The Year in Film – 2007

Without as much fanfare as some years, and very few instances of mass, shared audience/critical attention, 2007 still turned out to be not so bad in the end, when all was said and done, cinematically speaking. Filmcritic.com just posted the year’s Top Ten lists of its senior writers; you can link to the full lot of them here, and my annotated listing is reproduced below.

The Top 10

1) This is England – In anybody else’s hands, this would have turned into a cautionary tale. But writer/director Shane Meadows’ semi-autobiographical story of a boy (the moon-faced and pugnacious runt, Thomas Turgoose) growing up with no friends and the memory of a dead father in depressed Falkland War-era northern England, who falls in with a multi-racial band of friendly skinheads, achieves instead a certain sort of sublime art. The deadening post-industrial landscape and classic ska soundtrack are a potent backdrop, while the critical push-pull between the boy’s new adoptive friends, and the seductive pull of their white-power counterparts makes for a classic struggle for the soul of a child.

2) There Will Be Blood – Greed, religion, oil, misanthropy, capitalist as ravening beast, preacher as power-mad charlatan – this is the year’s ultimate love-it-or-hate-it film, and one that finally puts Paul Thomas Anderson into the ranks of the all-time greats.

3) Persepolis

4) No Country for Old Men – Every author should be as fortunate as Cormac McCarthy. To have his 2005 Texas drug war noir adapted with such fidelity by the Coen bros. – known better for plundering the style of everyone from Dashiell Hammett to Tex Avery, without credit – that they even had the bravery to leave intact the book’s dreamlike, poetic and inconclusive conclusion, shows that McCarthy has better luck than 99% of authors who enter Hollywood’s adaptation meatgrinder. That the result would be such a beautiful but tense thriller that also contained people resembling actual humans (something the Coens haven’t managed for a few years), showed that for once, audiences got lucky as well.

5) The Devil Came on Horseback

6) Wristcutters: A Love Story – The most welcome surprise of 2007 came in the form of this brilliantly unassuming little comedy about a guy, despondent over his lost love, who commits suicide, only to end up in an afterlife that’s less like hell and more like a run-down suburb of Fresno. Based on the surreal writing of Israeli author Etger Keret, Wristcutters is like that dream you had one time which was terrifying but sort of funny at the same time … and then Tom Waits showed up.

7) Once – It’s been a great year for musicals, with both Hairspray and Sweeney Todd showing that once again it is possible to make big, brassy film versions of Broadway plays that both do justice to their source material and can also play in Peoria. But this easygoing sleeper is like the gypsy offspring of those big-budget extravaganzas, and slightly more rewarding in the end. The slimmest of premises (two street musicians in Dublin start a low-key musical flirtation) makes little effort to lay on extra plot devices, preferring rather to stick with the most basic of plots (hey, let’s make an album!) and focus on the soulful, lo-fi songs of stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. This is a film people become obsessed with, and for good reason.

8) Zodiac – Somehow this one got lost, and it’s hard to see why. David Fincher has been working at below his abilities for a few years now (Panic Room?), but finally seems back in shape with this long-form, creepy essay on the art of investigation, disguised as a detective story about the Zodiac Killer. People expecting another slash-em-up from the director of Se7en were probably disappointed at the low body count, but this is Fincher’s most mature and least gimmicky work since the underrated The Game.

9) The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – Sometimes, real life actually resembles underdog sports movies. Thankfully, that was the case with the high-tension competition a few years back for the title of Donkey Kong world champion, captured beautifully by director Seth Gordon, who manages to cover this tiny world of obsessive-compulsives without a hint of condescension. Something to tide us over until the next Errol Morris.

10) In the Valley of Elah

Miscellaneous Award-Giving

Worst films: Across the Universe, Beowulf
Most beautiful, in every possible sense: The Darjeeling Limited
Guiltiest pleasure: Mr. Brooks
Scariest: The Last Winter
Most overrated: I’m Not There
Debut filmmaker: Andrea Arnold, Red Road
Worst accent: John Travolta, Hairspray
Performance/moustache of the year: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Saddest, most cynical attempt by washed-up director to regain relevance: Redacted

One thought on “

  1. Wristcutters is a great example of adaptation of story to film. What a film and what a story!!I have loved Edgar Keret from the moment he started writing stories and can recommend his collection of short stories “The Busdriver Who Wanted to Be God” (Toby Press $12.95)to anyone. The last story in this volume “Kneller’s Happy Campers” is the story that Wristcutters was based upon. Enjoy!

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