Film

Scratchy, Missing Reel Glory

To get us started, I present my list of the top 10 films of 2007, followed by a few words about some of my favorites.

1. There Will Be Blood
2. Ratatouille
3. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
4. No Country for Old Men
5. Grindhouse
6. The Lives of Others
7. Knocked Up
8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
9. I’m Not There
10. No End in Sight

#1 –THERE WILL BE BLOOD is everything I love about the cinema. A work that is both extremely visceral and thought provoking. An exploration of the American themes of individualism, the frontier, capitalism, religion, and the relationship between capital and evangelical Christianity. It’s a picture where you watch a born filmmaker confidently take one bold step confidently after another, never tripping or falling, and harnessing the full genius of his collaborators, like Daniel-Day Lewis and composer Jonny Greenwood. There Will Be Blood is the year’s best picture.

2007 Was Great for Film. But Does the Future of Listmaking Lie in Jeopardy?


2007 was a great year for movies—one of the best in recent memory. It was a particularly strong year for American cinema. In addition to offering new important films from American auteurs (Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen Bros, and Todd Haynes among others), 2007 provided exceptional works of mainstream commercial movies, including Hollywood summer releases like Ratatouille, Knocked Up, and The Bourne Ultimatum, all of which one could argue are also the work of auteurs. There were interesting, significant works of American cinema across nearly all budget levels and genres. Less foreign films made my top 10 list than in previous years, which probably has less to do with a lack of quality than with the fact that I had the opportunity to see less foreign films due to increasingly poor distribution for international titles. But even if we were to just look at the U.S.’s output of movies in 2007 in isolation from the rest of the world (probably not an advisable position in today’s geopolitical climate, I admit), we would still have an exceptional crop of pictures for discussion.

[Read More, Discussion & Lists]

Age Without Wisdom

Sometimes, my anticipation for a particular film – Eyes Wide Shut, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, There Will Be Blood – becomes so intense that I have dreams about seeing the film before I actually see it. Inevitably, I wake up from these dreams completely relieved that my brain’s nightmarish concoction was not the actual film. Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth is a nightmarish concoction from which you never wake up.

Ray Charles = Johnny Cash = Ian Curtis

It occurred to be while watching Anton Corbijn’s Control that maybe the reason I don’t like spending time or making friends with artists has something to do with all the biopics I’ve seen in my life.

Ian Curtis – a vocalist and songwriter whose music I admire and occasionally get down to, and would never confuse with, say, the soulful songs of Ray Charles or the melancholy ballads of Johnny Cash – comes off in Control like the same person as Ray Charles in Ray and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.

The funny thing about biopics is that they usually intend to elevate their subject above other people – the one man who stood out, who was too much of a genius and a retard to play well with others, who couldn’t be a good artist and a good husband let alone a good dad, etc. And yet, the stupefying similarity of all biopics to one another seems to suggest that these great men aren’t so special after all.

The 35mm Afterlife

I've recently seen the best movie of 2007. It's called I'm Not There, and I'm sure you will be hearing a lot about it in the oncoming months. But let's hope that the Weinsteins' academy campaign for Cate Blanchett doesn't obscure what's really going on here... Todd Haynes and his actors have done something truly amazing.

Excuse me for saying so, but not since Citizen Kane has a film reveled in such endless innovation, in the interest of contemplating identity and mortality, as I'm Not There.

The difference between the two masterpieces - aside from 66 years - is that the first film is a cynical epitaph that comes closer than any other film - before or after - to capturing a man's life on celluloid and then boldly proclaims such a feat impossible. It was a profound statement in 1941 that thematically and aesthetically ushered in the era of noir, but its detective narrative was a gentle way of teaching audiences a harsh truth: identity is very slippery and probably unattainable.

Holy Priests of Cinema Turn Cameras at One Another and Simultaneously Disappear

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This being the week that Brett Ratner was declared a "billion dollar director," all things lead me to believe that this will be remembered as the week that cinema, and our souls, died.

Travolta's One Good Movie of the Decade Is Here!

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John Travolta could not have hoped for a better coming out party.

Not to be glib or anything, but whether gay or straight, the only thing that Travolta truly brings to the new remake of Hairspray is precisely that question, or a similar one -- is he or isn’t he…crazy?

Despite all of the unfounded hoopla surrounding Travolta’s performance (his Baltimore accent rings false to anyone who watches The Wire), he certainly doesn’t manage to screw up what turns out to be a pretty great movie musical, even if he is overshadowed by virtually everyone else in the movie. (Especially Michelle Pfeiffer.)

The film revolves around the idea that a talented fat girl deserves a better lot than a pretty girl who can’t dance. The notion is at once familiar and not entirely convincing since both weight/attractiveness and dancing skill are innate traits that are only marginally within our control. Certainly in this film, it is never implied that Tracy Turnblad learned her dance moves. Rather it is obvious, as one of Aki Kaurismaki’s characters might say, that rock and roll is in her blood.

Sexytime / Next Year's Oscar Montage?

Here's one of four videos created by the European Commission in their push for greater synergies in the film industry. This one, which is entirely too racy for US audiences to swallow, is called "Let's Come Together."

"Thank you for coming. I'll see you in hell."

A Kwik-E-Mart established in Burbank, CA as a promotion for the Simpsons movie.

Diegetics: 59 of the Best In-Movie Music Moments (Pts. 1-3: 59 to 29)

[Ed. note: this story was updated on 7/1 with Nos. 39-29.]

A few weeks ago, Stylus posted a list that was at once entertaining and utterly underwhelming. This is our response to that list.

The list, "The Top Ten Musical Moments From Film" presented a selection of great moments in the use of in-film sound in the movies. As one person's selection of ten moments, the list is not bad at all (in particular, much respect for the choice of using Anna Karina's dance in My Life to Live over the equally great, but better-known dance scene in Band of Outsiders.)

However... ten is just not enough for a list of this sort. There are entirely too many great uses of diegetic sound in film to count. In fact, given certain cinematic trends, we could easily make entire top tens consisting of scenes from films by Quentin Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, or a number of their derivatives.

Thus, we present you with 57 58 59 of the Best In-Movie Music Moments, starting with an alphabetical list of 59-11, and the top ten to follow soon.

Nos. 59-50
Nos. 49-40
Nos. 39-29

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