Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Twelve Most Spine-Tinglingly Awesome Moments of 2007

It may be hard to believe when you read an excoriating review, but every time I sit down to watch a movie I do so in joyful hope. I can't explain how much I love cinema. Ever since I was a little girl there seemed to be something magical about a beam of light that transformed a negative into a living and breathing story. I also love the idea of shared experience. I grew up in a small town with a large Italian population and a larger cinema. When the Rocky movies played, the cinema manager, a suave Roger-Moore wannabe who wore a dinner jacket(!), opened up both the stalls and the circle. A thousand Italians cheered for Rocky as though they were watching a live bout. Outstanding! Later on I studied cinematography so as to disabuse myself of my obsession with cinema. I thought that if I knew the nuts and bolts, I'd forget about the magic. It didn't work. I became more obsessed than ever, except that now my infantile fascination was girded with a respect for the technical expertise underlying every movie - even the cyncical cash-ins.

So in a rare annual moment of warmth and optimism, here follow those flashes of brilliance that reminded me - amidst the sequels, threequels and hopeless failures - just how wonderful cinema can be. Note that this list is significantly different from my Best Films of 2007 list (found in a drop-down box in the side-bar). Even piss-poor flicks can have moments of inspiration - which is a faintly hopeful thought.

The first moment is totally juvenile and comes from the Danish animated kids flick, TERKEL IN TROUBLE. I knew I was in insane place - a cross between SOUTH PARK and GRANGE HILL - but I didn't realise how shamelessly brilliant the movie was until the sidekick sang the following love song: "I think I've been been blind until today, when you suddenly looked at me and said 'Fuck off and die - you're too ugly for me and your mum goes for a hundred dollars,' you said it straight to my face". Pure Comedy Gold.

The second moment is the hysterical cameo from Jason Bateman in SMOKIN' ACES. Altogether, this was a much better caper flick than we had any right to expect but Bateman really stood-out in a great ensemble class. He really suits those sleazy, frayed at the edges roles.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, at the end of January I got to see Sergei Bondarchuk's WAR AND PEACE for the first time, and not just to see it on DVD but on the big screen at the Barbican. The battle scenes, where the Red Army don period costume and literally fire canon, were outstanding, as was the entire film. In fact, for all sorts of reasons, Bondarchuk's WAR AND PEACE is my favourite movie of all time.

Next, as a confirmed anti-vegetarian, there was something mischevious and delicious in seeing a camera segue from a cute little piglet to a nice thick slice of bacon sizzling in a pan. And in a children's film no less! Thank you CHARLOTTE'S WEB.

For sheer beauty, you can't beat the shots of Shirley Henderson running on the beach at Morecambe Bay in Juliet McKoen's film FROZEN. The colour palette, the texture of the sand, and all on DV. A real technical and artistic achievement.

Next, proof that even weak movies contain moments of joy, we have Jessica Stevenson's dance routine in Mitchell and Webb's disappointing cinema debut, MAGICIANS. Absolutely bloody hysterical!

The seventh stand-out moment restored my faith in big budget action flicks and Hollywood franchises. It's the tunnel chase scene where McClane crashes a truck into a helicopter in DIE HARD 4.0. It just reminded me how good 80s action flicks really were. And how guiltlessly egregious. Thrills and spills-tastic.

Eighth up, we have Nikki Blonsky's opening number in HAIRSPRAY. It was just so full of energy and fun that you wanted to spend more time with the character and bought into the musical. She's one of 2007's great finds.

Ninth up, I give you two words: Spider Pig. Yes yes, as disappointing as THE SIMPSONS MOVIE was, Spider Pig is now an iconic cinema moment.

Next, we have Richard Gere, who's not someone you'd normally associate with stand-out acting performancs. But in THE HOAX he really got to flex his muscles. There's a scene where he's creating fictitious tapes of himself as author Clifford Irving interviewing Howard Hughes. In reality, he's playing both Irving and Hughes. The impression is superb, but what's more captivating is the fact that Gere can convey how comfortable Irving feels in Hughes' shoes. He's almost better at being Hughes tham himself.

Eleventh, and back to juvenilia, the utter ridiculousness and brazen absurdity of the opening scene of SHOOT 'EM UP. Clive Owen as a pissed off British nanny fighting off gangsters, chomping on a carrot, and still managing to hold the baby. Who needs to be Bond anyways?

Twelfth, a fight scene as homo-erotic and breath-taking as any you've ever seen. Viggo Mortensen in a butt-naked knife fight with some Russian hoods. Once again, David Cronenberg takes us to the edge of voyeurism and exploitation-violence and then calmly walks over that edge. EASTERN PROMISES: flawed movie; iconic fight scene.



    I loved the whole fly-kicking-the-granny sequence in Hot Fuzz, that was sublime.

    Every scene with Javier Bardim in No Country For Old Men was awesome, but when he's paying for his gas and talking to the old clerk.... it was so tense.


    30 Days Of Night: an amazing camera angle pans above the ground as the vampires start to feast on the scattered townspeople whilst the metallic drone score sounds bleak and hopeless.

    Pan's Labyrinth (I only got to see this in 2007), the whole film was brilliant. But seeing Ophelia being shot by her step-father (Sergi Lopez was brilliant) was a massive sucker punch.

  2. I totally agree on HOT FUZZ and DEATH PROOF and PAN'S LABYRNTH - they're all on my Best of list for 2006 and 2007. Hard to single out individual moments - I laughed almost continuously at HF and DP is basically just perfect trash entertainment. PL is something more - a real pantheon movie. I remember when the lights went just turning to Swedish Philip and we looked at each other speechless. That movie literally made me speechless it was so good.

    As for NO COUNTRY I am so excited about watching it - next week - finally! But it's good to see you agree with all the insanely good reviews.

    Happy New Year!