Dec 31, 2007

The obligatory look back - 2007 at the cinema (features & shorts)

Without descending too much into the murk that comes with trying to assign a yearly canon of the most worthwhile films, I must admit that this year represented a watershed moment for me as a viewer, as I will certainly never forget so many rich experiences I had at (and around) the movies in 2007, be they in Park City or Aspen or Nassau, at Gay or Black or Student film festivals, in the solitude of my all too humid Brooklyn apartment, sprawled on a sticky white leather couch in the cauldron that summer nights can turn my apartment into, gazing into my 22' inch at a screener of another fest circuit fave. I was provoked time and time again.

I've comprised a series of lists, with no particular number of films in any given category, in the hope that I can accurately give credence to a entire cross section of cinema I encountered this year, regardless of what the circumstances of my viewership were.

I am more convinced that ever that cinema is the most vital and democratic medium of expression, at least at this point in history, but as Jean-Luc Godard has publicly pondered, what difference can movies really make in a world so wrought by ideological, religious, sexual and moral confusion and self-destruction? The world continues to spiral toward chaos and tragedy with many of us passively partaking in ambivalence and denial. Although many top shelf American directors offered meditations on the war in Iraq, health care, The American West and even the credit card industry, it was the warm hearted comedies about unwanted pregnancies and our greatest export, the American Action Picture, that won audiences hearts and dollars. "Juno" and "The Savages" not withstanding, it seemed at times as if too many of the so called serious films I saw (regardless of weather they attempted to be funny or not) were just another liberal humanist tract with watered down, underwhelming art house aesthetics glued to the marketing budgets of corporate indiewood freight trains or twisting in the wind, distributionless at second tier festivals. Sadly, it's rare to see films with the guts and aesthetic adventurousness of a "Frownland" or "Weapons", the provocative risk taking of "I'm Through With White Girls" or "Murder Party", even on the festival circuit, where all those films currently linger, waiting for their shot at a hand full of theatres. If not for the necessity of the market, would a greater crop of indie films be somehow more adventurous in there depictions of these modern troubles?

Even in its relative infancy when compared to other artistic mediums and near obsolescence when compared to the vulgar popularity of other, lesser motion picture formats, the feature film is uniquely positioned to transmit aestheticized ideological codes to large groups of people, but as Errol Morris has discussed on his blog and in a terrific series of New York Times pieces this year, the ideology of the viewer almost always defeats that of the film. When the pair of ideologies that confront one another when even the most layman viewer watches a film can shape and change each other, inform the broader world view of the audience member or perfect the flawed representational framework of a film, this is when you've come across a film (or critic) worth talking about. Enough - here are my favorites of last year.

Best English Language feature length narrative films I saw in 2007 that were distributed traditionally for the first time in New York City theatres (in evaluative order):
1. No Country For Old Men
2. Killer of Sheep
3. A Mighty Heart
4. Zodiac
5. Juno
6. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
7. Deathproof
8. I'm Not There
9. In The Valley of Elah
10. Once

1. The Last Dog in Rwanda (Jens Assur)
2. Salt Kiss (Felipe Gamarosa)
3. Pop Foul (Moon Molson)
4. The Back of Her Head (Josh Safdie)
5. Dad (Daniel Malloy)

1. No End In Sight
2. The King of Kong
3. Maxed Out
4. Sicko
5. Taxi To The Dark Side

Foreign Language Films, distributed in NYC
1. The Boss of It All
2. Lust, Caution
3. Offside
4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
5. Black Book

Undistributed Films Doc & Narrative
1. Snow Angels
2. Frownland
3. The Pool
4. Murder Party
5. Weapons
6. I'm Through With White Girls
7. August The First
8. The Go-Getter
9. Beyond The Call
10. The Death of Michael Smith

Guilty Pleasures
1. The Bourne Ultimatum
2. I Know Who Killed Me
3. Live Free or Die Hard

Didn't See
1. Southland Tales
2. Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Still Can't Make My Mind Up About:
1. There Will Be Blood