It's a bit early to start my Oscar run ... most obviously, the nominations aren't out yet. But why not get a headstart? Entertainment Weekly already has its "25 to Watch" list, so I'll use that until the nominations are here.
In talking about Napoleon Dynamite, I noted that when something is different from the norm, some people will overvalue the result simply because it's not the same old thing. In a world where too many movies come from a cookie-cutter, it's probably inevitable that Charlie Kaufman would be lionized. There's nothing ordinary about his work (I've seen all but one of the movies based on his screenplays, and shoot, half of his teevee shows, too). If you spend your time complaining about the awful blandness of most movies today, you're almost obliged to herald Kaufman as a genius.
I'm almost one of those ... I give his movies a consistent 7-8 out of 10, which ain't 10 but ain't 5, either. As usual for Kaufman's movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is too clever and proud of it, engrossing and confusing in equal measures, and ultimately a success, if a flawed one.
At the core of the film is a love story, and that's kinda too bad, because all the cleverness subtracts from that core story. The story of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet is far from the greatest love story in film history, largely because it's not given a chance: while one assumes that Kaufman and director Michel Gondry intend the razzmatazz to serve the story, the end result is that the story gets lost in the razzmatazz. I think we're supposed to have our hearts tugged at the film's conclusion, but I never cared enough about the main characters, despite fine acting from Carrey and the always-great Winslet, because the film is too antsy to let simple emotions take hold.
I should add another problem I have, that is indeed my problem and not the movie's: I'm increasingly tired of films that play better on a second viewing. The great films reward multiple viewings because they have depth ... too often today, movies like Eternal Sunshine require a second viewing not out of some inherent depth but because they are too obscure and/or confusing to make their intentions clear the first time around. A great film is great the first time, and then you watch it again and learn more stuff and it's still great, and every time you watch it you get something new. These newer movies aren't great UNTIL you've watched them more than once, and while I imagine the filmmakers would claim complexity as the reason, I think more often than not it's just simple sloppiness.
None of which denies the pleasure to be had watching Kaufman's movies. I prefer Being John Malkovich and Adaptation., but that's hairsplitting.