Two of the very best of 2007 will enjoy the least drop-off on the small screen. Michael Clayton is a claustrophobic puzzle of a character
study that develops into a pretty neat little thriller. Don’t be put off
by the arcane setting or legal subject matter as it’s really about a man searching for his humanity. Michael Clayton is an acting showcase that doesn’t have
a wasted moment. No Country for Old Men
has excellent cinematography and the wide open spaces of west Texas, but it will still play well at home because of its precise
storytelling and vivid characters. The violence in the film has been overblown,
perhaps because it is so fast and unexpected when it happens, but don’t let that scare you. The relentlessness of Javier Bardem’s character, an efficient killer who lives for his work, is far
A few other nominees worth checking out include
director Ben Affleck’s severely underrated crime saga Gone Baby Gone, with
stellar performances by Oscar nominee Amy Ryan and Ben’s little brother Casey Affleck.
David Cronenberg’s thriller Eastern Promises is another film few saw,
with the best fight scene ever involving a naked Viggo Mortensen and some Russian mobsters in a steam bath.
One film that smelled of Oscar bait from the day I first heard about it was American Gangster. I was flabbergasted that it was virtually shut
out for the main categories. Please put it on your list if you’ve missed
it because film fans seldom get to see 2 stars go at it like Denzel & Russell do here.
Compelling and very entertaining, even if a few of the facts from the real-life case were inflated a bit.
The most glaring omission on almost all top 10 lists, and now with the Oscars, is Zodiac, David Fincher’s dark, despairing portrait of a few good men who lose themselves while searching
for an elusive killer. Fincher threw out all his usual visual tricks and instead used an unblinking eye to chart a meticulous
and obsessive investigation that was to have no resolution. Zodiac is so perfect on so many levels, but it was the lack of a perceived
payoff that kept viewers away. Don’t be a fool. Check it out on DVD right after you get finished reading this column.
Hmm…maybe not so good
A few films that have been given lots of attention—certainly more than those in the past
3 paragraphs—met with indifference when projected before my eyes. Of course
Juno fits nicely here: not a horrible movie but certainly not worthy of praise. I was strangely unmoved by Away With Her,
perhaps because I was expecting more than a well acted but inert character piece. One particularly beloved film this year,
Hairspray, I found to be grating and unfunny.
None of the tunes were memorable and John Travolta was beyond bad with his faux Ballmer accent. No way did I buy him as a woman, so his presence was a constantly pulling me out of the movie. John Water’s version was gobs better. My final “ehh”
film of the year is Waitress. Look,
I know the director died tragically before the movie was first shown, but overpraising this trifle is as egregious as the
gushing for Juno. I actually thought
Waitress was a better movie, but still very minor with an ending that it did not
earn. And don’t even get me started on the awful southern accents. Just in case you think I have something against pies, I adore the ABC-TV show Pushing Daisies.
I wouldn’t be fair to those out there who appreciate my coverage of films that are designed
to creep you out if I didn’t include one undiscovered horror gem. Horror
is such a misunderstood genre and it’s so special when somebody actually gets it right.
That person is William Friedkin (yes, he of The Exorcist) and the film is
Bug. Ashley Judd deserves to be up
there with Julie Christie, Laura Linney and the rest for her shattering performance as a down and out woman who falls under
the spell of a stranger who is convinced he’s infected with bugs dwelling just beneath his skin. This, my friends, is a real horror moovee and I cannot recommend it enough.