On There Will Be Blood and NCfOM: This was a year of cold movies. Movies that didn’t linger on humanity.
My top two picks were lambasted by mainstream critics for lacking heart, for providing no solace or comfort in their decaying
light or musical scores. But they played within the rules of narrative. They didn’t break any boundaries. When Marcel
Duchamp and the dadaists started making intentionally nonsensical art, it was a reaction to the world they lived in. It was
a way of saying that if World War I is sensical, then we can only be nonsensical. By the same token, the Coens and Anderson
brilliantly hold a mirror back to ourselves. They say: If you want a world that is religion and oil and money, and that’s
all that you trade on, then don’t expect humanity to be found anywhere when you catch hold of your reflection.
Also trading on this same line: Zodiac, Black Book, In the Valley of Elah, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which is not about setting yourself free within restraint, but about delusion
and selfishness. This year is the year of the ice mirror. Welcome to the end of the Bush Presidency. I expect 2008 to be
about the celebration of transition.
On 2 Days in Paris: The funniest movie of the year, bar none. Brilliantly unravels and plays with your perception of
the characters and situation. Deals with the darker, more human side of love -- mistrust, fear, honesty. Delpy’s real
parents play her movie parents, and you couldn’t hope to spend a few hours with a stranger bunch. This movie is remarkably
underrepresented in praise, from what I’ve seen. I think of a few scenes (walking with her father keying the cars, and
the last cafe scene) and I can’t help but laugh out loud.
- Eastern Promises is a soap opera for the big screen. The slightly detached tone, the slightly surreal characters
who act just past the stereotypes. It has a certain ironic lilt and a magical tone. In no sense did I ever feel that I was
in the real world. In no sense was I anything but riveted throughout.
On Helvetica: I’m a typographer, but I still didn’t have to choose it. This movie, showing some of my heroes,
explains to lay people a small bit of the excitement I get when I look at letterforms. It’s a sickness, and I’m
glad to share it with a larger audience.
Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood: Ruthless. Human. Terrible. Murderous. Sadistic. Lesser actors tremble at
this man who masters every project he approaches. He drinks your milkshake. He drinks it up.
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises: Another transformative role, as was his last with Cronenberg.
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah: It seems to me that the man can make the cracks on his face act.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: From the opening scenes, showing more than you’ve
ever wanted to see of the man, to the tense manipulation of his portfolio of lies, the tension builds in such restrained ways
that the end result is shocking, but not surprising. I think of the confidence on his face as he breezily sells his brother
on immorality, and the squeezing of his features as he pulls the trigger of the gun through the pillow in the drug-den murders.
Matthieu Amalric, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: “You wanna take me on? I can out act you with one-hand
tied behind my back. Matter-of-fact, I can do it in French with ONE EYEBALL, motherfucker!”
Carice Van Houten, Black Book: A complex, deeply moving and tense performance. A classic film role that calls for
the character to trade on sexuality and appeal in a very classic filmic way. She could have been in film 70 years ago and
would be proclaimed as great.
Ellen Page, Juno: A lot has been said and said again about this movie, but the truth is that the 20% or so too-clever-for-itself-script
was saved by Page’s performance.
Dakota Blue Richards, The Golden Compass: A bit of an out layer, but I loved her tom-boy confidence and bitter determination.
They let the girl be the girl, and not a small woman.
Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood: The scene where he casts out the demons was the most riveting sermon I’ve ever
Vincent Cassel, Eastern Promises: Cassel plays tough and dumb well. Here he plays tough, dumb and vulnerable, with
just enough of the homosexual hinting to give bigger subtext.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War: This year’s over-the-top award, but the scene chewing was so fun
and so appropriate that you can’t help but applaud every time he’s on screen.
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone: A blistering performance that would have felt over played, if it didn’t feel so real.
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton: That it is one of her lesser roles only shows what an absolute master she is.
Emmanuelle Seigner, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Playing a certain type -- the long suffering (almost) wife.
But she played it so well -- on either side of obligation, spite, forgiveness, and open wounds. A raw performance.
Allison Janney, Juno: Took a caricature and turned her into someone you can relate to.
Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: The Spielberg team goes indie! This man is the master of the moving
Sean Kirby, Zoo: Relatively unknown, but his work on Police Beat, Zoo and Cthulhu has been some
of the best looking indie work around. He’s going to go far, I suspect, much farther than many of the local Seattle
filmmakers he works with.
Harries Savides, Zodiac: The scenes of 70s San Francisco are incredibly satisfying, as is the atmosphere in every
corner of this movie.
Carter Burwell, No Country for Old Men: Let us take a moment to praise the man who scored the film with no score. Like
John Cage and his infamous 4’33”, Burwell was serving a higher calling -- the psychology of the audience. He realized
that this was the time when a scoreless movie could make the biggest impact, by crossing expectation. I make this nomination
in all earnestness, without irony.
Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood: Take that, Academy.
Ian Neil, music supervisor, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten: Had great material to work with.
Adam Schlesinger, Music and Lyrics: A moderate movie, only made successful by the believability of the pop music they
were making. It showed the process of writing a song in a fairly realistic way, as much as Once which didn’t show the
actual creation. Hiring a real pop musician was a smart move.
Naked Shower Fight, Eastern Promises: “Horror movies are all about the vulnerability of the body.” Wes
Craven. Epic Horror.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead sex scene: Thank god for Marisa Tomei.
Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone: Shows he can pick scripts to direct much better than scripts to act in, and proves without
a shadow of a doubt, his talent behind the lens. He has a free pass from me now. I will pay to see whatever film he directs
as his sophomore effort.
Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding: Kidman has proven her versatility, but never has she inhabited such an ugly character.
A character who wants to be beautiful, but is poisoned by her own mental instability. She was masterfully passive aggressive,
the woman who needs to be the center of attention. It’s a joyless film (it even took the joy out of Jack Black), but
Kidman rules the screen every moment with her twitching, second-guessing and tight-lipped facial expressions.
Paul Verhoeven, Black Book: Showgirls? What Showgirls?
The Host: Great tone, great monster, great fear, great comedy, great humanity. Just great.
The Coen brothers, No Country for Old Men: Watching this was like the day that the most sarcastic, ironic kid in class
comes up to you and tells you about his father dying. “Is he being serious?” you ask after he has left. And then
you realize he is, and that everything you knew about him is kind of wrong and needs a deeper understanding.
Fitzcarraldo: I love this film. It’s alive in a disquieting, disgusting, moist and fragrant way. It creeps like
tendrils into your subconscious. It’s about madness and achievement. The energy from off screen- where (depending on
who you believe) actor and director were both absolutely crazy (and armed)- carries through on screen. The white man in the
white suit pursuing culture in the jungle. As they say on the internet these days, epic fail.
A Face in the Crowd: Andy Griffith exorcising the devil from his soul before Mayberry. Supposedly (and possibly apocryphally)
he scared himself so much in this role that he turned to comedy and away from his dark side. A role that rhymes with Robert
Blake’s performance ten years later for “In Cold Blood.”