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'No Country,' Coen Brothers

Steve Yeager, 58, is a professional filmmaker who won the Filmmakers Trophy for Best Documentary at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival for Divine Trash, his feature on Baltimore director John Waters.

Best Picture --No Country For Old Men.

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This tour-de-force is a faithful adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy's novel. ... Has there ever been a more fiendish assassin than Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh? ... Roger Deakins' cinematography beautifully conveys the isolation and barrenness of the Texas border town in 1980. And the coin-tossing scene with the service station owner is a masterpiece of sustained Hitchcockian suspense that will haunt moviegoers long after the film ends.

Best Director --Joel and Ethan Coen.

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I find it rather disconcerting when a picture wins best Oscar, and the award goes to a different director. How can that be? I can never mentally justify how the Academy voters can be so myopic. Surely they know the director's function.

No Country for Old Men has the look and feel, the use of silence, the constantly shifting editing rhythms and sense of black humor that we have come to expect since the Coens' groundbreaking debut with Blood Simple. It is surely among the best in a list of stellar films for them.

Best Actor --Daniel Day-Lewis.

This is a no-brainer. Day-Lewis' performance in There Will Be Blood is legendary. Lewis, who already won an Academy Award as Christy Brown in My Left Foot, seems to metamorphose every time he is on the screen. You never experience the same character from him.

As Daniel Plainview in Blood, Day-Lewis is barely recognizable. ... He is in nearly every scene as he ages from penniless gold miner to maniacal oil baron. This is not merely the best performance of the year, it ranks with Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, James Dean in East Of Eden and Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull.

Best Actress --Marion Cotillard.

In La Vie En Rose, the songs are Piaf's but the performance is Cotillard's. She lip-syncs the now-famous songs seamlessly. The beauty of her performance is in its private moments.

Piaf is discovered, quite literally, on the streets of Paris, by nightclub owner Louis Leplee (Gerard Depardieu), and she blossoms under his tutelage. The film cuts back and forth between the various periods of Piaf's sad life. This nonlinear intercutting is a bit off-putting at times and hard to follow, but it does not detract from Cotillard's brilliant and painful portrayal.

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Best Supporting Actor --Javier Bardem.

With his Prince Valiant haircut and lethal cattle prod weapon, Bardem is one the scariest, most amoral villains in recent cinema history. In No Country for Old Men, his mere presence on the screen sends chills of expectation down your spine.

This is one guy you do not even want to be on the same street with, let alone in the same movie. Bardem has created an indelible impression of evil incarnate. A stroke of genius.

Best Supporting Actress --Ruby Dee.

Call it one of those sentimental favorites the Academy is guilty of from time to time. My pick is Ruby Dee as Denzel Washington's mother in American Gangster. This is her first Academy nomination. She plays the sensitive yet firm family matriarch coping with the fallout when Washington moves the family from their South Carolina roots to a New Jersey gangster McMansion.

She is especially poignant as she comes to grips with the kind of violent world Washington is creating for those around him.


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