Best Picture Spotlight: Juno

The story of Juno begins with a man and a woman, oddly enough. It started with a stripper-turned-screenwriter (Diablo Cody) and a director (Jason Reitman). From there, a vision was born. It was a vision of a low-budget comedy with an incredible script and a cast that was bigger than anyone would be able to predict at the time. They lined up some still under-the-radar young actors (Ellen Page and Michael Cera) and threw them in with a few familiar faces (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) as well as some quirky actors who always seem to steal our attention (J.K. Simmons and Alison Janney). Mixed together with a quirky soundtrack, this vision manifested itself into a film that stole the show at the Toronto Film Festival in August of 2007. From there, it received a platform release in December and thanks to a whole bunch of buzz from critics, it went on to become Oscar’s little darling, the 4-time nominated little movie that could. But little is only to describe the film’s humble beginnings; it has grossed over $125 million dollars and is talked about daily all over the web. Everywhere you turn, you are going to find a little bit of this year’s cute Best Picture nominee, and it is certainly for good reason.

Juno tells the story of Juno MacGuff, a 16-year old girl (Page) who gets bored one day and has some sex with her lanky, awkward boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (Cera). Their union, their first foray into the world of sexual activity, leads to a very “unholy” pink plus sign, the precursor to a pregnancy. Juno is then forced to deal with her little mess, testing the waters of adoption in a somewhat humorous an very non-preachy way, but ultimately deciding to have the kid and give ’em up to a young child-less couple who may not be exactly what they seem. It’s a coming of age story that packs a punch, a tale of a strong, whip-smart girl who isn’t as strong as she thinks, and its ultimately a smart story that grew into a fantastic cinematic experience that doesn’t disappoint.

Aside from its 4 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Jason Reitman), Best Actress (Ellen Page) and Best Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody); Juno has racked up 33 award wins and 21 other nominations since it dropped at Toronto in August. It is currently ranked #138 on the Top 250 movies of all-time according to IMDB with an 8.3/10 rating (53,753 votes). Among the wins, Diablo Cody seems to be cleaning house just about everywhere she has been nominated; BAFTA, COFCA, Critic’s Choice, National Board of Review, Online Film Critics Society and the Writers Guild of America — She won them all. The film has also garnered a great amount of recognition for Ellen Page, who is easily the breakout sensation of the year. In a world where studios are reluctant to make films where the lead character is a strong female, Page has broken through with her own brand of strength — a strength that comes with being intelligent, unwavering and at times even vulnerable.

But heck, those are just awards. What did the critics have to say about Juno?

“”THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR. How can I choose this warm-hearted comedy about a pregnant teenager, when the year was rich with serious drama? I tried out other titles in the No. 1 position, but my heart told me I had to be honest: This was my true love, and I could not be unfaithful. It is so hard to make a great comedy at all, and harder still to make one that is intelligent, quick, charming, moving and yes, very, very funny. It begins with the pacing of a screwball comedy and it ends as a portrait of characters we have come to love. It is so very rare to sit with an audience that leans forward with delight and is in step with every turn and surprise of an uncommonly intelligent screenplay. It is so rare to hear laughter that is surprised, unexpected and delighted. So rare to hear it coming during moments of recognition, when characters reflect exactly what we’d be thinking, just a moment before we get around to thinking it. So rare to feel the audience joined into one warm, shared enjoyment. So rare to hear a movie applauded.” – Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN TIMES

Do you really need more than that? I think Rog pretty much sums it up. Ok, one more.

“JUNO is the best film of the year by a mile.” – Neil Miller, Film School Rejects

Not as cool as Ebert, but you get the point…

Why It Might Win
This is where being the most notable film of the Best Picture nominees could come in handy. Yes, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood are the traditional, odds-on favorites to win the award, but will Academy voters really be able to pick a clear winner? If they are unable to decide as a whole, then Juno could sneak in and take this one. It is the film that seems to be getting all the attention leading up to the final push for Oscar, both positive and negative. And as they say, all publicity is good publicity. For Juno, there is certainly hope.

Why It Might Not Win
As we pointed out earlier, Juno is not the Academy’s traditional cup of tea. Rarely have they rewarded a comedy, especially one with so much pop appeal. No Country and Blood would both be easy choices, choices that no one would really have a problem with. It could be the hype, it could be the type of film and it could be the fact that it has run into a few films that are simply more fit for the award, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the Academy made a pass on Juno, despite the fact that it is the most unique of all the nominees.

Final Summary
Juno may end up as Oscar’s little darling, the fun, light-hearted comedy that made it all the way to the final round of the biggest show, but it has only a little chance of taking home the gold. No one will be surprised if Juno doesn’t win Best Picture, as there are other great nominees. But if by some strange twist of fate she does walk away with all the marbles, expect the press core equivalent of a riot — and we all know how much those Hollywood-types like their drama.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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