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The UnPopular Opinion: No Country for Old Men

Aug. 15, 2012by: Alejandro Stepenberg

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THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Regardless of the opinion I am about to put forth, I will ever be thankful to the Academy for having the balls to honor a film such as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. To do so showed an expansiveness of thinking and a sense of bravery displayed not nearly as often as we Schmoes might like, and while it hasn't since been the trend-setter we may have hoped for it nonetheless shows that something grim, brutal, and unforgiving can be just as powerful and affective for the Academy as the gooiest of Oscar Bait.

That being said, I don’t think that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN deserved the awards it received. I don’t think it’s all that special of a film, I don’t think that this was the right example of expectation-challenging cinema to honor, and I don’t think that the multitude of accolades it has received are all that indicative of those elements that actually makes this film noteworthy.

No Country for Old Men unpop pic 1

"I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, 'O.K., I'll be part of this world.'"

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a very stoic story. Emotion, action, expectation, character interaction – everything is underplayed, and the film’s energy is set to a constant simmer. The environment – this neo-mythic western expanse - is as much a character as any of the flesh and blood sort walking around, the themes and truths that the Coen Bros are attempting to tell in turn as bleached, barren, and unapologetic as the land itself. Which is all well and good, except for the fact that this same stoicism lasts for over two f***ing hours. Tone and the careful construction of atmosphere are of course essential to the telling of any tale. And few writer/directors can craft a specific atmosphere better than the Coens – they’re so good, in fact, that they’re actually too good. At least when it comes to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

Everything in this film is meticulously constructed, from Carter Burwell’s contribution to the sound design to Tommy Lee Jones’ meditations on life and violence to Anton Chigurh’s methodical pursuit of Llewellyn Moss to those shots that dwell on the mythic landscape. But this control tightens the film so much due to its constant presence over the course of two hours that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN loses momentum, loses energy, and jettisons any sort of potential human resonance in favor of cursory examination of the natures of men and evil as events mechanically rumble to their inevitable end. I do understand the need to take the time to establish this story’s mood and adequately serve these very particular characters, and you will never hear me say that the Coens do so anything less than fabulously. But as executed, I find it eventually does little more in this case than suck the soul from the story. 

Beyond that, it seems the Coens also make a very concerted effort to consistently subvert our expectations of a Western – which perhaps accounts for the consistent snail’s pace at the events of this film unfold. But perhaps that same pace can be accounted for with the idea that in the process of methodically deconstructing the Western, both as a series of archetypes and as a filmic language, the Coens ended up with a technically impressive film that is as no less of a husk than the leftovers from shucked corn.

 No Country for Old Men unpop pic 2

Bardem's Oscar, however, was extremely well deserved.  He and Ledger blew every other Best Supporting Actor winner of the 2000s out of the water.

Even the bouts of brutality that burst upon the screen every so often are empty of anything beyond their sheer harshness – yes, violence exists in the real world without reason. Yes, there are brutal people who hurt others and play with the value of life for the sake of their own pleasure. But I already knew that. I don’t need the Coens to tell me that, and so that revelation holds no wonder for me. As such, a great deal of what ostensibly adds to the power of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – lost people doing bad things to each other in very violent ways after bouts of nerve-jangling stillness – loses all effectiveness for me. I can’t care about the characters driving this story, and so what happens to them doesn’t matter to me. What happens to them doesn’t matter to me, and so this film all at once becomes unremarkable beyond the sheer amount of technical Coen craft on display.

Besides being a Western-subversion and piece of sterile but technically impressive storytelling , NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN also appears to be a movie with a message. Indeed, I can't fathom how something so carefully crafted on the surface wouldn’t also bear some sort of carefully crafted intention underneath. Only… due to the emptiness of the proceedings, any of the multiple possible meanings present in the film as is lose their luster and fail to ever really solidify into something approachable, debatable, or lingering. There’s a whole range of possible reasons as to why the Coens found this story compelling enough to adapt it for the screen – they just built everything so damn perfectly that I can’t for the life of me make any of them out due their being suffocated by that same brilliant technical perfection.

No Country for Old Men unpop pic 1

"Do you have any idea how crazy you are?"
"You mean the nature of this conversation?"
"I mean the nature of you."

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to ajstepenberg@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you wish, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

Extra Tidbit: The Coens were once asked why THE BIG LEBOWSKI was such a cult success. They said that they didnt understand it when they finish making a movie, they personally move on from it and it passes out of meaning or connection for them. Out of all their dramatic work this perspective seems starkly present in NO COUNTRY most of all, and I think the film suffers greatly for it.
Source: JoBlo.com

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+1
12:48AM on 08/15/2012

haha

for some reason the article is titled 'Rushmore' man lol, just a heads up
for some reason the article is titled 'Rushmore' man lol, just a heads up
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1:01AM on 08/15/2012
Unpopular Opinion or Stupid Opinion?....Joking. ;-)

Javier Bardem's performance was awesome though, right?
Unpopular Opinion or Stupid Opinion?....Joking. ;-)

Javier Bardem's performance was awesome though, right?
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1:07AM on 08/15/2012
I agree with a lot of your points, and you articulated them well. I had no resonance with it as well and was impressed with the film on a technical level.
I agree with a lot of your points, and you articulated them well. I had no resonance with it as well and was impressed with the film on a technical level.
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+2
1:20AM on 08/15/2012
I remember being in the movie theater when the end credits started to roll and I leaned over to my friend and asked "That's it?!?" The way critics were slobbering all over this movie you'd think it was the best film ever made, when I found it to be really no different than a direct-to-video movie circa mid 1990's. I've had no desire to revisit it ever since, and I consider it to be one of the Cohen's worst movies. I know I'm going to get plenty of thumbs down for my opinion, but I can't change
I remember being in the movie theater when the end credits started to roll and I leaned over to my friend and asked "That's it?!?" The way critics were slobbering all over this movie you'd think it was the best film ever made, when I found it to be really no different than a direct-to-video movie circa mid 1990's. I've had no desire to revisit it ever since, and I consider it to be one of the Cohen's worst movies. I know I'm going to get plenty of thumbs down for my opinion, but I can't change the fact that I found the movie rather boring, predictable, and formulaic. Something I've never seen the Cohen's do before.
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5:53AM on 08/15/2012
No big deal, but there isn't an H in their name. Pet peeve.
No big deal, but there isn't an H in their name. Pet peeve.
+3
5:31AM on 08/15/2012
It's a very intense slow burning movie with a great classic quiet villain, but I still stand that There Will Be Blood should have won Best picture.

Though I believe this year will be Paul Anderson's year to take for The Master
It's a very intense slow burning movie with a great classic quiet villain, but I still stand that There Will Be Blood should have won Best picture.

Though I believe this year will be Paul Anderson's year to take for The Master
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+14
5:52AM on 08/15/2012
Perhaps the most nihilistic movie ever made, which I can definitely see turning people off.
However, I love it for that very reason. Not every movie needs to have soul, baby.
Perhaps the most nihilistic movie ever made, which I can definitely see turning people off.
However, I love it for that very reason. Not every movie needs to have soul, baby.
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6:42AM on 08/15/2012
Brilliant film in every aspect from start to finish.
Brilliant film in every aspect from start to finish.
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8:26AM on 08/15/2012

Very Well Argued

I felt engaged in Jones' old sheriff attempting so hard to do right but failing, however, if you weren't, I can easily see how you'd have these problems with the film.
I felt engaged in Jones' old sheriff attempting so hard to do right but failing, however, if you weren't, I can easily see how you'd have these problems with the film.
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8:40AM on 08/15/2012
It's dark and not a lot of fun. I don't really enjoy the experience of watching it, if you know what I mean, but I do love the movie. Not my favorite Coen Brothers movie, but it's really good.
It's dark and not a lot of fun. I don't really enjoy the experience of watching it, if you know what I mean, but I do love the movie. Not my favorite Coen Brothers movie, but it's really good.
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9:07AM on 08/15/2012

I'm kind of a big fan of this film.....

The reason being is because it breathes the same atmosphere as the book by Cormack McCarthy. I know we're talkin film here but hear me out. What the Coen's did was a very successful adaptation of a book on screen. The long constant drawn out macabre I felt was a very distinct good quality of the film. You have to feel that nothing good will come of this and just watch in grim expectation. All of these were qualities the book had and I felt the film did an equally good job making a stand-alone,
The reason being is because it breathes the same atmosphere as the book by Cormack McCarthy. I know we're talkin film here but hear me out. What the Coen's did was a very successful adaptation of a book on screen. The long constant drawn out macabre I felt was a very distinct good quality of the film. You have to feel that nothing good will come of this and just watch in grim expectation. All of these were qualities the book had and I felt the film did an equally good job making a stand-alone, self-preserved perspective of the same story. Also I think you're wrong about Anton Chigur hurting people out of pleasure. I think he gets no pleasure out of it. He has a strange set of morals and sees himself as death incarnate. He's the chaos necessary in the system and it doesn't matter who he is. Therefore he sees himself as more than human and void of emotion or pleasure or feeling. He is just batshit insane.
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10:35AM on 08/15/2012

That's a Shame

This film actually is one deserving of every award it took home. Javier was put on the map and is now up there w/ Hopkins/ Lecter and Ledgers' Joker as best villains ever. While your argument was as tiresome and stale as your description of this film - you must consider the source material. Cormac wrote this story exactly as the Coens presented it. Marvelous movie - a true modern-day Western.
This film actually is one deserving of every award it took home. Javier was put on the map and is now up there w/ Hopkins/ Lecter and Ledgers' Joker as best villains ever. While your argument was as tiresome and stale as your description of this film - you must consider the source material. Cormac wrote this story exactly as the Coens presented it. Marvelous movie - a true modern-day Western.
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12:44PM on 08/15/2012
I will agree with you on one point. That is the message. While I don't have a problem with the film as-is, the book painted a clearer picture of what the story was about, while audiences complained about the anticlimactic final scene. Having said that, this film seemed to, mostly, live up to, or maybe even eclipse McCarthy's book, save for in the motivation department.
I'm a fan of movies like this. Films that seem to exist in that violent fringe realm that Sam Peckinpah knew so well. In
I will agree with you on one point. That is the message. While I don't have a problem with the film as-is, the book painted a clearer picture of what the story was about, while audiences complained about the anticlimactic final scene. Having said that, this film seemed to, mostly, live up to, or maybe even eclipse McCarthy's book, save for in the motivation department.
I'm a fan of movies like this. Films that seem to exist in that violent fringe realm that Sam Peckinpah knew so well. In truth there is almost nothing here that makes me even think it's a Coen movie. While it took some awards I would have distributed elsewhere, I don't begrudge it much at all. 2007 was a great year for movies overall though, at least the fall was.
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4:12PM on 08/15/2012
I'll give the fans of this forum credit, because clearly a smarter bunch than I. I have not been able to succesfully get through a Cormac McCarthy novel, and felt that this movie was a little too cerebral for my tastes, with that said still a stunning piece of filmmaking, just not one you watch at face value for pure entertainment value.
I'll give the fans of this forum credit, because clearly a smarter bunch than I. I have not been able to succesfully get through a Cormac McCarthy novel, and felt that this movie was a little too cerebral for my tastes, with that said still a stunning piece of filmmaking, just not one you watch at face value for pure entertainment value.
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+1
5:05PM on 08/15/2012
I loved this movie EXCEPT I hated the last 15 minutes. Utter and complete letdown after everything fun that had been building up to that point. WTH were they thinking? Yes, just before the finale let's kill the main character off-screen then shit all over ourselves with pointless scenes (car accident, Jones visiting his dad, etc). If it were up to me I definitely would not have rewarded the Coens' with any Oscars for that. Great movie up until that point however.
I loved this movie EXCEPT I hated the last 15 minutes. Utter and complete letdown after everything fun that had been building up to that point. WTH were they thinking? Yes, just before the finale let's kill the main character off-screen then shit all over ourselves with pointless scenes (car accident, Jones visiting his dad, etc). If it were up to me I definitely would not have rewarded the Coens' with any Oscars for that. Great movie up until that point however.
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1:49AM on 08/16/2012
Have you read the book? Not being an ass but research...the SAME THING happened in the book. When you turn the page in the book you will go "WHAT THE FUCK HUH??? IM CONFUSED". He was killed in the book without knowing. It was just like in the movie but in the book it adds a lot about the girl he meets (that gets killed with him). The Coens didn't mess that part up. Dude died in the movie like he did in the book.
Have you read the book? Not being an ass but research...the SAME THING happened in the book. When you turn the page in the book you will go "WHAT THE FUCK HUH??? IM CONFUSED". He was killed in the book without knowing. It was just like in the movie but in the book it adds a lot about the girl he meets (that gets killed with him). The Coens didn't mess that part up. Dude died in the movie like he did in the book.
5:22PM on 08/15/2012
I agree...while the movie was a pleasure to look at and the acting (especially Bardem) was tops, and it did deserve the accolades it received, I honestly was just bored by it. I was intrigued in the beginning then just lulled to sleep about midway through. After watching it a second time, I enjoyed it a little more, but still felt that it kinda plodded along. All and all, I think "True Grit" was a much better Cohen Bros. film. Personally, of course.
I agree...while the movie was a pleasure to look at and the acting (especially Bardem) was tops, and it did deserve the accolades it received, I honestly was just bored by it. I was intrigued in the beginning then just lulled to sleep about midway through. After watching it a second time, I enjoyed it a little more, but still felt that it kinda plodded along. All and all, I think "True Grit" was a much better Cohen Bros. film. Personally, of course.
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6:49PM on 08/15/2012
The only other film nominated that year that deserved to win as much as or more than No Country was There Will Be Blood, would have rather seen that one win, but not too disappointed.
The only other film nominated that year that deserved to win as much as or more than No Country was There Will Be Blood, would have rather seen that one win, but not too disappointed.
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1:47AM on 08/16/2012
I agree. I do like There Will Be Blood but I think No Country deserved it more. Both movies are amazing and like you stated I would not have minded Blood winning. This is a weird Unpopular Opinion.
I agree. I do like There Will Be Blood but I think No Country deserved it more. Both movies are amazing and like you stated I would not have minded Blood winning. This is a weird Unpopular Opinion.
6:50PM on 08/15/2012
The only problem I have with the article is you stating that Ledger and Bardem blew everyone out of the water when it comes to best supporting actor. They were great, but there were many other great actors worthy of the Oscar as well: Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Christian Bale (The Fighter). All great performances.
The only problem I have with the article is you stating that Ledger and Bardem blew everyone out of the water when it comes to best supporting actor. They were great, but there were many other great actors worthy of the Oscar as well: Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Christian Bale (The Fighter). All great performances.
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7:15PM on 08/15/2012
Don't see how this is an UNpopular Opinion as it just seems like the person who wrote it is the one person who did not like the film. I don't really know anyone who has said anything bad about this film. Most of the Coen Brothers films have a different mood & tone other films don't, they don't use much music or even a score. I loved the slow pace of this film & found Bardem's performance very haunting & memorable which is why he won the oscar.

Don't see how this is an UNpopular Opinion as it just seems like the person who wrote it is the one person who did not like the film. I don't really know anyone who has said anything bad about this film. Most of the Coen Brothers films have a different mood & tone other films don't, they don't use much music or even a score. I loved the slow pace of this film & found Bardem's performance very haunting & memorable which is why he won the oscar.

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10:10PM on 08/15/2012
Your are not qualified to write here because you are just wrong, their scores are not only present, they are amazing, go and watch their movies, Fargo and Miller's Crossing have two of the best scores ever.
Your are not qualified to write here because you are just wrong, their scores are not only present, they are amazing, go and watch their movies, Fargo and Miller's Crossing have two of the best scores ever.
7:28PM on 08/15/2012

Haters

You're entitled to your opinion. Everyone should see this movie because it is one of the greatest pieces of film making we've seen in the last 10 years or more. It makes people think, it has phenomenal acting, and the "letdown" of an ending is not really a letdown...it helps frame the point of the film. I've always thought the ending was pretty easy to understand. It's spectacularly told. I really wish there was at least one film a year that actually inspires as much conversation as this film.
You're entitled to your opinion. Everyone should see this movie because it is one of the greatest pieces of film making we've seen in the last 10 years or more. It makes people think, it has phenomenal acting, and the "letdown" of an ending is not really a letdown...it helps frame the point of the film. I've always thought the ending was pretty easy to understand. It's spectacularly told. I really wish there was at least one film a year that actually inspires as much conversation as this film. Isn't that part of the point of story telling? If you can't understand what the main character is feeling in this film (hint, it's the sheriff) then the film won't have much meaning for you. But then again I'm a little drunk right now.
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10:08PM on 08/15/2012

WOW, Finally Alejandro's On Point

About five minutes ago I commented on another Article written by Alejandro, where I blamed him for ruining this column, I take it back, you have redeemed yourself with this one, you are 100% correct. My cousin, a producer on this film and a producer on There Will Be Blood during the same year, even said that this film didn't deserve the oscar and There Will Be Blood was just on another level in comparison. Now, that is just his opinion, but I must agree that when the Coen Brothers don't write
About five minutes ago I commented on another Article written by Alejandro, where I blamed him for ruining this column, I take it back, you have redeemed yourself with this one, you are 100% correct. My cousin, a producer on this film and a producer on There Will Be Blood during the same year, even said that this film didn't deserve the oscar and There Will Be Blood was just on another level in comparison. Now, that is just his opinion, but I must agree that when the Coen Brothers don't write their own scripts, there is something missing, there is this quality in films like Lebowski, Miller's Crossing, Fargo, that this film just didn't have. Another case in which this happened, where the film just wasn't as good because it wasn't their script was True Grit, it was good, but these gentlemen make not good films, they make FUCKING AWESOME movies, and when they don't write it, it seems they are missing a sense of familiarity with the characters. No Country was good, but it was missing that magic that makes their movies sort of Archetypal. Ya know.
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10:16PM on 08/15/2012

I am not saying it wasn't good, just not as good as their other films...

People, Alejandro is right, this film doesn't hold a candle to their other films, it is very good, Bardem is amazing, the opening monologue is breathtaking, but the Coen brothers shit amazing, and for all those who are just jumping on the Coen brother bandwagon should go back and watch their earlier films, Miller's Crossing, Fargo and Big Lebowski kill No Country, I mean those films are like fuckin Shakespeare quality. No Country is just a good film, not as amazing as the Coen's can be.
People, Alejandro is right, this film doesn't hold a candle to their other films, it is very good, Bardem is amazing, the opening monologue is breathtaking, but the Coen brothers shit amazing, and for all those who are just jumping on the Coen brother bandwagon should go back and watch their earlier films, Miller's Crossing, Fargo and Big Lebowski kill No Country, I mean those films are like fuckin Shakespeare quality. No Country is just a good film, not as amazing as the Coen's can be.
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10:16PM on 08/15/2012

I am not saying it wasn't good, just not as good as their other films...

People, Alejandro is right, this film doesn't hold a candle to their other films, it is very good, Bardem is amazing, the opening monologue is breathtaking, but the Coen brothers shit amazing, and for all those who are just jumping on the Coen brother bandwagon should go back and watch their earlier films, Miller's Crossing, Fargo and Big Lebowski kill No Country, I mean those films are like fuckin Shakespeare quality. No Country is just a good film, not as amazing as the Coen's can be.
People, Alejandro is right, this film doesn't hold a candle to their other films, it is very good, Bardem is amazing, the opening monologue is breathtaking, but the Coen brothers shit amazing, and for all those who are just jumping on the Coen brother bandwagon should go back and watch their earlier films, Miller's Crossing, Fargo and Big Lebowski kill No Country, I mean those films are like fuckin Shakespeare quality. No Country is just a good film, not as amazing as the Coen's can be.
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7:20PM on 08/16/2012
It's a matter of opinion.
It's a matter of opinion.
1:44AM on 08/16/2012

It deserved the award.......

I read the book. Even though the movie did change a few things it did deserve BEST PICTURE. The book was great in its own right and the movie does too. Great fucking movie.
I read the book. Even though the movie did change a few things it did deserve BEST PICTURE. The book was great in its own right and the movie does too. Great fucking movie.
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4:18AM on 08/16/2012
Oh look, another "it had like NO ACTION and wuz boring dont think it deserved da awardz yo" dipshit.
You're right, you opinion IS UNPOPULAR.
Oh look, another "it had like NO ACTION and wuz boring dont think it deserved da awardz yo" dipshit.
You're right, you opinion IS UNPOPULAR.
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11:26AM on 08/16/2012
This is one of those films where i just didnt get why everyone was so high on it. I wanted to like it, and i did...but its like, "ok." Then it wins best picture? meh...i dunno. just didnt really care about any of the characters enough.
This is one of those films where i just didnt get why everyone was so high on it. I wanted to like it, and i did...but its like, "ok." Then it wins best picture? meh...i dunno. just didnt really care about any of the characters enough.
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7:23PM on 08/16/2012
I stop listening to people's opinions on movies, books, etc...a long time ago, because if I didn't, I probably would have missed out on a lot of stories, I found to be of excellent quality and that I truly enjoyed. Limiting "Oscar worthy" movies to one type of genre is boring and silly. I'm also glad a movie such as No Country For Old Men won best picture, besides the same old same old. Mix it up. That's what I think and how I feel about it anyway...
I stop listening to people's opinions on movies, books, etc...a long time ago, because if I didn't, I probably would have missed out on a lot of stories, I found to be of excellent quality and that I truly enjoyed. Limiting "Oscar worthy" movies to one type of genre is boring and silly. I'm also glad a movie such as No Country For Old Men won best picture, besides the same old same old. Mix it up. That's what I think and how I feel about it anyway...
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3:09AM on 06/03/2014
I really don't see how this movie is any different that the usual Oscar Fair.
I really don't see how this movie is any different that the usual Oscar Fair.
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