Monday, December 31, 2007

Movies in the (212)

Every year I think I say that it was the worst year for films ever, and 2007 was no exception. Surprisingly, when I went through the releases from the past 12 months I was able to come up with more than 10 that I liked, although the prevalence of documentaries is starting to alarm me (watching reality television, reading nothing but biographies and now this?). So without further ado, here are my movie picks for 2007:

  • "The Savages": Tamara Jenkins' story of a brother and sister who come together to care for their elderly father who is suffering from dementia is without a doubt my favorite film of the year (the rest are in no particular order). My review will help you understand why.
  • "The Hoax": Lasse Hallstrom's film was inspired by true events in the life of Clifford Irving, the writer who nearly pulled off one of the most audacious media scams in history, when his "autobiography" of Howard Hughes was published. Maybe it's because I'm in "the business," but I was thrilled from beginning to end. (Read what I said about it here.)
  • "Knocked Up": Judd Apatow's story about a twentysomething guy who finds out he impregnated his one-night stand is wonderfully charming. Katherine Heigl couldn't be more wrong about this film when she said it makes guys look lovable and women look like nagging shrews. Men have taken a nonstop bashing in the popular culture -- have you seen the cellphone commercials where the kids and mom are so cool that they won't even talk to the dorky dad but they have no problem having him pay for everything? -- so "Knocked Up" was merely the balanced look at being a guy that was just screaming to be made. (Read my review here.)
  • "Superbad": Greg Mottola's high school comedy about two co-dependent seniors looking to score alcohol for a party is simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming.
  • "Juno": Jason Reitman's teen pregnancy comedy starts out too cute for its own good but ends up being one great film. (Read what I had to say here.)

  • "Zodiac": David Fincher's film about the notorious serial killer is based on the actual case files and while not an earth-shattering endeavor, is highly entertaining (Read what I had to say here.)
  • "Show Business: The Road to Broadway": This documentary looks at one of the most controversial and high-profile seasons on Broadway in decades, following the production of four top Broadway musicals -- "Wicked," "Taboo," "Caroline, or Change," or "Wicked" from rehearsals to opening night. The best part of this film is watching Charles Isherwood (then of Variety), Patrick Pacheco (L.A. Times correspondent), Linda Winter (Newsday), Jacques Le Sourd (Gannett Newspapers) and especially Michael Riedel (NY Post) meet for lunches throughout the season and completely get everything wrong about what was good, what would be a hit, what would be a bomb and what would win an award. (Do these people actually get paid to write about theater?!!!!)
  • "Trantasia": The best documentary about a transsexual beauty pageant of all time, Jeremy Stanford captures the joy and the sorrow of the transgender experience with side journeys home and interviews with the contestants' families.
  • "Sicko": Michael Moore's look at the American health-care system didn't make nearly as big a splash as I thought it would, but I really loved it. Should he have timed it better with the '08 elections? (See my review here.)
  • "Control": Anton Corbin's biopic of the Joy Division's tragic lead singer, Ian Curtis, works because Sam Riley becomes the "Love Will Turn Us Apart" crooner. (Read my review here.)

    ADDENDUM: Because MovieWeb provided (what turns out to be) an incomplete list of all of the year's releases, I forgot to mention the gay hustler romantic comedy "Boy Culture," which definitely makes my list of faves. Read the various things I've written about it here.

  • Honorable mentions:
  • "Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten": Julian Temple would have been better off making a straight-forward documentary, but there's so much good footage here that all of his quirky editing tricks can't detract from how enjoyable this is to watch. (Read my review here.)
  • "Hollywood Dreams": Henry Jaglom's tale of a damaged young woman from small town Iowa who arrives in Hollywood with dreams of stardom is a flawed but compelling look at how you can never really escape your past.
  • "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" Julian Schnabel's ambitious "little" film about an injured fashion editor who can only communicate with one eyelid is indeed original but doesn't quite live up to the hype.
  • "American Gangster": Top drawer cast and crew and an wonderful (true!) story somehow falls short of brilliant. (Read what I wrote about it here.)
  • "Man About Town": Mike Binder was the creative force behind HBO's intelligent "Mind of a Married Man," so when I saw his 2007 film had gone straight to video I just assumed it was because it was too cerebral for the general public. The first half is smart and clever -- Ben Affleck is terrific as a Hollywood agent who has everything yet still feels like something is missing. And then it gets bad. Really bad.

    Haven't seen yet: "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "The Kite Runner" and "Michael Clayton"


    Anonymous said...

    Nice list. After hearing about "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" I'm actually more interested in seeing these two. I'm not so surprised about your view on American Gangster, though. It seemed like alot of hype and hoopla, but once it hit theaters it sortof died out. I guess just because you put in all the right ingredients doesn't mean that the soup's going to taste good.

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you for not putting the dreadful "Sweeney Todd" on your list. And Happy New Year!

    Bill said...

    I hadn't realized we overlapped so much. I thought both "Knocked Up" and "The Savages" were notable for their realism -- there was plenty that could have been exaggerated for laughs, but in both cases the characters were just pretty darn realistic. "Knocked Up," in particular, showed modern young people in a startlingly non-Hollywood way.

    I was trying to describe the brilliance of "Juno" to our other brother -- how the dialogue was mannered and just too rapid-fire and too "good," even though you forgive that because it's so well done -- and Terence mentioned Neil Simon. Yes! Diablo Cody is Neil Simon for 21st-century hipsters!

    Anonymous said...

    I've only seen Superbad (funny but reminded me of a male version of 16 Candles), Knocked Up (funny but not as funny as i thought it was going to be), and Zodiac (it felt like a long movie). The other movies on your list will go on my netflixs queue. Thanks Kenneth and Happy New Year

    Anonymous said...

    You got it so right on your review of "The Road To Broadway." When I viewed the film, I became so angered with the smugness and arrogance of this group who yield so much power. Sadly, they get paid mucho bucks for their sarcasm. Thanks for noticing; I thought it was just I who had this opinion.

    Matthew said...

    That's great you liked Boy Culture enough to cite it. I absolutely loved Michael Clayton. I'm doing a list at some point and saw like 8 movies on my twin family trips. I liked Juno, but found it a bit like Gilmore Girls...but a really good episode. The Kite Runner was okay, and great in parts, but it was odd...the homosexual as opposed to gay aspect is a bit off-putting.

    Anonymous said...

    No mention of "Into the Wild?"