Monday, March 24, 2008

Best Movies of 2007?

After watching the Academy Awards last year (the 2007 awards-that is-honoring movies from 2006), I decided I would come up with my own list for the movies that should win Oscars for 2007. Unfortunately, Panama City is not the best place to play movie critic because our theaters often skip the films that end up being viable Oscar contenders. I was intending on having the list done by Oscar time, but since I had to wait for many titles to come out on DVD, and due to other more pressing matters, I’ve had to postpone my best movie picks of 2007 for quite some time. I’ve decided to post this list one movie at a time, because my discussion of each film has ended up going a little long.

What’s more-this list has undergone some serious changes. What originally began as an Oscar list has now become a list of the movies that have struck me for one reason or another. These are the movies that succeeded in fulfilling their purpose or at least their purpose as I construed it. I don’t subscribe to the theory that movies are supposed to be (or even can be) perfect. Everyone of the films that is mentioned below has its flaws, and, it’s my firm conviction that every film nominated for Best picture Oscars this year had theirs as well. I don’t think of myself as a film snob, and after this year I’m starting to wonder if the “snobs” aren’t a bit influenced by peer pressure and the flood of political opinion, but more on that later. I will be posting the list in descending order, so without further ado, the first film on my list (or last I guess you could say) is:

I am Legend

Before you tune out: I’m not saying this is a perfect film. It’s not even a great film in the grand scheme of things, but for my money, it achieved its goal far better than any other blockbuster this year.

It created a post apocalyptic New York that was truly engrossing, and it gave Will Smith the opportunity to show that, once again, he’s more than just a comedian. He was great, and while the movie went off the rails in the second half and suffered from both a screenplay that required a few more rewrites and ill-conceived CG zombies, the film captured something that’s been sorely lacking in many big budget films: a profound sense of realism (minus the zombies of course).

I was transfixed by the way in which they recreated New York City, which prompted me to again ask myself a question that has bothered me in the past: at what point does a film go beyond creativity into Hollywood gluttony? One scene in I Am Legend may have cost well over $5 million to shoot.

The scenes of an empty and overgrown Times Square boggled my mind and have left me wondering how they did it. I’ve heard that these were shot on a set, and this is what makes me wonder: is this responsible? Doesn’t this seem a bit excessive? Of course I am entirely culpable for this excess because I funded it (after the fact, of course). There is a big push today towards conservation and helping the poor, but isn’t a bit incongruous that so much money is spent on playing pretend? I’m asking these questions because I really don’t know the answers. I’ve always liked watching blockbusters, and I’ve never really thought much about quitting, but sometimes I wonder if the cost for realism may be too great.

So perhaps it’s a bit strange that this film should fit into a “best of” list if I’m questioning its very existence, but now maybe you get a sense of what this list is about: less about traditional criticism and more about the capacity for the films to arouse discussion and prompt consideration.

As far as the Oscars go, I Am Legend would only have been capable of nomination for the technical awards, and I don’t have enough expertise to make any judgments there.

I enjoyed the film when I first watched it. It provided some of the best scares of the year, and I was, once again, mesmerized by the production value. But it was not until after I had heard others’ criticisms of its plot and the ending that I had to admit the film did not work on the whole. So, it’s not No Country, but I’ll still pick it over The Golden Compass, Pirates 3, Spiderman 3, and (bracing for impact...) The Bourne Ultimatum.


brianmetz said...

Over Bourne? Wow.

I agree with your assessment here. The production was excessive but also mesmerizing. However, the zombie/vampires did not cut it for me. They look entirely fake. They really needed to have real people that they altered. You know?

Good critique - you should be on the Oscar board.

Ford said...

Yeah, maybe it is a shark-jumping comment, but I really preferred Supremacy to Ultimatum, and perhaps I'm just reacting to all the high praise for the film.

I was really annoyed with the constant shakiness of the camera throughout the movie. The scene that comes to mind most is an early conversation between Considine's character (the reporter) and the informant, in which the camera hides behind one of the character's shoulder so all that you can see is, amidst the incessant shaking, the other guy's eye.

I like Paul Greengrass; I thought United 93 was all that it should have been and more, but I'm getting tired of people spurning the use of tripods in the name of art. "Look at me!" this attitude screams, "I can shoot movies like a kid with a Super 8! I'm not tied down by all your stupid rules." And it's a fine attitude if it adds something to the material (as in Cloverfield), but there are times in Ultimatum it's very pretentious and distracting.

I also was disappointed with the reuse of the same plot from Supremacy. It felt like a Lost episode in which there's always some new unknown "Other" out there that's worse than the mysterious enemy they faced first, but we're just now hearing about him because the writers have run out of material (IE killed the other antagonists off). I will admit that there were some really good moments in Ultimatum. I thought the opening train station scene was particularly impressive, and I was pretty amazed by the Tangier scene.

So maybe I'm being a little hard on the film; I'll probably watch it again and like it a lot more. I just had high expectations, and I felt like I got more of the same.

lauren (mf) shows said...

i agree with brian to the fullest extent; the zom-pires (or vam-bies, whichever you prefer) were probably the most disappointing example of cg i've seen since the first harry potter movie came out. (sidebar: this ranks high in the list of nerdiest things i've ever said.)

in any event, i also really enjoyed i am legend. other than that particular bit of cg, everything looked solid, just outstanding. and i appreciate a film that can make such effective use of silence.

Ford said...

Zompires and Vambies-That's good stuff. You need to Urban Dictionize those terms quick and get credit for them.

Good point about the silence, too.

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