A - C
It was an odd year for movies, started out strong, hit a dreadful
tailspin in what is the worst summer of my recent memory, and then picked up
a bit near the end. But then my pet theory #78 is that even year-ed
movies do better than odd year-ed ones, so 2008 is gonna be great!
In reverse order, just to, you know, build up the suspense:
10. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM -- In a crappy summer season this was the
best bet, and while I found the culmination of the three a bit
depressingly predictable (we have met the enemy and guess what! It’s US! You
never saw THAT coming, huh?) I did and do admire ULTIMATUM (and SUPREMACY)
for it’s leanness. It’s the ultimate triumph of style and attitude
over content, but in this context it really works -- sort of like
“24” without any of the dull bits. Greengrass is the only advocate of
the handheld camera I can tolerate, and Matt Damon I think remains
America’s smartest (not necessarily best, mind, just smartest) actor.
9. GRINDHOUSE -- I thought the first movie was actively bad (I can’t
stand Rodriguez, and he’s just the kind of guy who would think that
putting ironic quotes around a bad movie somehow makes it “good”),
but I thought Tarantino’s was something of a return to form, and in
general the whole nutty concept of the thing made it worth watching.
8. GONE, BABY, GONE -- Has it’s problems -- I buy Affleck as a
woebegone guy moping around and screwing everything up in his quest to make
the “right” decision, but not as a tough PI, no sir. And while the
story simplifications at points made a lot of sense, I did miss the
diminuation of Gennaro’s role. (In the books she’s arguably the most
interesting character.) On the other hand they got the vibe of the thing
down just right, and I liked how it at least offered you a complex
ending, whether you chose to buy the dilemma or not. (Full disclosure,
I’m with Gennaro on this one.) Plus they got Bubba exactly right,
something of a triumph by itself.
7. WAITRESS -- About once a year I see one of these twee independent
art house comedy type things, and I usually end up enjoying them,
although I can’t ever seem to muster up the strength to see more than the
one. This year it was this, which I liked a lot, actually. I thought it
was unpatronizing towards rural life (something Hollywood has trouble
pulling off), I thought it mixed offbeat humor with genuine pain and
sadness just right, another thing very hard to pull off properly, and I
thought it was ultimately pretty good-natured. It sounds weak, but
actually, how many times have you seen “goodness” portrayed convincingly
on screen? Yeah, it’s tough. Prediction: Andy Griffith gets best
supporting actor Oscar for “Likable Old Codger”.
6. EXILED -- A disappointing Philly Film Festival this year, but I did
like this daffy blending of Asian gangster conventions and THE WILD
BUNCH very much.
5. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD -- A really fine modern noir, in
the classic sense of the term, ie, “a crime story where everybody is a
victim”. One of the few really good uses I’ve seen recently of a
broken up chronology, as it slowly peeled away the layers of what at
first seemed to be a couple of punks dumb idea gone wrong, revealing
instead just acres of pain and disappointment and loneliness. Depressing as
hell but I found it oddly life -affirming -- maybe because it’s just
so damn well put together.
4. KING OF KONG -- In which the battle for who is the best Donkey Kong
player becomes an extended metaphor for man’s quest to matter, in
some small way, somewhere, to somebody. One of the best documentaries
I’ve ever seen, actually. The brilliant thing about this movie is that
you start laughing at the freaks with their weird rituals and taboos and
stars…until you fall right on the other side and discover that the
universe depicted here might be weird, but the story is a timeless one.
3. ZODIAC -- You know, I thought about making this number two (I never
had any doubt of what my number one was going to be) but I can’t get
past the fact that I think Gyllenhall is miscast in the lead, a wet
noodle who’s okay in a boy scout kind of way, but is just unconvincing
as a guy obsessively going over the edge. He just looked to me like a
boy scout trying gamely to play a guy going over the edge.
Other than that, I think this is a true masterpiece, and while I liked
a couple of other pictures better, I think this is the one from 2007
that has the best chance to be talked about, I dunno, twenty years from
now. A lot was talked about the serial-killer aspects of it, but I think
ZODIAC’s best understood as being the anti-police procedural. The
anti “CSI“, if you will. Here nothing works, there are no big breaks,
nothing’s conclusive, no last minute leads. Just tedium and false
trails that eat up people’s lives. The amount of people I saw on other
boards taking issue with the movie’s “theory of the crime” --
well, they miss the point of the thing so stunningly I really don’t know
what to say. This isn’t a movie about “who was the Zodiac
killer”, except in the most superficial kind of way, it’s a movie about
how purposelessly pursuing fundamentally unanswerable mysteries can ruin
your life. The final scene in the hardware store encapsulates it all,
really. It’s freighted with implications -- but isn’t really about anything.
2. MICHAEL CLAYTON -- I really really really really really liked this,
and I fear, like THE PRESTIGE in 2006, it’s in danger of somehow
being forgotten. Judging from the promos you’d think it’s another
tiresome ERIN BROCKOVICH kind of thing, but really the actual corporate
wrongdoing storyline is something of a MacGuffin, the important thing is
not the sins of the company (which are mostly brushed aside or handled
matter of factly) but the ramification of these sins on the players.
Nothing here is quite as you might expect it -- too take an obvious
example, Tom Wilkerson is both an avenging angel of justice and quite mad.
Clooney’s best work since THREE KINGS, I think -- of what I’ve seen,
anyway. As with Damon, he’s good when he gives himself room to play
with his persona, and that surface charm of his can cover a multitude
1. THE HOST -- I was thinking, earlier today, that I’ve done these
lists for a four years now, and three of the four years I’ve picked an
Asian film as #1. HERO, KUNG FU HUSTLE, now this. I like Asian movies,
but I don’t see a lot of them and certainly don’t pretend that
I’m particularly knowledgeable about them. I just think that nowadays
they’re the best at doing the kind of movies I like, which essentially
boils down to “intelligent takes on traditional conventions or
genres”. THE HOST on one hand is a straightforward horror flick -- a
monster movie yet -- but on the other hand is a sardonic commentary about
international (and presumably national) politics, and on another hand is a
genuinely touching, especially because it never gets cheap about it,
story of redemption through the family. And it all works together
seamlessly, it never feels forced or calculated. There’s a scene here where
the family are all eating about 2/3 of the way through the movie which
is just magical, one of the reasons you go to the movies in the first place.
JOHN F. BLACK
In order of preference:
ERIK THE CONQUEROR
COLOSSUS OF RHODES
QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE
SPIDER BABY S.E.
TROY DIRECTOR'S CUT
LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE Season One, Volume One
A PERFECT COUPLE (released singly in 2007)
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS Volume 3
GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS/GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES (Wild East
BLACK SABBATH (with new Tim Lucas audio commentary)
Favorite 2007 Films:
1. Darjeeling Limited – Wes Anderson
2. Brand Upon the Brain – Guy Maddin
3. Inland Empire – David Lynch
4. Into the Wild – Sean Penn
5. The Black Book – Paul Verhoven
6. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Sidney Lumet
7. Hot Fuzz – Edgar Wright
8. Zodiac – David Fincher
9. No Country for Old Men – Coen Brothers
10. Eastern Promises – David Cronenberg
Also Enjoyed – Mafioso, Paprika, Rescue Dawn, Planet Terror, The Lookout, El Aura, 28 Weeks Later, Sicko, 3:10 to Yuma, Sweeney Todd, Bug
Might have made list but didn’t see – Southland Tales, The Last Winter; Jesse James, Gone Baby Gone, There will be Blood
Favorite 2007 DVDs (Year of the box set):
1. Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara – Criterion
2. First Films of Sam Fuller Eclipse Collection - Criterion
3. Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky – Anchor Bay
4. Beriln Alexanderplatz – Criterion
5. Sergio Leone Anthology – MGM
6. Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition – Paramount
7. Warner Home Video Director's Series: Stanley Kubrick Collection
8. Film Noir Classic Collection 4 – Warner Bros
9. Blade Runner (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) – Warner Bros
10. Tie Bava Box, Set Vol. I – Anchor Bay & Bava Box Set Vol. II – Anchor Bay
Also enjoyed: Fox Horror Classics, Two-Lane Blacktop, Inland Empire, if…., Under the Volcano, Days of Heaven, Brute Force, Fires on the Plain, Breathless, The Third Man, Yojimbo–Sanjuro Box set, Vengeance is Mine, Burmese Harp, Army of Shadows, The Naked City, Sansho the Bailiff , Ace in the Hole, Les Enfants Terribles, Stranger than Paradise, The Milky Way, Cria Cuervos, Drunken Angel, Canyon Passage, The Magus, Brigette et Brigette, A Girl is a Gun , Perversion Story, Angel Face, Macao, Billy Budd, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Bedazzled, La Belle Captive, Fixed Bayonets, Blind Woman’s Curse, The Nightcomers, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Black Test Car, Who Can Kill a Child?, The Woman in the Window, A Bullet for Joey, Malpertuis, The Page Turner, Kansas City Confidential, Snake Woman’s Curse, Horrors of Malformed Men, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Cruising, The Blood Rose, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Iron Rose, Count Dracula (Jess Franco), Films of Kenneth Anger: Vol. II, Time, El Bruto, The Killing Kind, The Hellbenders, Max Mon Amour, RoboCop SE, Lemming, The Psychic and The Eroticist
Best Movies of 2007
I saw so few new movies in theaters this year (for a variety of
reasons) that I could only find six I’d want to put on a list.
The latest head trip from Satoshi Kon, one of the foremost anime
directors today and one of the few to consistently tackle contemporary
Japanese life. This is his wildest work yet, a sci-fi tale of dreams spilling
over into real life.
YO YO GIRL COP
(seen at the New York Asian Film Festival in July 2007, possibly its
only theatrical showing in the U.S., and released on DVD two weeks later)
My J-pop girls, Aya Matsuura and Rika Ishikawa, triumphantly hit the
big screen in a new version of “Sukeban Deka,” the manga-turned-TV
show-anime-and-various movies about yo-yo wielding schoolgirls taking on
all manner of baddies. They’re not only great singers, but great
movie stars as well. In a just world, they’d be getting all the parts
that Milla Jovovich and Jessica Alba are getting.
What a big-budget giant robot blockbuster should be: clever script,
good actors, believable lead characters and awesome robot combat, with the
fate of the world at stake. And, most importantly, a sense of humor.
(Since this is a separate movie within GRINDHOUSE, I’m pulling it
away from its inferior co-feature to single it out.)
Pumped-up 1970s-style drive-in sci-fi zombie gorefest, but with a
faster pace, better special effects, better actors and loads of black humor.
In the 1960s, the Italians figured out how to do thrilling spectacles
on low budgets. Well, now Hollywood’s kind of figured out how to do it
(if you call $60 million a low budget). If I was 10 or 12, I would
have loved this movie. So I’m not a kid anymore, but it won me over
anyway, thanks to the loads of black humor and an unabashedly non-PC
approach to a tale of burgeoning western civilization under attack by the
dark, superstitious hordes from the East.
3:10 TO YUMA
An honest-to-God westtern, partner. Actually shot in the American west
(and not Canada). With cowboys, Indians, horses, six-shooters,
Winchesters, railroads, hotels, saloons, deserts, canyons, campfires, the whole
kit and kaboodle. How often do we get to see one of these? Good
plotline, too. Strong cast. Better than the original, if you ask me.
In a good year, none of the last four would have made the list. In a
good year, I would have seen eight better films. But these last four
represent the kind of mid-range genre film that used to be a staple of
neighborhood theaters but have become an endangered species in Hollywood.
Other mainstream movies seen this year that I would NOT put on my list:
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
If you had asked me at the one-hour mark of BOURNE if it would go on my
best list, I would have said yeah. But a few minutes later, I would
have been doubtful and not long after that I would have adamantly said
If you had asked me at the 90-minute mark in NO COUNTRY I would have
said, hell yeah! But that good will dissipated rather quickly after a
certain character exits the movie and at some point well before the
two-hour mark, I lost all interest.
But both films have some very good scenes in them.
If you had asked me at the 6-minute mark in HAIRSPRAY…well, after
that wonderful “Hello Baltimore” opening, the overload of dull songs
just got too wearying.
Ten Best DVDs of 2007
I’m only putting down ones I’ve watched, which leaves dozens of
potential inclusions sitting on my shelf but off the list.
YO YO GIRL COP
(aka SUKEBAN DEKA CODENAME SAKI ASAMIYA) The special “Making of”
feature, “Yo Yo Girl Mission,” is even better than the movie and
charts the process of how to turn exceedingly cute and radiant J-pop girls
into snarling, fighting, ass-kicking delinquents. A must for acting
(and directing) students everywhere. When the Actors Studio adopts this
video as a training tool, then I’ll know there’s justice in the
THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA, Vol. 1
Mind-boggling, head-tripping, comical sci-fi anime series about a
restless schoolgirl who latches onto a male classmate who doesn’t want to
be bothered with her only to be told by three other mysterious
classmates that if he doesn’t keep Haruhi CONSTANTLY entertained, the entire
universe is in jeopardy. Wrap your head around THAT. Best new anime
series I’ve seen in years.
Nine-disc set contains the complete first season (27 eps.) of this
celebrated Sonny Chiba historical ninja series from Japanese television,
1980. Each 45-minute episode plays like a mini-Samurai film. The set
includes two additional Sonny Chiba period films, SHOGUN’S NINJA (1981),
which is also very good, and SHOGUN’S SHADOW (1989).
WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES
Fortune Star/Legendary Collection.
Angela Mao’s classic
Chinese-Koreans-and-French-take-on-the-Japanese-in-wartime-Korea kung fu epic is now out in a decent edition
(LBX/Mandarin language/proper sound mix/original music) that’s a far cry from
the poor-quality full-frame/cropped/poorly-mixed “Also Sprach
Zarathustra”-heavy soundtrack/English-dubbed edition known as STING OF THE
BECK: MONGOLIAN CHOP SQUAD Vol. 1
Animated Japanese TV series about a teenaged boy in contemporary Tokyo
who wants to make music and falls in with a motley crew of struggling
musicians, including a brother-and-sister pair who grew up in America
and liberally sprinkle their Japanese dialogue with English phrases.
Boasts an emotional honesty and sense of urban realism that are completely
absent from live-action American shows.
Shaw Bros.’ first color film, made in 1958, a Huangmei Opera tale of
a poor girl working for a crafty government minister who uses the
girl’s charms to topple a corrupt prime minister. Just beautiful. A second
disc offers short segments on star Linda Lin Dai, including an
original 1964 nineteen-minute “Tribute to Lin Dai,” produced right after
A Shaw Brothers classic that had been missing in action for many years
despite being the middle section of a 1965 trilogy that started with
TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS, which was released on disc in January 2003, and
ended with THE SWORD AND THE LUTE, which was released in August 2006.
So I had to wait till April 2007 for TWIN SWORDS so I could finally
watch THE SWORD AND THE LUTE. I like TWIN SWORDS the best of the three.
POKEMON RANGER AND THE TEMPLE OF THE SEA
2-disc set includes a short, “Pikachu’s Island Adventure.” The
9th Pokemon movie and almost as good as the 6th, 7th, and 8th ones. Gotta
catch ’em all!
A case could be made that this unsung Shaw Bros. production from 1970
is among the very first “true” kung fu movies. Cheng Pei Pei stars
as a swordswoman whose job is to reunite the five fighting Gao Bros. for
a mission of vengeance against the man who killed their father.
All-star cast directed by Lo Wei with fight scenes by Hsu Er Niu (aka Simon
Chui Yee-ang), the third best fight choreographer at Shaw Bros.
MORNING MUSUME – ALL SINGLES COMPLETE ZEN 35 KYOKU ~ 10TH ANNIVERSARY
2-disc set contains all 35 music videos by J-pop sensation Morning
Musume from 1997-2007. The greatest music videos ever, including “Love
Machine,” “Mr. Moonlight,” and “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari.” I
had planned to leave all J-pop concerts/videos off this list and leave
it to movies and TV shows like everybody else, but then I only would
have had nine, so in goes this one.
No DVD list at this time. My Top 10 is below, in 10 to 1 order (1 being the best, of course)
10) In the Shadow of the Moon
8) There Will Be Blood
7) Gone Baby Gone
6) No Country for Old Men
5) No End in Sight
4) Michael Clayton
3) Black Book
Additional verbiage, and other end-of-2007 film lists, can be found at my blog, in and around this entry: http://robertcashill.blogspot.com/2008/01/...-2007-best.html