Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The End of the 00s: Why Did We Not Appreciate 2007?, by Sara Vilkomerson

MM HMMDo you think moviegoers in 1967 knew they were lucky? That was a year when they got to wake up on lazy Sundays and walk outside to see Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner or The Heat of the Night for the very first time. I'm guessing no. (BTW, tickets were $1.25. And cigarettes were 30 cents. But on the other hand, there was also that whole Vietnam thing.) And neither did the 1974 audiences who were living through a year that would include Chinatown, The Conversation, Godfather II, and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (not to mention Blazing Saddles!)-or those 1980s peeps who had to choose between going to see Raging Bull or Ordinary People. You know why I know this? Because I didn't appreciate 2007 as it was happening.

When the scholars (or aliens from outer space, take your pick) look back at 2007 they'll probably shake their heads or tentacles in wonderment. Because, oh yes, it was some heady, heady stuff cinematically speaking.

Let's start with the nominees for the Academy Awards Best Picture: No Country for Old Men, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, and Atonement. Juno is the lightweight in this group, for sure, but try to remember how much people liked this movie before the inevitable backlash against Diablo Cody, Michael Cera and, generally speaking, fast-talking, wise-crackin' teens (cause God, yeah, they're annoying). On the plus side, Jason Bateman! And here is when I should talk about the fact that Juno director Jason Reitman will probably win best picture in 2009 for Up in the Air. But I won't. I won't I say!

Anyway. I have no doubt whatsoever that when looking back at the 00s (which I still think should include 2010 no matter how times I count it out on my fingers) that both No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood will be considered classics; Michael Clayton should be taught in every scriptwriting class in the world; and if Atonement had been released in any other year than '07, it would have probably won Best Picture (for sheer prettiness! And hot sex against a bookshelf). But this is only part of the story of 2007! Let's take a look at some of the other releases (that's what she said!):

§ The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
While I very much appreciate No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, secretly this was my favorite movie of the year. It is not only beautiful, moody, and plotted like something out of the glorious '70s, but it has a very interesting-in-hindsight cast: in addition to Brad Pitt (who is actually really good in this!), Sam Rockwell and Casey Affleck (who is excellent), the supporting cast includes Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Paul Schneider (Bright Star), and Garrett Dillahunt (The Road, Last House on the Left). Do not be put off by the title. Watch it.

§ Zodiac
Yes, Zodiac. I'll just say it: Better than Benjamin's Buttons.

§ Away From Her
AKA the movie that will wreck you for a night or maybe your whole life it is so bittersweet and heartbreaking — especially if you happen to have even a teensy amount of fear of Alzheimer's Disease. It will probably be remembered as Sarah Polley's fantastic directorial debut and also for how hot Julie Christie still was in her mid-60s.

§ The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Another gorgeous movie that, like Away From Her, might make you want to kill yourself and yet somehow hopeful. Sorta. Like in the way The Road is hopeful.

§ La Vie en Rose
The movie that introduced us to Marion Cotillard (who would go on to win best actress in the best dress and give the best Oscar acceptance speech of the year. Youtube that shit right now!)

§ The Lives of Others
Speaking of Oscars! Thought this German film was released in 2006, it did not come to America until 2007. Maybe the best movie of the decade. Boom.

§ Knocked Up
Well? It was an important moment because it was when Judd Apatow became, you know, Judd Apatow. And when we all started hating Katherine Heigl.

§ The Bourne Ultimatum
Doesn't everyone agree this was the very best of the series?

§ Eastern Promises
Viggo, Viggo, fighting-naked-Viggo, who is oh-so-good. Oh, and Naomi Watts!

§ Into the Wild
Sean Penn directs little Emile Hirsch into almost freezing himself to death! Big beautiful Alaska-before-Sarah-Palin-Ruined-It skies. Pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart! Hal Holbrook will make you cry! Now imagine how much more people would have flipped for this movie if had come out in crappy 2009.

§ The Savages
Philip Seymour Hoffman + Laura Linney + snow + dysfunction = awesome.

§ Lars and the Real Girl
Remember when Ryan Gosling used to act in movies?

§ Gone Baby Gone
There was a time when we all would have laughed our asses off at the phrase "Ben Affleck, director." And yet? Pretty wicked okay.

§ Before the Devil Knows Your Dead
More Philip Seymour Hoffman with Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei. Sidney Lumet directs.

§ Margot at the Wedding
I know, I know! But try revisiting: not nearly as good as The Squid and the Whale, but not all bad, either.

§ I Am Legend
Perhaps the movie that could best see into the future and what 200Hate and 200Swine was going to be all about. Think about it.

This is not to say that 2007 didn't have some clunkers too (I'm looking at you, Blood and Chocolate, Ghost Rider, PS I love You, The Bucket List, Reign Over Me, Stomp the Yard, Lions for Lambs). But, when a random 2007 meh weekend included Grindhouse, The Brave One, The Valley of Elah, Persepolis or Control in theaters, it's hard to complain.

But did we appreciate it? No. We thought the world would just keep on turning and "swine flu" sounded like a funnier alternative to Bird Flu, and everyone had jobs and healthcare, and expected raises and were buying apartments. Ha ha ha ha. Suckers! All of us!

Sara Vilkomerson really hated 2008 and 2009. She works at the New York Observer and is, OMG, a "Top Critic" on Rotten Tomatoes!

49 Comments / Post A Comment

LondonLee (#922)

I was with you until 'I Am Legend' (OK, it was at the end), that was a bloody awful film.

Gone Baby Gone>>>>>>>The Departed/Mystic River

katiebakes (#32)

I know, I really liked Gone Baby Gone too. I was upset to learn that the upcoming "Edge of Darkness" was not penned by Dennis Lehane.

Also, Before The Devil Knows Your Dead depressed the shit out of me. It was like Very Bad Things except no Daniel Stern and all he stands for.

katiebakes (#32)

[obligatory your/you're mea culpa]

hockeymom (#143)

This isn't the right place for it, but I'm making a personal plea to you, Katie Bakes, to write about the Bridgestone 2010 for The Awl. The NHL outdoors. Fenway Park. I know it will be all over Deadspin and such, but The Awl is so much nicer!

zidaane (#373)

I would like to see a time-lapse video of just Balk's right eye as he watches all 110 minutes of 'Away From Her'.

OuackMallard (#774)

Agreed! Also, The Lookout was a great film of 2007, widely overlooked. By the way, is there a name for this symbol: §

vilkomerson (#37)

Yes, The Lookout! I meant to put that on the list. More Matthew Goode in 2010, please. Also, I think The Lives of Others, perhaps one of the best films of the decade, were in US theaters in 2007.

Dave Bry (#422)

Wow. That is very true. That was a great year for movies. And I didn't realize it at the time either. Except: "There Will Be Blood" was all but ruined by that stupid and ridiculous ending. And "Margot At the Wedding" is definitely, definitely all bad. Never has a movie made me want to stab my eyes out so hard. It is despicable.

hockeymom (#143)

I was liking "Margot at the Wedding" until the wacky music video wedding scene. Then, I just hated everyone involved. Just too damn precious.

zidaane (#373)

Jennifer Jason Leigh requires filters.

Bry. On point.

RickVigorous (#214)

I was with until the last two. Away From Her still haunts me, as does kd lang singing Helpless.

RickVigorous (#214)

with 'you' that is.

tracybluth (#1,973)

I haven't even seen half of these movies, but I agree that 2007 was a very good year indeed. This year I had trouble picking a top five without going to honorable mentions.

Also, possibly related, why did we not appreciate 2007… in general? It was the last year when anything was good.

Flashman (#418)

2010's gonna be super!

Flashman (#418)

For one thing, it's a fun number to type!

sigerson (#179)

Atonement = English Patient. Suuuuuuuuuuuuuucked rocks but some folks are suckers for an English accent, swooning romantic music and unrequited love. Also, "sweep of history" faux epic tableaux. See, e.g., Titanic.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

I'm starting to weed out people from my social circle who haven't seen The Lives of Others. Honestly, people, there's no excuse.

rj77 (#210)

Strongly agree.

Meta!, Or, The Loves of Others.*

* Does it too.

Jared (#1,227)

If you did not appreciate 2007 at the time then you were seriously not paying attention. The Onion AV Club was already comparing it to 1967, 1939 etc. Everyone knew going into the Oscars that either NCFOM or TWBB was going to get robbed, because they both deserved it–or worst case, they'd split the vote and either the Juno hype or geriatric Atonement love would prevail.

And two you missed: 4 months 3 weeks 2 days, and I'm Not There. Both excellent.

1. 2007 was a great year in movies for me because it was a great year in movies for casey affleck. i never imagined in 1998 that he'd end up being my favorite affleck. although his seeming participation in whatever joaquin's going through makes me worry. but anyway, please put him in more movies, people!

2. just check out the best foreign film category from the oscars that year: indigenes (days of glory), letters from iwo jima, volver, pan's labyrinth, and the lives of others. and, because they're foreign language flicks, almost all of them were released at the tail end of 2006, which, i figure makes them count as being 2007 movies.

HiredGoons (#603)

'No Country For Old Men' at the time I saw it, was the first film where I was like "yes! Yes! YES! OH GOD YES!!!"

'There Will Be Blood' also good but slightly over rated.

Michael Cera can suck my left nut.

HiredGoons (#603)

I meant 'first film in a long time'

When I got out of the theater at the local "urban" multiplex after seeing "No Country For Old Men," the two girls at the popcorn counter yelled "hey, what did you think? That was the bomb, right?" They were right. That was the bomb.

Affleck was scary good, Daniel Day Lewis good. Casey Affleck's voice in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was just fucking genius, the right touch. Sqeaky, unmanly, uncertain, dodgy — the contrast between his nature and the James boys couldn't be more stark. And yet his character's ambitions were magnificent. I used to think Eastwood's Unforgiven was the last statement of the American West in film until this.

deepomega (#1,720)

Strongly agree. Not to mention that night time train robbing at the beginning. Had me hooked right from the start.

I'm glad the best western of the 00s was not a tv show though! I mean Deadwood is great, but nice to see something a bit tighter! And glad it wasn't 3:10 to Yuma.

Flashman (#418)

There was a time in 2007 when the Odeon on Shaftesbury in London was playing these four films: 'Lust, Caution', 'the Diving Bell and the Butterfly', 'There Will Be Blood' and 'No Country For Old Men'.
I took a photo of the marquee, indeed as a record of what a fantastic year for film 2007 was.

HiredGoons (#603)

My friend did post-audio on 'Lust, Caution' and when I asked her how it was she told me she wept for about 45 minutes after the first time she watched it.

Flashman (#418)

I really need to get around to watching the rest of that film then. So far, I'mkind of ashamed to admit now, I've only ffw'd to the smoking hot sex scenes.

Since you mentioned 'The Bucket List,' can anybody tell me why on Earth it is always near the top of the Most Popular rentals list on Netflix? I don't understand! Do old people use Netflix? I always thought it was a Gen X/Gen Y thing. And if old people don't use Netflix, why do so many young people want to watch a not good 'comedy' movie about old guys dying of cancer? I have spent several minutes being confused over this during the past year.

deepomega (#1,720)

Old people love Netflix because old people don't like:

1) Paying that much for movies
2) Being in a dark room with young people
3) Leaving their house

Also, don't underestimate the baby boomers! They are getting pretty elderly too and they love nicholson!

Thanks. I forget that not all boomers are as technologically deficient as my parents. My dad has written himself instructions for how to turn on the TV using his Comcast remote (yes, seriously), so Netflix would be totally out of the question in their household.

Jef (#1,843)

YES, Julie Christie was so hot in Away From Her.

OuackMallard (#774)

Olympia Dukakis wasn't bad either.

David (#192)

Alex Katz says that Movies are our most important cultural contribution we are making at this time– ("our" of course referring to these United States of America).

HiredGoons (#603)

I would counter that with Snuggies.

slinkimalinki (#182)

i read one of those sentences as "hot sex on a bookshelf". which i want to try.

a.t. (#1,744)

Very surprised to not Once mentioned.

a.t. (#1,744)

Very surprised someone can type such a bad sentence….I'm surprised Once wasn't mentioned yet.


lotsoftreble (#2,715)

The Ass. Of Jesse James was not good at all. There Will Be Blood had some lovely moments, but felt like a chore. Why have two hour and forty minute movies become the standard when they should be the exception?

No Country is very very GOOD. Also yes to Michael Clayton, The Savages, La Vie en Rose, Grindhouse, Away from Her, and Into the Wild. No to everything else! Where do I go to rate more movies?

FlyingWhales (#2,794)

2005 was also a particularly excellent year. It might not be quite as weighty at the top as 2007, but still, lots of good to great stuff (in approx. descending order):

Brokeback Mountain
The New World
Grizzly Man
A History of Violence
Good Night and Good Luck
Match Point
The Squid and the Whale

Broken Flowers
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Batman Begins
Pride & Prejudice
The Constant Gardener
Cinderella Man
Walk the Line
Corpse Bride
Wallace & Gromit
Hustle & Flow
King Kong


And yet the cinematic abortion that is Crash won Best Picture, ugh.

moviesmovies (#2,796)

FYI, I was barely a teen in 1967 and while I wasn't aware of how groundbreaking "Bonnie and Clyde" was, I did see it four times. However, that same year I also loved "Barefoot in the Park" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" among others. We took movies in stride, it's true, accepting the uniqueness of "The Graduate" right alongside the comfort of "The Jungle Book". I was in college in 1974 and studying film, and let me shout an emphatic YES to the fact that we knew great filmmaking was happening. We rushed out to the latest Ashby or Altman or Coppola or Polanski or Scorsese or Russell, well aware that these directors were re-inventing the language of cinema even as we were studying it. It was a very exciting time to be a film student and be cognizant of what we were seeing. But we also rushed to repeated viewings of "That's Enertainment!" because it's also nice to spend time with classic films.

As for 2007, I did not like There Will Be Blood. It was hammy and pretentous. I also think Casey Affleck is a terrible actor, although I did rather like "Jesse James" in spite of him. And I agree on "Lives of Others" what a great movie. Oh, and I loved "Atonement" and saw it twice. It's NOT "The English Patient".

HiredGoons (#603)

BONNIE AND CLYDE IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER (I was waiting all day to say that).


LondonLee (#922)

And an even more dope* Serge Gainsbourg song.

*I'm far too old to use this adjective.

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