'No Country for Old Men' wins best picture, director Oscars

by Rene Rodriguez

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

25 February 2008

Ethan Coen, from left, Scott Rudin and Joel Coen Best Motion Picture during the 80th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California, Sunday, February 24, 2008. (Daniel A, Anderson/Orange County Register/MCT) 

“No Country For Old Men,” the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel that uses a botched drug deal as a metaphor for the fateful consequences to a society that forgets the value of a human life, cemented its place in film history by winning four Oscars at the 80th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen lived up to their reputation as genius eccentrics while accepting their first Oscar of the evening for their screenplay.

“Whatever success we’ve had in this area has been entirely attributable to how selective we are,” said Joel, the tall, bushy-haired one. “We’ve only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy, so thank you.”

“We, ah.” continued Ethan, the short, bespectacled one, who ended his pregnant pause with, “Thank you very much.”

Javier Bardem, who became the first Spanish actor to be nominated for an Oscar in 2001 for his performance in “Before Night Falls,” also became the first Spaniard to snag one, winning Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal as “No Country’s” Anton Chigurh, the implacable killer with a curious hairdo.

“This is pretty amazing,” said a visibly thrilled Bardem, who thanked the Coens for putting “one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head.” Bardem reverted to Spanish to dedicate his award to his famous actress mother, Pilar Bardem, who was his date for the evening. “Mom, this is for you, for your grandparents, for your parents Rafael and Matilde, for the comedians of Spain who, like you, have brought dignity and pride to our profession. This is for Spain and for all of us.”

As expected, Daniel Day-Lewis won his second Best Actor Oscar (after winning for 1989’s “My Left Foot”) for his landmark performance as the driven oil prospector consumed by greed and ambition in “There Will Be Blood.”

“My deepest thanks to the members of the Academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town,” Day-Lewis said, adding that his Oscar “sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad, beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson.”

Although it had gone into Sunday night’s ceremonies tied with “No Country” for most nominations (eight overall), “There Will Be Blood” won only one other award, Best Cinematography for Robert Elswit.

First-time nominee Marion Cotillard trembled with excitement as she accepted the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of singer Edith Piaf in “La Vie enRose.” “Olivier, what you did to me, you rocked my life,” said the 32-year-old French actress, addressing director Olivier Dahan. “It is true there are some angels in this city,” she concluded, wrapping up the night’s most emotional acceptance speech.

British actress Tilda Swinton won Best Supporting Actress for her turn as a corporate litigator in “Michael Clayton.” “I have an American agent who is the spitting image of this,” Swinton said as she clutched her statuette. “Really, truly the same shaped head and, it has to be said, the buttocks. I’m giving this to him, because there’s no way I would be in America at all without him.”

Diablo Cody, 29, who worked briefly as a stripper before writing the script for “Juno,” completed her remarkable Cinderella journey by winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Cody, who dedicated her award to her fellow writers, added, “I want to thank my family for loving me exactly the way I was.”

The little-seen “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which used the case of an Afghani taxi driver to explore U.S. torture practices in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, upset its higher-profile rivals “Sicko” and “No End in Sight” to win Best Documentary. Director Alex Gibey dedicated the award to the cabbie and “my father, a Navy interrogator, who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law.”

“The Counterfeiters,” a drama based on the true story of a Nazi-operated counterfeiting ring, won Best Foreign-Language Film. “Falling Slowly,” from the musical “Once,” won Best Original Song, while the Pixar hit “Ratatouille” won Best Animated Feature.

The critically respected action thriller “The Bourne Ultimatum” snagged three Oscars, including Best Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, beating out the blockbuster “Transformers” in the latter two categories. “Atonement,” which had entered the telecast with seven nominations, only won one, Best Original Score.

Returning host Jon Stewart did everything possible to keep the telecast chugging at a brisk three hours and 18 minutes, beginning with an opening monologue peppered with political references. “Democrats have a historic race going,” Stewart said. “Normally, when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty.”

Stewart also used the just-concluded writer’s strike as a continuous source of humor. “Diablo Cody used to be an exotic dancer, and now she’s an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for `Juno.’ I hope you’re enjoying the pay cut.”

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