Friday, June 29, 2007

The half-year in review

Okay, so I've been meaning to actually post to this blog on a much more regular basis for a while now, and circumstances have been pushing me in that direction, so it seems like the best way to proceed is to do a quick wrap-up of the year so far in movies and TV. I'll probably write some longer pieces on more recent developments or things that I think are particularly important, but that'll have to wait.

My favorite movies so far this year (alphabetically):

Away from Her: Sarah Polley's Alzheimer's drama is a touching but mostly unsentimental love story about the oblivion of old age and the demands of a lifetime relationship.

Black Book: This was attacked for being mired in moral relativism, when it's actually a movie that peels off the layers of bullshit that accrue in a time of war, about the many compromises that result from intolerable situations. It's also massively entertaining.

Grindhouse: Speaking of which, this movie was apparently too entertaining for audiences to handle. Even though Rodriguez's Planet Terror wasn't much more than a goopy trifle, Death Proof emerges as one of the richest and more teasingly playful films of the year, and the overall packaging, complete with the fake trailers and bizarre interstitial ads and messages, were a fun return to analog movie heaven.

The Host: My favorite films are those which are able to defy audience expectations and meld different genres and tones, and this movie was smoothly adept at melding the monster movie, the family melodrama, and the political satire into something very fun, but with a mature edge.

Paprika: I'm still not sure that I've gotten my mind completely around Satoshi Kon's latest, but it's basically an anime melding of Cronenberg and Fellini, showing what the animation form is capable of but too rarely attempts.

28 Weeks Later: Like The Host, an astute melding of the scary, the politically savvy, and the dramatic into a world where the worst-case scenario is sadly inevitable. A big step up from Danny Boyle's original, which fell apart in its third act.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley: Ken Loach's heartbreaker puts its audience into the position of an eyewitness to history, both in its use of distressing violence from both sides of the Irish conflict, but in its rhetorically-oriented debates, which are still alive today.

Zodiac: I don't think Fincher quite got exactly the film he was hoping to get, and I think the claims of 'best American film in years' are exagerrated, but I loved this for its meticulous sense of period detail, while also feeling completely contemporary; the rambling, unpredictable plot; and Fincher's ability to keep us interested in a movie that's mostly about white guys talking to each other.

Worth seeing or better than expected:
Black Snake Moan
Bridge to Terabithia
Hostel Part II
Hot Fuzz
Knocked Up
Reign Over Me
Spider-Man 3
La Vie en Rose

Worst so far:
The Hitcher