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I don’t think there are any spoilers here - or certainly none that would destroy a movie viewing.
2007 wasn’t a particularly good year for me with movies. I was surprised to read most film critics saying it was a fantastic year for cinema, where I didn’t find much that interested me.
As usual, the year started well as I see the films that released late in 2006 (in order to maximise their chances of award nomination). The Departed was a highlight - I’d like to see the original.
While the subject material of Zodiac was slightly gruesome, the movie was so well made that it was a complete pleasure to watch. I love David Fincher, and with Zodiac it seemed like he’s moved beyond his fancy tricks to something more mature - for one, this movie didn’t look like a TV ad. The movie made me feel as if I was living in 1970s/80s San Francisco. It’s a great study in obsession, something I feel myself falling into all the time.
I went to see The Bourne Ultimatum with Hugo and Nicole in Cupertino. It was by far the best of the horrible season of sequels (I read somewhere that there were 17 sequels released in 2007). Not only was the action fantastic, I love that they try to give Jason an emotional side to balance the unemotional killer he was moulded into. Maybe I’m just a sucker for stories about people searching for themselves, in this case both literally and metaphysically. I also liked the touch of Julia Stiles, who was present in the first two movies but only really became part of the story here, revealing why she’s helping Bourne and avoiding the cliche of a couple ending up together. I think it is touches like that which make the Bourne series better than the regular action crap.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else that excited me until December, where I saw most of my favourite movies for 2007.
Waitress was sweet and beautiful and simple and funny and bright. I loved Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal baby!). The nasty husband, the pie shop owner… the whole cast was fantasic. I was yearning for pie for weeks after the film, especially Bad Baby Pie. Unfortunately, there is a devastating real-life tragedy behind the film, but at least we have the movie to keep us warm.
No Country For Old Men was on just about every best-of list I read. It certainly is on my list too. Strangely, the audience I saw it with didn’t seem to connect with it, which makes me wonder how far removed critics are from the public. Of course, this is my list, and I thought it was excellent, so wahoo for me! The outdoor scenes were so beautiful I wanted to move to Texas right away. The suspense was incredible. The violence was shown without being horrible or glorified, which is impressive considering that the threat that created the suspense is an inhuman murdering psychopath (bonus points for both the direction and acting there). And the symbolism: trying to outrun Death in human form, the crossing of the River Styx while chased by the dog (Cerberus) and the coin toss showing the randomness of life.
I heard a few people complain about the ending, but I thought it was perfect. For me the movie wasn’t about the events taking place, it was about the three main characters, and how and why they were doing what they were doing, not what. I think the Coen brothers tried to make this clear, by teasing the audience with a potential ending that had resolution, only to let it go and move to an introspective conclusion 1.
My only slight disappointment was that it gave me the impression of being a remake of Fargo - strange people, strange accents, strange place, world-wise laid-back police officer, “innocent” man getting involved in a crime for a lot of money and the ramifications of that crime. Of course, Fargo is an awesome movie, and the world would be better with ten more just like it.
Other late-year movies I liked: Eastern Promises (remind me never to get into a fight in a bathhouse with a naked Russian), 3:10 To Yuma, The Darjeeling Limited, the documentary on the Helvetica typeface and The Kingdom, which was weirdly a little too “America - we are awesome - we will come solve the crime and find the bad guy in 3 days” in a movie that was supposedly showing that it was a more difficult situation than people think. But it’s Peter Berg, who I worship.. so whatever.
Coming last is my favourite film of the year, which in fact was a film from 2005 that I only just saw: Junebug. I completely loved this movie. I loved it. I loved it. Any movie that has me still thinking about it weeks afterward gets put on this list. The thing I liked the most is that the movie itself didn’t reveal much about the characters directly, but it was through the smallest of moments, or interactions between characters, that you are able to learn what motivates them and what scares them. It could be that I’m particularly dumb, but it took me a while to understand the people. I won’t give anything away, but an example is a character for whom very little is revealed during the majority of the story (he rarely talks and spends a lot of the time sleeping) but then you understand him through two minor moments towards the end. Amy Adams is fantastic. The cherry on top of the film is the Motown song sung by Syreeta written by Stevie Wonder - Harmour Love.
Next, my year in music.