My Year at the Movies – 2007

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Now that my good friend and collaborator, Roderick Heath, Esq., has seen fit to write one of those bloody year-end wrap-ups—third in my rogue’s gallery of things I wish reviewers would stop doing FOREVER (Top 10 movie lists and using Word. Word. Word. in titles take the top spots)—and slave as I am to the laws of symmetry, I am forced to do the same. Rod, I’ll get you for this—and YOUR LITTLE DOG, TOO!!!

Actually, I’m kind of relieved that Rod’s in Oz fighting the good fight to see all the blockbuster shlock Hollywood can wad up, grease with spit, and throw in the moviegoing public’s general direction. Saves me the bother of trying to “keep up.” I’ve already passed the threshold of “I’ll do exactly as I please” in life, but this blog creates in me a strange and unfamiliar sense of obligation. How I fulfill it is to defy the fanboy/rom-com tastes of the younger generation and insist, if they’re going to read my blog, that they get a little “cul-chah” and stop ruining their hearing with overloud action films.

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Upon perusing the movie index of films released in the United States in 2007, thoughtfully provided by The Numbers, I see that I only viewed six relatively mainstream movies, three of which happened to be on cable at the same time I was numbly sitting on my living room couch looking for something light to distract me. I was disappointed in all of them, most especially the idiotic The Bourne Ultimatum (seen at a second-run house—thank god I didn’t pay full price!), of which I expected so much more. Paul Greengrass, I’m begging you, stick to what you so brilliantly know (United 93) and never go near a blockbuster again!

Specifically, I spent most of 2007 going to film festivals. It’s an easy thing to do in Chicago, which has a film festival about every 12 hours. Even having missed the Silent Summer Film Festival, the Chicago Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, and the Polish Film Festival in America—all of which I wanted to attend—I still managed to gorge on about 35 films at Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival (now officially Ebertfest), the European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Chicago International Film Festival. A handful of the films I saw this year may show up at a theatre near you in 2008. Some, such as the awesome 2007 Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days, sold out at the CIFF, have already shown in arthouses in select cities, unseen by far too many people. OK, so a movie about an illegal abortion isn’t exactly a date night dream, but, people, some day you’ll have to breathe air outside the shopping mall!

All right, that’s not entirely fair. I like to escape real life, too. There were some great films out there that celebrated the notion of happiness and escapism that didn’t require you to check your brains and humanity at the door. One of the best movies of the year—and one, I might add, that many people who look at movies for a living just didn’t get—was Black Book. What a treat it was to watch a Hollywood movie of the kind Hollywood doesn’t make anymore—full of the finest melodrama, genuine intrigue, high production values, and star-quality leads doing their best to entertain us. While Hollywood was remaking musical films like Hairspray, Ireland’s can-do film industry gave us Once, certainly the most heartwarmingly human, musically accomplished film of the year. One of the funniest films of the year was a little Estonian film called Men at Arms. It is so knowing about the trials and eccentricities of small, powerless countries while giving audiences a Monty Pythonesque entertainment of the highest order. It’s everything Borat wanted to be but failed at miserably. Hopefully, it won’t end up as marginalized as its little nation—but I’m not holding my breath.

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My film year wasn’t all about watching and commenting on films. I got a chance to interact with my fellow Internet film fans by participating in something I’m proud to say film bloggers invented—the blogathon. Flickhead hosted the Luis Buñuel Blogathon, and I contributed a review of The Young One (La Joven) to it, my first blogathon ever. I had so much fun reading all the contributions that when Gautam Valluri hosted the extraordinary Double Billathon over at Broken Projector, I was all over it, doing two double bills for him (Matewan/Harlan Country, U.S.A. and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song/Baadasssss!).

When I covered the nonappearance of Bela Tarr at a Facets special event, I even got bitch-slapped for misattributions by the renowned film educator David Bordwell in my comments section. It was one of the few, but, happily, growing number of comments Ferdy on Films has garnered. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks.

And speaking of which, I could go on and on about some of the great and small film-related moments I had this year. If you’ve been reading Ferdy on Films, you know what they were for me and Rod.
What I’d like to know is what was YOUR 2007 film year like?

Happy 2008, film geeks! l

  • Pat spoke:
    27th/12/2007 to 8:54 pm

    2007 for me: I spent a lot less time in the multiplexes. I saw more out-of-the-mainstream movies. I took full advantage of my Netflix membership to fill in the gaps in my foreign film experience.
    Thank you for hating the “Bourne Ulitimatum”! I’m so tired of hearing how great it was – at the end of it, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck repeatedly for two hours. (Where can I get information about the Ebertfest? I’d like to experience that in 2008.)

  • Marilyn spoke:
    27th/12/2007 to 11:11 pm

    Yeah, Pat, I know what you mean.
    Ebertfest is held every April at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign. The web address is http://www.ebertfest.com/. You can probably buy a festival pass right now. I usually buy single tickets same day. Tickets have gotten a bit harder to come by as the festival has grown in popularity, but I’ve never been turned away from a film I wanted to see.

  • Rod spoke:
    28th/12/2007 to 10:12 am

    Dear Marilyn,
    Pffffttt!
    Yours sincerely,
    Rod

  • Marilyn spoke:
    28th/12/2007 to 10:13 am

    Hee hee!
    It’s just my contrary nature. These entries were actually a lot of fun.

  • Gromit spoke:
    28th/12/2007 to 10:41 pm

    Marilyn:
    For what it is and isn’t worth, here’s my TOP TEN of 2007 (so far):
    Best:
    1. Sicko
    2. 2 Days In Paris
    3. The Paper Will be Blue
    4. I’m Not There
    5. This is England
    6. Paprika
    Okay — liked well enough:
    7. 12:08 East of Bucharest
    8. Simpsons Movie
    9. Once
    10. Ratatouille
    So 2 more Romanian films for you to catch up on.
    I’m looking forward to 4,3,2.
    Will keep an eye out for the Estonian film, but not sure if/when that will touch down here.
    Ta.

  • DCMovieGirl spoke:
    29th/12/2007 to 4:30 am

    Excellent blog. 🙂
    I came by way of LAMBs. I will be back.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    29th/12/2007 to 9:55 am

    Hi Gromit – Happy Merry.
    I saw 12:08 at last year’s CIFF, and liked it a lot. The Paper Will Be Blue was supposed to be at this year’s CIFF, and I had a great big circle around it, but then they substituted another film. If you can get your hands on it, I’d love a copy.
    Hi, DC Girl. Thanks for stopping by. See you soon!

  • Kimberly spoke:
    30th/12/2007 to 12:26 am

    I enjoyed reading what you and your blogging partner had to say about the year in film. Due to my limited budget and my limited interest in so many modern films I tend to only go to the movies two or three times a year, so I never see anything until it finds its way onto DVD.
    My favorite film this year has been Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises (which I finally saw this week) followed by Zodiac (which I obviously liked a lot more than Rod). I also enjoyed 28 Weeks Later even though it has obvious flaws and Hot Fuzz was the funniest movie I watched even though it was pretty forgettable. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten was probably the best documentary I saw, but parts of it really bugged me. Clearly I still need to see many more films. No Country for Old Men, I’m Not There, Control, This Is England, The Man from London and Sunshine are high on my “must see” list.
    I’m curious about Darjleeng Limited, Fay Grim, Away from Her and a film you mentioned; 4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days. Cristian Mungiu’s movie almost seems like a sort of antidote to movies like Knocked Up and Juno (both movies look awful to me I’m afraid).
    Hopefully I’ll get around to seeing some more new releases soon.
    One highlight of my movie watching this year was being able to see so many amazing older Japanese films for the first time such as Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Pitfall, Teruo Ishii’s Horrors of Malformed Men and Masaru Konuma’s Tattooed Flower Vase, which were all finally released on DVD in the US and almost none of them had ever been released before or only had extremely limited initial theatrical runs in the ’60s and ’70s.
    I also enjoyed participating in Blog-a-thons and chatting with other film obsessed folks online. It’s been a fun film year!

  • Marilyn spoke:
    30th/12/2007 to 11:42 am

    Hi Kimbery. I’m very fortunate to be able to get a press pass to the festivals I attend and a free pass into all the best arthouses in Chicago as a Facets volunteer (actually, the hubby, but I fill in some times). It makes moviegoing less financially painful. Still, I didn’t make it out to the cinema too much this year. Current releases aren’t usually my bag either.
    I saw Away from Her, which I think you will like because the still-lovely Julie Christie is so very, very good in it. The film was just OK to me.
    Everyone’s been telling me how good Juno, but when someone compared it to Little Miss Sunshine, it lost a lot of point in my book. I think it’s one I’ll wait to come out in home viewing formats.
    I read your review of the Tattooed Flower Vase. I have to get my hands on it now. You really make films come alive in your reviews.
    Stop by again.

  • Lorne spoke:
    14th/01/2008 to 1:18 pm

    I have no known allergies to jerky, hand-held cameras and fast twitch editing, so I happen to think The Bourne Ultimatum was a very good action flic. Of course it was more than a quick tempo that floated my boat. Greengrass knows how to ratchet up the tension on the back of a solid, albeit simple, story. It delivered what it promised, the snacks tasted good, I went away happy.
    But I really don’t want to go to bat any further for a film that doesn’t make my year end highlight reel. Those films would be:
    Michael Clayton – Really, this was the best-constructed film of the year. A whale of a good yarn directed with a deft touch, and with an ensemble of actors that wowed me. Clooney especially. Damn, this guy has found his groove! His was the best, most compelling performance I’ve seen this year (haven’t yet seen Daniel Day Lewis) and is, thus far, my pic for Male I’m Most Jealous Of. Gravitas, brains, good looks, sensitivity and intensity. Screw you, George.
    No Country For Old Men – The Coens have sampled the suspense of Hitchcock, the evil banality of Tarantino and their own brand of kitsch into this story of some old guys and one sociopath. All the action takes place in pursuit of bad guy Chiguhr while the aging Sheriff and fellow good ol’ boys swipe at shadows, never really becoming part of the story, existing in a gauze covered parallel universe. A powerhouse spiced with philosophy.
    Black Book – Glad you appreciated this gem, Marilyn! I love Verhoeven’s style, and coupled with a great story and cast, his sharp-toned direction flew off the screen. Pity I saw it so long ago in the theatre; it really should be part of the current award season chatter.
    Most overrated film? Juno. Certainly a fun, interesting film. And the supporting cast was very good, with an outstanding performance by Juno’s boyfriend, played by Michael Cera. But…sigh…I had a problem with Juno herself. Yes, she’s a smart, snappy, snarky little knocked-up 16 year old. I get that. But the dialogue is just too smart, snappy and snarky by half. I began to lose empathy with the character and see the screenwriter waving from behind. Plus, actress Ellen Page appeared to be recycling her demon child role from 2005’s Hard Candy, in which she played a smart, snappy, snarky little worked-up 15 year old. Juno is a quality indie film, no question. But it’s not in the same league as the big boys.

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