Category: Best Supporting Actor


Well, we’ve gotten to the second film for this blog that won Best Picture at the Academy awards, the first being my review for No Country For Old Men. This time around we have 1983’s Best Picture, the tear-jerker family drama Terms of Endearment, which also picked up awards for direction, screenplay, and acting Oscars for Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson. Where I often have conflicted feelings towards No Country For Old Men as to whether it was truly a great film and worthy of that place in cinema history, I definitely know that I don’t think Terms of Endearment is the kind of film that I would name as the best picture of the year (unless the year was just really awful), but it wasn’t a bad movie either. It just wasn’t great, although the performances from Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson were absolutely fantastic and saved the film from utter mediocrity.

The movie is about a mother and a daughter, Aurora (the mother played to absolute perfection by Shirley MacLaine) and Emma (Debra Winger) Greenway. Aurora is a generally nasty, neurotic, and over-bearing woman, and her daughter is much more care-free and full of life. Emma marries Flap Horton (a very young Jeff Daniels). Jack Nicholson enters the fray as the lecherous, drunk, lout of a neighbor who was also a former astronaut by the name of Garrett Breedlove who starts to thaw the ice queen that is Aurora. The movie is almost 30 years old now so I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that eventually Emma is diagnosed with cancer, and that is the heart of the last act of the film which is just absolutely heart-breaking. I was bawling my eyes out, but it’s not necessarily that difficult to make me cry.

The film’s story is nothing to write home about and it’s something that you’ve seen a million times. However, the writing is, during some scenes, actually pretty excellent. The movie can be riotously funny, especially when it focuses on the relationship between Aurora and Garrett. They both deserved every single accolade and award that they won for this film. Jack Nicholson is still at the top of his game and Shirley MacLaine gives the performance of her career. However, when the moment calls for incredible dramatic acting, Shirley MacLaine is able to deliver there as well. Probably the most famous scene of the film is her yelling to “give my daughter her shots”. She stands right now as having given the best female performance that I’ve reviewed for this blog so far. She was (in Aurora’s words) “fan-fucking-tastic”. I can’t say the same thing for Debra Winger. Every second she was on screen, prior to when she got sick, I just wanted to turn the movie off. Her story and plot was not interesting and her performance was not up to par with the rest of the cast. However, she did manage to do better when she was dying. The last scene with her and her children had me an emotional wreck.

Well, if you’re a woman, you’ll probably enjoy this movie more than I did. I hope that I didn’t come off as sexist, but this is a film about two women and their troubled relationships with men. Perhaps, I had some difficulty relating to the predicaments because of what chromosomes I have. But, this movie was ok. I was expecting it to be much worse and much more maudlin, and there was actually a lot more life to the film than what I was expecting. Obviously, if you’re a real movie buff, you need to watch it since it won Best Picture, but that’s really the only main reason I would give to watching it.

Final Score: B

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The Coen brothers are two of the most talented American film-makers working in the main-stream today. That’s without question. Yet, with a lack of consistency only matched by Kevin Smith, their works generally fall into two categories. Their films, generally, are either modern masterpieces like Fargo or The Big Lebowski or they’re just unbelievably awful like The Ladykillers. I don’t know if they’ve made a film that has divided audiences more than the film they finally took home the Oscar for, No Country for Old Men. I, myself, go back and forth between thinking it’s a great movie or terribly over-rated, although for this review I erred back on the side of great again.

No Country for Old Men is a neo-western crime thriller that tells the story of three men that couldn’t be more different. Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, a cowboy who finds the remains of a drug-related shoot-out and takes $2 million in cash from the scene. Javier Bardem (in the defining performance of his career so far) plays Anton Chigurh, a hit man hired to find Llewelyn and the money and to get it back. He’s a cold-blooded psychopath who won’t let anything stop him from achieving his goal. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones plays Sheriff Tom Bell, an aging law-man who finds himself powerless in a world where the violence and vice have outgrown the world he once knew. As fate would have it and the film is very insistent that it is fate, these men are on an inevitable collision course.

On the surface, what I just described is what the film is about. And from a sheer plot standpoint, Anton and Llewelyn are the two main characters of the film. But the heart and soul of the film is Sheriff Bell, a man of old principles and old values lost in a modern world where his values are meaningless. Anton represents a man who is inherently amoral even if he has his own code or set of principles. His understanding of the world is so fundamentally different from our own. Llewelyn is a modern opportunist who, when he stumbles across a scene of violence, loots the money and lets fate decide the outcome of himself and his loved ones. The message and moral of the film itself comes across in the different dialogues and/or monologues that Sheriff Bell has throughout the film, although the most important and powerful is the one towards the end between him and his brother discussing the old days of being a sheriff and why he feels he now needs to retire.

No review of this film would be complete without discussing the practically iconic performance of Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. If the Coen brothers have one definig trait as directors and writers, it is a knack for packing their films full of memorable characters like the Dude or Marge Grundersson. Anton Chigurh is easily their best character since the Dude and Javier Bardem plays him with such cool, calculating menace that he becomes a terrifying production. Every detail of the performance is perfectly managed and portrayed. Javier Bardem is a multiple Oscar nominee and if he can continue to choose fabulous roles like these, I can’t imagine him not winning at least one more Oscar in the future. Along with Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, this was one of the defining supporting performances of the 2000’s.

I understand why this film is so divisive. It is so far removed from what one normally expects from a Coen brothers’ picture. It lacks the surrealism and humor that is normally a touchstone of their films. It’s dark and gritty and ambiguous as hell. However, I think they took a gamble here with their style and it paid off. I know a lot of people were confused by the ending, which I thought was pretty straight-forward but I guess pay attention. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to watch it. It’s a great film and there’s no one that I couldn’t see myself recommending it to.

Final Score: A-