The fifth-largest lake in the world, frozen over, with me standing on the beach.
The fifth-largest lake in the world, frozen over, with me standing on the beach.
This film has had high buzz since Sundance last year (it’s been described as “Billy Elliott directed by Tim Burton”) and now it seems to be finally getting its way to a wider release (May 2nd). I can see what the buzz is about. It’s the second film from Garth Jennings, who directed the not-as-stellar as it could have been but still pretty good adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. That flair for visual invention and physical comedy seems to have grown exponentially since the debut. Looking forward to this greatly.
(click pic for trailer)
Over the couple of years that this site has been going we’ve discussed in detail the films we’ve most recently seen at the cinema. As a change of pace, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the earliest films we saw at the cinema as a child and which ones particularly stuck in the memory and influenced us.
The first film I (very vaguely) can recall going to the cinema seeing (as a 4 year-old) was Don Bluth’s ‘The Secret of NIMH’ in 1982.
I can remember a lot of films I went to see around the 1984 period. There were the children’s films like ‘Supergirl’ and the huge hit ‘Ghostbusters’. The Marshmallow Man scene always stayed with me not only because it was such a massive monster but because I was so excited with the souvenir Marshmallow Man cup my mother bought me afterwards (geez, that would be worth a bit if I still had it today!).
But it just wasn’t the children’s films I was taken to; I recall going to such adult (but children friendly) films as ‘Amadeus’, ‘Out Of Africa’ and ‘A Passage to India’. The standout memory I have about the latter film is that there was an intermission; probably one of the last films to have such a break during its initial cinema release.
A little later on I saw ‘Crocodile Dundee’ (just like every other Australian citizen at the time) and ‘The Goonies’. But the film that really dazzled me at the cinema as a youngster was ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I thought it was the most amazing experience ever when I saw it and I dare say, I wasn’t the only pre-teen thinking the same thing at the time. I haven’t seen for it a while but I suspect it holds up pretty well and am a tad surprised it isn’t better revered then it currently is.
There were further films I saw not long after that – ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’, ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch’ – but what’s the cutoff point for past experiences at the cinema being considered ‘childhood memories’?
I would categorise it as when one consciously chooses to see an ‘adult film’. For me that would’ve been the Michael Douglas film ‘Falling Down’ in 1993. I remember watching a preview clip on TV with my brother and both of us getting incredibly excited by the visceral, violent nature of the clip (one where Douglas accidentally launches a rocket in a construction site). I recall enjoying it greatly at the cinema at the time although with the benefit of hindsight it was a flashy, manipulative film symbolic of Joel Schumacher’s work.
What are everybody’s earliest and most memorable childhood experiences at the movies?
“From the director of Stay…”
While everyone dug Monster’s Ball and most Finding Neverland, has Marc Forster really graduated to the level where his name means anything to the vast majority of moviegoers?
Edit: New Bond teaser poster.
The IMP has picked their best of 2007 over here. I’m not sure I agree with their choices, but I can’t remember any others that stuck out this past year. (Alvin and the Chipmunks notwithstanding)
Persepolis, based on a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, has been adapted into an animated film, directed by the author and Vincent Paronnaud. Unlike most animated films, which are primarily geared at children, this one tackles the very adult subject of growing up during the Iranian revolution.
This is Marjane’s autobiography, presumably. Iran prior to the Islamic revolution is a very Western place, and as a child she lives in a world where there is modern music and alcohol and western clothes. However, her parents and their social circle hate the Shah and his dictatorial ways. They boot the Shah out, but find the old adage of “be careful what you wish for” menacingly salient as the government that replaces the Shah is far worse, and soon women are forced to wear headscarves and the number of political prisoners compound exponentially.
Marjane, though, is a teen with a taste for the West, and tries to remain modern and Western. There is a very funny scene when she wanders down the street and sinister men in topcoats are selling not drugs but pop music cassettes–they mutter the names Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden and Michael Jackson.
Soon Marjane becomes too questioning of authority and her parents decide to pack her off to a boarding school in Vienna. She falls in with a punk, nihilist crowd, but their privileged boredom rankles her because she knows what the price of freedom can be. She also starts becoming interested in boys, and has a few misadventures in that department.
This is a charming film, with an animation style close to Satrapi’s black and white line drawings (there is only a bit of color whenever she moves to a new place). However, I’m not sure it ever fully achieved the balance between Satrapi’s teenage coming of age, kind of an Iranian Gidget, and the seriousness of the overall theme–how does one finally come to the decision that one must leave one’s homeland forever? The film doesn’t trivialize the politics, and I’m not really sure what I’m asking it to do, but for me it is an interesting look at a different culture more than a moving story.
I suppose, all things considered, that 2007 turned out to be a pretty great year. As always, I didn’t limit myself to a top ten list, but instead I’ve included all the films that I thought attained a certain level of quality. With that said, if I were to limit myself to a top ten list, the top ten below might be the strongest group, 1 through 10, that I can remember. I might end up buying all ten of them on DVD at some point.
I’ve included links to the Gone Elsewhere reviews where applicable. So without further ado, I present the Best Films of 2007:
1. Into the Wild (Sean Penn); review by Jackrabbit Slim
Penn’s masterpiece was unfortunately snubbed by Oscar voters, with the film failing to get a nomination in any major category other than Best Supporting Actor (for Hal Holbrooke’s performance). But I thought it was an incredible film, capturing multiple perspectives of McCandless’s ill-fated journey and culminating in one of the most haunting conclusions in recent years. Excluding Penn and actor Emile Hirsch from the Oscar noms seems especially egregious.
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel); review by Jeanine
This film actually gave me a new perspective of the world, that of a victim of “locked-in syndrome.” Schnabel shoots much of the film from the point of view of a man who is completely paralyzed, except for the use of one eyelid. While this sounds like a strategy that would punish an audience, it is actually curiously involving.
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson); review by Jackrabbit Slim
Blood features the second (along with Hirsch) of two performances that tower above anything else the year had to offer. Daniel Day-Lewis confirms his status as one of the very best, and Anderson provides the most assured direction of his career.
4. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach); review by Nick
The Palme d’Or winner at Cannes in 2006 was given a US release in early 2007, qualifying it for this list. Loach crafts a story that shows us the Irish conflict against the British eventually turning in on itself. Parallels have perhaps been drawn to the US occupation of Iraq, but I thought the film had less to say about any specific conflict that it did about the nature of extremism leading to horrific bloodshed. Another standout performance, this time by Cillian Murphy.
5. Ratatouille (Brad Bird)
Pixar continues to shine, providing the most amazing animation they’ve yet produced, and an engaging, funny story to boot. The character of Remy is a true original, a rat who is also a master chef. While the scenes featuring rats in the kitchen (and they were numerous) was a turnoff to some, the filmmakers have fun with it, never forgetting how revolting the sight is to people and getting great comic mileage out of it.
6. Control (Anton Corbijn)
Control stood out for being a completely unconventional biopic. It profiles the rise to fame of Joy Division and their singer, Ian Curtis, who ended up committing suicide just as the band attained fame. Corbijn’s experience in the business shows in his treatment of Curtis, which portrays on Curtis as a regular person who happens to be in a band instead of a larger-than-life icon. Samantha Morton’s performance as Curtis’s wife deserves special mention.
7. No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen); review by Jackrabbit Slim
The Coens recover from their recent slump to deliver a film, also featuring a controversial ending, that in some ways feels like a counterpoint to their own Fargo. Both films feature a law enforcement officer at their heart, Fargo‘s Marge Gunderson is a resourceful and effective detective, where No Country‘s Ed Tom Bell offers little resistance to the horrors in his midst. Tonally, the two films are about as different as those characters would suggest.
8. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson); review by Jackrabbit Slim
This movie manages to take three actors who could not possibly be related on the planet we actually live on, cast them as brothers, and create a believable family dynamic between them. Adrien Brody makes his first appearance in Andersonville, and performs admirably, giving the film an emotional center that keeps it from flying off in a million different directions.
9. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy); review by Jackrabbit Slim
In a year that was decidedly short on well executed genre films, Michael Clayton stands out as a fantastically written, intelligent, and efficient corporate thriller. George Clooney does the best work of his career, and writer-director Gilroy develops his characters beyond their obvious plot-driven roles, even creating a villian (played by Tilda Swinton) that approaches sympathetic. Great fun.
10. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)
As I wrote in my original review, “the movie gives a good name to long and slow movies everywhere.” Casey Affleck earns my theoretical Oscar vote for his portrayal of the title coward, and Roger Deakins’s cinematography is truly beautiful.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Persepolis (review by Jackrabbit Slim), Golden Door, Offside, Rescue Dawn, Vanaja (review by Jeanine), The Great Debaters, Juno (review by Jackrabbit Slim), In the Shadow of the Moon, Eastern Promises (review by Jackrabbit Slim), Superbad, Manufactured Landscapes, Knocked Up (review by Jackrabbit Slim), Bug, Away from Her (review by Jackrabbit Slim), Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037
Overview: After six months of discussing Cloverfield and bitching about the film’s relentless viral marketing (yet feeling compelled to discuss every aspect of it): it actually felt a little anti-climatic when I sat down to watch the completed film last week.
Initial thoughts? It works…with some exceptions.
- My friend is lead singer for a cover band that’s blowin’ up all over the nation (of northern california) and we’re going to see them in action tonight just outside of Sacramento: The 80′s are alive with Notorious!
- I have 2 friends nominated for 2 VES Awards (Visual Effects Society) for their Transformers work (Desert Highway Sequence and Optimus Prime, respectively). Online voting begins today (possibly) so good luck to them!
- Saw Last Action Hero last night for only the second time (previous time – in theaters). It’s different to see Arnold nowadays. I remember the huge action star, but it seems so long ago. Especially with him being the guv and all…But I now see what they were trying to do with that movie. Almost pulled it off. They went for dumb-funny more than smart-funny, but I laughed more this time than when I was 15.
What an awful week. Fortunately, the Gene Siskel film center is in the middle of their two-month Shohei Imamura retrospective, and are showing The Profound Desire of the Gods and A Man Vanishes this week, so maybe I’ll see one of those. And they’re also beginning a new series this week, called “The Great Transition: World Cinema in the 1960s”, which kicks off with John Cassavetes’ debut, Shadows, and runs through early May (Ingmar Bergman’s Persona is next week). So there’s still movie stuff going on. I love this town.
Director: Mark Obenhaus
Probably the week’s lone shot at quality amongst new releases. Problem is that the subject matter, extreme skiing, doesn’t sound particularly interesting, and the trailer makes it look like human interest filler that ESPN would run during the X Games. And the reviews aren’t great. Maybe I’ll just see No Country for Old Men again instead.
Times and Winds
Director: Reha Erdem
Turkish coming-of-age film that has actually gotten decent reviews stateside. I’ve never heard of it until today, but perhaps it’s worth checking out. Unfortunately, distributor Kino International has not even cut a trailer for it as far as I can tell.
MC/RT: not listed/77
Director: Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear, Fallen, Frequency, Fracture)
From the looks of it, the very archetype of a January studio dump, recalling days past when the month saw releases like Virus or Eye of the Beholder. Now, January movies are mostly targeted towards the youth market like every other month, but now and again the damage-control January release still happens. Pity poor Diane Lane, although it did get another anomalous 3-star review from Ebert, who’s in the hospital again. Best wishes on a strong recovery, Mr. Nelson.
How She Move (trailer)
Director: Ian Iqbal Rashid (Touch of Pink)
Another in what seems like an endless string of the teen step-dance genre, although it’s set apart by being released by Paramount Vantage and having been something of a hit last year at Sundance. The trailer looks pretty much identical to the upcoming Step Up 2 the Streets, though, which in turn looks identical to Stomp the Yard, etc.
Director: (Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa)
After the surprisingly decent Rocky Balboa, Stallone returns with a new entry in his “Remember These Guys” tour. My problem here is that I’m unfamiliar with the Rambo series, having only seen a TV-edited version of the first film when I was a kid, and don’t feel the need to catch up.
Meet the Spartans (trailer)
Directors: Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer (Epic Movie, Date Movie)
I struggle to find anything to say. No need to say anything, I shouldn’t imagine.
MC/RT: no score/-1 (really)
After failing to ignite much box-office heat throughout the rest of the world, the makers of Water Horse: Legend of the Deep have engineered an absolutely stunning last-ditch publicity stunt in Tokyo Bay:
Apparently the effect is created using a combination of lighting, fountains and some sort of water screen. Video of the action can be found here.
Judging from the music: Water Horse is being marketed as some Host-like horror film in Japan. Hopefully screenings will not erupt into chaos when the lovable creature fails to dismember his child co-star on-camera before the end credits.
Or how it will be known by 99% of the world: “the new James Bond movie” or “Casino Royale 2″.
I kind of like the way it flows, but it’s certainly an odd choice by the studio. I look forward to the hilarity of hearing folks purchase tickets (“Two for the James Bond Quantum Silence…thing.”)
UPDATED: Sony’s highly-confusing official plot synopsis after the jump:
I’ve been tossing around what I think about Cloverfield for a few days now and I’m still not sure. It certainly was enjoyable while watching, kind of on a par with an amusement park ride, but about as substantial. It’s also the kind of film that once you’ve left the theater you start to pick away at like a carrion bird, until you question whether you really had a good time watching it or not.
Cloverfield is basically a monster movie for the YouTube generation. As I’m sure everyone knows, this film is a document of some sort of creature wreaking havoc on New York City from the perspective of a citizen as he tapes everything with a cam-corder. As I walked out of the theater I mentioned to my companion that if I were in the same situation, I would have jettisoned the camera almost immediately, my main concern saving my own skin. She mentioned, quite rightly, that today’s generation (the cast is all twenty-somethings) seem to videotape every moment of their lives. I don’t own a video camera of any kind, so that compulsion is lost on me, but I’m sure to those who upload video onto YouTube, the occasion of an apocalyptic moment is prime opportunity to channel the inner Spielberg.
The action begins at a going away party for our protagonist, Rob. His dimwitted friend, Hud, has been entrusted to video goodbye messages. Mid-party a huge explosion rocks the city. It’s interesting that this film exists outside of the world of 9/11, for the partygoers’ first guess is that they’ve experienced an earthquake. In post-9/11 New York, I’m certain that would not be everyone’s first assumption. The spectre of 9/11, which haunts this film at the beginning (and crystallizes with the image of a building collapsing, with the resulting billows of dust cascading down the street) but as the film went on the queasiness of that connection dissipated, and the film settled down as a run-of-the-mill monster film, without any political overtones.
After the monster, who is only seen partially throughout the film (until a pretty mesmerizing closeup view at the end) starts running amok (he tosses the head of the Statue of Liberty down an avenue, which I’m guessing was producer J.J. Abrams’ initial image in this project) the party-goers scatter, most of them realizing Manhattan isn’t the place to be, and try to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. But Rob gets a frantic call from a friend (who he hopes will be a girlfriend). She’s trapped in a building way uptown. So, in true cinematic bravery/stupidity, a small band of them head toward the danger.
Most of this is dumb fun. The easiest comparison is to The Blair Witch Project, but Cloverfield doesn’t stint on the scares like that film did. I also didn’t have a problem with the hand-held nature of the filming, though apparently some viewers are getting nauseous. There are some nice set pieces, like a scene in a subway tunnel with some little critters (the big monster spawns rather easily). The cast is as generically good-looking as bland as that of a typical beer commercial, and just as forgettable.
Perhaps the best thing about this film is it’s brevity, it’s so short it doesn’t let you focus on inconsistencies. It fits into its genre rather nicely (the man sitting in front of me literally jumped out of his seat at one scare) and maintains the integrity of the gimmick. The term popcorn-film is overused, but I think Cloverfield is a prime example.
Looks good to me…
(Rest after the jump)