Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Movies of 2007

Lists. The device of the lazy writer. Here's mine for the best movies of 2007.

(This will be updated over the next few days as my tastes are fickle. Oh, and there are no spoilers. I hate spoilers. Read as you should live, without fear.)

Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises is what The Departed should have been. Scorsese’s goes on with no logic, reason, or sense. Cronenberg’s work is, in a word, tight. It would be presumptuous to say Eastern Promises is great. Instead, it’s a testament to what happens when you have a well-written script, good perfomarnce all around, and a director that let’s the story triumph over style. Eastern Promises becomes something that too few movies of late have been.

Good. Not great, good.

The TV Set

One of the most memorable experiences I had this year took place within a DePaul Classroom. Our Advanced Screenwriting professor refused to let a 103-degree temperature keep him safely at home. Instead, he taught class and strayed from the syllabus to focus on The Industry of Hollywood. Shivering as his sweat poured from every gland in his body, he proceeded to tell the class of how A Bug’s Life was based on a story he had submitted to several agents without having registered, first.

“They’ll fuck you. They’ll fuck you, like they fucked me! They’ll take your work. They’ll take your baby, and make it shit!”

The TV Set is the closest thing any of you will ever have to witnessing what I saw that night.

No Country For Old Men

This is my litmus test. If a movie isn’t that great, I can step away and not feel like I’m missing anything. When a movie is good, I’ll pause or rewind to make sure I didn’t loose something. If a movie is great, I can’t leave the room. For the first 90-minutes of No Country For Old Men, I was doubled over in pain on the near verge of pissing myself. But there wasn’t any damn way I was going to miss a single frame. If the theatre hadn’t been crowded, I would have relieved myself into an empty container that had earlier held 64-ounces of Diet Coke. My date knew me well enough.

The last half-hour dropped off and was spent thinking about how much this outing to the movies cost, including mileage and snacks. Still, it was miraculous compared to what the Coen Brothers had been producing during their one-movie-a-year-phase. (Which resulted in The Lady Killers, Intolerable Cruelty, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? I don’t care how good the soundtrack was on the last one. That movie wasn’t only a waste of time, but I got made fun of by some high school ushers – snickering at me for going to a movie alone. Fucking teenagers.)

Death Proof

This listing applies to the theatrical release of Death Proof. The DVD release adds 30-minutes of mindless banter and pop-bravado. What I saw in the theatre on that drunken afternoon was fun. What’s on DVD is as laborious to sit though as was the Robert Rodriguez segment Planet Terror. A quick side note, of every Robert Rodriguez movie I’ve seen, I couldn’t tell you how any ended. The third act of all his movies are nothing more than a series of quick flashes, gunfire, and explosions. If the viewer is lucky, Danny Trejo lives to see the sequel.

One of the most chilling shots in film history takes place in the The Shining. As Scatman Crothers drives through a blizzard to the Overlook Hotel, a pan reveals his perspective in which we see a semi-truck that has crushed a Volkswagen Beetle. In this subliminal shot, Kubrick displays our vulnerability as man. We’re creatures rarely in control of our own fate and surroundings. Death Proof deals in this same trade.

In lieu of a Beetle, it takes a tire across the face to make the same point.


One of my favorite movies from last year was Hustle & Flow. Along with the degrading sex and violence, many couldn’t see past Terrance Howard’s disgusting character that we, the audience, are asked to sympathize with. Yet, there was one scene that shot it to the top of the Best of 2006 list, which never actually "existed." In a brainstorming session, the aspiring artists catch the hook for what will become “Whoop That Trick.” That scene captures something I’ve never seen captured, accurately: The moment in which several artists transcend their own limitations to fuse into some collective wavelength beyond them. They ride a hook into climax, confounded by their own ability. Not only do they create something, they feel a sense of completeness for having done so.

Once is able to maintain that same moment throughout it’s entirety.

The Mist

This may be the only case of an Audio Book being better than the source material, or the movie. The effects are hokey and the acting is sub-standard. However, it lends to the ridiculous premise of a grocery being enveloped by a fog that sheaths some monster. Consistency is everything, even when dealing with such pulp.

This Rio Bravo incarnated fantasy resonates with as much suspense, as it does homage to the genre. Also, anytime you vilify radical fundamentalism of any sort, I’m intrigued.

The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters

I’m a sucker for a good underdog story. Compound that with an interest that devolves into an obsession, and I’ll be first in line. T.K.O.K: A.F.O.Q (as it’s known on the streets) is a realist meld of Kingpin and Rocky. Never has the Balboa v. Creed dynamic been as sharp as it is here. In lieu of seasoned pros, we have what became of the kids that always seemed to hang out in the computer lab. (Didn’t any of those kids have classes? Also, Daryn Parker took to referring to Gifted Coach Virgil Hutchraft, as Virtual Buttcrack. Of everyone I know, he’s the most put together.) Another great point of T.K.O.K: A.F.O.Q is that since the subjects of the documentary are smarter, and in some cases, more successful than the audience, we have no qualms about laughing at them. A similar documentary Cinemania trailed five people in New York whose lives are reduced to nothing more than going to the movies. We want to make fun of these subjects, but we see them living in ruin, with any income being used to traverse throughout the Five Burroughs, always hurrying to make a screening time. The players in T.K.O.K: A. F.O.Q are each more than competent to earn a living and clothe themselves, but lack any social graces.

That’s not too bad of a hand off, at all.

Knocked Up

Crass. Intelligent. Honest. That's what comedy should be. That's what Knocked Up is. 'Nuff said.

Honorable Mention

Year of the Dog
Black Snake Moan
Hot Fuzz
Reno 911: The Movie

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