Thursday, February 14, 2008

2007 Movies

So, even with the kid, and the having less money to throw around because of the kid, and the having less time to see movies because of the kid, I've managed to see 27 movies that are eligible for the 2007 Academy Awards (as taken from this list). Here now, from the 27th to the best:

27. The First 45 Minutes of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I can only evaluate the first 45 minutes of Sweeney Todd, because I only saw the first 45 minutes of Sweeney Todd. From the second I first realized I hated the movie, I gave it about 35 more minutes to change my mind. It didn't. I have never before walked out of the theater during a movie and stayed out for good, but, Tim Burton finally did it.

And it's not because it's a musical; I love musicals. I see all the musicals. I'm thrilled that, after several years, the movie musical is back. It's just that Sweeney Todd (or, the first 45 minutes of Sweeney Todd) happened to have been the worst 45 minutes of any movie I've ever seen. And I'm not the kind of person who says something like that lightly; I've made a similar claim only once before in my life.

I like musicals, but I wouldn't say I "know" musicals. Therefore, I can't speak with any authority about Stephen Sondheim, but I can say that I found the music in the first 45 minutes of Sweeney Todd to be nothing but atonal, droning noise, and that everything from the staging to the subject matter turned me off completely. I can't imagine ever seeing a movie I enjoy less. The bar has been set low, friends.

As I was walking out of the theater ("fleeing" is probably a better description), I realized something (and my wife -- who liked Sweeney Todd -- brought up the same thing the day after we saw the movie): I hate Tim Burton. Not personally; I just hate his movies. Or his more recent movies, anyway. I IMDb'ed him, in fact, just to check the "I Hate Tim Burton" theory out, and, yep... everything movie he's directed since Ed Wood I either haven't seen or really, really hated.

Mars Attacks!... hated it.

Sleepy Hollow... thought it was lame and boring.

Planet of the Apes... Tim Burton may as well have just slapped Charlton Heston around in front of Heston's kids. This movie was unforgivable. And I'm not even a big Planet of the Apes person.

Big Fish... everyone else loved it, and I thought it was a ridiculous, completely pointless waste of time.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... I almost walked out, but I was there with someone else and we were on the campus of USC (it was some special screening featuring a Q/A with the screenwriter afterwards) so it wasn't like I could just go to a bar, like after I walked out of Sweeney Todd.

Corpse Bride... didn't see it; have no plans ever to see it.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street... worst movie I've ever seen.

So, I can't hardly blame the first 45 minutes of Sweeney Todd, I guess. And Tim Burton might be a good guy, but, he makes some shitty movies. And people have the nerve to give Michael Bay crap.

26. August Rush

My wife picked this one. She thought the trailer looked good. I thought the trailer featured Robin Williams sporting goofy facial hair and a cowboy hat (which is basically the movie trailer version of the biohazard symbol). The thing was, the opening scene -- which married a rock band performance with an orchestra playing classical music -- was really, really good. I thought, "okay, we'll push through that Robin Williams stuff on through to the other side."

But, nope. Almost any other year, this movie would be on the bottom of the list. Thank your lucky stars for Tim Burton, August Rush.

25. Spider-Man 3

I didn't actually hate this movie all that much, but, it's still the third worst 2007 movie I saw. I don't see as many movies as I used to, and, as such, I don't see a movie unless I decide I'm likely to enjoy it (or, as in the case of August Rush, if my wife -- who doesn't pick out that many specific movies that she wants me to go see with her -- picks out a specific movie that she wants me to go see with her).

Well, the faults of Spider-Man 3 have, I'm sure, been discussed elsewhere on the internet, so there's no need to go into that here. This was, though, it should be noted, one of several movies I saw with my daughter, who only learned to walk at the end of May and had a very reliable naptime throughout the spring and early summer. Combine that with the fact that my wife works Sundays and the proximity to our apartment of a theater that charges $5.00 for a Sunday matinee, and I saw more movies in 2007 than I'm likely to see in any of the next 20 years.

24. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

I thought this one had a couple of big laughs (and I thought that this was particularly awesome), but I suspected going in that a spoof of musical biopics couldn't really sustain itself for 90 minutes and I turned out to be right. Plus, a review I glanced at said that "you won't expect the penis," so I totally expected the penis. I still laughed at it, though.

The music was really good, particularly the title song, and I think Oscar should be ashamed of itself that nothing from Walk Hard got nominated for Best Song.

And I would most definitely see an entire movie about the Beatles if Paul Rudd played John, Jack Black played Paul, Justin Long played George and Jason Schwartzman played Ringo.

23. Evan Almighty

I thought my daughter might enjoy all the animals. She didn't really seem to. Evan Almighty wasn't quite as bad as they said, but, it wasn't that great.

22. Music and Lyrics

This movie was exactly as good as it possibly could have been; i.e., it was the 22nd best of the 27 movies I saw this year.

21. Reno 911!: Miami

A little disappointing; it turns out that "Reno 911!" is best in 22-minute doses. But any movie where Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt and The Rock all show up can't possibly be completely irredeemable.

20. Live Free or Die Hard


19. 3:10 to Yuma

I'm not entirely sure I thought any movie this year failed to live up to its potential as much as 3:10 to Yuma. It had a lot of good parts, but, there were some plot moments that were so, so silly (what did they think was going to happen to that guy in the stagecoach, for Christ's sake?) the movie gets bumped down to #19. I think Christian Bale was miscast as Russell Crowe's adversary (Bale's a fantastic actor, but I think it's asking a lot for a man of his age, handsomeness and birthplace to play "world-weary American"). There are certainly worse movies, though, and this one is worth seeing for the performance of Ben Foster (whom I've known was a great, great talent for a while now) alone. Not sure why he wasn't nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

18. The Simpsons Movie

"The Simpsons" isn't quite what it was (just one man's opinion), but they pulled off the movie admirably well, and it holds up impressively on repeat viewings (my brother and sister-in-law had Netflixed it over Christmas, and when we were staying with them my daughter insisted on watching it several times. I didn't get sick of it, which is a pretty high compliment for any movie, really).

17. Disburbia

Pretty standard stuff, done relatively well. Not much else need be said about Disturbia.

16. No Country For Old Men

Oh, dear. I'm going to get in trouble with all my film school friends. I generally love the Coen Brothers' stuff, but, every once in a while they'll put out something that I just don't get (like The Man Who Wasn't There). I was hanging in there with No Country for most of the movie, then the weird ending happened and, I'm afraid to say, pretty much ruined it. Plus, I didn't find Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh to be as fascinating as everybody else seems to have. I didn't really find him to be fascinating at all, to be honest.

The movie is masterfully made, from a technical standpoint, and the performances are all spot-on. Those are parts of a good movie; it's like, a guy could be able to run fast and shoot with incredible accuracy, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll make a successful NBA player.

Besides, even star Josh Brolin himself acknowledged the films shortcomings, saying in an acceptance speech at the SAG awards that "we did a freaky little movie, whether you liked the ending or not." So even he pretty much knows.

I realize everyone else loved this movie, or at least has decided not to talk about how weird and dumb the ending is. Sorry. I don't quite get it.

15. I Am Legend

It must be noted that I'm a complete wuss when it comes to scary movies, but, I Am Legend scared the crap out of me. It was well done, but, it was pretty standard post-apocalyptic, deserted-city fare (and it's funny that that's enough of a genre now that said genre can contain "standard fare").

One really cool thing, though, was when Will Smith is walking through a deserted Times Square, which in the world of the movie was essentially frozen in time at some point a few years from now, you see a giant movie poster that's just the Batman logo surrounding the Superman logo, and then, like, a date (probably July 4th, but I don't remember for sure). That was awesome.

14. Knocked Up

A little disappointing, maybe, but, after The 40-Year-Old Virgin and after how much I loved Knocked Up's trailer, it probably couldn't help but be a little disappointing.

13. Superbad

Pretty amusing; about one notch more amusing than Knocked Up.

12. Once

This was mostly just a long music video about an Irish singer-songwriter and his extremely chaste dalliance with a Czech immigrant. They make beautiful music together, and that's about it. But it was a lovely little movie. What stays with me the most, though, is the fact that, in America, the movie was rated "R," because, although there is not a hint of a whiff or violence or sex or any related themes, the characters say "fuck" a lot.

Now, I almost always advocate erring on the side of caution from a "Think of the children!" standpoint, but, really. Saying "fuck?" And not even in the context of having sex, but, like, saying "fuck you, batteries" to some dead batteries? According to the ratings board, that should really stop a 15-year-old from seeing this perfectly nice little movie? Really? I know there's a standard "You Can Only Say 'Fuck' Once in a PG-13 Movie" rule, but, come on. Parents want to glace at a rating to know whether, by and large, a movie is appropriate for a certain age; what could possibly be wrong with rating it "PG-13: tons and tons of harmless f-bombs"?

Wake up, people! It's things like this -- one of the tiny few ideological nuts that the blind squirrels in the blue states happen to be right about -- that make it possible for people to keep talking themselves into voting for Democrats. We just look stupid!


11. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

I would assume (and maybe even hope, if I'm being honest) that mine is the only 2007 movie list on which I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry appears five spots ahead of No Country For Old Men. I don't care; it's my list, and I tend to like Adam Sandler movies more than most people do. And this was a good movie.

10. Hot Fuzz

Ah, the Top Ten.

Hot Fuzz was Simon Pegg's less-regarded follow-up to Shaun of the Dead, but don't overlook it. Overlooking less-regarded follow-ups can be disastrous, as can be testified to by those poor souls who initially overlooked the Coen brothers' less-regarded follow-up to Fargo or, God forbid, overlooked Stanley Tucci's less-regarded follow-up to Big Night.

Right from the start, Hot Fuzz brings the awesome. Simon Pegg's character is a London cop, but he's too good. He sort of embarrasses all the other officers, so they ship him off to a town in the country that's sleepy, quiet and crime-free (or is it????). The scene where Pegg learns his of his fate is just delightful; he's told about it by his supervisor... Martin Freeman! Then, in comes Martin Freeman's supervisor... Steve Coogan! Then, in comes Steve Coogan's supervisor... Bill Nighy! It's a parade of increasingly older awesome British guys!

Anyway, it's good. Check it out.

9. The Bourne Ultimatum

This was my least favorite "Bourne" movie, but, to use a phrase I coined a while ago, that amounts to praising with faint damnation. I'm not sure The Bourne Supremacy can be topped (at least in "Bourne" terms), but The Bourne Ultimatum was certainly an impressive addition to the "Bourne" library.


8. There Will Be Blood

This movie was beautifully made and Daniel Day-Lewis's performance was one of the best in recent history (I can only come up with Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry when I try to think of performances from the last ten or fifteen years that are in Day-Lewis's league), but There Will Be Blood was all literary and stuff, and I don't get as much out of those kinds of movies as I used to be able to convince myself I did. There are probably plenty of places to get a substantive discussion about this film, so I won't bother. I will say that I thought it was bizarre that Paul Dano's performance as Eli Sunday (and, in once scene, Eli's twin brother Paul) was ignored during awards season. He pretty much blew me away.

I'll also say -- with a minor (very minor, so don't even worry) spoiler -- that someone, somewhere, should really get a hold of the "Simpsons" episode where Mr. Burns's slant-drilling company taps the Elementary School's oil well, and then marry some footage of Burns with Day-Lewis's dialogue from There Will Be Blood's final scene. The "I drink your milkshake" scene. This needs to happen.

7. Eastern Promises

So, it turns out, I'm really, really attracted to movies where ordinary people with ordinary lives are thrust into situations of crime and danger. The last two David Cronenberg/Viggo Mortensen collaborations -- Eastern Promises and A History of Violence -- have dealt with this subject matter. I think it started with A Simple Plan, which remains one of my all-time favorite movies.

Actually, now that I think of it, it started with If Looks Could Kill, in which a 26-year-old Richard Grieco plays a high-school student with the same name as an international super-spy. Intrigue and hilarity ensue. If you haven't seen this movie, you must. Preferably with a group of friends, and preferably drunk or high. But you must. Here's an example of what you can expect:

Grieco is in a tuxedo in some European casino, because he's somehow posing as the (recently murdered) international superspy with whom he coincidentally shares a name. Some super-hot chick sits down across the gaming table from him.

SUPER-HOT CHICK: Bon soir ["bone-SWAR," as in "good evening"], monsieur Corbin.

GRIECO: Boner! Uh... soir.

You've got to see it.

6. Shooter

This movie rules. It's just Mark Wahlberg shooting the crap out of people.

5. Hairspray

See? I like good musicals. Also, allow me to announce that yet a third performance from the movies on this list was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination: John Travolta! He's excellent as the mom. Everyone in this movie is excellent; it's a fantastic cast in a fantastic movie with fantastic songs.


It's probably downright scandalous that Ratatoullie is this as low as #4 on my list, but, I just couldn't put it any higher, as much as I loved it.

Remember how I said that I like movies about ordinary people with ordinary lives who are thrust into situations of crime and danger? I also like movies about people who are passionate about something. Which is a vague category, I know; the best example I can think of is Sideways, if that gives you some idea what I'm talking about. Ratatoullie is certainly one of these movies; you can really appreciate the main character's passion for food, as well as the obstacles in the way of him reaching his dream (mainly, the fact that he's a rat).

3. Bridge to Terabithia

I knew this book, and I was sad to see the commercials for this movie when they were on early last year, because they made it look like a less-than-faithful adaptation. Then I saw "Ebert & Roeper" guest critic Kevin Smith talk about how the commercials weren't accurate, and it was a good movie. Then, I ended up seeing Bridge to Terabithia on a plane.

Without giving too much away, it's a sad story, and, for whatever reason, maybe because I'm getting more emotional as I get older or maybe because I have a daughter now, this movie absolutely destroyed me. I technically didn't even see the whole thing, because I had to keep taking my headphones off because I didn't want to sit there sobbing, disturbing the other passengers. This adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia is an absolute treasure, and I'm a little surprised you haven't heard more about it. I think you might, as the years go on.

2. Juno

I always talk about how every year, a small British (although not necessarily always British) comedy (although not necessarily always a comedy) sneaks into the Best Picture category and really doesn't deserve to be there. These movies are usually a product of some fleeting buzz that evaporates about two weeks after the Oscars, and these movies usually disappear without a trace from the public consciousness shortly thereafter. Movies like Little Miss Sunshine, Finding Neverland, Gosford Park (seriously, does anybody, anywhere, remember Gosford Park?), Chocolat...

Well, this year things are different, in that I happen to love the small comedy that sneaked into the Best Picture category. I haven't seen Michael Clayton or Atonement, and I have no plans to see them, but I've seen the other three nominees, and, if I had a Best Picture vote, I'd be voting enthusiastically for Juno. Absolutely delightful in every way, perfectly cast, perfectly written (even though I'm sure I'm as tired of hearing about "Diablo Cody" as you are), perfectly directed... it's not easy to make this sort of movie successfully, and it's almost impossible to do it as well as these people did. Virtually every little touch, every little moment, rings true. Well done, Juno.

1. Dan in Real Life

And, as good as Juno was, Dan in Real Life was juuuuuust an eensy bit better. I don't know why it came and went so quickly, but, as far as romantic comedies go, it's difficult to imagine a better one. This movie should have launched Steve Carrel past Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell, it should have been nominated for Oscars, it should have made $100 million. I don't know why it didn't.

I'll tell you something: my wife and I went to see Dan in Real Life at a theater that featured assigned seating -- you buy your ticket and pick out your seats before you even go into the theater. We get in there, and we notice that we're sitting next to three floppy-haired, mid-teenage skater douchebags. I was obviously crestfallen; we don't get to go to movies together that often anymore, and these kids were clearly going to ruin it. Why on earth were they even here? Why would these three come to see Dan in Real Life?

Well, they loved it. They didn't made a peep during the emotional stuff, they laughed their butts off during the funny parts... they behaved like model citizens. That's how good Dan in Real Life is.

This piece is really long and I'm sick of writing it, so just go here and read this person's review; that's pretty much what I think about Dan in Real Life. It's a rare treat of a movie.

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