Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top 100 of 2007 (21-30)

21. Sicko
Along the way, I've somewhat cooled on this film, but I still appreciate its aims. The healthcare system in this country is undeniably fucked up. And Michael Moore does a great job at delving into the issue. I guess I'm simply growing tired of Moore's schtick and letting himself overshadow the issue at hand. It's still a good movie, and I like that he provokes. It would have been a lot higher had it not been for him, but rather, based on the information.Because in that regard, it's stellar. But Moore ends up being the film's undoing to a degree. I guess I wish he'd let his work speak for itself, and not have to constantly interrupt.

22. Ten Canoes

This Australian import is definitely worth the time. First, not many Aboriginal films exist, so it's a fantastic way to get a glimpse into that culture. It's a story based on Aboriginal legend, set "a long time ago" and "a very long time ago." It's essentially a film about ancient folklore being passed down from one generation to the next. It's remarkably beautiful, and the story is more captivating than you might expect, vaguely a tale of adventure with humor mixed in, it's a nice, but different way to spend an evening.

23. My Best Friend

This was one of those unexpected films that, while light, managed to stay with me. I really enjoyed the hell out of this one, and Daniel Auteuil and Dany Boon are just a pleasure to watch together. The film is deceptively touching while maintaining the humor and avoiding the maudlin. After watching this one, I left the theater wanting to call all of my close friends and let them know how much I appreciate them.

A nice debut from director Scott Frank, and yet another strong performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Who'd have thunk that the kid from "Third Rock From The Sun" would end up being one of the most interesting up-and-coming actors of his generation? Between this, Brick, Mysterious Skin, and the upcoming "seems-promising" Stop-Loss, I'm convinced that he's one of our best and brightest. Clever little heist film that deserves a look.

I was glad to see that Viggo Mortensen got a nomination for his performance here - very deserved. (Not to mention all of his performances where he wasn't nominated, and perhaps should've been). The film doesn't always work, but damn, it has some really fascinating parts. But, I'd say it was a huge step up after A History of Violence, the previous Cronenberg/Mortensen collaboration, which was 2/3rds of a great movie and a shitty ending.

Michael Winterbottom is an interesting director to me. He's so on with one film, and then the next one's a complete mess. For me, this was one of the better ones. And as much as many people I know hated Jolie in this performance, quite frankly, it's the performance I've been waiting to see from her. She's undeniably a charismatic actress, but she always seemed typecasted to me, and every role she played seemed to cash in on her "wild child" public persona. And, I include her performance in "Girl, Interrupted" in that. In such a remarkably strong field of nominees that year, I can't believe they gave her the Oscar over Toni Collette, Samantha Morton, Chloe Sevigny, and Catherine Keener, all four of whom were amazing. But this time out, I adored the performance because Winterbottom was able to harness that charisma into quiet, dignified intensity, that felt not only befitting for Marianne Pearl, but for the actress Jolie had inside but was never able to display until now.

An interesting film about a gay Israeli soldier and a gay Palestinean who develop a relationship, despite the cultural divide that surrounds them. As with The Band's Visit, I love that it did it's best to eschew the politics for as long as possible. It depicts a life in the Middle East that isn't what we see on the news. However, the politics and cultural tensions inevitably come into play, despite every effort to avoid that. The ending is troublesome for many, and I'm still not quite sure what I think of it myself yet, but it keeps me thinking about it, which is what a good film, for me, is all about.

28. Red Road

This Scottish import is rather obscure, but I learned about it from a movie site I frequent, and the premise sounded interesting, and I think it's a classic case of my feeling that you need to seek the good films out, you can't sit around and wait for them to be marketed to you. First time director Andrea Arnold does a remarkable job in letting tension slowly escalate, and it doesn't give you the set up - you only know that there is something from the past that will build into something later, and that you'll find out what out what that past involves when the time is right. I love films that don't spell everything out for you, but hook you in by your curiosity of wanting to know. A far better film than most anything I heard of through mainstream marketing.

This Spanish film is a coming-of-age story told without the usual cliches, and touches upon some interesting issues. To try and encapsulate everything that happens in the film and to do the various storylines justice in a short blurb would end up being rather frustrating to do and not ruin anything. So rather than try to synopsize the film, I'll just say that it was a very genuine and honest collection of interweaving stories about love, divided loyalties, sexual exploration, and friendship that I really enjoyed.

30. The Betrayal (no trailer available)

Unfortunately, this film has been languishing without distribution since it premiered at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, and it's unfortunate, because it was really quite a good film. Franco-Algerian tensions are nothing new in international cinema: From 1964's The Battle of Algiers (favorite film of all time, for those keeping track), to more recent stories such as 2005's Cache (one of the best films of this decade) or 2006's Days of Glory (meh), it's a topic to which many films are seemingly devoted, yet, I feel like I'm getting a different story each time. And while this one is probably more closely aligned with Days of Glory in terms of it's story, this one is by leaps and bounds better. While it lack the visual flair of that film (hell, it lacks visual flair, period) the story is another fascinating exploration of the internal conflicts that befell many Algerians fighting on the side of the French during WWII. But unlike Days of Glory, this one makes you think.

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