Much Ado About A Mediocre Movie

Apparently, there is a gigantic shitstorm of social criticism about Juno — there is backlash against the movie and counter-backlash against the backlash. I thought it started out as a humorously funny movie which got far too weepy for my taste at the end. I didn’t think it was anything particularly remarkable aside from stepping into the normally-distasteful ground of teen pregnancy with some level of grace and acceptance.

I didn’t think the movie was remarkable enough to review here in this blog. I figured some very morally uptight people would get upset because the movie “glamorized” teen pregnancy when in fact it did nothing of the sort — indeed, it looked like a generally unpleasant experience for the protagonist. But aside from that, the movie left my consciousness as quickly as a poorly-told joke.

Apparently, I was living in a cave.

Who in the hell nominated Juno for Best Picture anyway? Who thought that this movie belongs in the same pantheon as The Lord of the Rings, Schindler’s List, Amadeus, Gandhi, The Godfather, and Casablanca? Juno doesn’t hold a candle these movies. Juno, on the other hand, would have been an unusually good made-for-TV movie, and about average for a made-for-HBO movie. It’s not that Juno was particularly awful, it’s just that it wasn’t that great.

Nominating Juno for Best Picture is like saying the greatest rock bands ever were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, and Steeley Dan. “Hey, Nineteen” is a nice enough song but it isn’t exactly “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Nominating Juno for Best Picture is like saying America’s greatest leaders were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and George H.W. Bush the Elder. In retrospect, Bush the Elder doesn’t seem like he was so bad (especially compared to his son), but he was kind of a weenie and really just not all that remarkable one way or the other. Even his fans wouldn’t suggest carving his face into Mount Rushmore.

The 2005 Seattle Seahawks do not deserve to be mentioned in a list of “greatest NFL teams of all time.” They were okay; they at least made it to the Super Bowl, which is more than 30 other teams that year could say, but it would be a really tough sell to say they’re among the greatest of all time.

Pistachio does not make that many peoples’ “top five” lists for favorite flavors of ice cream. I doubt that butterscotch does, either.

The most interesting cities to visit in Europe may include London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Prague, and a few others. But for most people, that list probably doesn’t include Copenhagen. Not that there’s anything particularly unpleasant about Copenhagen, and I’m sure if you’re a tourist there you’ll find some interesting things to see and do. But Copenhagen isn’t the sort of destination that leaps to the American mind when her friend says “I’m taking a trip to Europe.” That’s Juno — the Copenhagen of movies released in 2007.

Juno is a Ford Taurus of a movie — it was okay, it got the job done, but nothing to get all that excited about one way or the other. It raised few social issues worthy of commentary; there were no particular insights into the human condition that it offered; it did nothing particularly new from an artistic sense. On the scale of movie greatness, with the best being “A movie that will forever change filmmaking” to the worst being Manos, The Hands of Fate, this was a pretty ordinary movie.

So what are the other movies nominated? Atonement. No Country For Old Men. Michael Clayton. There Will Be Blood. I haven’t seen any of these.

But it looks like this year’s set of nominees is unusually weak so maybe the real reason Juno was nominated is it really was one of the five best movies of the year — not because it was so good but because everything else wasn’t even mediocre. Was it that bad a year in Hollywood that this was up there with the cream of the crop?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Whos better?1955Actor:ERNEST BORGNINE in “Marty”, James Cagney in “Love Me or Leave Me” James Dean in “East of Eden”, Frank Sinatra in “The Man With the Golden Arm”Spencer Tracy in “Bad Day at Black Rock”

  2. I don’t know. Of those movies, I’ve only seen East of Eden.

  3. I think a big part of the press orgy was that a young, cutely-punk-but-non-threatening woman was prominently associated with it.Also, middle-aged people (the press, movie critics) often assume that anything supposedly for hip young people is good. They don’t want to look like old fogies, so they praise it when in doubt.

  4. I liked the movie well enough but agree that it was not something that will exactly stamp a fiery brand on my brain. In six months I’ll have forgotten I saw it. (Just in time to buy the DVD and think, wait a minute, this looks familiar . . .) I admired it as a writer because I’m always impressed by writers who can take very little and make it last. I burn a lot of plot myself. I’m never accused of having too little story.On the other hand, I note how much of the movie was carried by its quirky sound track. And I think they could have dialed down the overly precious dialog by 20%. Still, 90 minutes and no one even gets blown up. Girl gets pregnant, decides to have baby. And the bay’s not even the spawn of Satan.

  5. Looking over what I wrote before, I realize I need to show greater deference to professional writers when it comes to writing, and yes, Spungen, that includes the debatably lovely and talented Ms. Diablo. My cringeworthy prose:I thought it started out as a humorously funny movie…I wis that I’d written “humorously ironic” but then lost track of my thought halway through typing the sentence. That’s why the pros use editors, I suppose; blogs are generally unedited. I’m also guilty of being precious in my analysis of the movie’s ordinariness, but under the circumstances of critiquing a movie filled with precious dialogue, that might hopefully be excused.

  6. How about deliciously funny? Then you can go back and say I wish I wrote humorously funny. I like articles about movie; write more.

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