Friday, January 08, 2010

Years in Review: 2007

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Ohs Decade with a year-by-year retrospective of the movies I watched and (sometimes) loved. All due apologies to Nick Davis and Nathaniel Rogers for co-opting portions of their own decade-end features. I crib with love!

[Previously: 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; 2006]

It's a wonder I remember anything that happened in a movie theater in 2007. The move to New York dominated so much of my year. I got to Brooklyn at the end of August, a full two-thirds of the way through the year. And yet, of the 94 movies I saw from 2007, I'd only seen 15 in Buffalo, Too much going on to find time for the movies. (The highlights? David Fincher's tense near-masterpiece Zodiac and the solidly funny Superbad, which I saw on my last night in town; the lowlight, as ever, was 300.) But once I moved and was able to sit down with the screen product of 2007, I got a GREAT batch of movies. I know I've been very thumbs-up/thumbs-down about the quality of these years, and I don't mean to be; there's nuance and varied quality every year. But definitely, some years have stood out, and I'd put 2007 up with 2001 and 2004 at the top of the heap.

It's almost never wise to go by the Academy Awards to judge a year's overall quality of films, but 2007 is a rare exception. I may not have been as huge a fan of There Will Be Blood as most (it's a fine movie that takes liberties that don't, for me, pay off, blah, blah, blah), but the fact that '07's Best Picture race came down to that and No Country for Old Men speaks uncommonly well of the Oscars. The three co-nominees were also strong. Michael Clayton took an impeccably told genre story and layered onto it a fascinating character study; Juno had its flaws but featured a stellar acting ensemble elevating an uneven script (though for all the hate Diablo Cody gets, the movie finds its footing sooner than you think and gets stronger as it goes along). Atonement earned a reputation as shallow Oscar-bait, which I vehemently disagree with. There's an intelligence and a bold streak of anti-sentimentality beneath the veneer.

I saw all five of those movies in my new home city, and ultimately, that's what movie year 2007 means to me. Seeing Once in a cramped little theater in Cobble Hill. No Country for Old Men and Enchanted in Times Square. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at BAM. Away from Her on a dark train ride back to Manhattan. Southland Tales in the East Village. The movies are dotted across the map of a city I was (am, really) just getting to know.

The Year in Tilda Swinton: It still feels like it couldn't have happened, even after it did. Weirdo Tilda Swinton won an Academy Award. And, yes, it was in a middlebrow movie that was always gunning for Oscar, but Swinton's performance as Karen Crowder was anything but typical bait. She took a difficult woman and made her even more difficult, weak and uncomfortable in her own skin. A nominatable performance, fine, but those don't WIN. They don't beat sweet old ladies finally getting their due, or women-playing-men, or eerily precocious little girls, or deglamorized critical darlings. And they certainly don't give speeches that reference George Clooney's rubber bat-nipples and the resemblance of Oscar's buttocks to those of her agent. What a wonderful dream that whole thing was.

The Year in Matt Damon: The third installments of Damon's two successful franchises could not have had more divergent results. Ocean's Thirteen came and went in such a nondescript fashion you'd be forgiven for thinking it was never there at all. On the flip side, The Bourne Ultimatum garnered the best reviews of that franchise so far and won three Oscars (even getting some Best Picture buzz -- if the field had expanded to 10 two years ago, it'd have been in).

Best Theater Experience: I saw Waitress for the second time at a charming little theater in Portland that was converted from an old school. My apologies to the education system in Oregon, but I like it so much better as a theater. But my favorite experience at the movies all year was laughing the entire way through Southland Tales. And laughing WITH it! Lord knows everybody else in that room was probably scratching their heads or checking their watches, but whatever, I remain dedicated to Richard Kelly's oddball ambition.

Click below for the best movies of 2007...

Best Picture:
1. No Country For Old Men
2. Once
3. Atonement
4. Zodiac
5. Away From Her
6. Michael Clayton
7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
8. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
9. The Darjeeling Limited
10. Into The Wild

I'll have plenty to say about my top two movies up there in the coming weeks when my Top Movies of the Decade feature commences, but I will say now that No Country becomes a richer, more rewarding experience every time I watch it, especially in terms of the Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly MacDonald performances. King of Kong is absolutely the most enjoyable movie on that list, and if you haven't seen it and I haven't already badgered you to do so, seriously: do it. I'm fierce and stubborn in my defense of Darjeeling, I realize; more of the same from Wes Anderson is seriously more than enough for me. It's a personal bias, and I'll own that. Finally, despite my near-certainty that Jesse James' long running time would doom the film for me, I found it just beautiful and full of great characterizations; the only problem is I haven't sat down to watch it again, due to ... the long running time. Ah well.

Best Director:
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country For Old Men
Andrew Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse James...
David Fincher - Zodiac
Sarah Polley - Away From Her
Joe Wright - Atonement

Best Actor:
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Daniel Day Lewis - There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy - Atonement
Gordon Pinsent - Away From Her

Best Actress:
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Amy Adams - Enchanted
Ellen Page - Juno
Laura Linney - Jindabyne
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart

Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
Robert Downey Jr. - Zodiac
Mark Ruffalo - Zodiac
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton
Ben Foster - 3:10 To Yuma

Best Supporting Actress:
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Jennifer Garner - Juno
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Kelly MacDonald - No Country for Old Men
Allison Janney - Juno

Ten Films That Have Endured
The Mist
Southland Tales
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Paris Je T'aime
No End in Sight
Rocket Science
I'm Not There

I've written at length (and again) about my fondness for Southland Tales, so I don't need to go into that again. Grindhouse remains an in-theater experience I half-regret missing (the other half of me wonders if I wouldn't have bailed on Planet Terror mighty early). The Mist was underrated anyway, but is even more highly recommended for the black-and-white version on the DVD. Rocket Science became relevant again this year as the movie that brought Anna Kendrick to Jason Reitman's attention, and she is amazing, but I also loved the Tenenbaum-ish performance by Nick D'Agosto as well. But if there's one movie on this list I would recommend the most highly, it would be Bug. It was stupidly marketed as straight-up horror and thus became a intense crowd-displeaser, but as a psychological game of chicken, it's a wonder. The last half-hour very nearly defies belief.

Five Films I Should See Again
Black Snake Moan
There Will Be Blood
Lust, Caution

I don't really expect Sunshine to become a great movie on second look -- the flaws that manifest themselves in the second half aren't going anywhere -- but the good parts were really good, and I'd just like to experience the look and sound of it again. Weirdly, I could say the exact same thing about There Will Be Blood. The exact same thing. I wanted to latch onto Black Snake Moan more than I did, but aside from a truly sexy opening scene with Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake, the satire never really landed with me. I plainly find Ratatouille to be overrated, but Pixar has earned itself a second opinion. A distracted screening of Lust, Caution certainly warrants another look where I'm made to care about whatever's happening between all the fucking.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Hey. I've been doing my decade in reviews for while :). Still it does feel like copying Nick and Nat if only because they're good.

Love the love for Atonement which topped my 2007 when I posted my thoughts. Did you see Before the Devil Knows You're Dead?

Joe Reid said...

I did. I remember liking it, but it's faded from my memory pretty quickly.

jessica said...

That was a great year. I should watch Gone Baby Gone again. I loved it upon first watch.