Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mike's Top 10 (and another 90) of 2007

Widely touted as the year of the 'threequel', 2007 was a very interesting year for film. Ostensibly, the critical and commercial troubles of the larger franchise films meant to carry the industry in 2007 might indicate viewer dissatisfaction with the commodification of the supposedly artistic medium of film. We at The Movie Show were not-so-secretly thrilled when reports came in of disappointing secondary market sales on Spider-Man 3. "Hurrah," we exclaimed to ourselves in The Movie Cave, our Movie Show headquarters. "Finally, the people have spoken! No longer will they throw their hard-earned money at this sort of swill!"

However, this year also saw the commercial success of films such as Rush Hour 3, which was the epitome of the formulaic cash-grabbing franchise film,

Ocean's Thirteen, which was also extremely formulaic, though much more enjoyable,

and Transformers, which was not a sequel and which was enjoyable in a bombastic, lick a nine volt battery and throw rocks at windows kind of way, but was also based on a preexisting property and which was also pathologically stupid.

Apparently, the lesson learned is that moviegoers WILL eventually get bored with
something they have seen before...but it may take some time. This paints an interesting picture for the many 'fourquels' headed our way in the not-too-distant future.

Speaking of ranking the many movies I saw this year, I couldn't help but notice the dearth of Five-Star films in 2007. Even my favorite film of the year is one to which I don't feel comfortable giving more than Four-and-a-Half stars. Conversely, there was a disproportionate number of Three-Star films. I suppose 2007 will go down in my book as a year of great cinematic distractions. Great ways to waste a few hours on a lazy Sunday. Ultimately however, 2007 had very few reasons one might have absolutely NEEDED to go to a movie.

Here are ten reasons one might have NEEDED to go see a movie, the ten films I enjoyed the most this year:

1. Juno - When The Movie Show first reported last year that director Jason Reitman's followup to 2005's Thank You for Smoking would be Juno, I remember remarking that it seemed bizarre and slightly masochistic for the filmmaker to follow a movie which humanized a tobacco lobbyist with a comedy about teen pregnancy. However, half an hour into the film I was fully aware that I was watching something special and as I finished the film I immediately knew that Juno would be my favorite of the year. Not because the film is amazing, although it is, but because every element of the film, the script, the direction, the performances, each element compliments every other element of the film and the end product is a movie which fires on every cylinder. It is also interesting that the only criticism negative reviews of the film ever bring up concerns how unrealistic it is for a young woman to be clever or intelligent.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Though supposedly plagued in postproduction with editing difficulties (Read: issues with executives being unsure how to sell the film to audiences), director Andrew Dominik has crafted a beautiful film exploring both the overwhelming desire for fame and the loneliness that fame creates. Anchored by two of the most spectacular performances this year, Brad Pitt's broken and hollow Jesse James, and Casey Affleck's callow Robert Ford, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford's nineteenth century take on the Sword of Damocles myth is required viewing for anyone in this society obsessed with stardom at any cost.

3. Michael Clayton - Sometimes you love a film immediately and other times you leave the theater feeling as though you have seen a decent film and you go about your business making dinner and paying bills and trimming your toenails and it wakes you up in the middle of the night and demands your attention. Michael Clayton woke me up in the middle of the night and forced me to recognize that I had not seen a decent film. I had seen a spectacular film. George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and first time feature director Tony Gilroy have created a film dealing with the price of a life spent privileging career concerns over personal and even moral concerns.

4. Superbad - I have long found it interesting how homoerotic the teen-sex comedy genre can be. These films so overtly concerned with heteronormativity always include scenes of young men standing around talking about the sexual activities they plan to engage in with various (absent) young women, but rather than engaging in these activites, the young men often spend the bulk of the film conversing with their friends in graphically erotic detail. That is, when they are not getting into naked shenanigans with these same friends. I had given up on the genre ever becoming self aware...until Superbad. All cultures have their own Rites of Passage and for American men the passage into adulthood is marked, more definitively than in any other way, by a young man's first sexual encounter. In a society which so completely rewards and encourages prolonged adolescence, it's no wonder that this passage into a world of adult responsibility is marked by reluctance and trepidation. Superbad concerns two boys both interested in and frightened by the next step of their development into men and the night they spend trying to hang onto their youth before taking that next step.

5. There Will Be Blood - Paul Thomas Anderson, absent from the director's chair since 2002's phenomenal yet commercially unsuccessful Punch-Drunk Love has returned with the story of one man's search for oil and wealth. Built around a staggering performance by Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood is moody and tense and problematic. But it is also quite beautiful. Check this one out by yourself. The theater will more than likely be empty, but know that it's only because no one else could handle such a complicated film.

6. The Darjeeling Limited - Wes Anderson could film a jar of mayonnaise and it would probably make my top twenty. The Darjeeling Limited marks a transitional period in Anderson's career and while I don't feel that he is at his best - I feel he has sacrificed some things that have traditionally worked quite well for him in favor of trying out some new things that have not worked quite as well - even his worst is phenomenal. The Darjeeling Limited is a little film packed full of spectacular studies of characters in spectacular settings on a spectacular quest and is well worth your time.

7. Fay Grim - This sequel to 1997's Henry Fool, a film about a poet savant garbage man and the faux intellectual who discovers his talent, completely reworks the melodrama slash dark comedy of its predecessor into a melodrama slash thriller slash satire melange of a film that was criminally underwatched. Director Hal Hartley is film's best kept secret and you owe it to yourself to check out his movies.

8. Death Proof - Neither spoof nor ripoff, Death Proof is Quentin Terantino's love letter to 70's car films. Though lopsided, crude, and incongruous, the film perfectly captures the spirit of the genre it alludes to and offers a welcome respite from the heaviness of contemporary film.

9. Lars and the Real Girl - Who knew a film about a delusional man and his sex doll girlfriend might so perfectly display the fear some emotionally distressed individuals might experience when confronted with their desire to form romantic relationships? Though superficially absurd, director Craig Gillespie confronts viewers with the ultimate exaggeration of the tendency many people have of forming relationships with unchallenging persons. Rent this one with your pal who only dates nineteen year old girls.

10. No Country for Old Men - The critical darling of 2007 should need no explanations. Though frustrating, vastly overrated, and challengingly unconventional, the film is still quite good. Perfect for anyone who complains nonstop about the decline of civilization and morals and how wonderful everything was long ago.

Having involved ourselves with The Movie Show for a number of years now, and coming into contact with movie critics and professionals, Joe and I have secretly marveled at the fact that very few people involved in film actually watch movies. Certainly the critics watch the movies they write about and Academy members watch the movies they vote for, however if everyone involved in rating films is only watching the movies everyone else is talking about, how accurate can their top tens and various awards be? That troubling question, along with our natural interest in films of all kinds, is why we at The Movie Show watch as many films as we do. Though of course we don't watch every film, we do watch most of the major releases and so when we do our year-end top ten lists you can be sure that they aren't just the ten best of the twenty or so films we managed to view. To prove my point, I have assembled another ninety films I saw this year to finish out a Top 100 of 2007. I would challenge any professional or amateur critic to do the same.

Top 100 of 2007
1. Juno
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
3. Michael Clayton
4. Superbad
5. There Will Be Blood
6. Darjeeling Limited
7. Fay Grim
8. Death Proof
9. Lars and the Real Girl
10. No Country for Old Men
11. 3:10 to Yuma
12. Live Free or Die Hard
13. The King of Kong
14. Atonement
15. Margot at the Wedding
16. Knocked Up
17. Zodiac
18. Gone Baby Gone
19. Eagle vs. Shark
20. Hairspray
21. Stardust
22. Bourne Ultimatum
23. The Lives of Others
24. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
25. Smokin’ Aces
26. The Lookout
27. Hot Fuzz
28. The Ex
29. Hot Rod
30. Wristcutters: A Love Story
31. Transformers
32. Planet Terror
33. 300
34. 28 Weeks Later
35. Black Snake Moan
36. In the Valley of Elah
37. Eastern Promises
38. Into the Wild
39. Talk to Me
40. Next
41. Once
42. Rescue Dawn
43. The Brave One
44. The Feast of Love
45. The Namesake
46. Ratatouille
47. Alpha Dog
48. Vacancy
49. Ocean’s Thirteen
50. Nancy Drew
51. The Ten
52. Shooter
53. I Am Legend
54. Waitress
55. Becoming Jane
56. 30 Days of Night
57. Things We Lost in the Fire
58. The Kingdom
59. Breach
60. Reservation Road
61. The Hoax
62. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
63. The Simpsons Movie
64. The Golden Compass
65. The Good German
66. Cashback
67. Bug
68. Perfume
69. Paris Je T’Aime
70. Reign Over Me
71. I Think I Love My Wife
72. Miss Potter
73. Reno 911! Miami
74. In the Land of Women
75. Year of the Dog
76. Disturbia
77. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
78. Hannibal Rising
79. TMNT
80. Blades of Glory
81. Fracture
82. Bridge to Terabithia
83. Evan Almighty
84. Sicko
85. Beowulf
86. Forgiving the Franklins
87. The Mist
88. Hostel Part II
89. The Last Mimzy
90. Ghost Rider
91. The Hitcher
92. The Nanny Diaries
93. 1408
94. The Number 23
95. Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer
96. The Curse of the Golden Flower
97. Spider-Man 3
98. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
99. Halloween
100. The Condemned

It gets pretty depressing near the end. Let the bickering begin!


Anonymous Jay said...

Well I suppose I should be happy that you liked my film better than 'Halloween', but alarmed that Nancy Drew was a better movie to you!

If you weren't so damned nice, I'd have to cop a major attitude!

From Jay Floyd, Creator of FORGIVING THE FRANKLINS

7:29 PM  
Anonymous val said...

yeah, i'd have to agree with jay... :) although i will always have a girl crush on nancy drew... jay, your movie was awesome. refreshing, exciting, and very well done. from hearing you on the movie show it is also impressive that you seem to have retained your niceness as well despite your rise to hollywood stardom!

what i have learned from your top 100, mike, besides the fact that your movie creds roll deep (way to go), is that henry fool has a sequel! i had no idea, and i loved that movie! so thanks. i will be watching fay grim in the near future, and although i can never hope to achieve movie viewing talent such as yours, i do feel inspired to see some more...

8:40 PM  
Blogger Joe Scott said...

Jay, considering all the other films on Mike's whopping list for 2007 cost exponentially greater sums of money than yours, I must say you didn't fare that badly. And yes, your movie was by far, way better than Rob Zombie's Halloween.

10:38 PM  

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