At the Theater, 2007

It’s a safe bet that I’ve never gone to the multiplex more than in the calendar year of 2007. Whether that’s a reflection of the quality of movies (or trailers) released or of the quality of my social life is perhaps debatable. But I know my box office employees – if not by name, then by vague description: the jackass who won’t sell me a “student,” the girl with the Adam Morrison ‘stache (ugh), the dorky kid with glasses (I should talk), and so forth. And thanks to my utter dominance of the Regal Crown Club, my mom hasn’t had to pay for a single ticket, soda, or popcorn in years. Of course, she doesn’t go that often, and I’m dropping upwards of 700 bucks through the glass window annually, but that’s neither here nor there. Let’s go to the recap.

Bad endings have always been my pet peeve. Whether it’s an unnecessary twist (Matchstick Men), an over the top derailment (Fight Club), or the worst five minutes ever put on screen (Rat Race), it bothers the hell out of me not to have the right pacing, the fitting tone, the appropriate conclusion. This was the entirety of the third Pirates of the Caribbean, the second half of Gone Baby Gone, and the last half hour of The Prestige. To a lesser extent, the multiple epilogues in The Lives of Others. The sudden refocus in My Kid Could Paint That. And in both 3:10 to Yuma and American Gangster, Russell Crowe’s character transformations seemed somewhat clunky (even if it was true to life in the latter, it wasn’t particularly well-expressed). It gets to me.

So that’s one niche. Another, as I discovered via the always reliable internet, is the courtroom climax apparently a hallmark of Adam Sandler movies. I guess I just never noticed. Mr. Deeds and Anger Management, two of the worst movies ever made, Big Daddy, and this year’s Chuck & Larry and Reign Over Me all fit the bill – the last of which was actually real solid. The Sandler-Cheadle drama was kind of the inverse-typecasting mirror image of A Good Year, the Crowe romantic comedy I also found enjoyable. Then again, he hasn’t made anything in the last ten years not entitled Proof of Life that I didn’t like a lot (Cinderella Man was my favorite film of 2005, and I can’t ever shut up about 1999’s The Insider… with good reason).

Pleasant surprises also include TMNT and Stardust, the former I’ve discussed, the latter an involving, magical spectacle, and all the hyperbole associated with a successful entry into the genre (The Golden Compass, not so much). Bridge to Terabithia was advertised similarly, but was actually a straightforward adolescent drama. Heavy, and good. The downside of misleading trailers? Margot at the Wedding. By the way, am I the only person who preferred Jennifer Jason Leigh to Phoebe Cates? On a tangential note, I completely fell for Keri Russell (Waitress), Evan Rachel Wood (King of California) Amy Adams (Enchanted), and Diane Kruger… again (Book of Secrets). Only the first three of those are worth watching – and this is coming from someone who thought the first National Treasure was great. Yeah, I said it.

I didn’t sympathize with the main character in Into the Wild. I felt as though Lars and the Real Girl didn’t go anywhere. Before the Devil was dark and dreary. Jesse James a bit empty. Beowulf very empty – its mention here a reflection of how spectacular its 3D visuals were (Sky Captain an apt comparison). And while I actually did enjoy the next handful of selections immensely, Charlie Wilson’s War lacked any semblance of conflict or tension, In the Shadow of the Moon missed Neil Armstrong terribly, and Paris Je T’aime, congruity (understandably). Juno was a bit too cute, and No Country was so downplayed and simple (ironically, one of my favorite things about it) that it kind of missed the involvement and empathy of something like Fargo. On the flip side, The Kite Runner was so incredibly moving, so superbly effective… but it lacked some of that focused directionality. It’s hard to explain.

We’re getting real close now. Most people would consider I Am Legend a poor man’s Children of Men, but Will Smith made the difference. He absolutely blew me away; I didn’t even mind the tonal change 90 minutes in. And as much fuss was made over In the Valley of Elah, the final scene didn’t feel unwarranted to me, given its consistent tone and methodical precision. But can we stop uglying up Charlize Theron? And why is Tommy Lee Jones still on the chase? He’s leaving Ashley Judd in his typecasting dust (Judd, of course, queen of the ‘he done me wrong’ section at your local Blockbuster). Spectacular best describes There Will Be Blood – from the essentials down to the cinematography and the music. Daniel Day-Lewis is a beast. I’d call it a richer version of No Country, and that’s no insult to the latter.

I’ve seen (and enjoyed) a lot of movies this year. But it’s pretty straightforward. Great performances, tight structure, and an immensely satisfying conclusion. Michael Clayton is my favorite movie of the year. Now if we could just get George Clooney to put the kibosh on the Ocean franchise…*

*Remember when Julia Roberts played Tess pretending to be JULIA ROBERTS in Ocean’s 12? Man, fuck that shit.


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