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Core Samples

Jay Meehan, Record columnist

It was an awesome responsibility and one I took quite seriously. My recent self-appointed status as an "intuitive advisor" to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences came after years of sitting back and watching the wrong guys take home the Oscars.

This year I took it upon myself to right the ship and, for the most part, the vibe I dispatched to the voters seems to have been well received. And, although some may accuse me of abdicating my responsibility in a few categories, cultural-history wags will no doubt come to recognize the deductive brilliance that was involved.

If I erred, it was for not getting involved early enough to assure that Keira Knightly would stroll the red carpet in her green gown from the library scene in "Atonement." Admittedly, I can be sooo "bookish!"

And if that particular adornment wasn’t available, how about the "waterlogged" piece she sported upon emerging from the fountain during one of the "character development" sequences earlier in the film. This is high art we’re discussing here!

Whether or not she deserved a "Best Actress" nomination is a topic not actually within my still-undefined area of expertise, however. She certainly played a quite interesting part in a quite interesting flick and I was a bit surprised when it didn’t come her way. But, then again, I didn’t see all the films involved.

I did make the effort to attend screenings of a vast majority of what turned out to be this year’s "buzz films," however. And that is why I didn’t feel the least bit squeamish in taking it upon myself to attempt to affect the outcome by transmitting psychic messages in a westerly direction.

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Take the "Best Original Screenplay," for instance. Even if I hadn’t seen Ellen Page cavort ever-so-hiply, and pregnantly, in "Juno," I would have avidly endorsed the candidacy of Diablo Cody just for her nom de plume alone. But once I saw her tattoos and heard that she once "worked the pole’ for a living, well, art is as art does.

As far as "Best Adapted Screenplay," I might have overplayed my hand. In this rarefied air, however, recusing yourself for ignorance alone is not an option. Of the five nominated works, I had only read one of the novels from which the screenplays were adapted. So, unless you consider my psychic messaging to be unfairly powerful, it wasn’t my fault it won.

And that would have been Cormac McCarthy’s "No Country for Old Men," with the adapted screenplay provided by Joel and Ethan Coen. From "Blood Meridian" through his "Border Trilogy" and up to and including "The Road," McCarthy has flat out owned me.

Much the same could be said for the Coen Brothers and their screenwriting and filmmaking output through the years. How could you not love "Blood Simple," "Raising Arizona," "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski," and, my personal favorite due to its "old, weird America" musical sensibility, "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

The Coens also garnered Best Director for "No Country for Old Men," which, due to repetition alone, will be heretofore referred to as "NCFOM." There is something about films that utilize landscape as part of the dialogue that works for me. This is one. As is "There Will Be Blood," which Paul Thomas Anderson adapted from an Upton Sinclair novel.

The "Best Supporting Actor" category proved to be a runaway for Javier Bardem and his quite intriguing take on Anton Chigurh, the highly-focused villain from NCFOM. Although a performance for the ages, it wasn’t enough to sway me from Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s rogue CIA agent in "Charlie Wilson’s War. You win some, you lose some!

"Best Supporting Actress," at least to those of us yet to have seen "Michael Clayton," came almost as a shock. Not that Tilda Swinton wasn’t worthy, but Cate Blanchette as Bob Dylan in "I’m Not There" and Amy Ryan’s crackhead mom in "Gone Baby Gone" were clear favorites.

The "Best Actor" category carried absolutely no drama. If Daniel Day-Lewis had not won for his role as the demonically visionary wildcat oilman Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood," the audience, and the industry itself, would have erupted in a gusher of outrage. Again, not that the others were not brilliant in their own right. It’s just that Daniel Day-Lewis has once again raised the bar.

And now we come to "Best Actress" and the main reason I created the role of "super-duper delegate" for myself. I refused to allow Marion Cotillard’s tour-de-force channeling of French chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose" to go unrewarded. Not that Ellen Page, Laura Linney, Julie Christie, and Ms. Blanchett don’t belong on the top shelf.

I fasted (sort of, it was actually a spirit-rich liquid diet), I held my breath, I begged the Fates, and beseeched my muse. I played "The Very Best of Edith Piaf" CD over and over until every dog in the neighborhood knew it by heart. There’s something about singing along at the top of your lungs in a language you don’t speak that is quite gratifying. Suffice to say, we won!

"No Country for Old Men" took home the "Best Picture" Oscar. Nor real problem there although "Atonement," "Juno," and "There Will Be Blood" would have worked for the old super-duper delegate just as well. Word has it that he’s looking forward to catching "Michael Clayton" in the near future. Now if he could just locate Keira Knightley.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.

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