It’s been quite a ride for Juno and its merry cast of characters. Since debuting at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2007, this $6.5 million dollar indie has risen to the top of the entertainment world’s consciousness faster than any other film to be put to celluloid in the past, let’s say, decade. It has taken its young star Ellen Page, the whip-smart embodiment of the film’s cavalier attitude and propelled her to a level of stardom that she neither expected, nor enjoys. It’s success has put its stripper-turned-screenwriter scribe Diablo Cody into one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities and it has helped director Jason Reitman become known for something other than being Ivan Reitman’s son.
Earlier this month, Juno brought home four Academy Award nominations (best picture, best actress, best director and best original screenplay) to go alongside its stockpile of nominations and wins (30 awards won, 19 other nominations according to IMDB). As well, it has also blown right past the $100 million dollar mark at the box office, placing it head and shoulders (all 5’1″ of Ellen Page to be exact) above the other best picture nominees, with No Country for Old Men‘s $55 million dollar take being next in line. It has also garnered a critical consensus; many critics, including Roger Ebert and Andrew Sarris have called it the best film of the year. In fact, one other critic was quoted on Fox Searchlight’s website, calling Juno “the best film of the year by a mile.” I don’t know who guy was, but I know where you can find his full review.
But despite all of the critical and commercial success that it has enjoyed over the past six months, Juno still feels like the outcast of the Oscar race, the red-headed stepchild of the Academy’s otherwise traditional set of nominees. With heavy hitters like No Country and There Will Be Blood in the mix for best picture, many have counted Juno as not only unworthy of the win, but unfit to stand on the same platform as it’s fellow nominees.
The backlash began with Vanity Fair Oscar blogger ST Van Airsdale, otherwise known as The Reeler. In a recent entry on VF’s Little Golden Men awards site, he unleashed his venom on Juno‘s worth as an Oscar contender:
[N]ot everyone wins come February 24, and, frankly, I don’t want to see Juno within a thousand feet of the Kodak Theater. I want her and her twee champions stopped at the metal detector…Juno could conceivably sneak to victory with less than a third of the Academy in its corner, thus completing its underdog lap around Hollywood and bulletproofing the myth of the Academy as a meritocratic institution. It would be politics as usual, and two years after Crash, we just can’t have that.
With a comment like “less than a third of the Academy”, Van Airsdale is referring to the tight race that has begun to unfold in the race for best picture. As Karina Longworth explains, “The hot new meme in Oscar prognostication: what if the two “serious” Best Picture frontrunners split the sane vote, thus clearing a path for Juno to take the year’s top prize with a mere fraction of the Academy’s total support?”
Van Airsdale and Longworth are just a small sampling of Hollywood bloggers and Oscar pundits that have been quick in turnaround, taking the stance that Juno could win, but that its win would be predicated more on a status of default than of genuine quality. They would have you believe that if Juno takes home a bunch of little golden guys in two weeks, that it had more to do with No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood than it did with the razor sharp comedy that seems to have slipped ahead in the hearts and minds of both fans and critics.
Yet, despite my yearning to reach out and punch someone over the backlash that has been bestowed upon my beloved Juno, I still wouldn’t have it any other way. No one wanted Crash to make it in 2005 and look what happened there. It is not every day that a film comes along that is so different from the Oscar-wrothy archetype. How dare the Academy recognize a film that doesn’t conform to its traditional standards. Juno has achieved its success not because of marketing (although the marketing was great) or because of some divine intervention, but rather it has earned its success by standing out in a sea of drab, uneventful cinema. In a year that can be characterized most accurately as the year comedy got smarter and drama got boring-er, Juno was the creme of the crop. It was the cheese to the macaroni of film fans everywhere. Ellen Page delivered a performance that was absolutely perfect, delivering Diablo Cody’s sharp dialog with the unassuming grace and skill that would normally be characterized by a much older, much more experienced actress.
So let them talk, those who would want to spoil this film’s great run toward a potentially stunning Oscar night upset. Let them attempt to demean the already impressive legacy of 2007′s biggest surprise. Those of us on the other side of the fence know better than to jump off the bandwagon so quickly, we understand that it is ok to just love a particular film and continue to cheer it on as its popularity grows. I don’t run out and talk to people about how Juno is the oddball nominee for best picture, no matter how true it may be. Personally, I am out there telling people to get to their local theaters and see it. And while they are at it, they should see the other best pic nominees as well. All of the films nominated this year were great, but only one of them was special. And if we open our eyes and our minds, we may just see that its the “special” one that could steal the show come Oscar night.
What do you think? Does ‘Juno’ deserve to stand next to ‘No Country’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’ on Oscar night?