Friday, December 28, 2007

The Best and Worst of 2007: #10

I'm paring down the year-end lists to bare essentials here. 10 of the good, 10 of the not, side by side. Even if no single film I've seen has been quite as addictive or satisfying as Season 3 of HBO's The Wire, I think this has been a really strong year -- maybe the second strongest this decade, after 2004 with all its Eternal Sunshines, Before Sunsets, Spring, Summers, Incredibles and Supremacies. Selection-wise, I'm going by the only list I can live with, which is what I've seen in cinemas in the 12 months since the last top ten; by "seen in cinemas" I include festival screenings and press screenings, but not repertory ones. As a result, some of these films have yet to come out in the UK, and this first pick came and went in the US some years ago. It's true that this doesn't exactly make for a level playing field for comparison with other lists, but I find the release-date approach frustrating and no less arbitrary: it means deliberately leaving stuff off that you're itching to evangelise. Which won't do. This is what I came up with:

10th best -- Funny Ha Ha

This was my introduction to the vivid, dorky, and emotionally astute moviemaking of Andrew Bujalski, pioneer of the movement now annoyingly dubbed "mumblecore" by the kind of folks who strike me as frustrated minor characters in his movies. Narrowly better than Bujalski's follow-up Mutual Appreciation, it was the sweetest relationship comedy I saw this year, full of painful conversational circling around the point -- the point usually being "I like you, and want to hang out with you, and hope that would be OK. Would that be OK?". It's anchored shyly and beautifully by leading lady Kate Dollenmayer.

10th worst -- Hannibal Rising

Probably the most unwelcome sequel or prequel of the year, which is saying quite a lot in a 12 months which brought us Rush Hour 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Day Watch, Elizabeth: The Golden AgeHostel: Part II and Gordon Brown's premiership. Just re-typing those titles sends me into a renewed fug of depression and resentment at how little creativity any one of them expended on already dog-tired concepts, but this one was bad beyond all need or comprehension, with its kindergarten Freudianism and across-the-board hopeless acting doing full justice to an egregious "Nazis ate my sister" backstory. Thomas Harris is not escaping blame. Neither is Girl With a Pearl Earring director Peter Webber for taking a terrible gig and making it visually revolting to boot. 

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reaction to Globes nominations

Keira posts that vote for Laura Linney in Jindabyne

First up: that's way, way, waaaay too much love for Atonement. Only Saoirse Ronan's supporting actress nod is one I can fully get behind, and she's not even my favourite supporting actress in the movie. (Neither's Vanessa Redgrave, and neither is Romola Garai. So there!)

I'm in a spluttering rage over Wright AND Scott AND Schnabel getting Best Director nods over Paul Thomas Anderson for the monumental There Will Be Blood, but at least it's holding out in the picture and actor categories. The lack of anything bar Blanchett for I'm Not There is miserable but a little more predictable; the lack of anything major at all for Into the Wild has got to count as a significant blow. I mean, The Great Debaters? Really? I haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War yet, but it always looked more Globe-friendly than Oscar-friendly, so the Julia Roberts star-fuckery is, again, not that surprising. Ditto the whole American Gangster thing.

Where's Laura Linney? This has got to be the rare year where Best Actress (Comedy/Musical) has been harder fought than Drama, but, all the same, it's criminal that she's been crowded out by the singing contingent (good though they all are) and that Blanchett and Foster luck in with routine nods for such wretched films. Double nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman's fine in The Savages, but better in the overlooked Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, precisely because he's standing back, most of the time, to give Linney room.

There are good mentions scattered around here -- Jolie, Cotillard, Swinton, Mortensen -- but not much to get the pulse racing. Let's hope for an Oscar shake-up and some proper wild cards come Jan 22.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There Will Be... updates (and close shaves, and blood)

Imagine the usual fraught pre-Christmas scramble -- the organising and attending of various social events, the fulfilment of job duties, the buying of presents, the reviewing of Fred Claus, under pain of death. You know, the usual. Now try doing it without having anywhere to live. That's the situation I'm in -- "between flats", I guess you'd have to call it -- and it's wreaking havoc on this blog. (Or rather silence, if one can really wreak silence.)

So there's hardly been time to talk about how good There Will Be Blood is -- how likely this brazenly ambitious, brilliantly acted and in general quite scarily inspired movie is to be my film of the year, beating even the likes of I'm Not There, my other straight 'A' from the last few months. Nor has there been a moment to deal with the many successes and minor structural failings of the Coen bros' No Country for Old Men; the sense of stuffy self-inflation wedded to unignorable technical virtues in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; the nifty narrative gimmickry and addictive dialogue in John August's underrated The Nines, featuring Ryan Reynolds's first three attempts at acting; the exasperating yet perversely exhilarating mess that is Southland Tales; or, perhaps most pleasurably, the uncompromising grimness, sure-footed sense of the macabre, and smashing musical dexterity with which Sweeney Todd has been brought to the screen, and which I think make it Tim Burton's best film since Edward Scissorhands.

No time for any of this yet, or for another task I've set myself: the updating of my top 100, to be found at the bottom right of this blog, which is a couple of years old now and needs at least 10-15 new films squeezed into it somehow. By new I don't necessarily mean recent, and they won't all be surprises, if you've followed this blog and its sidebars from time to time. One or two of them might be. We like these guessing games, right? Comment away on what you think my new entries might be, which films you insist I must keep or scrap, or anything else you want to sound off about. Go on! Mi casa su casa, except in the real world, where mi casa isn't even mi casa...