Jeez, another year in the dumpster of broken dreams, eh? I saw a heck of a lot of movies this year. I haven’t counted but I think it’s probably more than any other. A few serious binge weekends and double features and all sorts of stuff. I can’t sum it up, really. I realize that I see quite a diverse palette of films and homogenizing some statement about the year in movies is a little hard.
Theatrically, I caught quite a few fun films. Hollywood was way hit and miss. Big films sucked terribly like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) and the rancid Spider-Man 3 (2007). But then Hollywood got some things totally right. Pixar’s Brad Bird hit with one of the best mainstream animated films made in decades, Ratatouille (2007). And then Hollywood also hit a slam with the hilarious, though flawed by its own oft-praised crudity, Superbad (2007) is the funniest teen comedy in years.
And then later, the two best dramas of the year came out: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) (the film hardly anyone saw) and the probable Oscar winner, No Country for Old Men (2007)…okay, I take that back. They’ll probably give it to Atonement (2007) which I have not seen nor do plan to see.
On DVD I discovered and rediscovered a variety of brilliant films. I have to say that David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006), I think, is probably his best film. It was rapturous and amazing. But I also was blown away by Doris Wishman’s totally avant-garde trash film Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965), probably the biggest surprise of the year.
In mainstream classics, I hit some real gems, too. My fascination with Jesse James, which began with Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) led me to Henry King’s brilliant early bio-pic, Jesse James (1939). And for showings of modernized tributes to the films of that era, Steven Spielberg will retain his street cred forever because of his awesome Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), no matter how awful the sequels turned out or the next one, God save us.
But I also got into documentaries like a madman, appreciating the recent influx of modern documentaries that is going on now, with more and more being made all the time. Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) & The Bridge (2006) were the two best of contemporary films, both intense and depressing as hell, but also intensely enlightening.
But the older form of silent documentary was totally inspirational. Benjamin Christensen’s stunning Häxan (1922) about witchcraft and devil worship was visionary and like nothing I’ve ever seen. But, I have to say, at the end of the day, Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera (1929) is probably one of my favorite films that I’ve ever seen. It’s radical use of non-verbal narrative, juxtaposing images of “average” Russians through a “day” in the life is something no less than a masterpiece. Brilliant, strange, surprising.
I don’t know how many or how few of you read this damn thing, but I’m keeping it up nonetheless. Here’s to a better year for us now.
Favorite Films that I Saw Theatrically in 2007
Ratatouille (2007) dir. Brad Bird
No Country for Old Men (2007) dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) dir. Andrew Dominik
Superbad (2007) dir. Greg Mottola
Cat People (1942) dir. Jacques Tourneur
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) dir. Guillermo del Toro
Thieves Like Us (1974) dir. Robert Altman
Casino Royale (2006) dir. Martin Campbell
Favorite Films that I Watched on DVD in 2007
Inland Empire (2006) dir. David Lynch
Paper Moon (1973) dir. Peter Bogdanovich
Scarface (1932) dir. Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
Manufactured Landscapes (2006) dir. Jennifer Baichwal
Jesse James (1939) dir. Henry King
Air Guitar Nation (2006) dir. Alexandra Lipsitz
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) dir. Steven Spielberg
Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965) dir. Doris Wishman
Man With a Movie Camera (1929) dir. Dziga Vertov
Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) dir. Hubert Sauper
The Bridge (2006) dir. Eric Steel
Häxan (1922) dir. Benjamin Christensen
Maniac (1934) dir. Dwain Esper
Freaks (1932) dir. Tod Browning
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) dir. Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzk
A Christmas Story (1983) dir. Bob Clark