As we move through my list of the ten best films of 2007, I will become increasingly at a loss for words. That's a good thing. While I have exact explanations for my appreciation of films nearer to number 10, my feelings for my favorite films are not as easy to express. They lie in the impressionistic murk beyond words, somewhere in that special, ineffable province of film.
10. 28 Weeks Later - Last year at this time, Children of Men couldn't pee without hitting an enthusiastic review. This year, a substantially similar film, but one dressed in apocalyptic zombie flick clothing, is being overlooked. Producer Danny Boyle and director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo might as well have sat around Starbucks brainstorming with Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron. But they reached radically opposed conclusions about children and human nature. Like Whitney Houston, Cuaron's film believes that children are our future. Expressed through its popcorn symbolism, 28 Weeks sees through Cuaron's romantic assertion, finding in children the continuation of social maladies rather than their cure. It isn't comforting to say, but isn't the pessimism of 28 Weeks Later closer to the mark?
T-8) Michael Clayton - If Michael Clayton had been directed by an established French auteur, everyone would be marveling about a wonderful, semi-farcical lament for our death by capitalism. Since it's directed by someone named Tony Gilroy, it only gets that respect grudgingly. But at least it gets it. This sharply written corporate thriller captures our most vital office-desk struggle - the way that carnivorous corporatism is wiping away our traditional ideas of ethics, particularly among the weaklings actually burying the knives. In the future, this could well be remembered as the high-water performance of the George Clooney heartthrob-burnout phase, in which he somehow combines Hitchcock-era Cary Grant with 70s-era, politically mindful Jack Lemmon. For all its potboiler excesses, no film captures the sad erosion of our increasingly distant sense of propriety and community.
T-8) There Will Be Blood - The point of discussion between Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood is whether power corrupts or power attracts. Does our economic system force good guys to do bad things, or does it beckon those pre-disposed to solitude and ruthlessness? I suppose the answer depends partly on how you feel about your boss. Whatever the answer, Paul Thomas Anderson is our most adventurous and grasping filmmaker. Or at least the most adventurous and grasping who can command a real budget.
T-8) There Will Be Blood
T-8) Michael Clayton
10) 28 Weeks Later
Tomorrow: picks 5-7