December 15, 2007

Best and Worst Films of 2007

Good year for film if you ask me. Once you navigate through the fetid pile of horse shit that represents the decline of intelligent film viewing, that is. The great and the order.

1)No Country For Old Men: The Cohen brothers' stark landscapes, minimal dialog, and unflinching moral questions paint Cormac McCarthy's Texan novel onto the screen with care. Horrifying at times, but not gratuitous. And no wasted "filler" scenes. Raises interesting questions of fate and consequence, without spoon-feeding the audience with some bumper sticker explanation. And the ending, my God the ending. Flawless. Number one for me this year.

2) Eastern Promises: After the fatally flawed A History of Violence, Cronenberg redeems himself with this gutter ballet. The violence is not the focal point, even though it is a touch overly choreographed. A great cast of characters, all with their own story. And Viggo is pure menace.

3) Michael Clayton: The opening rant by Tom Wilkinson is worth the entire price of admission. The story has been told before, but never in a manner as fierce as this. Outstanding acting by all involved, but never over the top, and thankfully void of melodrama.

4) Sicko: You don't have to agree with everything Michael Moore says to appreciate his championing of the underdog. Sure, some of his scenes are staged, but he brings to light the everyday social injustices that most people either completely ignore or justify with a pathetic rationale of "every man for himself". This is by far Moore's most focused film and hopefully some of the stories will affect even the staunchest of capitalist hearts.

5) Zodiac: David Fincher's directorial abilities have improved greatly. This story is so well-crafted, the tension being built from organic character responses to circumstances. And character is what this film is really about, the flaws, the obsessions. I was surprised this movie didn't stay in the theaters very long. Truly worth watching.

6) Waitress: Lovely, small budget film. Loved the idea of using various pie recipes as metaphor for the protagonist's life. Keri Russel is outstanding. The film manages to avoid so many of the potential cliché disasters that go along with these kinds of stories. Clever, human, funny, and genuine.

Wretched viewing:
1) 300: Absolute garbage. Made in 2006, but not released until 2007, this film is nothing more than an example of marketing. Tedious, witless, and insulting. The only value this film could have would be as an academic exercise in dissecting homo-erotic subtext. Horrible dialog. How many times do men in leather speedos have to bellow out where they're from? I left with ten minutes remaining, wishing I had stayed home and read a good book.

2) Smokin' Aces: Another film made in '06 but released in '07. Scattered story line, flat characters, and Jeremy Piven typecasted as an annoying, self-righteous degenerate. Not even worth elaborating further.

3) 28 Weeks Later: A perfect example of studios capitalizing on a great film by making a stagnant and sub par sequal. Whereas the original (28 Days Later) created a post-apocalyptic environment that lulled the viewer into a false sense of security, this film replaces most of the suspense with gore, and the ever-present, ever-nauseating "America saves the day" rhetoric. The few genuine frights that did occur were hardly worth sitting through the film for.

4) Music and Lyrics: I'm usually a sucker for Hugh Grant comedies. Not sure why. This film is wretched, though. Probably has something to do with Drew Barrymore being in it. All the humor is flat (pun intended) and overused. Dull.

5) Oceans Thirteen: What a strange film. It banks on the reputation of the characters from the previous two. Funny banter is only hinted at, replaced instead with celebrity closeups and the constant suggestion that something really good may happen at some point. It never does. Over the top plot with holes a mile wide.

Those I Regrettably Haven't Been Able to See Yet:
1)There Will Be Blood:>Lord knows this would be at the top of my list, but I can't rightly put it there until I've viewed it. Stupid local theaters.

2) Into The Wild: I have not seen a poor directorial effort by Sean Penn yet. And this looks to be even better than his other works. Eddie Vedder's soundtrack is outstanding as well.

3) Before The Devil Knows You're Dead: Great director with what looks to be a grand achievement. Mind you, Ethan Hawke does not quite do it for me.

4) Juno: One look at any trailer and you know this film will be spectacular. Sharp vernacular and affectionate, effective characters. I'm pissed I haven't seen it yet.

December 4, 2007

Remembrance Day

I don't usually post my own writing. Seems pretentious to do so. Perhaps today I am pretentious --I'm sure some of you think I am most days.

This is an excerpt of a piece The Sky is Falling, based on some past Remembrance Day ceremonies I've been to. In particular, the image of a frail, older veteran standing in the rain while the ceremony unfolds around him.

The Sky is Falling
by: Harry Tournemille
Nov. 11/ 2007

The body is old. Hunched shoulders drawn down in the rain. They'd be arched in the sunlight too, the graveness of gravity. At one time they were straight. Broad, strong anchors for the torso. But the body ages and is now old. The awareness of age does not help. In the rain, the man is rooted to the ground. A feeble apple tree, split and worried with years. His brow a permanent furrow, the earth of his face turned over with age. And wisdom. His jacket is buttoned, hat perched on the side of his head. Medals weigh down his breast. They hang from curled ribbons that mock the man's shape. He dislikes them, their gaudy brassiness. They do not remind him of another time, of smoke and fire and confusion. Their memory is born of fabrication, the allusion to a time that did not exist in the temporal. They remind him of nothing at all. On any other day he keeps them in a small, pine box at the back of his sock drawer. Today they weigh him down, pull his heart to the saturated earth. The place where they belong, where he belongs one day. The body is old. But not dead yet.


He snaps to attention. Autopilot. Chest out, chin down, eyes fierce for a moment before they retreat into thought. He feels the host of bodies around him dance the same. Unison, the great deceptive cadence.

Right Face!

The man pivots, graceful. His foot claps the asphalt, joining the percussion of all the others. A person he does not know stands next to him. Her dark rimmed glasses appear to squeeze her eyes closer together than what is natural. But the beauty of her youth is not lost on the man, her pixie mouth and high cheeks. She leans towards him and whispers.

They really should have those new fandangled gadgets for us to ride on.

How's that?

Seg-ways they're called. Two wheels and we could still turn to attention. My grandson has one.

It requires an inhuman amount of effort to suppress a smirk. And he after all is human. He shakes his head at her and she winks.

Well, I'd like one at least. I'm no spring chicken, y'know --but I used to be.


In unison they move, tired limbs swing, feet rise and fall. Less smooth than the last time. But no one notices. As the man marches he clenches and unclenches his left hand. He tries to relax his shoulders. The cenotaph at City Hall is only two blocks away and he wonders if he'll make it. Will his body fail in this postured line of duty?

He tells himself this is it. No more marching. Been saying that for years now. By Christ his hip hurts. Out of the corner of his eye he notices a homeless woman pushes a shopping cart, her mouth moving in phantom conversation. She stops as the veterans pass, raises a half-empty bottle of rice wine in salute. Her mouth pulls apart in unpracticed smile, exposes fragments of what few teeth she has left. Missing teeth. Who was it that lost his teeth that night? Louis? No --he was alright. Stoned out of his mind but alright. Louis Sutton had a nickname for everyone; called the man Frankie-boy. The marching has stopped. Stand at ease. The charcoal cenotaph points to the grey sky. A concrete, admonishing finger that God misinterprets. The ceremony begins. As a voice comes over the sound system, the man's thoughts drift back sixty odd years, to a beach in France at night...