19 July 2007

The (Half) Year in Movies: 2007 So Far...

Why wait until the end of the year to start assembling lists?

I like to consider myself something of a cheerleader for contemporary American cinema; let's face it, the last few years have seen some fantastic films come out of the States. So far this year, though, the American output has been of paltry quality--with notable exceptions, of course. And the year is only half over and traditionally a lot of the best films are reserved for the final two seasons; exciting stuff is still to come (new Cohen Bros., Baumbach, Anderson, Burton, just to name a few of the reliable directors; hopefully Paranoid Park will find a distributor soon!), but 2007 has still been a good year for film thanks to the select American contributions and the work of the international community. Asian cinema, if no other, is certainly in a Golden Age.

(Be advised I haven't seen everything this year; notable missed-films include Once, Grindhouse, and In Between Days, just to name a few. By the end of the year I'm sure this list will look very different, but for now...)

1. Ratatouille

A gorgeous examination of the nature of the artistic process, with an endearingly optimistic moral that we all have a talent and a purpose to pursue, Ratatouille is told with the same kind of flair that the movies back in the Golden Age of Hollywood had; its director, Brad Bird, tells a story as marvelously as Howard Hawks. There isn’t a single misstep, just pure pathos, hilarity and narrative propulsion. Most of all, it's got charm. Pixar is not only back after the dismal Cars, they’ve made the best thing anyone’s seen all year.
Full review

2. Mafioso

Released in Italy in 1962, Alberto Lattuada’s masterpiece never saw the light of day in this country until Rialto revived it early this year. A DVD is surely in the works, so get your queues ready; Mafioso is a funny little culture clash comedy set in a boondock Sicily, where a Milano family man has taken the wife and kids for a family reunion. But half way through the film takes on a much darker and more serious tone, transforming into an examination of the violence behind small-town living. Condemning, in the end, the past in all its violence and cruelty, Mafioso is nothing short of a proud celebration of modernity. And how often do you see that?
Full review

3. Syndromes and a Century

Coming out of Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film is as gorgeous, spellbinding and mysterious as anything he’s ever made, if not more so. What’s it about? Hard to say, but Weerasethakul is up there with Hou Hsaio-Hsien as a modern director who is changing the way people watch and understand films. Nothing short of changing the very grammar of cinema is good enough for him!
Full Review

4. Day Night Day Night

More compelling than it has any right to be, Day Night Day Night is the story of a sweet young American girl who’s decided to blow up a Times Square streetcorner. Why? Who knows! Director Julia Lotkev keeps the film steeped in mystery; no motives are offered, only suspense, built-up with tight close-ups and a hand-held camera. It’s a fascinating experiment in the nature of cinematic identification, and star Luisa Williams gives a performance that approaches the levels of Falconetti. Ultimately, and arguably irresponsibly, Lotkev uses the terrorist as a metaphor for the artist, and the results are genuinely moving when they ought to be repulsive.
Full Review

5. 12:08 East of Bucharest

A small and seemingly slight film out of Romania, 12:08… couldn’t be more perfect for what it sets out to accomplish. Less, as critics have suggested, an exploration of the nature of memory and truth of the Rashomon variety–though that’s there, too–12:08... essentially asks why we ought to celebrate our national history when the reality of the present is so dismal and bleak. A fitting companion film for the Fourth of July holiday that just passed!
Full Review

Honorable Mention/Runners-Up (in order):
o Paprika (Full review)
o Time (Full review)
o Zodiac (Full review)
o Triad Election (Full review)
o 28 Weeks Later (Full review)


james flames said...

so there's a new time burton movie and a new wes anderson movie on the way? any more details have you?

i wonder which 'tim burton' will show up in his next film - "Nightmare...", "Scissorhands", "Mars Attacks", etc.

and i've all about given up on Wes Anderson. i watched the Royal Tennenbaums again recently, alone, and against my own will (if that's possible) just to prove that i've outgrown his late-teens, early-twenties maudlin pandering. it's still a good movie, but i definitely don't really like it anymore. and the Life Aqautic blew. still curious about a new one, tho.

james flames said...

oh yeah, and no suprise, but Ratatouille is the only movie i've seen on your list, so no suprise, but i agree with its #1 listing.

tho you have me curious about this Asian cinema you speak of. any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Tim Burton's adapting Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd I believe, not sure whether it's a musical or not but given the barber character and Johnny Depp's attachment, in answer to your question I'd assume more Scissorhands.

Wes Anderson's new one is called Djarleeing Express, I probably misspelled that, but I saw a trailer for it yesterday before Sunshine (which was good!) Looks like your standard Wes Anderson fare; I've heard people say they think his appeal is generational, and as such I believe you could grow out of his films. But I still haven't, and so I eagerly await his latest! :)

It's called IMDb, bro, check it out. Hahaha anyway, I'm not going to recommend any Asian movies because I don't think you'd like them. (If you really want to know, try reading my reviews every once in a while!)

james flames said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
james flames said...

wow, nothing like a testy film critic.....

i DO read your reviews all the time, but i haven't seen 95% of the movies you talk about, so forgive me for not talking about that which i don't know. conversley, did you see my comments on Manhattan?

and you're probably right, i'm sure i wouldn't like those Asian movies. but the way you descibed them, as changing the very way we watch movies, i'm curious at least. howabout you tell me the one you think is the best to start with, and i'll try to watch at least a half hour of it. hahahaha