Electricity & Lust

Sam’s Films of the Year

Posted in end of year lists, Movies, Sam by Sam Unsted on December 29, 2007

So the list time has been upon us for a few months now and it’s our turn here at E&L to throw some assertions into the ring about the year’s finest movies. So I’m first up out of the blocks and I’d, as many have this year, like to make a toast to the quality of film which seems to have been released over the past year. There have been some truly marvellous works of movie-making-magic over the past twelve months and I salute particularly the emerging crop of talent which seems to be tearing it up right now.

So my list is based on movies that were released in the last twelve months in the UK and therefore omits a number of excellent movies that have figured constantly on the year-end charts of other sites. Notably, No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood fall into that category. I have also failed to see every excellent movie which has been released over the past year but I’ve listed the feasible candidates for that mini-category at the bottom of the list. So, without further ado, check this out.

10. Knocked Up

While Knocked Up has garnered equal portions of praise and hatred, much unjustified on the latter, the film’s core charms are what won me over. Whether it’s a pro-life work or if its sexist really isn’t the issue (neither if you ask me) because where Knocked Up succeeds is in the heart and sweetness infused in its mixture. Seth Rogen plays the hirsuite charmer to perfection, capturing the true moment at which adolescence ends with a nuance you’d expect from an acolyte of Apatow. Katherine Heigl too is far from hamstrung with her character while Jason Segel stands out from the band of friends. More than all this though, the movie is moving, funny and truly romantic in a far more human way than most rom-coms deliver.

9. Hot Fuzz

Definitely a second-watcher this one for it is only on the DVD that you can really take in the myriad references to blistering action movies of the past. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost continue there cosy, PG Tips double act while Edgar Wright throws around a number of great actions sequences that bode well for his future. They may need to do more to prove themselves on future efforts but as it is, Hot Fuzz is a sterling addition to their cannon.

8. Inland Empire

I can barely begin to place down a review of Inland Empire. The film, if it is even that, is such a mind-bending, phantasmagorical act of mania that you can barely even consider it in the same category as anything which came out this year. This is probably David Lynch’s most uncompromising work to date and contains a stunning lead performance from Laura Dern which should have seen her picking up every accolade going. But to actually sum it up is impossible. You can simply scribble down words: breathless, beautiful, haunting, insane and none can come close to what this film is. Not for everyone my any means, but my God is it worth seeing.

7. Zodiac

David Fincher reached the intertextual apex of his career with this one, the first film he’s yet made to truly depict his own sense of filmmaking: obsessive, frightening and deeply American. His rendering of the Zodiac Killer’s story is pitch perfect in every aspect. Robert Downey Jr is marvellous and Mark Ruffalo exudes weary goodness but this is Fincher’s film and he creates a meticulous, pinpoint world in which his killer can exist, rendering the sharp brushstrokes of the story with a perfect balance of realism and cinematic awareness. While not his best work, this may well be the defining work of his career.

6. Ratatouille

The love shown to Ratatouille had left me cold previous to seeing it, mostly due to the poorness of Cars and a lack of hope for Pixar based on that. But this is just a brilliant film. No other film this year moved me as much as this low-key story of personal dreams and the prejudice of society. Not only that, but rather than give in to the happy ending all could see, it managed to tinge its ending with a hint of sadness and find the happiness one step removed. Brad Bird can now take away the crown of John Lasseter as the finest director of animated film’s Pixar has in its stable.

5. The Lives of Others

While I begrudge the Oscar given to this movie, due to my unswerving love for Pan’s Labyrinth, there is no denying the power and precision of this perfectly painted work. For a first time director to give the world such a moving, intelligent work of cinema that manages not only to engage with the politics in its setting and provide a moving and human story, not scrimping on either, is just astounding. The renaissance of German cinema continues apace.

4. Hairspray

Why so high I hear you cry from the rooftops? Why? Because Hairspray is perhaps the best conceived and executed musical since the heyday two of Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story. Because Hairspray features the best set of songs ever in a musical. Because every single actor gives their absolute all in pursuit of making this a winner. Because Elijah Kelley singing ‘Run and Tell That’ is so brilliant, my knees weaken at the sheer power every time I watch it. And finally, because no film of this year or any other saw me leave the cinema with anything approaching the grin I had after this. Dismiss at your peril non-believers.

3. I’m Not There

I’m a little pre-disposed to liking this being a big fan of Dylan and it did mean that I got the vast majority of the references being made and understood the thematic purpose of each interpretation of the man. But putting that aside, this is something else entirely from any other movie released this year. Todd Haynes’ vision is so pure, so vivid to him and he compromises nothing in depicting it. The verve and energy of the conception drips from every scene and I finished watching this feeling exhilarated by the ideas and intelligence he gave. Also, Cate Blanchett gives maybe the finest performance in any film this year.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Who knew? Casey Affleck spends a career in the shadow of his meathead (but supremely talented as-a-director) brother and then, in two fantastic performances, shoots to the top of everyone’s list. His work in Gone Baby Gone is ineligible for us this year due to the move being delayed but he is just outstanding in this ruminative, partially-revisionist Western. The cinematography is perfection and the composition of the entire movie, despite the title giving away any chance of a twist, is calmly and intelligently achieved. The year’s most elegiac, controlled and perfectly constructed work.

this-is-england.jpg

1. This Is England

The first true masterpiece of British filmmaking since, well, Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes. This Is England is evocative, provocative and personal, examining a portion of British history many would like to forget. More though, he explores the Thatcher-era with a detached intelligence and avoids the move to place all Skinheads within the same bracket, imbuing his characters with a sense of touching humanity. Starring though is Thomas Turgoose, giving one of the greatest child performances ever. His character exudes the menace and danger of a young De Niro and yet the aching vulnerability that comes with being a child. Those paradoxes are portrayed with swagger and sweetness and not one male actor gave a finer performance. The film is a masterpiece and should be shown in schools to young British film students for them to understand that gangsterism and rom-coms in Chelsea don’t have to our future. Mr Meadows, we salute you.

Other notable moviemaking triumphs:

Control, Once, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Fountain, Half Nelson, Superbad, Last King of Scotland, Sunshine, Darjeeling Limited, Eastern Promises, Letters from Iwo Jima

Documentary of the Year: Deliver Us From Evil

The most absolutely shocking documentary for years. Regarding the sexual abuse present in the Catholic church, this is something of unprecedented power which doesn’t try to grab you through big graphs and stunts, but through human emotion and the unbreakable crushing nature of looking into the eyes of parents whose children are victims. Fuck Michael Moore and fuck Al Gore, this is a tragedy.

Runners Up: King of Kong, Jesus Camp, Wordplay

Worst Movie of the Year: Southland Tales

Now, I would imagine there have been a number of movies this year that have been far worse experiences than sitting through this but, there really cannot be too many. Southland Tales is the most bloated, misaimed piece of crap I’ve witnessed in the past few years. Disappointing isn’t really the right word because, barring the presence of Richard Kelly, you couldn’t have expected much. Everyone in the cast seems as baffled as we are yet, although it is a baffling work, it isn’t this which makes it so poor. What makes Southland Tales the worst movie of the year is pretension, detachment and a startling lack of respect and love for the audience. I just could not have cared less about the characters, this post-nuclear world, nothing. It left me cold, angry and poorer in every sense. Damn you Richard Kelly. No, you know what; Fuck you Richard Kelly.

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