Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Best and Worst Of 2007 In Film

A couple of years ago, this was my first (official) film article. This was before I decided to review every film possible, and so it shows the early stages of my film critique. As an oddity it can be enjoyed, but certainly the opinions expressed in it are very much the same today. Kudos.

The title pretty much says it all for you. Another year of films, yakity yak, you know the drill. None the less, I believe that 2007 saw the release of many fantastic films and, inevitably, some real stinkers. What follows is my opinions on the best and the worst of 2007. Enjoy or not. Also, feel free to bombard this blog with comments, as I am interested to hear other peoples opinions on the recent batch of films in discussion.

Hot Fuzz

Black Sheep

Knocked Up

And the winner is- Black Sheep

Personally, I found Black Sheep to be easily one of the funniest films to be released in the past decade, on par with the now classic comedy of the decade, Borat. While Hot Fuzz delivers the kicks for real film smarks (the more you have seen, the better) and Knocked Up was a great laugh with a genuinely touching story, making it a non-spineless "dirty joke ha-ha" comedy, it is Black Sheep's non-commercialism that makes it such a good film. Granted, it would certainly not be for everyones tastes (this was one of my all-time favourite cinema attendances, the Oddyssey with about twelve people in the screening, including myself and my dad, and at least four or five walk-outs), but anyone who appreciates great Black humour (excuse the pun) at the expense of about a couple hundred sheep and New Zealanders, treat yourself to a rare treat. Be warned, this film contains an excess of gore, violence and flatulence.



The Host


And the winner is- The Host

The Host this year definitely proved to make an impact on the international film spectrum, being known as the "giant tadpole" monster movie. But the film in the end is not about the giant tadpole. It acts as a catylst to the true story of the film, the bonding of an estranged family for a mutual cause. Beautifully acted by some of the best Korea has to offer, including star of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance Song Kang-ho, The Host acts not only as an effective monster movie which is appealing to commercial audience, a study on a family in turmoil, but a thinly hidden criticism of American politics (note Agent Yellow) in the vein of the class Dead series by George Romero. Two thumbs up.


The Simpsons Movie


I Am Legend

And the winner is- I Am Legend

I Am Legend is the winner of this award for a number of reasons as it has the honour(?) of being the reason behind my newly-founded I Am Legend theory. Every one of these films nominated suffered from this, where it was a case of I genuinely wanted to say that this was a fantastic film. The Simpsons Movie suffered from this to a lesser extent because I wasn't expecting much, suprised in some ways which harked back to the older seasons, but essentially it was an amalganation of the best and the worst of The Simpsons. I genuinely enjoyed Sunshine, and it was a film which was reserved on the calender for me. Well-acted, claustrophobic tension, well-directed, but two flaws which really bothered me. One, should have left (SPOILER ALERT) the former Icarus I crew member an unseen mystery and two, the drastic change of tone in the ending. The ending is too upbeat in my opinion and simply does not fit in with what has preceded (SPOILER END). I guess my high expectations killed it. The feeling is mutual, albeit more strongly to I Am Legend. Like the previous, well-acted, well-made, blah, blah. What I simply could not stand was the fact that both the gunned up, tanked Will Smith and the audience were supposed to be terrified of the mutants, which were essentially badly-done CGI slabs of meat. Also, like the previous, but once again even worse, the changed ending from what was intended, in order to make it more upbeat, in the end, destroys the film for me. The I Am Legend theory is explained thus: I Am Legend was a film which had many great merits and I wanted to enjoy, but could not because of the abundance of flaws that effectively render the film annoying. And so, in honour of this most dubious honour, the award from next year on is known as THE I AM LEGEND CERTIFICATE OF DISSAPOINTMENT AWARD.



Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

28 Weeks Later

And the winner is- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Hands down on this one in terms of overall quality. While Vacancy was a great claustrophobic slasher in the vein of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 28 Weeks Later a perfectly good sequel to the original, Sweeney Todd was easily thr best horror film of the year. Overlooked at the Oscars, this film has all the makings of a film that will lauded as a classic in the future. Part traditional Hollywood musical, part Grand Guignol gorefest and part Burton, this adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's classic play is the perfect adaptation in every sense of the word. Burton (with the help of Sondheim) effectively rid the film of the subplots that riddle the play, stripping the film to it's bare neccessities and in the process avoding to lose focus on the true story, Sweeney's revenge. Wonderfully acted (and sung) by all involved, including the newcomers. Perhaps Tim Burton's most mature film, an infinite original and compelling character driven journey into madness, laden with tragic poignancy, yet remaining infinitely Burton-esque. Appealing to all, from fans of the vintage Hollywood musicals and the modern gorno fans.


28 Weeks Later

Die Hard 4.0

The Bourne Ultimatum

And the winner is- The Bourne Ultimatum

As mentioned previously, 28 Weeks Later was a perfectly satisfying sequel to the original 28 Days Later, upping the ante and optic for all out gorefest instead of the originals air of underlying tension. Die Hard 4.0 proved to a great film, with action-packed thrills, albeit in the most ludicrous way possible. The Bourne Ultimatum is my winner because not only did it match the originals, it surpassed both of them, creating perhaps the best closure of a film series in history. Whereas most other sequels were sticking to the format of "more is better," Paul Greengrass stuck the format that brought him to the dance. After Doug Liman's orginal Bourne Identity, Greengrass had a tough act to follow, and more than lived up to expectations, with each film better than the one that preceded before. Greengrass has proven to be one of the most interesting, docu-realist film-makers in cinema today, and after finishing the Bourne trilogy, will surely have a long and illustrious career. The case is the same with the driving force behind the trilogy, Matt Damon. Now established as one of Hollywood's main players, the subtle touches of human nature that he brings to Jason Bourne make him stand out from modern cinema tough guys in recent memory. For example, in the scene in which Nicky is dying her hair brings to mind the scene from the first film with Marie, and it is little things like this that make the Bourne series stand out from the crowd. In conclusion, a fantastic sequel that lives up to and surpasses expectations.


Knocked Up

Die Hard 4.0

Mr Bean's Holiday

And the winner is- Knocked Up

This one was a tough choice. Mr. Bean's Holiday qualified for the pure fact that contained a number of stereotypes towards the French which could be deemed as offensive. Which of course I have no problem with because the majority of them are true. For the latter half of Die Hard 4.0, we have John McClane taking a slightly over-the-top approach in angering the big bad villain, in which he consistenly refers to his dead girlfriend as the "smokin' hot asian bitch" while manically laughing. But Knocked Up definitely takes the buscuit. While I am personally not offended by none of these films, Knocked Up portrays the responsible, Katharine Heigl character in a very negative light in which she would be viewed as a bad parent, whereas the irresponsible, pot-smoking father is portrayed as a sympathetic figure. Not that any of this is wrong (after all, it is just a film), these stererotypes of men and in particular women could indeed offend alot of people, and it is for this reason that Knocked Up shall take the gold.



No Country For Old Men

The Bourne Ultimatum

And the winner is- No Country For Old Men

I know, ironic Fincher not taking the award that already has his name written all over it (the reason being that Fincher created the masterpiece Seven over a decade ago, which stands as one of the best examples of the modern thriller). Zodiac was a phenomenally well-researched chronicle of the infamous serious killer, which remained intensely interesting from start to finish, and I cannot sing my praises anymore regarding The Bourne Ultimatum. But I will start off by saying that No Country For Old Men was easily deserving in its winning of the Oscar for Best Picture. It is a fantastically well-crafted chase movie, which is one the most effective thrillers of recent years. I know this has become cliche for reviews regarding this film, but in order to have a good thriller, you need a good bad guy, and Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh is perhaps one of the best examples. Instantly immortalised in cinema history, Chigurh is created in the film as a character of mystery: He could from any country, between 30 and 50, his motives are of a nature which seem to lack moral fibre, but seem to be regimented in his own moral code and way of life. The character is such a mystery that by the end of the film we come to question the nature of his existence, forever moving from place to place in the way that a ghost effectively glides its way around. Besides Bardem, the rest of the cast, in particular Josh Brolin as Llewleyn Moss flourish in what is most definately the most mature film created by the Coen Brothers, acting as a great contrast to their usual brand of surreal humour. An instant classic.


Carice Van Houten (Black Book)


Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up)

And the winner is- Carice Van Houten (Black Book)

Each of the three actresses gave fine performances this year. As you could probably guess from earlier, I did indeed prefer Katharine Heigl's character in Knocked Up than others who may have found her annoying. But it is an annoying character because it is a realistic character. People found her annoying because in the midst of a laugh-out loud comedy, she seems to be plonk in the middle spoiling the fun. However, I genuinely enjoyed the performance and character, so kudos to Heigl. Also, she did have perhaps the best line of the year. I mean, would your girlfriend tell you to "fuck your bong." In INLAND EMPIRE, Laura Dern carries what is effectively a convulated mess, albeit a very interesting and disturbing mess, into the world that David Lynch has created. Under his masterful direction, she pulls off a multi-faceted performance that was robbed of a deserved Oscar nomination. However, the best female performance of the year was undoubtedly that of Carice Van Houten, who helps create what could have been a Paul Verhoeven Nazi titty flick into one the year's best, in what turns out to be a surprisingly restrained film, despite some old tastes of Verhoeven. Undoubtedly his most mature (I know, but it's a recurring thing this year) film to date, chronicling Nazi Germany in a way which it has never been seen before. A pet project of Verhoeven's for over twenty years, arguably the long development process paid off. But Van Houten is the real revelation, who as a relative newcomer to the international scene, carries the film alongside so of the world's best such as Sebastian Koch of The Lives of Other fame. Her performance as Jew who acts as a spy for a resistance group, her allignment is ambiguous, stuck between her religion and the man she loves.


Die Hard 4.0

28 Weeks Later


And the winner is- Die Hard 4.0

To be honest in terms of surprisingly good film in terms of quality, it should probably go to Transformers, a film which I was merely expecting to be a giant robot feitsh fest. I wasn't expecting great things of 28 Weeks Later, but I was certainly surprised by the quality of the film and the change of directing style from the original, giving director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo brings his own cards to the table, turning the original's extended drama in the horror environment to an ultraviolent rollercoaster of a film, which does take some interesting directions i.e. (SPOILER ALERT) Robert Carlyle, the film's "name" star spends half the movie as one of the infected, everyone who you expect not to die does (SPOILER END). However, in terms of the film that surpassed my expectations, the award must go to Die Hard 4.0. There has become a new trend in reviving franchises as of late since the release of Rocky Balboa. While we all do enjoy the nostalgia from watching our old heroes go onto the big screen one more time, was there really a need for a fourth Die Hard. Nonetheless, despite expecting to enjoy the movie to a certain extent (after it is Bruce Willis doing deadpan John McClane again), I didn't expect to enjoy it to the extent that I did. Yes, I know, it is stupid, over-the-top blockbuster nonsense, but if I enjoy a stupid, over-the-top blockbuster, so be it. I'm not going to lie. The film also contains adequate performances by the leads and supporting cast, in particular Bruce Willis as ever carrying the film. However, as I mentioned previously, it is stupid over-the-top blockbuster nonsense, I believe that the strong plot and villains justify such near insanity. I mean where else would you see a man walk on a jet plane and still not find it in the least annoying. Like 28 Weeks Later, Len Wiseman takes over the reins of the franchise and lends his own style to the playing field. The film that comes most to mind whenever watching this is Bad Boys II, another over-the-top blockbuster which I enjoyed and is criticised too harshly. Die Hard 4.0 is a non-stop rollercoaster from start to finish, laden with injokes and references to originals, Bruce Willis up to his usual and easily the best out of the "bigger is better" blockbuster trend.


Thomas Turgoose (This Is England)

Sam Riley (Control)

Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)

And the winner is- Sam Riley (Control)

This was a particularly hard category to judge for, but certainly not on par to the (heaven forfold) Best Film category. Other notable performances of the year include Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum, Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford, Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, among others. Thomas Turgoose, in his first film performance, is the centerpiece of Shane Meadows' one-hour-and-fourty minute masterpiece. He carries the film from the beginning to its conclusion, one of the best pointers in a film which is full of them. As mentioned earlier, Javier Bardem creates the iconic Anton Chigurh with gusto, making him perhaps the most memorable villain since Hannibal Lecter, a reason which gives me justice to give him the award. But this year, I believe that Sam Riley in the role of Ian Curtis was the best performance of 2007. I was mesmerised by the performance, easily the biggest merit of a great film, by which by the end of the film I was unable to seperate fact from fiction, as though we were in a time capsule, following Anton Corbijn's camera into the life and death of Ian Curtis. Riley effectively became Ian Curtis in this film, to the point where when now thinking of the face of Ian Curtis, I sometimes think of Sam Riley, and it is for this reason, in which he has penetrated my subconcious, that he gets my gong for Best Actor. Man, I need supporting categories next year.


David Fincher (Zodiac)

Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)

Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford)

And the winner is- David Fincher (Zodiac)

Each of the directors this year created great films, but their direction in particular stood out among the rest. Paul Greengrass stuck to his usual docu-realist style, giving an effective closure to the Bourne series, while Andrew Dominik's Jesse James was an amazing well-crafted double character study of Brad Pitt's Jesse James and Casey Affleck's Robert Ford. But David Fincher has to get the deuce for his meticulously researched and created three decade epic on the Zodiac killings and how they affect the lives of various people in the San Franciso Bay area. Taking five years to reach the screen, every little detail is in it's correct place, causing the film to almost be like a thirty-year documentary in style. Demanding the best of his actors, shooting at times over fifty takes, Fincher's epic journey certainly paid off in the end result. Many involved in the original Zodiac killings have praised Fincher's investigative style, for during filming he himself discovered things about the killings which were not previously known or thought of. Fincher's meticulousness and dedication to his craft gets him the award for me. That and not giving him the award with his name written all over it


White Noise: The Light (Patrick Lussier)

Deja Vu (Tony Scott)

Alien Versus Predator: Requiem (The Strause Brothers)

And the winner is- Deja Vu (Tony Scott)

I guess Tony Scott just got unlucky this year. Likewise with Knockey Up. The Strause Brothers would have been walking away from me with their awards (metaphorical or not) shoved up their ass for the hideous monstrosity that was Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem. White Noise: The Light did not win the award for the fact that, while it was a terrible film, it was too unintentionally funny to win the award (I guess in that sense, Ed Wood is the wrong name on the award. Oh well, go figure). Deja Vu wins the award for being the worst film of the year because it was one of the most annoying films of the past few years. This film attempts to be something new and original, yet remains over-the-top blockbuster nonsense, while also retaining every cliche possible for a single film, from the way the story unfolds to every the little things (okay, the fairly uninspired name for the ginger cat was funny). The actors, as good as some of them are, cannot save what is a ludicrously terrible mess of a film from itself. So bad until I did my research recently I forgot that Val Kilmer was I the film. That tells you as it is, it was so annoying that even Val Kilmer seems unannoying and forgettable. Also, tell Bruce Greenwood to quit disgracing my family name, which created a rather apparent annoyance on my part, having the most annoying bastard in the film have my name. I mean, at least Mayor McCready in Slither was a funny asshole.


And the winner is- Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem That is it done and dusted. I guarantee that I will not have changed my mind on this one by the time 2009 comes rolling along. It is a terribly shot film in which you cannot see what is going on whatsoever, terribly cliche driven, characters we are meant to care about but who end up terribly annoying and want to die and finally being the most morally repugnent film of recent memory. Come to think of it, I might have the trophy made and accept the award myself on behalf of the Strause Brothers, since clearly they will not have the decency to take criticism like men and pick up the trophy. Finished rant.


This years winners are the inagural inductees into the McCready Hall of Fame.Each of the five inductees is chosen from a different field in the film-making process.

Inductee Number One- Composer- Ennio Morricone

Contributing an extensive body of original scores to the films of Sergio Leone, Roland Joffe's The Mission and John Carpenter's The Thing, Morricone's work speaks for itself, contributing to the world some of the most memorable sounds of cinema.

Inductee Number Two- Cinematographer- Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle has created some of the most memorable images to the screen in many films in various countries. One of the only truly international cinematographers, his body of work includes that of Zhang Yimou's Hero, Wong Kar Wai's In the mood for love, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs and Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence

Inductee Number Three- Screewriter- Paul Schrader

One of the leading screenwriters of the 1970's New Hollywood, Schrader's bare knuckles realistic scripts would be brought to life in the form films such as Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Obsession by Brian De Palma and The Yakuza by Sydney Pollack, co-written with his brother Leonard. He also went onto to have a succesful directing career, including American Gigalo, Cat People and the recent Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist.

Inductee Number Four- Actor- Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey was by far the best actor of the ninties, and remains to be a powerful in Hollywood, as actor and producer, and in the theatre world, recently starring alongside Jeff Goldblum in Speed-The-Plow. Delivering masterful supporting performances as John Doe in Seven and Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, he topped of the nineties in his Oscar winning performance as Lester Burnham in American Beauty.

Inductee Number Five- Director- David Lynch

A true master of the surreal, Lynch is rightfully known as the "Salvador Dali of film." Directing at the same pace he did thirty years ago, his body of work, influenced by his Transcendental Meditation process, includes, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and the recent INLAND EMPIRE. Meticulous craftsman, writing his own screenplays, experimenting with soun design and creating a surrealistic nightmarish atmosphere that has become trademark of his films.


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton)

No Country For Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)

This Is England (Shane Meadows)

And the winner is- No Country For Old Men

I know, I know, No Country For Old Men won the Oscar yak, yak. Nonetheless, it is deserving in all the critical acclaim that the film receives. Each of the other three were horrendously misjudged at the Oscar ceremony (three nominations for Sweeney Todd, Jesse James two, and This Is England with none). Despite these injustices, No Country For Old Men is the winner for me. It is a wonderfully well made film. It is lean, crisp, no flab around the edges, with a well crafted character driven chase film, with great performances all round. This will be remembered as Joel and Ethan Coen's masterpiece. In a year in which all the nominated directors and some non-nominated directors tended their pet projects and matured with grace, The Coen Brothers No Country For Old Men stood out above the rest as the best of the year.

IN CONCLUSIONI would like to point out one film in particular worthy of mention which did not get any nominations. Ten Canoes, the first film ever shot in the Aborigine language was one the year's best, so if you get the opportunity, watch something truly original.There's another year of films done. We saw many recurring trends which saw the maturity and long-tended pet projects of many directors come to fruition, the bigger-is-better trend coming back, sequels being good, and a taste for absurd humour. 2007 will have many films to remember it by, for better or worse. BLOG OUT!

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