No Oscar For Old Tom
Of No Country, Jonathan Last writes:
Tommy Lee Jones deserves an Oscar for his performance. Or maybe a Grammy for "spoken word," because what he does in No Country he does almost entirely with his voice. That may not sound like much, but he's given terse, old-timey Texas words and he delivers them like poetry, only believably. It's kind of amazing. (In particular, Jones is saddled with the movie's opening voice-over narration. It's so hard to keep this device from looking like a device, and the script he's working off of here would sound really precious coming out of anyone else's mouth. He delivers it perfectly.
Give him a Grammy, but don't give him the Oscar. He'll get it, I'm sure: He's earning all kinds of Oscar buzz, and he'll probably get votes from people who want to reward him for In the Valley of Elah, too. But it'll be unfair - as such things always are - if he takes home a statue, given that his performance is only the third-best (or fourth of fifth-best, if you count some of the fantastic supporting roles) in his own movie, let alone in the year as a whole. Not that Jones' work isn't impressive; it is. But he took the character who was there on the printed page and brought him to life almost exactly the way I anticipated he would, whereas Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem both showed me something I didn't expect to see. And yes, monologues and voice-overs can be hard, but I think what Brolin, in particular, had to do - conjuring a character out of a few words and a lot of physical movement - was harder still, and therefore more impressive.