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Awards Season Is Upon Us

The early film critics' awards continue to dribble out, and so far they are good news for No Country for Old Men and Amy Ryan, and bad news for Atonement and Cate Blanchett. The latter were anticipated frontrunners for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (for Blanchett's Dylan turn in I'm Not There), but have been blanked by the New York Film Critics Circle, the L.A. Critics, the National Board of Review, the Boston Critics, and The Washington, DC Critics. (Duluth and Poughkeepsie have yet to weigh in.)

All five critics groups gave Ryan the Best Supporting Actress nod for her brutal, brilliant turn as a negligent mom in Gone Baby Gone, and all but the L.A. critics (who went with There Will Be Blood) voted No Country the best picture. To my mind, this is all for the good, as No Country is a much better film than Atonement and Ryan's is a vastly more compelling performance than Blanchett's.

Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) and Javier Bardem (No Country) look like early favorites for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor (and appropriately so), and Best Actress looks like a two-woman race between Julie Christie (Away from Her) and Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose).

In other critical news, David Denby's review of There Will Be Blood is spot on in most respects, but anyone who describes P.T. Anderson's earlier Magnolia (a flawed gem, in my view) as "whimsical" is to be treated with suspicion. Also, his odd quasi-defense of There Will Be Blood's atrocious conclusion (truly frustrating, given the ambition of the film that's preceded it) seems be that Anderson is too audacious to make a masterpiece and not sabotage it in the closing scene. Too bad for him, and us.

--Christopher Orr