Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Cinemafool review of 2007

That’s right! It’s that time of year again! More eagerly anticipated than the Oscars, more interesting and entertaining than any other half-wit’s top 10 list, and much shorter than the gajillion talking-heads top-100 shows that are now the only thing on telly. It’s the Cinemafool review of the year, where we look back over the last twelve months and point out films everyone should really have watched if they wanted to be considered “dead clever”, “cinema-savvy” and “fantastic” like what I am.

Last year’s tally was trumped by the skin of our teeth with a total of 44 new films. Alas, re-releases seen at the cinema (Blade Runner) or 2007 films watched later on DVD (the excellent Them, and nonsensical Inland Empire) are not included, simply because that’s the law we all must abide by. Hey, I don’t make the rules. Oh wait, I might…

The Top 10 of 2007

Anyway, first up is the hotly contended for “Top 10”. Are you ready? In chronological order:

The Science of Sleep
Seen: 28th February
Rating: CF4
What: Michel Gondry’s vast creative talents are applied to a tale of a chappy who just can’t separate dreams from reality - not a good place to be when trying to impress the new girlie neighbour.
I said then: I think the best word to describe it is charming. Utterly charming.
I say now: I basically have a soft spot for Gondry’s imagination, and this film was fun, sweet and brimming with Gondry-esque brilliance.
I also said: A lovely treat this week. Not only do I get to watch a fabulous film; I get to sit a comfortable distance from the screen.

Hot Fuzz
7th March 07
Rating: CF3
What: The Shaun boys are back, swapping zombies for a love of action films with a tale of a super city bobby tackling life in a sleepy English village.
I said then: Big, bold and British, Hot Fuzz climbs the CF scale with its humour, but falters when the action become a little too ‘actiony’.
I say now: Watched twice at the cinema (reason below), this is a belter of a flick, marred only because I love Shaun of the Dead so much, and it isn’t quite as good.
I also said: post-wine, post-opening ten minutes, and post-any seats being available more than ten centimetres away from the screen.

Seen: 11th April 07
Rating: CF3
What: The 28 Days… team of Garland (pen) and Boyle (directing) return with a bit more money, a ridiculous sounding plot and a massive burning ball of gas.
I said then: Intimate, disturbing and claustrophobic as hell. Proper old-school sci-fi in space.
I say now: Despite going a little silly towards the end, Sunshine was a great romp. One of those romps that involve unbearable tension and horrific death. You know the kind.
I also said: I’ve had direct experience with the power of the sun, so I could really relate to the characters in this film as they risked immediate and complete combustion.

Half Nelson
Seen: 21st April 07
Rating: CF3
What: Ryan Gosling’s Oscar nominated performance as a skinny white teacher trying to help his class of racially opposite children and… oh boring. Seen it before. But this time, skinny white teacher happens to be addicted to crack. Oh dear…
I said then: Half Nelson pushes through all of my usual grievances and emerges as an original, engaging piece of work. Not your multiplex-filler, but stick with this film and you will be highly rewarded.
I say now: A small film with a big heart, driven by excellent performances and a mellow tone. Plus Ryan Gosling’s pretty hot.
I also said: I had a phase where I really was unable to eat just a single Mingle, but did I make myself the central character of a film and brood around with my affliction? No.

This is England
Seen: 2nd May
Rating: CF4
What: Shane Meadow’s foray into 80s skinhead culture via a little boy called Shaun, and a big man called Combo with unfortunate ideals.
I said then: This is England definitely packs a punch - actually, more like a head-butt to the face…
I say now: A good year for the Brits, This is England is powerful without being overly grim, relevant without shoving issues in your face, and funny without having characters say “bugger” all the time.
I also said: Like The Lion King, but with skinheads.

23rd May 07
Rating: CF3
What: David Fincher’s crime thriller based on the real-life Zodiac killer, with lovely Jake, lovely Robert and lovely Mark.
I said then: this is a stocky beast, but the time flies by in a mixture of suspense and intrigue. With a great cast, a fascinating story (all the more because it’s true) and some clever direction, Zodiac makes a killing
I say now: Fincher manages to make the right balance between his fancy directing and letting the formidable (and lovely) cast do their thing. Zodiac was one piece of absorbing film.
I also said: It’s like he’s peed all over the film - wherever you look you’ll get a whiff of Fincher.

Knocked Up
15th August 07
Rating: CF2
What: The start of Rogen and Apatow’s climb to the top of the comedy pile, Knocked Up tackles that gut-wrenching terror of getting up the duff by a total loser.
I said then: Definitely has elements to satisfy many different levels of audience, even those as high and mighty as me. Clever, cynical… refreshing to see a comedy emerge without a completely rose-tinted view of the romantic world.
I say now: I have to stick a few films in this top ten that aren’t overly pretentious (just a couple, anyway) and Knocked Up was a comedy that really impressed, not least because I got to see it for free. Way hey!
I also said: You don’t get the impression the writers have struggled for a punch-line and thought ‘sod it, make one of them fart instead’

The Lookout
7th Nov 07
Rating: CF2
What: Joseph Gordon Levitt propels himself back on to the top 10 list second year running in a head-trauma/bank robbery indie film.
I said then: It’s Fargo style, with slightly eccentric villains, a dysfunctional collection of heroes and lots of cold settings… Good, solid first for the director and another cracking performance from Levitt.
I say now: What can I say? I just can’t resist the Levitt’s performances. This also sparks an amazing run of films in November (you’ll see…)
I also said: a barefaced lie created to appease unhappy single women

Eastern Promises
14th November 07
Rating: CF3
What: David Cronenburg does it again (A History of Violence making the 2005 CF Top-10) with Viggo back in tow, this time as part of a Russian gang in London, clashing paths with an ickle baby and an “English” nurse. Oh, and he likes saunas. Well, probably not anymore.
I said then: This is a powerful film, with ace performances, a memory-stamping fight scene, some unexpected twirls in the plot and, did I mention, a naked, sweaty Viggo?
I say now: Naked, sweaty Viggo.
I also said: The guy’s got a cleft in his chin - a proven sign of genius

The Darjeeling Limited
28th Nov 07
Rating: CF3
What: Wes Anderon’s tale of three brothers on a train. They walk in slow motion to cool tunes and there’s lots of close ups of their weirdly shaped noses. That’s about it.
I said then: Oddball, quirky, and any other clichéd adjective you want to throw in there to describe a film that’s different to the norm.
I say now: Let down by the last twenty minutes, this film still barges its way on to the top 10 because of its central performances and how much they made me smile. Simple as that.
I also said: My natural facial expression is that of contempt.

2007: The Losers

Last year there was a crop of stinkers that angered and befuddled. Due to the avoidance of a particular pirate crew, this year there haven’t been quite so many upsets. But a few films didn’t half disappoint.

Shrek the Third
4th July 07
Rating: CF0 (scraped)
“The whole film feels a bit like my attitude when trying to park in a small space at Tesco. It’s all pretty much in there, so sod it - that’ll do.”

19th Sep 07
Rating: CF-1
“I wouldn’t really recommend it to many people, unless I happen on a group of ‘youths’.”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Seen: 24th July 07
Rating: CF-1
“Most of the time I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a school production.”

Wedding Daze
Seen: 27th June 07
Rating: CF-2
“Crikey I have been seeing a lot of shite recently, haven’t I?”

The Turkey of the year

Nothing quite so offensive as Pirates this year, so the Turkey mantle has to fall on a bunch of thirteen smug celebrities instead.

Ocean’s Thirteen
21st June 07
Rating: CF-3
“It’s not as bad as Twelve.”
“The equivalent of an episode of popular BBC show The Hustle.”
“Um… Rohypnol isn’t funny…”
“Frustrating, pointless, and, like the Bavarian mountain I recently visited, Wank.”

End on a High

As I don’t want to enter 2008 with the bad taste of 2007 Turkey in my mouth, let’s quickly reflect on something better. The year did offer up some belters, especially in the form of big, silly fun with lots of SHOUTING and thighs (300), robots and cheese (Transformers) and lorries beating jets (Die Hard 4.0).

It was also a year of surprises, where sequels with lazy names actually turned out to be great (28 Weeks Later) and Mel Gibson made a film that was a bloody good romp and only insulted a small group of people who looked too deeply (Apocalypto).

Top that off with some lengthy dramas that floated my boat (Assassination of Jesse James, Bobby) and a sweet little rom-com that didn’t piss me off (Two Days in Paris) and you’ve got a selection of films that aren’t half bad. There was a noticeable absence of any CF5 rated films, however, and this is a great shame. Can 2008 offer up something better? Let’s go and see…

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