Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is the defining movie of the 2000s? PART 8: 2007

Want to catch up?

If you haven't been following, but would like to catch up now, here are the earlier parts...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

As always, the disclosure/definition: this is not a list of good/great/your personal favorite movies. This is a list to see if we can find what the definitive movie is of the decade. The criteria, as with most internet lists is subjective and vague in its definition. It has to be recognized by a majority of people (that means no art house films), and has to have a positive buzz. It has to be considered by the mainstream and have cultural significance.

Maybe it's me maturing, or maybe because not enough time has passed, but I feel that 2007 doesn't have too many contenders to be a defining movie. And that's ok, because I feel treating this like the Baseball Hall of Fame accepts members is a good thing.

Regardless, let's take a look at what 2007 brings to the table...

Remember, this is not a list of good/great/your personal favorite movies. This is a list to see if we can find what the definitive movie is of the decade. The criteria, as with most internet lists is subjective and vague in its definition. It has to be recognized by a majority of people (that means no art house films), and has to have a positive buzz. It has to be considered by the mainstream and have cultural significance.

First up - the Oscar nominated films:

No Country For Old Men
Michael Clayton
There Will Be Blood

Of this list, I immediately see 2 contenders. So let's break it down. Atonement? I have no idea what that was about and it was only 2 years ago. I bet in another year it will be the Trivial Pursuit question that stumps everyone when they try to name the 2007 Oscar contending films.

I loved Michael Clayton, but do understand why others might not. Long, meandering, and purposefully ambiguous, I think Clooney and David Bowie both did bang up jobs. I loved that it had a 70s cinematic feel and wish more movies took risks like this one did.

There Will Be Blood? Daniel Day Lewis fantastic. "I drink your milkshake!" Pop culture significance. Seriously, you can't order a milkshake with friends without getting a bunch of terrible impressions of that line. And I'm never going bowling with Daniel Day again.

But is the movie defining?

I don't think so. I think everyone got caught up in the performance and kinda forgot about the movie. Is it still a great film? Absolutely. Is it defining? Nah. It's historical and cool and a great accomplishment, but not special at the end of the day.

That leaves No Country For Old Men and Juno...

(spoiler if you haven't seen the movie. This is the ending! Not that it would mess you up too much)

No Country For Old Men has a lot going for it. Based on a novel from arguably one of the best living writers. Directed by arguably the best directors working in Hollywood. Won the best picture. Things against it? A rather vague and open ended conclusion to the whole thing that left some scratching their heads. While I think the ending is a little jarring, I can also appreciate that it is something different, in that it forces the viewer to interpret it. That's rare and also a little refreshing. I definitely believe it's a good contender for defining movie of the decade.

As for Juno, if you remember it receive ridiculous hype before and during the first two weeks it came out. And that inevitable hype inevitably damaged it. It also put hipsters at war with one another and questioning their values. On one side you had the hipsters who saw it first and created the hype; on the other side you had hipsters who refused to see it because of the hype. Yay hipsters!

Regardless, this film is a smart, edgy teen comedy with a female protagonist - something were not used to. Is the dialog a little over the characters' heads? Possibly...but didn't we all know slightly pretentious teens in school that at least tried to speak like this?

It also doesn't hurt that the writer was a former stripper and broke into Hollywood the way all struggling writers would like to. That the film now is a measuring stick for other indie comedies (_______ is this year's Juno!) doesn't hurt it either. I feel confident choosing it as a contender.

With the Oscar's out of the way, let's turn our attention to the mainstream releases...

A small little movie about a bunch of Greeks that hold off the Persian hordes...oh yeah and it was pretty much done all in front of a green screen. Stylish and gory, this movie turned people's both in Hollywood and across the country when it opened so big. Birthing (eww) a number of lines that have become cliche, glorifying hyper violence and yelling, this movie is the rallying cry of a contender for defining movie of the decade. It even has the honor of being the focus of a spoof movie, "Meet the Spartans," something that can't be overlooked.

And really I think that's it for 2007. I thought about Superbad and Knocked Up, and I think they are comedies that people will remember from the decade, but I don't think they have enough staying power to be considered a defining movie. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't see it. I think both Old School, Anchorman and Wedding Crashers are all funnier and more iconic, and will stick with that.

Of course we can't ignore the the now time honored tradition of looking at some of the other movies Hollywood trotted out for us to consume...

"_________raped my childhood" has become a cliche on the Internet, probably going back to when Lucas released Phantom Menace. People became so outraged because the movie didn't closely adhere to their childhood memories of the original trilogy, so they took this mantra as their battle cry. Ok, so maybe it wasn't the biggest thing in the world, but I've heard it enough that in my head it's a cliche. It's used ad nauseum to describe something that doesn't fit perfectly with the memory of something.

That said, I'm pretty sure Michael Bay is raping all of our childhoods with his Transformer movies.

I understand that it's not so much a movie as it is a really long and loud commercial, and that we sorta as a society are ok with that, but that doesn't mean the movie doesn't have to make sense.

Of course, the joke's on me, because Michael Bay is rich enough to live on a bed made of explosions, while I sit here and write this in a poorly lit cubicle. So he wins. (Apologies if the Fox image I used is from the sequel. I really didn't care enough to figure it out, and really, it's a Megan Fox picture so you shouldn't be too upset.)

Ghost Rider
Nicholas Cage is apparently going broke. I like to think it's because he made choices to star in movies like Ghost Rider. Based on the comic about a motorcycle rider that turns into a flaming skeleton. What? You don't like my plot synopsis? Fine, wiki it, it's a ton more confusing, non sensical, and silly. And yes, I understand anyone could have written that, but I doubt even Tom Wolfe has the writing chops to make it any more coherent. I will give Ghost Rider one little bit of credit - it had the foresight to cast Eva Mendes. While that won't get me to watch the movie, it will get me to linger on it a bit if I sstumble across it on cable.

This splits people a lot of ways, and with good reason. Comprised of 2 movies that pay homage to the experience of watching a 70s drive-in movie (complete with bad audio and missing reels, which, ok do we all realize these were bad things that people hated?) directors' Robert Rodriguez and Tarantino take slightly different routes to get to the same place.

Rodriguez tackles a zombie movie, and pretty much follows a standard 70's horror movie script note for note. There's the occasionaly wink to the audience, but for the most part he plays it all honest. So what we're leeft with is...a purposelly made mediocre zombie movie - which, yeah I really can't get too enthused about.

Tarantino went a slightly different way, and the results are...mixed. First of all, while the template of a 70s movie is all right there on screen, Tarantino just couldn't contain himself. And that's a good thing. So what we got is a patchwork quilt of all the 70s genres he loved so much, blended with a 2007 Tarantino sensibility. It's interesting to watch it unfold, and that's with absolutely nothing happening for the first 40 minutes. By the time we get to the car chase, we're exhausted from having to deal with the main characters chat about nothing. This would have made a fantastic 30 minute short; I think 90 minutes was just too much.

The other thing Grindhouse had going for it are the "trailers" of made up movies. Speak to a Grindhouse fan and he/she will most likely suggest this is the best part of the movie. While some of them are kinda clever, (Machete looks awesome!) the others definitely are only a gimmick and start to drag.

But don't take my word for it, take a look yourself! (be careful of the violence and nudity - there's a lot of both)

So that leaves us with just 3 contenders for 2007:

No Country For Old Men

Stay tuned for part 8...


Cline said...

Big fan of Grindhouse. Excellent soundtrack. Saw it in the theater with 12 other people, and we all loved it. Rodriguez is making a full-length Machete movie, btw.

Anonymous said...

I agree about No country for old men. A very good movie but I think that There will be blood is actually better.

I don't agree about Juno and 300. Both are good movies, but I think that they are both overrated.

I would have add at least Into the wild, my favourite movie in 2007

Anonymous said...

300 was a very very bad movie, it was poorly acted and virtually plotless