Michael Clayton is what I like to call "a really good example of the kind of thing that it is." What I mean by that is that it's about as good a genre film as you can make. It has a tight script and excellent performances from George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and especially Tilda Swinton. I don't feel it brought anything new or revolutionary to the genre, but I really liked it. I wouldn't vote for it though.
No Country For Old Men is, as I've said before, a movie I thought was really good but didn't like very much. Good performances, well written, beautiful cinematography, but it never came together for me. That's a problem with being a plot whore; when you run across a movie that doesn't have a satisfying conclusion, like this one, it tends to leave you a little cold. I wouldn't vote for it, but I won't be disappointed if (when?) it wins.
Atonement was a great movie. It wasn't perfect; I think the performances were the weakest of the five best picture nominees (with the exception of Saoirse Ronan). But aside from that, I thought this was just about perfect. Well written, ambitiously directed and photographed -- loved that Dunkirk tracking shot! -- tremendously moving, and the best score I've heard in a long time. I loved the way Dario Marianelli incorporated various sound effects into the music. I would like to see Atonement win Best Picture, but I'll be heartbroken if it doesn't win Best Score. (And by the way, it's SEER-shuh.)
Juno was an interesting film. The dialogue is snappy enough and the acting strong enough that I didn't notice until several days later how formulaic it is. The arc of Juno and Paulie's relationship is straight out of a hundred romantic comedies and romance novels. Only the pregnancy angle saves it from utter conventionality. But you know, maybe it's just because I'm a sucker for romantic comedies, but it worked for me. I wouldn't have nominated it for Best Picture, but Best Original Screenplay? Sure, if only because of that Woody Allen joke.
There Will Be Blood was better than I expected, but maybe that's just because I had low expectations going into it. A great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, to be sure, but I really didn't like the score. Not as bad as that of The Hours, but like that one I think the score made the picture worse.
In the final analysis, I'd rank them in this order:
- Michael Clayton
- There Will Be Blood
- No Country For Old Men