Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Look Back: 2007's Top Moments in Film

2007 was a massive year in cinema, due to a docket of underappreciated films and a vast number of blockbuster sequels (two of which stunk en masse; most notably, Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). The year was rife with dazzling characters. Ellen Page's Juno. George Clooney's Michael Clayton. Russell Crowe's Richie Roberts. Robert Downey, Jr.'s Paul Avery. All the more riveting were a series of movie moments that conveyed the REMARKABLE talents of Matt Damon, Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington, and Academy Award winners Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis. Posted below are the most indelible moments that made 2007 a year to remember.

5. Jason Bourne in Action in Bourne Ultimatum

Jason Bourne became an icon that Matt Damon simply could not shake. In many ways, Bourne was the American equivalent to Britain's James Bond, a character engaging in some of the best scenes of action-packed espionage in American cinema. Due to some ailments he endured on the set (barreling through stunts and fight scenes that were extremely visceral and bruising), Damon wanted Ultimatum to be the final edition to the series. Reportedly, Damon has agreed to add two more films to the Bourne storyline, an offer too good to pass on. When it comes to Ultimatum, choosing one all-encompassing scene is a difficult task, but one to remember is the Tunisian rooftop exchange, capped off by a bad-ass clip of seamless hand-to-hand combat. To quote Kevin Spacey: "[Bourne] showed these men of will what will really was."

4. Optimus Prime's Reincarnation in Transformers

Some film revivals prove to be either too daunting (Episodes I & II of Star Wars) or far too frivolous (Garfield or Alvin and the Chipmunks) to capture the spirit of the original work. Countless films from our childhood failed to live up to the tall order of replicating the work that made it all possible (Masters of the Universe or The Incredible Hulk, to name but a few). In 2007, Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay did more than enough to resuscitate the Transformer series. Whether it was the iconic sound of a robotic being changing from a helicopter to a Decepticon for the first time or the renaissance of Optimus Prime's unforgettable voice over, Transformers was loaded with all it needed to accentuate itself as true Hollywood blockbuster: mind-blowing action and jaw-dropping special effects. Isn't that right, awesome Verizon guy?

3. Frank Lucas Channels Vito Corleone in American Gangster

In processing from the theater after a screening of Spiderman 3 last May, I bore witness to a cardboard cut-out that shook me to the core: Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington would be starring together in a Ridley Scott film entitled American Gangster. Come November, I would not be disappointed by a film that put Crowe on display as a flawed, yet endearing hero and Washington as a ruthless crook you couldn't help but root for. As was the case in the second installment of the Godfather series, the Ridley Scott classic (which, by my standards, was The Departed's equal) had a Don Fanucci-type villain grace the screen, a thug hopping from one business to the next to collect what he felt was rightfully his: a 20% buyout from all commercial ventures in his corridor. So as to show his family the type of respect he could command, Frank Lucas took to the streets to submit a poignant message: this is MY borough, not yours. With his 9mm cocked, Lucas laid waste to a man who was nothing more than a petty thief to Lucas's sheer dominance as the mogul behind New York's widespread heroin racket in the 1970's.

2. Anton Chigurh's Coin Flip in No Country for Old Men

Not since Hannibal Lecter have movie audiences been left so captivated by a villain of his caliber. Enter Javier Bardem's portrayal of Anton Chigurh, an unconventional serial killer (his air-compression gun was outright revolutionary) who purposely got caught by authorities, merely to see if he could escape (which he did, choking an officer to death with handcuffs in coldblooded fashion...and this was just his first moment on-screen). Chigurh had the bone-chilling audacity to toy with his unsuspecting victims, at times allowing a simple coin toss to determine his or her fate. "Call it, friendo," was all it took to fill the drawers of a timid gas station attendant with fear-provoked feces. Classic villainy on Bardem's behalf.

1. Daniel Plainview Exclaims "I drink your milkshake!" in There Will Be Blood

Using Upton Sinclair's Oil! as a backdrop to a wonderfully scripted tale of the lure of avarice and glory, There Will Be Blood told the story of rival scoundrels, Reverend Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) and Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a pair who would stop at nothing to earn the will of their people through spiritual falsehood and financial domination. Criticized for its plodding pace and overwhelming thematic content (Plainview's evil intent was beaten to death), There Will Be Blood made for a quality film, due in part to a scintillating conclusion that is 2007's, if not the decade's, best. The ending needs to be witnessed in its entirety to be fully appreciated. Through all degrees imaginable, Plainview played Eli like a fool, going so far as to resort to bowling alley implements to put an end to Sunday's pathetic excuse for a life. The 'milkshake' reference is inspired by the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which director Paul Anderson resorted to taped confessionals for historical clout to the There Will Be Blood landscape. For all intensive purposes, the final scene serves as a testament to DDL's brilliance in thespianship, a performance well-deserving of the Oscar. 'Draaaaaainnnnaaaage!'


Michael said...

Couldn't agree more. Honorable mentions:

The comedy 18 years in the making: The Simpsons Movie

The rise of the Beta-Male in Knocked Up and Superbad

And last, but not least, naked wrestling in Borat. An image burned on my brain in the most evil of ways.

Marc V said...

Naked knife fight in sauna in Eastern Promises too. 2007 was the year of the naked man. Nice list.

Eric said...

I gotta say, I'm disappointed that Daniel Planview is higher than Anton Chigurh. Perhaps I "didn't get" There Will Be Blood but I found the whole movie ridiculously over-acted and plodding and so very boring.

JamesBedell said...

Just going to say that Masters of the Universe was an EXCELLENT FILM.

Ok maybe not, but I still have a soft spot or it. Someday, there will be a remake...

Michael said...

they're working on a new he-man movie!