Monday, January 7, 2008

Almost There: The Honorable Mentions of 2007

Oh man was this ever a year for good movies. I’ll admit it started out slow but by August I felt like I had a fairly decent list with at least three or four films that would become part of my cannon for all time. As usual, time makes fools of us all. With so many great movies the list of the twenty four that just ALMOST made the cut (and for some it genuinely hurt to take them off the list) are still worthy of your attention. Any other year this would be a list I would be proud to call best of the year but with such an embarrassment of riches they’ll just have to settle for honorable mention.

3:10 to Yuma
I love you, you’re perfect: Two Oscar caliber performances in a decidedly genre picture with a very modern sensibility. It’s packed to the margins with all sorts of fun character actors (and Peter Fonda doing a John Wayne impression). Oooo and a horse explodes. It opened my eyes to Ben Foster’s considerable acting talent. I also got a nice curve-ball when the film radically changed the ending.
But: Changing the ending kind of ideologically changes the point of the story. Though I suppose it fits into these more maudlin times (sigh).

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
I love you, you’re perfect: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei circle each other like wolves as things go from bad to worse and then disintegrate into beyond worse. Sydney Lumet shows he’s still got it and screenwriter Kelly Masterson makes an incredibly impressive debut.
But: There is no joy in the film and almost unbearable bleak. There were some pretty “depressing” flicks tat made my top 20 but even if the characters weren’t having fun I always felt that the directors were.

Black Snake Moan
I love you, you're perfect: A not phoned-in performance from Samuel L. Jackson, some great music and the exploitation charm of seeing a chained to the radiator Christina Ricci. This is all to disguise the fact that it's actual just a very entertaining morality play.
But: Once the film makes its point it meanders a bit throwing obstacles just to pad out the runtime.

I love you, you’re perfect: Chris Cooper tears into a rare starring role which requires Ryan Philipe to step up his game significantly. Here is a wonderful adult thriller with some fantastically tense Hitchcock worthy suspense. Then there’s that ending.
But: It’s a very tiny film and while both leads are well played they’re not the sort that are especially fun to be around.

Bourne Ultimatum
I love you, you’re perfect: Paul Greengrass perfectly stages innovative, thrilling action sequences (the Waterloo station sequence comes to mind). The cast is smooth as silk.
But: This movie is lean and we don’t come away with a great deal of insight into the Bourne character and what we do learn is kind of inconsequential (oooo his name was David).

Eastern Promises
I love you, you’re perfect: Cronenberg continues his smooth transition from intelligent independent genre filmmaker to intelligent mainstream filmmaker collaborating again with Viggo Mortensen who gives one of the best performances of the year.
But: A lot of the points he made in this film were made more boldly in A History of Violence.

Gone Baby Gone
I love you, you’re perfect: Ben Affleck brilliantly captures the atmosphere of urban Boston with this gripping procedural with sterling performances from Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan and of course Amy Ryan. Hell even Morgan Freeman decides to actually do some serious leg work. It’s also rare for a movie to present the audience with a real moral dilemma and Affleck beautifully and devastatingly illuminates it for the films conclusion.
But: But nothing this was just a casualty of too many good movies.

I love you, you’re perfect: So much fun as a group of collaborators I have an undying love for decide to make the ultimate prestige genre double-feature of schlock. Ridiculous over the top gore, car chases and bad-ass characters galore. The trailers, the presentation, it was really a transporting experience.
But: It’s like the biggest tastiest candy bar you’ve ever had. It’s delicious but you’re going to hate yourself for all those calories in the morning. Also as fun as it is I’d rather these guys would devote their time to something a bit more filling.

Hostel Part II
I love you, you’re perfect: Eli Roth’s directorial voice becomes clearer as he finally creates some sympathetic protagonists, decent dialogue and actually expounds on the themes of American arrogance, gender politics, exploitation and rampant consumerism and avoids rehashing the first film. A glorious gory mess.
But: At the end of the day there were just better films. Plus they do something terrible to Roger Bart’s Young Frankensteins and I just can’t get behind that.

The Lookout
I love you, you’re perfect: Scott Frank’s tight thriller has a lovely lead performance from the increasingly reliable Joseph Gordon Levitt has a lot of fun twists and turns.
But: As thrilling as it, at times it feels awfully derivative.

Margot at the Wedding
I love you, you’re perfect: Brilliant naturalistic performances from Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black. Noah Baumabach’s newest film is sharply edited, well paced and offers a wonderful look at some truly acidic relationship dynamics.
But: Similar, though not identical, material showed up in The Savages.

Michael Clayton
I love you, you’re perfect: George Clooney turns in one of the great movie-star/actor performances of all-time (you usually get to be one, not both). He gets some pretty handy support from Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton. Poor Michael Clayton gets plunged deeper and deeper into a mess he doesn’t have a hope of getting out of and its just really gripping stuff. Hats off to Tony Gillroy on his directorial debut.
But: I feel the ending may reward certain characters more then is merited but otherwise this was on the top 20 for a while and just got edged out by too many movies.

A Mighty Heart
I love you, you’re perfect: A gripping procedural (even though the outcome is never in doubt). Michael Winterbottom’s work is pretty gripping stuff and Angelina Jolie performance is genuine and not for a moment exploitative.
But: The movie’s impact is diminished by the tremendous tragedy that surrounds and encompasses it.

The Mist
I love you, you’re perfect: A dark, thrilling, character piece that has all sorts of clever things to say about our culture where faith seems to be overcoming science and reason. At the same time Darabont shows us that faith is not without value. A wonderful mix of actors who react to all sorts of fabulous creatures (with a well thought out eco-system). Oh and that ending.
But: The mix of actors occasionally yields some less then worthy performance moments. The effects vary in quality greatly (no doubt because of the films rather hasty production schedule).

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
I love you, you’re perfect: A smart, literate children’s film that I would be happy to show my kids. Dealing with death and change, pretty heavy stuff as opposed to the usual “be yourself but no not really, and buy our merchandise” that gets drubbed into kids heads.
But: Dustin Hoffman’s accent is somewhat grating, largely dependent on your tolerance for whimsy.

No End in Sight
I love you, you’re perfect: An unbiased, direct account of the invasion of Iraq and the absolute clusterfuck that followed. Speaking in a calm, clear voice the film devastates the viewer and keeps them enthralled throughout.
But: Edged out because of too many good films.

Ocean’s 13
I love you, you’re perfect: Combining the populist fun of the first film and the stylistic savvy flourishes of the second film.
But: It’s pretty damn frothy and quickly forgettable. Also if you saw the second film, you could guess the big “twist” pretty early on in the film.

Shoot ‘Em Up
I love you, you’re perfect: The Crank of 2007.
But: Maybe you don’t like Crank?

I love you, you’re perfect: As usual Moore knows how to stir his viewer and he mostly keeps out of this one, letting his focus instead rest on the dire concern facing the country.
But: As usual Moore sacrifices some important details to the gods of entertainment. Cuba may have friendly health facilities but it also has a huge chunk of their population that can never go back.

The Simpsons Movie
I love you, you’re perfect: Everything you like about the best episodes of the show. Consistently funny and well-executed. Story felt big enough to merit a film.
But: There are stretches where you feel like you’re looking at filler, certain beloved characters get short-changed.

Spider-Man 3
I love you, you’re perfect: Has a good sense of fun (I ENJOYED the dance numbers so NEH!), incredible action sequences and has a keen understanding of its protagonist.
But: The one on the list that got closest to being a not-quite for some terrible acting moments, exposition-butler-guy (where the hell were YOU!?!?!) and waaaaay too much crying.

I love you, you’re perfect: The ninja turtles are back and they seem pretty bad-ass. Hooray!
But: I’m not eight anymore.

I love you, you’re perfect: Perfectly charming with a dynamic movie-star performance from Kerri Russell.
But: May be too cutesy and frothy for some.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
I love you, you’re perfect: A dedicated performance by John C. Riley, incredibly clever and tuneful songs and some fairly amusing wry observations music biopics. Gets better use out of the Beatles in five minutes then all of Across the Universe combined. Jenna Fischer in lingerie and super horny.
But: Never gets into the nice broad groove that its forebears Airplane and Blazing Saddles hit.


Wunder said...

i'm suprised that Lars and the Real Girl didn't make it on any lists.

The real girl, in your case, is Hellga

El Gigante said...

Yeah that would be because I did not see it. The what I missed list will be up along with the top 20.