Monday, February 18, 2008

The Best Movie of 2007

"In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person
who loves you for exactly what you are."
--Mac MacGuff

I've waited a long time announce my favorite film from last year. The best picture of 2007 is Jason Reitman's JUNO. I am very excited about JUNO because this is the first year in I don't know how long that my own personal favorite film of the year is even up for a Best Picture Oscar. Neither my Best Picture of 2006 or 2005 received the attention that JUNO has received. It almost got me thinking that something must be wrong. Nothing is wrong though.
I gave this so much thought because part of me felt that I should have named Sean Penn's profound film INTO THE WILD my favorite movie of the year. Indeed, Penn's film is the only movie that I would consider a close second; yet, despite it's brilliant direction and seriousness nature, the fact is that I don't love it the way I love JUNO. JUNO is a film that filled me with pure joy. JUNO is a film a could watch over and over. JUNO is a film I adore.

Let me get to the acting first. It's first rate. I cannot tell you strongly enough here just how badly I am pulling for Ellen Page to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Page nails the title role of Juno MacGuff with such honesty and truth. Everybody else is grand too. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman shine as a potential adoptive couple. Young Michael Cera is totally likable as Paulie Bleeker. The other supporting players are great too. However, for me, the absolute best are J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. Simmons plays Juno's father, Mac MacGuff and Janney plays Juno's step-mother, Bren MacGuff. They both act so well that they just seem real to me, totally real.
The wonderful J.K. Simmons & Allison Janney rushing
off to the hospital with Juno, played by Ellen Page.
Ultimately, I think the best quality of this film is it's realness and I think that element is best articulated through the MacGuff family. Yes, their exchanges with each other are dripping in sarcasm, but, at the same time there is no denying they love each other deeply. The scene in which Juno tells her dad and his wife that she is pregnant is one of the most well written truthful moments in film I've seen. I love the exchange after Juno leaves:

Mac: "Did you see that coming?"

Bren: "Yea, but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs."

Mac: "That was my first instinct too, or a DUI, anything but this!"

With dialogue like that, this movie doesn't sidestep the magnitude of the main plot point: teen pregnancy.

Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) in awe of Juno's gift.

I've heard some people raise concern over the film's subject matter or say they don't agree with it morally, but that's like saying I don't agree with murder and drugs so I'm not on board with AMERICAN GANGSTER as a film. Most moral critics always focus on sex and then have no issue with killing and violence. The fact is, in the real world there are teen pregnancies. JUNO is an extremely funny and touching film about a girl that knows she is not ready to raise a baby, yet she values life so much that she is willing to carry to term in order to bless somebody else. It's a story of how a family deals with real life in all it's imperfections. It's a story about love in the real world.

That's the success of JUNO, it's not a cookie-cutter fantasy land where love is easy. And I'm not just talking about romantic love. I'm talking about loving well, period. It's as much about parental love as it is about romantic love. It's as much about the love and acceptance of the outcast or stranger in your life as it is about familial love. In the end, it's love for her unborn child that guides JUNO in her decision of how to deal with the pregnancy.

The heart of Juno: Do you love people with stigmas well?

"Yea, if I could just have the thing and give it to you now,
I totally would. But, I'm guessing it looks probably like a
sea monkey right now and we should let it get a little cuter."
--Juno MacGuff
Despite the underlying important themes in this movie, the strength of JUNO is its ability to make you laugh. It's a comedy. It's a comedy that found me grinning with pure joy for 90 minutes. Which brings me to the real star of JUNO. It's the writing.
The real star of JUNO, writer Diablo Cody.
As much as I desire JUNO to win Best Picture and for Ellen Page to win Actress over all the more experienced ladies, as much as I would jump for joy if Jason Reitman picked up the Best Director win, the Academy Award that JUNO has got to win is for Best Original Screenplay. The real star of this film is writer Diablo Cody. The dialogue she gives these characters is a stoke of genius. The thing I love most about this film is the rat-a-tat exchanges between characters, the sarcasm, the humor, the wit, and, above all, the truth. I want nothing more than for Cody to accept the Oscar for this marvelous writing. JUNO is my favorite screenplay of 2007. JUNO is the greatest movie of last year. JUNO is the only 2007 release I'd like to own on DVD. It's a keeper.

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Blogger Jon Hall said...

Went and saw it on Friday night. What a great, great night at the movies. I haven't felt that good walking out of a movie in a long time. And it wasn't just about "feeling" good, but that I felt a restored hope in true, honest, entertaining and original storytelling through film.

I hope that this film encourages the production of more honest, *original* films that tell stories really, really well. Of course, there will be "Juno" ripoffs. But I hope that Juno will fuel the independent, non-institutionalized direction that film and music seem to be headed.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

And, I gotta say takes place in MINNESOTA!

4:11 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Also, you should check out this article in the current issue of TIME.,9171,1713487,00.html

Its all about who/what the Academy has picked in the past. Here is an excerpt:

Too often, though, the Academy has rewarded films at the high end of mediocrity, operating within a narrow band of reassuring realism. They're called "movies of quality," which really means movies of piety--stories of cozy spiritual uplift (Mrs. Miniver, Going My Way) or, more recently, of superior damaged creatures (Rain Man, A Beautiful Mind). And they're often chosen over edgier fare. Thus, in 1977 the softhearted Rocky beat four superior films (All the President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network and Taxi Driver), and in 1982 another inspirational sports movie, Chariots of Fire, won out over Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Oscar also ignores pictures deemed too weird (i.e., modern) or infra dig (i.e., genre films). In judging movie acting, the Academy is often slow to notice the arrival of talent ready to shake up or reshape a staid industry.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Sorry, got to say one more thing. This film touched me on a personal level. My Mom was JUNO when she was a teenager, although her experience wasn't as witty or funny. It was extremely painful. However, because of what she went through, I now have an older brother that I didn't know when I was growing up. I'm thankful for her decision. Needless to say, I was sobbing at the end of the film.

4:23 PM  
Blogger SoulBoogieAlex said...

I absolutely loved this movie, especially since it gave such a human face to the dilemmas surrounding teen pregnancies. A topic that seemingly cannot be discussed without all kind of horror stories getting into the mix.

Juno is the way comedies should be done. Close to life. Our little tragedies are funny enough without turning them into slapstick monstrosities.

3:00 AM  

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