Best Movies Seen on Screen or Via GreenCine in 2007
By Dylan de Thomas
Like most of us who don't work for major newspapers - or live in Manhattan or the City of Angels - I haven't had the chance to see many of the year-end must-sees, like Paul Thomas Anderson's much-anticipated and discussed There Will Be Blood, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly or even Tamara Jenkins' The Savages. These either haven't made it up here to sleepy, rainy Portland, Oregon, or I just haven't made the time to make it out to the theaters to see 'em. Instead, I offer my favorite moments from mostly new-ish DVDs that I was able to see in the comfort of my own home, in between changing diapers and having tea parties with short, messy people. I gotta say, even from this distance, it's clear that it was a great year for film. Here are some of my favorites, split into neat categories for easy consumption.
The Ones Everyone Saw:
Zodiac - David Fincher's take on the Bay Area's never-caught serial killer was easily this year's finest thriller as well as a mash note to the 70's-era films both in tone and content. I walked out of the theater less than blown away, but it stuck with me longer than I expected, watching it again on DVD, which I am looking to do again once the director's cut is released later on this month.
Superbad - From Judd Apatow's shelf of "funny n' weirdly sweet" (from sorta-autobiographical script written by best pals Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) comes the best teen flick since Dazed and Confused, though easily twice as funny. And the bonus features on the DVD - as with all of Apatow's output - are just as entertaining as the main event.
The Ones Some People Saw:
The Host - An unorthodox Monster movie from Korea that turns many of that genres' conventions on its collective ears. From the titular monster showing up in the first few minutes, to the histrionic, amusing family scenes that provide the unexpectedly moving backbone of director Joon-ho Bong's surprise underground hit. Loving this movie then led me to watch the director's first film with The Host's shambolic star Kang-ho Song called Memories of Murder, remarkably similar to the tone of Zodiac's unresolved terrors.
I'm Not There - I saw this last night instead of writing this list and as I am a total Dylan nerd, I went into the flick reminding myself to turn on my critical faculties to try and suss out if people with no interest in Mssr. Zimmerman would enjoy it. Sadly, I became totally enthralled within five minutes and completely forgot all about my self-imposed task. Part of that was my own excitement in seeing the various phases and characters of Dylan's biography and songs come to life and part of that was Todd Haynes' singular kaleidoscopic vision of how to present his creative hero's life in celluloid. Between this and Walk Hard, perhaps the standard biopic form will take a much-needed break. (If you saw this and got a kick out of the more esoteric Dylan-y bits, check out his unfairly maligned, truly funny Masked and Anonymous for more nasally mumbled glee.)
The Underseen Sleepers:
The Big Bad Swim - My colleague James Van Maanen turned me onto this terrific little ensemble comedy-drama about an adult swimming class. Instead of prattling on about this one, I'll use James' words, as the movie just "simply sneaks up and knocks you - sweetly, quietly - off your feet."
The Auteur (Unreleased) - This year, I was also lucky enough to be invited to a screening of James Westby's next film, The Auteur, which was, like Superbad, both laugh-out-loud funny and oddly affecting, kind of an 8 ½ meets Boogie Nights. The movie is about Arturod Domingo, the world's greatest porn director who comes out of the early 70's USC film scene, but you know, in porn. Like Westby's breakout Film Geek (heartily recommended), it's a real treat for movie lovers to play catch-the-reference while enjoying the surprisingly rich plot. Watch for it some time later on this year (I hope). The wildly-NSFW, but very funny trailer can be found here.
The Wicked Old Ones:
The Passion of Joan of Arc - I had never seen this film until I stumbled upon the last half-hour of Carl Dreyer's masterpiece on Turner Classic Movies this summer and was almost immediately struck dumb by its naked, beautiful interpretation of the faith of Saint Joan. I rented the Criterion disc right away and watched it again, twice. I heartily recommend the "Voices of Light"-scored version, which fits so well it feels like a missing puzzle piece finally found.
Gold Diggers of 1933: I already reviewed this one, but it serves to note just how timely — with its showpiece number about troops returning from war and being ignored — and entertaining — as the birthplace of the classic ditty, "I'm in the Money" — this movie is.
Piccadilly - Not a particularly great movie, but seeing silent film star Anna Mae Wong's (Hollywood's first Asian-American star) introductory scene, I was stunned at her beauty and bracing modernity, making watching the rest of the over-the-top film a foregone conclusion.
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