Oscars 2008: New country for old men

In a year of memorable momentum, with the 50th Grammy Awards and now with the 80th Academy Awards ceremonies this past Sunday, 2008 is proving to be a major year for the titans of American entertainment. Eight decades deep of awards and accreditation to the talented and newly tormented minds behind the world's greatest films, and the Academy Awards are as healthy as ever.

The Oscars this year had a little more payoff than mere "make-up sex" from the now-concluded TV writers' strike as this year's host, Jon Stewart, put it in his opening monologue. They represented a bold year of American and international identity in the form of film and a year of dark labors as the nominated works teetered between murderous manifestos and monetary gluttons. Despite the bone-scraping realism of wickedness between the nominated films, and a little light of hope from the rest, the Oscars themselves remained as classic and nostalgic as an 80-year-old bottle of wine, aged to a taste.

The top nominated films were No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, both boasting eight nominations each. Atonement and Michael Clayton both held an also impressive seven nods, while Ratatouille led the animated features with five. Sleeper-comedy Juno, the only mild-tempered piece in an otherwise gritty division of nominees, took home Best Original Screenplay, the only one of four nominations.

Many first-time awards were dealt out: Tilda Swinton surprised everyone when she won Best Supporting Actress for her work in Michael Clayton.

Swinton, who had never so much as watched the Oscars before, was a deer in headlights at the microphone. Javier Bardem won Best Supporting Actor for his rendition of evil in No Country, but this was as expected as the sun rising the following Monday. Marion Cotillard won Best Actress for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose; she was found speechless on stage and drawing on that sweet sincerity one can only expect to have if their dreams had just come to life. The devilishly stylized Daniel Day-Lewis represented Paul Thomas Anderson's entourage by snagging his second Best Actor award. Unfortunately for There Will Be Blood and the snarling genius behind it, the film only took home two Oscars; the other for Best Cinematography.

The big show of the bunch was No Country, taking home a total of four awards. It was a successful night for brothers Joel and Ethan Coen; their awards included Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director(s) and the coveted Best Picture. The Bourne Ultimatum took a sweetened three out of three Oscars for Sound and Film Editing, Ratatouille won Best Animated Feature, and Sweeney Todd won Best Art Direction. Even Atonement got a gold statue for Best Score.

In between each award were video montages, 80 years of past awards spliced sharply together into a collage of one hardened sentiment after another. The only downside to the Oscars was a few off-cue moments and a nomination for the worst film of the year, Norbit (That was a joke, right?). Nothing, however, is without a few imperfections. The Academy Awards have spread the love between all films worthy for 80 years, and this year was simply a bit better.