Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2007, the Cliff Notes

Well, I looked at last year's list, and I didn't post it until February 4, so I'm doing pretty good for myself, if I may say so.

This is my Best of the Year List. I don't like ranking movies because it just takes so much effort without much reward. Instead, I like to categorize them. It's easier this way, and I don't feel that I'm giving any good movies the short end of the stick.

So, without further ado, my list of great films from 2007.*

Best Drama: No Country for Old Men
Tommy Lee Jones. Javier Bardem. The Coen Brothers. Who knew that this was a combination made in film geek heaven? I still stand by my statement of this not being the best Coen Brothers movie, but it is, hands down, the best drama I saw last year.

Happiest Little Film: Juno
I laughed really hard. I cried a little at the end. And even though I've seen it twice, I want to see it again. Spectacular filmmaking all 'round.

Best Comedy: Knocked Up
Granted, Juno fits here as well, but in terms of pure laugh-out-loud comedic goodness, nothing was better than Knocked Up.

Three Reasons Indies Should Be Made: Lars and the Real Girl, Waitress, and The Namesake
Man, it was a good year for the independent film. Ryan Gosling, once again, is hitting my radar with his spectacular turn as Lars, the guy who fell in love with a sex doll. Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion blew me away and brought me to tears in Waitress. The Namesake isn't exactly what I'd call life-changing, but it did make me remember why I love movies so much.

Most Fun I've Had All Year: Hot Fuzz
Shaun of the Dead is better, but it didn't come out last year, so it's not on my list. Edgar Wright (writer/director), Simon Pegg (writer/star), and Nick Frost (co-star) make up one of the greatest comedy teams to come out of the UK. I love them, and I will definitely see everything they make!

Most Visually Stunning: Sweeney Todd
I might be a little bias because I love Tim Burton so much, but the man's visual storytelling style is amazing. From the costumes to the sets to the makeup to the cinematography--everything was just pure eye-candy.

Best Musical: Enchanted
This movie could've been in the "Most Fun I've Had All Year" category. The music was great. The dance numbers were hilarious. A great Disney movie all around.

Best Foreign Film: Black Book
Gripping story, great acting, and beautiful visuals all add up to a perfectly excellent reason to read your movie.

Best Animation: Meet the Robinsons
I know! I passed up the Pixar movie for the straight up Disney one, but I loved this movie. It's weird and funny...and weird.

Best Sequel: Bourne Ultimatum
2007 was the year of the sequel. There were good ones--Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There were bad ones--Spider-Man 3. And then there was the mother of them all. Bourne Ultimatum is exactly what a sequel should be--just as good as the original.

And now for the rest (in alphabetical order):
3:10 to Yuma
Charlie Wilson's War
Dan in Real Life
The Lookout
Reign Over Me
Smokin' Aces

*Please remember that this list may be amended after I catch up on my movie-watching.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Monster of a Home Movie

If you’re going to see Cloverfield because you’re looking for an in-depth character study or some sort of psychological thriller about an unknown creature or even some version of Lost in Manhattan, please move on. This movie is not for you.

If you’re looking for an exciting, gripping, realistic (well, as realistic as it can be) monster movie, then go right ahead and buy that ticket.

I've been anticipating this movie since I saw the first teaser poster. Mostly because I knew it was being produced by J.J. Abrams, whom I love, and that Matt Reeves (the director) and Drew Goddard (the writer) are both Lost staff members. Yeah, I know, I'm a fan girl. Sue me.

Anyway, fan obsession aside, Cloverfield is a great monster movie. It’s a little Blair Witch with the camera, but these filmmakers know how to finesse the shaking. It’s a little 28 Days Later with its apocalyptic themes, but there are no freaky half-eaten bodies lying around. It’s a lot Godzilla with the big, scary, parasite-leaking monster. (Yeah, it’s got little friends that have a pretty vicious bite.) I jumped. I cringed. I laughed. I enjoyed every minute of it.

The movie opens on April 27, supposedly the most perfect day of Rob’s (Michael Stahl-David) life. (Also my anniversary, which is why I remembered it.) He and his girlfriend, Beth (Odette Yustman), are going to spend the day at Coney Island. This cheesy little love fest gets cut short when the video jumps ahead to May 22. Rob’s brother Jason (Michael Vogel) has the camera, and he and his girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) are planning a going away party for him. At the party, Jason hands the camera over to Rob’s best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) so they can record goodbyes for Rob.

The first part of the movie is Hud going around documenting the party with his horrible camera work. When Rob and Beth have a fight on the landing, Hud and Jason go out to talk to their friend when something happens. That something is the kickstart to the second act, and the crazy monster movie begins.

With Hud’s amateurish camera skills, he documents the crazy night that begins with the Statue of Liberty’s head landing in the middle of Manhattan, and ending with…well, I’m not going to tell you that. Why ruin it? What I will say is that Cloverfield may fall nicely into the monster movie genre, but it does it more quietly than most.

You see the monster, but not fully. There's a tentacle here, a long tail there. You’re always trying to figure out exactly what it is—just as Hud and his friends are. There’s not a lot of running and screaming, but there are lots of eerily quiet scenes that keep you energized and waiting for something not so quiet to happen. And then there’s that camera work.

I know there have been reported cases of "movie vertigo," but I think the home video style works really well. There off-center and unsteady shots add to the hysteria and chaos of the situation. But it still stays pretty professional. Even when the camera is whipping back and forth to catch the hysteria, there’s still a slightly steady hand to it.

Besides the camera work, I loved the characters...even if they aren't well-developed. Cloverfield isn’t about the people, it’s about them dealing with this situation. Rob deals with the situation in a calm, collective, completely out of his mind kind of way. Hud (my favorite character) deals with the craziness by talking constantly. The funniest moment in the movie is when he mentions burning hobos in the subway tunnels. have to see it to get that I suppose.

My only real complaint about the movie, if this can even be considered a complaint, is the shot that basically mimics one of the many home video shots from 9/11. It is unnerving and threw me out of the movie for about two minutes. I wish director Matt Reeves had made a different decision. It's a little too real and not enough monster.

Even with this little hiccup, Cloverfield is one of the best monster movies I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah, take that, Peter Jackson.

I'm a Movie Slacker

I don't know if it's the recent move, the job, or the writers' strike, but I've been a very bad movie geek of late. Last week, Entertainment Weekly released their annual "25 Movies to See Before Oscar Night" list.

I've seen nine.

If this number doesn't baffle you, last year I'd seen 20 on the list. What's even more baffling is that I want to see at least eight more. That's a lot of missed movies!

Because of this obviously embarrassing number, I have strayed away from doing my top movies of 2007. I have also neglected making any real predictions for the Oscars. I feel that I can't do either of these things any justice without seeing some of the heavyweights first. I know this is a weak reason. Mostly because my two favorite movies of the year (No Country for Old Men and Juno) will probably stay my two favorites no matter what else I see.

Anyway, here's the list from EW (the ones in bold I've seen):
  1. No Country for Old Men
  2. Atonement
  3. Juno
  4. Michael Clayton
  5. There Will Be Blood
  6. Into the Wild
  7. American Gangster
  8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  9. Sweeney Todd
  10. Charlie Wilson's War
  11. The Kite Runner
  12. Away from Her
  13. Eastern Promises
  14. La Vie en Rose
  15. I'm Not There
  16. A Mighty Heart
  17. Gone Baby Gone
  18. The Assassination of Jesse James...
  19. Lars and the Real Girl
  20. Hairspray
  21. 3:10 to Yuma
  22. The Savages
  23. Enchanted
  24. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
  25. Ratatouille
So, I just wanted to put this blog out there so when I do my list (because I will eventually get around to it), no one can grumble in a corner about me leaving out *fill in the blank.*

One bonus is that some of the movies are just now being released in areas outside LA and NYC. Also, a lot of them will be out on DVD before Oscar Night. I guess that means there will be lots of Netflix queue reordering in my near future.