Monday, July 09, 2007

The Best of 2007.5

Greetings all…summer has been much busier (in a good way) than I expected, so I haven’t updated here as often as I’d like. But, and you may find this difficult to believe given my infrequent postings, but I’m determined to post reviews of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” sometime over the course of the coming week.

If you’re wondering, no , I haven’t seen “Harry Potter” yet, I’m going tomorrow night to the IMAX at midnight. So, yes, those three reviews are on the horizon. I’ve also recently read the script for Universal’s big Oscar hopeful “Charlie Wilson’s War,” directed by Mike Nichols, written by Aaron Sorkin, and starring Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julia Roberts, and I hope to post some sort of haphazard reaction to that in the coming days as well.

All this will be difficult given that I’m going to a handful of screenings, Patti Lupone in “Gypsy” tonight, another play on Thursday, conducting an interview (if all things come through as they should), as well as working three days this week, but I’m determined to make up for lost time on here.

In the meantime, I’ve realized we’ve just gotten past the half-year point of 2007, and thought I’d toss out my views on the best of what the year has had to offer so far movie-wise. Director/screenplay categories will be reserved for the end of the year, but for now, I give you a top 10, and the acting categories.

Top 10 of 2007.5

1. “Zodiac”

It’s been forgotten by most, but David Fincher’s brilliant, haunting masterpiece still lingers in my mind four months later. You can look back on my review in the archives to see the specifics, but it’s certainly the only ‘A+’ film of the year for me so far, and is about as close to perfect as filmmaking gets.

2. “Once”

This simple, beautiful Irish romance/musical probably doesn’t benefit from grandiose praise (like the universal 4-star reviews its been receiving)—it’s a small, unassuming film that could get overshadowed by hype—but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t deserve it. This is one of the best music films ever made as well as a remarkably sweet, bittersweet love story that has the tenacity to not go exactly where you assume it will. That the budget was only $150,000 is only further proof that you don’t need gobs of money to make a great movie, and in fact, it often has the opposite effect (*cough* “Evan Almighty” *cough*).

3. “Ratatouille”

While it might not be my far-and-away favorite, “Ratatouille” is at least on par with the best Pixar films so far, and cements Brad Bird as one of the best filmmakers working today, not simply one of the best animated filmmakers. Superb across-the-board voicework (Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garafalo, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, Ian Holm) as well as an exceedingly clever script make this one of the few must see movies so far this year. Guaranteed to have you leaving the theater significantly happier than you were two hours previous.

4. “Hot Fuzz”

Not just one of the funniest films of the 2007, but one that boasts probably the smartest screenplay of the year (by director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg), so packed with clever jokes that you discover even funnier jokes in spots you didn’t even realize there were jokes before on repeat viewings. My personal favorite: casting Edward Woodward (the original “Wicker Man”) as yet another man who dies in the fiery belly of an unconventional architectural structure.

5. “Black Snake Moan”

Marketed as a joke of a film about Sam Jackson chaining up horny Christina Ricci, Craig Brewer’s remarkably unique follow-up to “Hustle & Flow” was in fact an incredibly sincere, emotional film that, if it was actually seen by people, would have found a sizable appreciative audience. Featuring Jackson’s best performance in about a half-decade, “Black Snake” was one of the few films this year to actually move me and only makes me more excited for whatever Brewer does next.

6. “Sicko”

Despite his continuing to manipulate his audiences, include irritating faux-naïve narration, and turn off Republican audience members with Bush-bashing that feels out of place in a film meant to unite audiences on a non-political issue, Michael Moore has set his sights on his most pressing issue to date (universal healthcare) and in turn, made what may be the most important film of the year, and certainly his best film yet. Significantly more focused than “Fahrenheit 9/11” and significantly less infuriating/manipulative than “Bowling for Columbine,” “Sicko” mostly relies on first-hand accounts from people fucked over by the United States health care system and begs the question “why are we the only country in the western world that still considers health care a business rather than a service?” What’s amazing is that Moore manages to present it in a way that’s entertaining, devastating, and largely without the inconsistency and insincerity of his last few films. However, and this is coming from a hardcore liberal: at this point, including clips of Bush saying stupid things just seems childish and irrelevant in a film about healthcare.

7. “Reign Over Me”

Mike Binder has some issues as a filmmaker and perhaps is a bit too prone to manipulation, but for this most part, his latest work really got to me, and I was pretty blown away by Sandler’s performance here. A few friends of mine despise “Reign” and feel Binder’s use of 9/11 was insincere and borderline offensive, but I don’t see that. I think it’s an extremely touching manifestation of the way a lot of New Yorkers (and really anyone going through grief) feel. It’s not a perfect film but it hits much more than it misses and features strong performances all around.

8. “Knocked Up”

Though too long by about 20 minutes (and this is coming from someone who’s seen it five times), still hands down the funniest movie of the year so far, and just a continuation of Judd Apatow’s streak of greatness.

9. “Year of the Dog”

Mike White’s directorial debut probably wasn’t given a fair shake by most people, but it’s an incredibly interesting character study of a somewhat sweet, possibly unstable woman (Molly Shannon) who falls to pieces when her beloved dog dies. Equipped with a brilliant supporting cast (Peter Sarsagaard, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Laura Dern) and an extremely effective/bittersweet/ambiguous ending, it leaves you with plenty to think about.

10. “The Host”

This sweet, sad, scary, hilarious Anti-American horror/comedy import from South about a mysterious blood-thirsty creature was an indie I swore would break out, but instead subsequently died. Still, I think it will/can find a following on DVD and is absolutely worth seeking out.

My favorite performances of 2007.5


Chris Cooper, “Breach”
Richard Gere, “The Hoax”
Glen Hansard, “Once”
Samuel L. Jackson, “Black Snake Moan”
Adam Sandler, “Reign Over Me”


Julie Christie, “Away From Her”
Marion Cotillard, “La Vie En Rose”
Angelina Jolie, “A Mighty Heart”
Ashley Judd, “Bug"
Keri Russell, “Waitress”
Molly Shannon, “Year of the Dog”


Thomas Haden Church, “Spider-Man 3”
Jeff Daniels, “The Lookout”
Robert Downey, Jr., “Zodiac”
Peter O’Toole, “Ratatouille”
Mark Ruffalo, “Zodiac”
Kurt Russell, “Grindhouse”


Laura Dern, “Year of the Dog”
Leslie Mann, “Knocked Up”
Meg Ryan, “In the Land of Women”
Sharon Stone, “Alpha Dog”
Sigourney Weaver, “The TV Set”


Post a Comment

<< Home