Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Great Movies 2007

There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men are like a one-two punch to the gut. American filmmakers haven't produced work this great in a long, long time. See both of these movies as soon as you can.

Folks who don't hack their DVD players and nab movies from Yes Asia had to wait a year to see Korea's The Host -- a flick that somehow manages to meld Spielbergian family dramady with Korean cinema's inate talent for the dreary. And, yeah, it's an awesome monster movie.

My most anticipated, hyped and flogged-to-death movie this year was Hot Fuzz. I wouldn't shut up about it. Because, no matter what flaws it bears, it's a movie made with genuine love for trash cinema and it was executed with serious chops.

Screener season has allowed me to catch up on some of the better small pictures out this year. Michael Clayton is a laid-back legal thriller that never panders. If Hollywood continues to crank out small, smart movies like this the world will be a better place.

Into the Wild has been divisive. I come down on the side that sees its worthiness. The flick is a two-hour suicide -- we watch Christopher McCandless opt and flame out in a spectacular, selfish way. But it's hard not to admire the kid for the sheer force of will it took for him to walk away from all the love he found his way down the drain. I've admired Emile Hirsch since his role as the troubled skateboarding pioneer Jay Adams in Lords of Dogtown. He's in touch with the broken part of the contemporary teenage soul.

Rescue Dawn and Bug slipped past most folks' radar. Rescue Dawn is easier to recommend, because the story of survival and escape is so universal. But Bug (the first really good movie from William Friedkin in ages) deserves a look because it got such a raw deal. The studio sold the picture as a horror flick, when it's really the claustrophobic (after five minutes you can tell it was based on a play) story of two addicts going insane in a hotel room.

The more Zodiac sits with me the more I admire the restraint David Fincher exercised in adapting Robert Graysmith's books about the killings. Okay, so the movie is around three hours long. But look back at all the cinematic tricks Fincher has been known to pull in flicks like Fight Club, Panic Room and Se7en. Zodiac is his most mature work and one that relies not on instant gratification, but prolonged engagement.

I'm a card carrying member of the Cult of Apatow. Movies like Knocked Up and Superbad take me back to the times when comedies were smart, dorky and lewd -- a healthy mix of the high and low brow. I can't wait for Apatow to make his Ghostbusters.

It saddens me that Ratatouille barely grossed more than Toy Story and A Bug's Life (it's number eight out of ten in Pixar's string of hits). It feels like the most personal movie the studio has made. I guess asking audiences to get down with a kids movie about making art is a lot.

My favorite flop this year was Grindhouse. I'm glad I caught the movie as a double feature with a rowdy (frequently confused) audience. It's obvious that America is not yet ready for cinema experiences this meta. But damn if they didn't laugh at the trailers, cringe at the gore and gasp ever time Zoe looked as if she was going to lose her grip in that final car chase. Why do so few movies give us this wide range of emotions any more?


Qhorin said...

Of this list, I've seen only Ratatouille, but I agree with your comments on it. I enjoy very few kid movies, but Ratatouille was very entertaining.

Mark Netter said...

Great list, Gus. Re: Ratatouille, more and more people are telling me how much they love and return to that movie. Sure to be a DVD hit of all time. Just saw it a second time myself -- at a "drive-in movie night" at my 8 year-old's elementary school two Friday nights ago.

Gus said...

It's a kids movie for grown ups. Kinda like The original Muppet Movie. I hope more folks discover it.

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