Saturday 29 December 2007

Favourites of 2007

Though I watch a decent amount of movies every year (I'll be just over 400 this year), I don't really see a whole lot from the current year in the theatres - typically maybe one a month. And even though my count is higher this year because of a few film festivals, I still couldn't really make any claim to putting together a "Best Of" list for the year.

So here's a stab at a compilation of a few faves - released or simply seen for the first time this year.

Favourite Female Performance From 2007 Films

  • Margo Martindale in Paris Je T'Aime (in the "14th Arrondissement" segment). I don't see how some feel that director Alexander Payne is making fun of this character - she is so likeable, natural and without a shred of falseness to her. If at times you feel sorry for her, she certainly never once asks for your sympathy.

Favourite Male Performance From 2007 Films

  • Michael Cera in "Superbad". My only problem with the film was that some of the main characters were kind of unlikeable. But not Cera's 'Evan' - he seemed genuine, slightly awkward and kind. Even when he was matching crude comments with his friends, he almost felt apologetic for saying them. As others have mentioned, Cera's little asides and quiet little throw away comments (almost under his breath) were some of the funniest parts of the film.

Favourite Moments From 2007 Films

  • Pretty much every scene in Roy Andersson's "You The Living", but in particular the one I described here. I haven't seen either "No Country For Old Men" or "There Will Be Blood" (both of which I can't imagine not loving from everything I've heard...), but I don't expect it's possible to top that moment for me. I'm hoping that since the film made the upper echelons of indieWIRE's best undistributed films of 2007 that maybe someone will grab it - at least for North American DVD release like Andersson's previous "Songs From The Second Floor".

  • Actually, I'd probably say that my second favourite moment might be from the same film. The above screenshot depicts the fantasy dream of a young woman as she imagines life with her new groom - the rock musician she met at the bar a few evenings previous. Still fresh from their wedding ceremony in their new apartment, he begins to play a wonderful song on his guitar as the scenery outside the window begins to move...A few minutes later, the moving building pulls into what appears to be a train station with throngs of people waiting there to congratulate them both. It's just beautiful.
  • "Murder Party" - Bargain basement horror/comedy that I saw at Toronto After Dark this year was very inventive and funny. Fun performances from all the actors and several surprises. My favourite sequence was a part of the movie where our hero is attempting to escape his captors and locks himself in a closet. As he turns on the light, we see a number of different items scattered around the place and it appears that he has an idea. As we cut outside the closet with the waiting captors, we expect him to have created a remarkable device with tape and spit (ala MacGyver), but instead he throws opens the door, pauses, tosses an armful of the items on the ground and runs past them. Of course he gets re-captured...
  • "Chacun Son Cinema" - Another omnibus film - this time consisting of 34 short 3-4 minute segments commissioned for the anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. There's good and bad throughout (though mostly good I thought), but one segment stood out - Walter Salles' "A 8944km de Cannes" stars singers Castanha and Caju who use verbal gymnastics to run through a torrent of raucous and crude comments in their short, but hilariously profane song. That full segment (without English subtitles unfortunately) is in the previous link. Here is the trailer for the film:

  • "Alone" / "Audience Of One" - Two more terrific films seen at Toronto After Dark. "Alone" had the best audience reaction to a scary movie that I've seen in a long time and "Audience Of One" is an amazing documentary about a preacher who wants to out-do "Star Wars" with his own futuristic film about the biblical story of Joseph.
  • In The Shadow Of The Moon / Helvetica - Two great documentaries shown at HotDocs. I dislike the term "snubbed" that's always used around Oscar time, but neither of these have been included in the short list of docs under consideration for this year's statue. Neither have the weight of the raft of Iraq docs from this year, but their filmmaking craft and storytelling are there in spades.
  • "Hot Fuzz" - Just damn funny.

Favourite First Time Viewings of Older Films in 2007

  • "Notorious" (1946 - Alfred Hitchcock) - Giving "Rear Window" a run as my favourite all time Hitchcock.
  • "Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby" (2006 - Adam McKay) - Essentially a framework for some great improv.
  • "Samurai Rebellion" (1967 - Masaki Kobayashi) - Along with "Kwaidan" and "Harakiri" that's three for three with Kobayashi. Would it be too much to hope for an Eclipse box set of some of his other films?
  • "The Seagull's Laughter" (2001 - Agust Gudmundsson) - Wonderful Icelandic film with beautiful strong female characters.
  • "Casque D'Or" (1952 - Jacques Becker) - I was very tired when I popped this into the DVD player at 1:00AM one morning (with only the intent of watching the first scene). I watched it straight through.
  • "Smiles Of A Summer Night" (1955 - Ingmar Bergman) - Seriously, I didn't know Bergman could be this funny.
  • "Fear And Trembling" (2003 - Alain Corneau) - Sylvie Testud gives one of my favourite performances I saw last year as a young French woman struggling to make her way through the Japanese business world (and failing).
  • "Army Of Shadows" (1969 - Jean-Pierre Melville) - I need more Melville.
  • "The Loved One" (1965 - Tony Richardson) - Satires can be tricky, but this one hit every note spot on (with Jonathan Winters, John Gielgud, James Coburn, Milton Berle and Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy)
  • "Survive Style 5+" (2004 - Gen Sekiguchi) - The most fun I had all year at a movie that will likely never be released in Region 1 (music rights issues...).
  • "The Fountain" (2006 - Darren Aronofsky) - I watched this two nights in a row. I know some hated it and others laughed at it. I thought it was gorgeous and quite moving.
  • "Baby Face" (1933 - Alfred E. Green) - Possibly Barbara Stanwyck's best performance. Definitely one of her most sexy.
  • "Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer" (2006 - Tom Tykwer) - With this, and his 5 minute exercise in style from "Paris Je T'Aime", Tykwer is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors.
  • "Linda Linda Linda" (2005 - Nobuhiro Yamashita) - Possibly the best film about female teenagers ever. Gentle, fun and the long takes let the characters feel totally real. And they sure can kick out the jams:

  • "The Young Girls Of Rochefort" (1967 - Jacques Demy) - My new favourite musical.
  • "Ball Of Fire" (1941 - Howard Hawks) - Or maybe this is Stanwyck's best and sexiest role...
  • "Blood Wedding" (1981 - Carlos Saura) - I just wrote about how great this was.


Sheila O'Malley said...

In total agreement with you about Stanwyck in Ball of Fire. It's certainly one of my all-time favorites of her performances!

Thanks for your wonderful blog. I love it.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Sheila. Thank you so much for the kind comments...

Speaking of Stanwyck, have you seen this video of her at the Oscars?


Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Great choices there! 2007 was a pretty stellar year.

I still want to see Linda Linda Linda someday.

Bob Turnbull said...

I think you'd really like "Linda Linda Linda" Shannon...It's charming and sweet without any saccharine.

James McNally said...

Great list, Bob. I'm always interested in seeing more Icelandic films. Where did you find The Seagull's Laughter?

Bob Turnbull said...

Hey James...I can't even remember where I first heard about it, but it had been on my to-see list for awhile. Though my first TIFF was this past year, I always read the reviews and recommendations in The Star and other places for previous fests, so I expect that it was from the 2001 festival. I got the disc from, but haven't found it on yet on the major DVD sites I order from (I'll just have to dig a bit deeper).

It's well worth seeing.

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