Another great year of movies. Another couple of hundred reviews read by a few bored people online and by harvesting bots trying to find email addresses to send crucial details regarding penis breasting and Nigerian viagra accounts to.
From a film-watching point of view, I was forced by dint of circumstance, in other words, by the entry of my daughter Dawn Matilda into this harsh and occasionally beautiful world, to watch a lot of flicks on DVD (legitimately) and a few via the illegal largesse of the download fairies. I’m not justifying it, I’m not excusing it, I just think that when I can barely make it to the cinema a dozen times due to looking after a baby girl, I am morally justified in watching stuff that I didn’t and you didn’t pay for.
There’s a logic there that I hope I won’t be explaining to any prosecutors any time soon. Hey, if they can find a babysitter for me, then I’ll be happy to watch Scary Movie 5 or the next Lindsay Lohan flick in the salubrious confines of a theatre the way the Gods of Cinema intended.
Still, I got to see a fair few films I liked this year, and less that made me want to unleash an apocalypse of jihad and tickle torture on the world.
As I have said many times before, there is no pretence to objectivity or some authoritative stance on my part. My opinion is no more accurate or verifiably 'correct' than anyone else's, including yours, and I don't claim to be a film expert in any way possessed of superior faculties or aesthetic sense than any of you. So everything comes with the healthy proviso of being in my not so humble opinion.
So enjoy, or not, it's up to you.
Best action/ men acting like men film: The Bourne Ultimatum. There was something very gratifying about watching Matt Damon beating a Moroccan guy up with a book and eventually killing him with a towel. Not only that, but the impressive choreography, well staged action set pieces and jittery tension never covers up the real themes of the film: that the powers that be, whether they be bureaucrats or politicians, should never have the latitude to kill and torture people regardless of how much some of their victims are just begging for it.
Runner up: Shoot Em Up. This film doesn’t just homage the Hong Kong gun fu flicks of the past: it turns Clive Owen, already a formidable presence, into Chow Yun Fat from Hard Boiled. I cannot begin to state just how tickled pink I was by this insane anti-gun gunfest, despite how incredibly pretentious and in some parts stupid the script really was. And the funny way in which everyone except Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci and Clive Owen in the flick was so supremely Canadian.
Guilty Action Pleasure of the Year: Maybe I’d classify 300 as a blokey guilty pleasure. It’s historically vapid, intellectually deathly, and a thinly veiled attempt to get people to chant USA!USA!USA! in troubled times, but I kind of liked it more on subsequent viewings. And it’s not because of the acres and acres of taut, masculine flesh on display, oh no.
Best Horror Flick of 2007: there wasn’t a great one seen by me. There was no shortage of horror genre crap this year, it’s just that none of it made that much of an impression. The best horror flick I saw this year was the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre on shiny remastered DVD.
Honourable mention / guilty pleasure: Hostel 2 for the scene with Ruggiero Deodato, the castration scene, and the manner in which one of the protagonists angles to escape her fate. Ah capitalism, how much do we truly love thee.
Lamest horror shemozzles: Hills Have Eyes 2, The Reaping, Hannibal Rising, Primeval, Turistas, Vacancy, and Rogue.
The "A Comedy that’s Actually Funny" Award for Best Comedy goes to Knocked Up. I cannot deny a personal connection to the material, only insofar as being a chubby loser who got a hot babe out of his league pregnant and who has to deal with the enforced maturity that has to ensue, but I did find it all pretty funny and pretty entertaining. Not the incredibly irritating housemates of the main character, who were unfunny and a dead loss. But the main two guys, ably played by Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd, essentially reprising their characters from 40 Yr Old Virgin, made me laugh, they did.
Honourable Mention: Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance and Blades of Glory, one of the few times that a film with Will Farrell in it has made me laugh.
The “Just Not Fucking Funny in the Slightest” award goes to the romantic comedy The Holiday, which makes me want to see Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black and even Kate Winslet die horrible deaths at the hands of sweaty men with cameras and swords. If I smiled once during this movie, it would have only been when one of my kidneys ruptured in protest. Runner up was the horrible Woody Allen film Scoop. You are not funny anymore, Allen, and I’m beginning to doubt you ever were.
The "Goddamn, Human Relationships Really Do Suck" Award for Most Depressing Drama goes to Romulus, My Father. The unending stream of misery that is visited upon this family almost makes the extreme tragedy seem like a comedy. And it’s all because of a woman and her wicked ways…
Atonement, based on the acclaimed book by Ian McEwan, is every bit as excoriating and devastating a drama as anything I’ve seen this year or read about in terms of how there are some things people can’t apologise enough for or make amends for. Probably a great film.
The "OMFG, Australia Still Has a Film Industry?" award goes to Noise, which was a remarkably keen film, visually beautiful, thematically complex and building, always building to an unbelievable climax. Honourable mention goes to the well acted and beautifully filmed Romulus, My Father, which was about, amongst other things, what a total slut philosopher Raimondo Gaita’s mother was.
27 films got finance approval from the Film Finance Corporation for this next year, so expect an absolute onslaught of crap Aussie dinkie di experiences stinking up the multiplexes and arthouses near you. Two good flicks will ensue, and 25 other unwatchable pieces of eye-gouging shite are yours for the taking.
My “What the Fuck is Going On?” award goes to perennial What The Fuck Is Going On award winner and lifetime achievement award recipient David Lynch for the mind-bending and ultimately boring Inland Empire, and for William Friedkin’s Bug, which was both mind-bending and an actually entertaining, queasy experience.
The strangest flick I saw this year was the New Zealand steampunk alternate history vampire flick Perfect Creature, which I still don’t understand and am incredulous as to how it ever got made. Not that it’s horribly bad, it’s just that it’s so, very very odd.
The “Sex is Art, Don’t You Know?” award goes to Lust, Caution, Ang Lee’s modest tale of anti-Japanese espionage and rough sex set in the 1930s and 40s. For once, the overstated “controversy” of sex in a film actually adds to the storytelling, which is how is should be, rather than existing for its own sake in order to generate interest through moral outrage and enticing the kinds of guys who masturbate in theatres to crawl out of the woodwork.
Best all CGI extravaganza: Ratatouille was remarkably strong and improves on further viewing. The amazing visuals mesh well with a modest but entertaining story about how wonderful artists are regardless of their origins, and how crap critics are regardless of how snooty and knowledgeable they are.
The "I'm an Intemallectual Because I've Watched a" Documentary of the Year Award goes to: The Bridge, which is a fascinating (and deeply disturbing) doco about people committing suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge. Honorary mention must go to tireless leftie warhorse John Pilger’s The War On Democracy. As long as there is injustice throughout the world, and a choir to be preached to in order to have its preconceptions and glib, safe assumptions continually reinforced, there will be docos and docomakers to cater to them.
The "If I Had a Girlfriend, She'd Kill Me" Award for best big budget science fiction flick goes to eh, I dunno. This wasn’t a great year for either cerebral sci-fi or the mostly action based kind, so I’m tempted to just leave the award ungiven. Sunshine would have been my pick if only they’d not included the wonky fundamentalist serial killer element, which ruins an otherwise intelligent and enjoyable highstakes science fiction film.
The Right Wing Stroke Material award for Most Transparently Jingoistic Claptrap is a threeway tie/honour shared by 300, Shooter and The Kingdom. All three are incredibly ultra right wing fantasies about America’s place in the world, and the exceptionalism of America’s love of rugged individualism. Both are fantasies so transparent and so unbelievable that they make Buffy The Vampire Slayer look like a serious history lesson. I don’t have a problem with flicks like this being made (I love flicks like Red Dawn, Commando and Triumph of the Will, after all), but, really. Come on.
Stinkers or major let-downs of the year for me were, amongst many others: Beowulf (so bad I couldn’t bring myself to review it), Spider-Man 3, Next, Ghost Rider, Fracture, The Good German, Ocean’s Thirteen, Inland Empire, the Hitcher remake, the Halloween remake, Smokin’ Aces, and Death Proof.
If I told you how bad Elizabeth: The Golden Age was for me, you wouldn’t believe me, and you’d probably feel insulted in the extreme, especially if you were a fan of either of the Elizabeth flicks directed by Shekar Kapur and starring Cate Blanchett. I hated the first flick: this recent one was so bad it made the portrayal of Queenie by Miranda Richardson in the Blackadder series look like masterpiece theatre in comparison. Utterly fucking terrible. The series on the ABC called Monarchy, which stars a short, portly balding man in thick glasses talking us through the various important eras of British history, including the Virgin Queen’s reign, is positively stellar in comparison and far more exciting.
Sure, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is more sphincter-loosening and worse than even Nostradamus could have predicted whilst prognosticating the future by drinking from John Lennon’s skull, but anyone should have expected that. The Reaping was hideously bad, and Jim Carrey’s ‘serious’ attempt to make a film like Memento, Number 23, was horrible horrible horrible.
But the more I think about it, the more incredulous I am that a film like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was made. It was just terrible, abjectly idiotic and it gave nonsense a bad name. It has my award for worst third part in a series, eclipsing such heart-warming favourites such as Superman 3, Alien 3, Matrix Revolutions, Godfather 3 and any other third installment you care to mention.
I won’t really pick a single film (if I did it would probably be Eastern Promises or Perfume: the Story of a Murderer) as defining the best that this year had to offer, but I will say that the best of the flicks released here (as in, within the newly John Howard-free nation of Australia) in 2007 for me were:
Stranger than Fiction, The Bourne Ultimatum, Noise, Planet Terror, The Namesake, An Old Mistress, Lust-Caution, Breach, Mr Brooks, Black Snake Moan, No Country for Old Men, Bug, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, La Vie en Rose, Eastern Promises, Ratatouille, Black Book, The Lives of Others, Atonement, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and This is England.
Thank you and good night. Opinions, agreements and disagreements are not merely sought, but prized. Feel free to add your 0.0001 cents' worth.
3rd annual etc etc
“For poetic reasons, I suggest you take his blood.” – Eastern Promises