Friday, March 21, 2008

2007 Films in Review (Part 5 of 5)

Part 1 (w/ intro) here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.
NOTE: Spoilers Abound

Zodiac
For some reason this film was disregarded at the theaters and in the awards. David Fincher told his tale uniquely, letting the story find its own way to the main character. Details are key here, and we eventually view everything from the point of view of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. It’s not so much a study of what happened, it’s a study of the study of what happened. Fincher builds the tension so well, that I found myself yelling at the screen for the first time in my life. This film at least deserved a Best Director nomination, and will hopefully be revered in years to come. There’s a good chance it will continue to be ignored, but it merits notice as the unique tale that it is.

Ratatouille
The reviews were excellent. Everyone raved about it. Brad Bird and the Pixar people outdid themselves with this one. It is a story of a lovable rat. A rat, people! I have rats in my alley. I hate them. They hate me. But somehow this movie pulled off everything it wanted and more. It quite simply has it all. You can’t point to any one scene as being emblematic of the picture. Scenes in the kitchen have their own feel as do chases around Paris streets and sewers. As soon as it was over, I wanted to watch it again. The animation is good enough that you don’t notice how good it is. I was so enthralled with the story that the visuals were an afterthought. Honestly, I felt this film probably should have been nominated for best picture, and in a weaker year, I think it may have received that nomination. Children, adults, and everyone in between will adore this film for years to come. It’s easily the best movie Pixar has made, and that’s an awfully strong statement.

There Will be Blood

It is perhaps the rarest of treats to come to a movie theater and immediately understand that you are watching a new kind of movie. Something so inventive that you feel you are truly experiencing a new form of art. When the film was over, I felt compelled to watch the end credits, not to learn anything or because I was hoping for a blooper reel, but because I wanted to really take in and contemplate everything I’d just seen. I knew I had experienced greatness.

The homage to Kubrick is obvious. Between the eerily frightening score, the closeup shots of faces, the dehumanization theme, and that bowling alley at the end, there is no doubt that PT Anderson wanted us to make a connection. The only thing missing was a bathroom. Even when Plainview clubs Eli Sunday, it is reminiscent of the apes who wield bones at the outset of 2001.

There is plenty here left open to interpretation. Did Daniel really love HW at any point? I say no, but a case could be made either way. Was Plainview so ruthlessly focused on capital success because he felt removed from family, women and all other people? Or did he remove himself from all of those things in pursuit of capital success? Did Anderson mean this film as a condemnation of all religion or simply the grandiose charlatans of the world? Just what did Plainview mean by “I’m finished?” These and many other questions will be debated for years to come. Anderson wanted some ambiguity on some of these issues, and by leaving us to each determine the answer for ourselves, he has made his film that much stronger.

Obviously, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance must be mentioned. It is the most dominating on-screen persona we have seen since Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. It deserves to go down as one of the all-time classic performances and one of the most memorable characters in cinema history. Nobody else stood a chance at the Oscar this year.

My original OWR was “groundbreaking”, but I felt that wasn’t doing the film justice. It’s a bit of a pun, and though it is apt in that this story is a landmark one, it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Daniel can simultaneously be viewed as complex and simple, but motivated solely by one thing either way. Whether you feel he truly loved HW or not. Whether you feel he was showing affection for “Henry” or not, what is clear is that there is only one motivation for Plainview: to have everything, and for everyone else to have nothing. He dislikes Eli from the start, but the fact that Eli has the attention and devotion of the people in the town is enough for Daniel to despise him more than anyone else he encounters. There Will be Blood currently resides at #35 all time on the IMDB, so it is justly being lauded and noticed. But in time, its status will only grow. When we look back at 2007 years from now, this will be the undoubted best film of the year. It is superior to its immensely strong brethren. I had to ask myself, could Kubrick have made this movie were he still around? My answer was “yeah... maybe... probably,” which is a compliment to both Kubrick and Anderson. I can't wait to see it again.

I should note that I have not seen every film of note from ’07. There are many more potentially great films for me to experience. So if anyone has thoughts on Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Atonement, La Vie En Rose, The Savages, Sweeny Todd, In the Valley of Elah, Taxi to the Dark Side, Charlie Wilson’s War, or, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, please leave your thoughts in the comment section. Or anything else I forgot! Dang, that’s a lot of movies. It’s the year that keeps on givin', folks.

3 comments:

patrick said...

finally got around to watching the infamous There Will Be Blood... Daniel-Day Lewis' performance was top-notch. He takes well to the overbearing, violent father-figure role -- he also did this in Gangs of New York.

Travis said...

Atonement (I know critics were split. I liked the beauty and crassness of the film).

La Vie En Rose (not a favorite)

The Savages (Very good. A movie you'll think about as loved ones age).

Sweeny Todd

In the Valley of Elah

Taxi to the Dark Side

Charlie Wilson’s War

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Some find it slow but I loved this film. Made me an Affleck Superfan).

Reed said...

I have seen a couple of those now. The Savages I found a bit so-so, but Laura Linney tends to have that affect on me in general. Gave it a --> 64: Shouty.

Assassination of Jesse James I liked quite a bit --> 74: Deliberate

I haven't seen the rest of the films you mention, but I have taken in:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead --> 83: Overwrought

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly --> Loved it, no OWR posted yet

Dan in Real Live --> Meh+, no OWR yet

Death at a Funeral --> 63: Zany

Death Proof --> 64: Self-parodic

Hot Fuzz --> 62: Punchy

Live Free or Die Hard --> Surprisingly solid, no OWR yet

...and various others not worth mentioning.

All in all, an amazing year in cinema!