The Best Films of 2007! (If you still care)

This has been gathering dust in the unpublished archives for a while, but unearthing an old post will help to reconcile my adversarial needs of blogging versus turning off the internet and finishing my final paper before Friday. (You can read parts one and two here, featuring some thoughts on some of the films.) Like the 2007 music post, there will be no commentary unless requested. There is one film, however, that needs slightly more attention.

The first fifty minutes of Joe Wright’s Atonement are near perfect. I coveted, viscerally, the young gardener’s life on the interbellum manor: potting, polishing, puffing hand-rolled cigarettes, lounging in a sky-lit bathtub listening to Thomas Beecham 78s and tapping out ‘cunt’ to Keira Knightley. I didn’t want to leave. The film succeeds beautifully in depicting the prelude to and consummation of repressed passion, but it fails to capture the tragedy of its loss. The second half is an abominable mess. Wright’s precision worked well on the manor, but he overcompensates in trying to capture the magnitude of the war. What Ebert calls, ‘one of the great takes in film history’ is overblown, disproportionate showmanship. (This remark in Anthony Lane’s review was particularly penetrating: ‘Some of [the horrors] have swelled in the passage from novel to screen: what was, for [Ian] McEwan, a single rotting corpse underfoot becomes for Wright and Hampton an orchard strewn with dead schoolgirls, each of them with a bullet hole in the brow. Are we so inured to shock these days, or so hard to convince, that only mass slaughter will suffice?‘)

A more modest writer would stop there, but I want to express to you the desire I had to be on that manor. Ignore the question of what makes us like art in general. What is it about specific scenes or moments in films that turn us on so? It might be more primal than we realize or are willing to admit.

One of my favorite scenes in any film is in A Clockwork Orange (’71) when Alex seduces two girls in a record shop. ‘What you got back home, little sister, to play your fuzzy warbles on? I bet you got, say, pitiful, portable picnic players. Come with uncle and hear all proper! Hear angels’ trumpets and devils’ trombones. You are invited!‘ If I ask myself why I like the scene, I might say: ‘Its blithe sexuality. Other movies can get so weighed down by the subtle emotional and physical preludes to sex, or its unfavorable consequences, but few films depict sex the way it often happens: suddenly, in the middle of the day, between people who barely know each other. Unattached sex in a movie usually suggests a character’s unattached emotional state. It takes a visionary like Kubrick to remind us of sex for sex’s sake.’

That’s entirely too rational, though. I might also react to the record store setting (I like music) and the leporid depiction of the sex (it looks funny), but there’s a precognitive element about my enjoyment, an immediate pleasure I feel before my mind arrives to justify it. (When you’re walking through a gallery, how long does it really take you to decide whether or not you like a painting?) The scene likely appeals to some innately masculine desire for sexual dominance of women. But why don’t I get an equal kick out of seeing, say, Jean Gabin seduce that rich American lady in Touchez pas au grisbi (’54)?

I stand 5’9″ (175 cm) tall and weigh 160 lbs. (73 kg). I happen to know that Malcolm McDowell is my same height and build, but with slightly less proverbial meat on his bones. A small person’s daily experience isn’t vastly different from a tall person’s, but in addition to higher salaries and less getting fucked with while walking down the street, height can play a significant role in seduction. (Note the order: ‘tall, dark and handsome.’) I’m not saying that smaller guys are unattractive to women, or that there aren’t women out there who would refuse to date a guy that comes past their shoulders. In general, however, like money, funny, good looks and smarts, being tall isn’t going to make you a less eligible bachelor.

I’ll get to my point. As a smaller member of the species (in America, at least), I have learned, probably from a very early age, not rely on my stature to impress the opposite sex. I can’t rely on immense wealth, either. Or power and influence. I am not Jean Gabin. In the scene from A Clockwork Orange, Alex, compact-in-arms, charms two girls to bed simultaneously, using a sort of freewheeling, oddball charm. My argument here is that my enjoyment of the scene, before my critical faculties try to save me from embarrassment, is a delight in seeing a sexual contender of my own class and methods succeed so marvelously. I approve of the scene because it reflects the way id-Krapp wishes things were (or perhaps the way id-Krapp thinks things actually are despite prior experience), that is, with Krapp effortlessly bedding two chicks in a record store the only way he knows how.

If you disagree with this argument, or find it offensive for any number of reasons, at least we can agree that we appreciate things for a reason. Those reasons aren’t always as primordial as the one I’ve just mentioned, but if you’re patient and shameless enough to examine what gives you pleasure (and displeasure), you’ll often find yourself back in the jungle.

Here’s all the films released in 2007 I saw and how I felt about them.


Two Days in Paris (Julie Delpy)

This is England (Shane Meadows)

Once (John Carney)

Control (Anton Corbijn)

Atonement (Joe Wright)


Charlie Wilson’s War (Mike Nichols)

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (Seth Gordon)

We Own the Night (James Gray)

Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck)

Paranoid Park (Gus van Sant)

Starting Out in the Evening (Andrew Wagner)

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet)

The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)


The Host (Bong Joon-ho)

Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)

I’m Not There (Todd Haynes)

The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass)


Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days (Cristian Mungiu)

Knocked Up (Judd Apatow)

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg)

No Country For Old Men (Bros. Cohen)

Zodiac (David Fincher)

Special Award: Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)

Runner-Up: Ratatouille (Brad Bird) / Triad Election (Johnny To)

Film of the Year: There Will Be Blood (P.T. Anderson)


~ by ohkrapp on June 4, 2008.

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