I’m hoping for a compromise that looks something like this: Pictureand Director for the Coens, and Adapted Screenplay for Anderson. And ifthey want to, the Academy can toss in Film Editing for the Coens, too(through their editor pseudonym, Roderick Jaynes). So, the Coens 3,Anderson 1. I can live with that, even though I consider Blood to be the superior film.
Anderson deserves to win the Adapted Screenplay Oscar because,frankly, he did much more adapting than the Coens. He took the first150 pages of Upton Sinclair’s 560-page novel, Oil!, andfashioned something wholly unique and unexpected. Anderson traveleddown pathways that Sinclair never considered, and he made the storyentirely his own.
In contrast, the Coens were incredibly faithful to Cormac McCarthy’s novel, No Country for Old Men.Entire pages of dialogue made it into the film virtually unchanged. Thepicture does contain touches of the Coens’ trademark humor (e.g. theunsuspecting Mariachi band), but in terms of actual script writing, theCoens (wisely) decided to stick with McCarthy’s template.
Oscar could still honor the Coens for where they actually diddiverge from their source material — in their directing. Through theirdecisions in sound design (the squeaking chirp of a light bulb beingunscrewed), cinematography (the slow, rolling shadows of clouds over aherd of antelope), and set design (the cords hanging in the back of thegas station form a row of symbolic nooses), the Coens manufactured aneerie and unfamiliar universe. Now, THAT is directing.
This is not to say that Anderson didn’t direct up a storm either.It’s just that all signs are pointing to the Coens winning the BestDirecting award. So, Oscar voters, go ahead and give them that one. Butplease save screenplay for Anderson, a modern filmmaking prodigy ifthere ever was one.
What about you, PopWatchers? How would you like to see the Academyshare the love for these two movies? Or do you think, gulp, thatsomething else has a shot at winning?