Monthly Archives: February 2008

Weekly Top 10

It may be almost March, but I felt it was wrong that I never did this. 2007 was a great year for film. Films so diverse that broke new ground, and revived tired genres (thrillers, westerns, comedies). To honor this great year, I now present you with the top 10 films of 2007:
1. There Will Be Blood- Rarely does a film divide audiences like this one did. Some found it a masterpiece, others loathed it, and some were just too weirded out. Me, I thought it was the best film of the year and one that will be talked about for decades to come. The typical rise-and-fall story is turned on its head as Daniel Plainview (incredible Daniel Day-Lewis) is evil and greedy without much cause. He is a prospector who unexpectedly finds oil and becomes rich. Throughout the year he endures a tumultuous relationship with his son and a preacher (Paul Dano). Anderson’s film traces the roots of capitalism with themes relevant to the present that can be seen in Dano’s wacky preist, which feels like watching the Church Network. Anderson’s work is one that the likes of Kubrick would be smiling on today with prolonged silence and hidden irony. Blood is one that will forever stay with you. Without a doubt one of the best film’s so far this decade.
2. Superbad- Comedy had a new name this year, and its name was Judd Apatow. He only produced this film, but you can really see his trademarks showing. This is the story of two high schoolers (Cera and Hill) who have been lifelong best friends about to be split apart once college comes around. Perhaps the one thing that keeps them together is how unpopular they are, but they find their last chance to get girls in high school when they get asked to buy alcohol for a popular girl’s party. Superbad is a spot on portrayal of the awkwardness of high school that is sometimes so hard to watch because it is so realistic but then again, its impossible to stop watching. Superbad succeeds in the way nobody is made to look like a bad guy and the heroes strifes are just like our own. Mainly, it is a film that explores the meaning of true friendship like it’s never been before on film and basically, the angst of being a teenager. Oh, it’s also one of the funniest films in years. And I haven’t even mentioned McLovin…
3. No Country for Old Men- When I first saw this, I walked out confused and unsure whether I liked this film or not because of its ending. But it does what a great film should do: it never leaves your mind. The Coen Brothers have created one of cinema’s darkest thrillers. A hunter (Brolin) stumbles upon $2 million which insites the wrath of deadpan, psychotic assassin Anton Chigurh (Bardem) and an aging sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones). This is the brothers’ darkest vision to date but they have not lost their old habits; they pay extra close attention to the culture and layout of the land they are exploring which emphasizes their stories. It works perfectly in No Country, as they search the empty, decaying Texas deserts. The daring decision of no background score is a fascinating one, and Bardem is the scariest killer since Hannibal Lecter. The Coen Brothers rightfully earned their first directing Oscar.
4. Knocked Up- The first Apatow film of the year is a brilliant example of just how far improv can take you. The story of a lazy stoner (Rogen) whose one night stand with a beautiful woman (Heigl) results in pregnancy is utterly convincing and in the end, deeply moving. Along the way, are a series of hilarious pop culture references ranging from Munich to naked Meg Ryan. It’s a reflection of our pop-culturally, beauty obsessed culture but most importantly, dirty comedy done right.
5. Grindhouse- Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez united for this two part, 3 hour long film thats a tribute to their youth. One half is a trashy zombie film and the other is a chase film. It immitates, without mocking an underground culture of film the world ignored in theatres. Sadly, you’ll never get the full Grindhouse experience because its tragically been split for DVD.
6. Juno- Another part of the comedy revival of 2007. Juno (Page) is a free-spirtied teen who goes too far when she coerces her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Cera), into having sex with her. Inevitably, she gets pregnant. Instead of abortion, she decides to give it up to adoptive parents. Although criticized recently, Juno is just as good as when I first saw it. The jokes are hilarious, and the story moving. Page steals the film as a girl more mature than most teens who surround her yet still maintains childlike innocence. The soundtrack by the Moldy Peaches becomes a second narrator, giving away hints to the story’s theme.
7. Eastern Promises- Mortenesen is spot-on as a Russian Mobster. A nurse (Watts) probs a diary she found from a dead teenager to a ring of prostituion and murder in the underground Russian mafia of London. David Cronenberg’s (A History of Violence) second account of the effects of violence is even more effective then the first, pondering what justification could ever be made for violence. The answer: none. Credit also for the shocking violence, including the soon-to-be-famous bathhouse scene (see it, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
8. Michael Clayton- A corporate lawyer (Wilkinson) finds a deadly secret about the company he has defended and goes mad. Another corporate “fixer” (Clooney) is the only one who understands his warnings. Clayton is a brilliant thriller, one that echos the 70s and hits you when you’re least expected. It also makes you wonder, what makes people do the jobs that they take when they’re as bad as Clayton’s is? What do you do when you’re defending the death’s of over 400 people?
9. Persepolis- This brilliant French animated film tells the story of a rebellious teenage girl during the Iranian Revolution who gets away and explores the world as she matures. This is a film about what happens once a child leaves the nest into the harsh world and must learn to fend for themselves. Most importantly: always be proud of who you are and where you come from.
10. Zodiac- David Fincher (Fight Club) explores one of the most terrifying unsolved murder cases in this country’s history. In the late 60s into the 80s, cartoonist Robert Greysmith (Gyllenhal) tries to track down the notorious serial killer the Zodiac and becomes obsessed. The film explores the dangers of inescapable obsession and one of Fincher’s favorites: the exploitation of the media and people aiming for fame in the wrong way. Because the Zodiac has never been found, the film searches for no answers since there is none. All we see of him is a shadow and possible ideas of his identity. While most directors might’ve shown his face or tried to find an answer, Fincher makes a wise decision is staying away from that. Although it failed at the box office, Zodiac deserves a second life on DVD so you can all experience one of 2007′s most unique tales of mysterious and unspeakable evil.
Other Favorites: The Simpsons Movie, Ratatouille, Darjeeling Limited, 3:10 to Yuma, Sweeney Todd, Sicko, Rescue Dawn

Quote of the Day

Airport Lot Attendant: There’s a minimum charge of 4 dollars, long term parking charges by the day.
Carl Showalter: I guess you think you’re… you know like an authority figure, with that stupid fuckin’ uniform, huh buddy? King clip-on-tie there, big fuckin’ man huh? You know these are the limits of your life, man. The rule of your little fuckin’ gate here. Here’s your 4 dollars, you pathetic piece of shit.

Oscars head towards "No Country"

Surprise surprise. No Country for Old Men took home this year’s best picture statue. It also won for Joel/Ethan Coen’s outstanding directing (finally), adapted screenplay, and brilliant Javier Bardem. And of course, Daniel Day-Lewis won for There Will Be Blood. He truly does drink your milkshake. Honestly if he didn’t win, I’d swear off the Academy for good.
There Will Be Blood was my favorite film of the year and although I’m a little disappointed it lost, I know it won’t be forgotten come 20-30 years from now. Still, I’m glad No Country won as well. This was the award the Coen Brothers should’ve gotten for Fargo and should’ve been nominated for The Big Lebowski.
Each best picture nominee got at least one award. Michael Clayton‘s Tilda Swinton won for her menacing corporation head. She was fantastic, but Blanchett was better as Bob Dylan. Nearly forgotten Atonement got a best score win while Juno won for best original screenplay. Accepting the award was Diablo Cody, who came dressed as Fred Flinstone.
Ratatouille scored another win for Pixar. It still haunts me that Surfs Up was chosen in that category over The Simpsons Movie. Marion Cotilard won best actress. Haven’t seen the movie she was in and don’t really want to. All I know is that Ellen Page deserved that trophy. She’s young, she’ll win sometime hopefully. Same goes to Paul Thomas Anderson. A Kubrick for this generation, the mastermind was shut out for his sweeping masterpiece. Oh well, Orson Welles lost for Citizen Kane. Yep, I just compared Blood to Kane because its just that good. Hopefully, this was just a preview for more greatness to come from him.
The surprise appearance by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill was hilarious enough to make up for the fact that Knocked Up and Superbad were totally shut out and Norbit got a nod instead. As for the host himself, Stewart, another fine job. He managed to keep things fun for the 3 hour ceremony. His joke that Cate Blanchett was a dog in No Country was sheer genius, as was his salute to binoculars.
Congrats to the Coen Brothers for finally winning. Daniel and Javier, you deserved it, and P.T. Anderson will be called up one day soon. Let’s pray for a good ceremony next year and a good winner as well. Maybe a few less accents would help, too. Mostly, please get Judd Apatow’s name on the ballot for once.

My question to you: Will No Country For Old Men hold up and become a classic? My answer: yes. But I think this will be a French Connection-Clockwork Orange scenario: the former was deserving and soon became a classic but the latter would one day become a timeless and forever discussed masterwork. No Country will be like French and Blood will be like Clockwork

Defending "Juno"

I remember going into see Juno at the begginning of December when it was mostly unknown and playing in limited release. Critics praised the film and urged people to stray away from tyical studio films and rush directly into this one. Now, Juno plays nationwide, is nominated for four oscars, and has made over $100 million. Suddenly it’s faced a giant backlash. People who stood by its side and other detractors are suddenly standing up and pointing out the film’s every flaw: it’s a phony, it’s unoriginal, it’s unrealistic, it’s not funny, and the list goes on. Despite all the criticism, I still stand by the film’s side and refuse to remove it from my top 10 movies of the year.
There’s an axiom that an independent film is only good until its discovered. That seems to be the case for Juno. I was lucky enough to see it before it had been discovered. As the credits roled, there was not a dry eye in the audience nor a single person who hadn’t gotten up and joined in the standing ovation the crowded theatre gave it. This was before the hype built up and the expectations so little. That’s why it seems most people who went to go see it now felt dissapointed, as if they were expecting the greatest movie ever made. My question is, do you really think they were trying to make the greatest film ever made? Would you be as dissapointed walking out of Norbit because it wasn’t the greatest film ever made? You probably weren’t expecting it to be (and you better not think so). So if you haven’t seen Juno yet, go in with no expectations and prepare to be surprised.
Now, let’s move on to the criticism. Some range from just matter of opinion, questioning if its really that funny or realistic. Some though are just plain ridiculous. On one website, a critic complained about the fact that Juno chugs a pitcher of Sunny D for her pregnancy test at the beggining of the film. He wonders, why Sunny D? Why couldn’t she just drink water. My question: what is the problem with drinking Sunny D? She couldv’e drank anything but I guess she liked that drink. Faulting the film at that is just sad and ridiculous. But the most serious criticism is the film’s dialogue. People are scorning it, saying that it’s “too hip”? Would you prefer the characters speak in 18th century British accents? I found the dialogue original and hilarious. To say that its not the way kids speak nowadays is not only cruel but hypocritical. Those people who accuse the film of this are adults. What do they now of how kids speak nowadays. It’s up to us kids to decide whether the dialouge is how we speak. My answer: yes. If you want a more realistic way of how teens talk nowadays, Juno would’ve face an R rating and an overload of “that’s what she said” jokes.
No matter what detractors say, I still love Juno as much as I did the day I first saw it. You may not be able to take down No Country at the Oscars, but Juno, you’re a firm reminder of the power of independent film, a subtle and hilarious comedy, and worthy of being mentioned in the Best Picture race. Continue to spread your charm and show what effect a great comedy can have.

Quote of the Day

Frank Costello: When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?
-The Departed

Movie Review: Michael Clayton

Corporations have dominated America. And one day, they’ll probably end up destroying it. That’s what’s already happening as seen through the eyes of Michael Clayton, a brilliant legal thriller with so of the most haunted heroes and evil villains in years. And the scariest part, its all real.
Michael Clayton (Clooney) is a “fixer” (or as one character puts it, a “janitor”) for big corporations, cleaning up the messes they leave behind and trying to attain their good image. Fellow corporate lawyer Alex (excellent Tom Wilkinson) feels a battle of conscience with his profession after discovering a deadly secret about the corporation he has defended for years and begins to snap. Is he mad, or trying to say something important? Only Michael seems to understand the true nature of his craziness, and at stake is the good name of a major chemical company and the lives of over 400 people. The brilliance of the film is that its a thriller, but not to overstated. It’s resembles the great political thrillers of the 70s like The French Connection and All the President’s Men who let you get to know the characters for a while and understand how their minds work and then jolt you up with random intense violence and thrills. A film like this hopefully make Americans more aware of what happens behind the scenes of big corporate America and big fancy law firms every day.
Tony Gilroy’s directing give the film a tight, tense look and his writing is filled with memorable lines (“Does it look like I’m Negotiating?”). The decision to make it travel back in time and back to the future immerse the audience in the story. But, the ensemble cast is truly winning here. Wilkinson is convincing as a man loosing his mind and Tilda Swintion is quietly creepy as the evil head of the chemical company. But Clooney is truly brilliant. His performance helps him escape the dreaded pretty-boy reputation. It’s those sad sorry eyes and ambivalent smile in the final scene that so brilliantly show a man finally understanding the atrocities he’s unwittingly defended for years for millions of dollars and the feeling of freedom finally gripping him.