There Will Be Omissions

As has been noted here, 2007 was the best year in American cinema since 1999. It might be argued that this was one of the worst for foreign cinema, or rather the American distribution of foreign films, in some time. It looks like the first quarter of 2008, with proper releases of new films from Hou, Breillat, Chabrol, etc. might make up a new season of high-quality movies we'll forget about come December.

I must admit to my own personal inability to see many of the heralded films that came out this year. This list is embarrassingly incomprehensive and as such I have not numbered the films, nor would I consider them the ten best films of the year--rather, the ten films that most "captured my imagination," which I suppose is a definition of greatness. Short notes on my choices follow.

There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild
I'm Not There
The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Southland Tales/Darjeeling Ltd.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters
The Simpsons Movie
Colossal Youth
28 Weeks Later

Wes Anderson's intricately designed train, vaguely racist love story and Kinks' deep cuts all smack of a man so self-satisfied with his own preciousness that DARJEELING LTD felt almost like a first film, lacking the at least passably realistic characters and narrative charm of BOTTLE ROCKET and RUSHMORE. SOUTHLAND TALES was a totally watchable disaster starring everybody Richard Kelly got drunk with after DONNIE DARKO. One of the treats of 2007 was to see how those fashionable directors get swept up in their own hubris while Paul Thomas Anderson made everybody look at his exceptional body of work and wonder if we're looking at one of the great American filmmakers.

28 WEEKS LATER--Several of this year's most striking sequences in any genre were in Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's overlooked sequel, including a terrifying night-vision chase and a zombie-hatin' helicopter. Massive bonus points for featuring Aiden Gillen from HBO's THE WIRE, which would top this list if I weren't holding it off for 2008.

ATONEMENT--Fancy-pants, award-mongering British period pieces be damned; I was seduced by the unique first act and moved, against my will, by its simultaneous admiration and contempt for the art of storytelling. This feels like a sell-out pick.

COLOSSAL YOUTH bored the shit out of me, but I still can't stop thinking about it.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD, INTO THE WILD, I'M NOT THERE, and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES all function, to some degree, in "the American West" (Richard Gere as Billy the Kid being the literal stretch in Haynes' film). All four films were also dependent on rock stars for their musical score. Jonny Greenwood's atonal anti-soundtrack is the obvious standout, but Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' elegiac score for ASSASSINATION was wonderful, capped by Cave himself performing "The Ballad of Robert Ford" in a late scene. Honorable mention for CONTROL's creepy Joy Division imitations.

AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE was an intermittently transcendent 80-minute prank with an unspeakably funny opening, and the film's Boston bomb scare and subsequent national release were crowning moments for the avant-garde. Nothing this strange may ever play on 1,000+ screens.

And as far as I'm concerned, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE packed more storytelling craft and emotional wallop than NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN as we saw Homer deceive Marge one last time and move the family to Alaska. What--no Eddie Vedder?

Point for discussion: What's your title for the sequel to THERE WILL BE BLOOD?

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