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My Best Films of 2007…Finally!

The days keep going by and I keep delaying this piece, simply because there are too many things to do and not enough hours in the day. I don’t think I can even begin to be as comprehensive as Mike Tully has been and why should I try? Tully is Tully, as the saying goes! In addition to being a wide ranging look at cinema 2007, it’s basically a reference tool for those of us who have occasional holes in our memories and can’t remember all the films we’ve seen. Maybe I should keep a notebook…..
All in all, 2007 was one of the best years I can remember for films and there are still several that have been widly deemed noteworthy that I haven’t seen. So without further babbling, I will now pontificate some, wax rhapsodic some and spew the occasional invective, to wit:
The best film of 2007:
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, written and directed by Andrew Dominik
This is an extraordinary work of art, full stop. A true American classic (albeit one directed by a Kiwi) and one that, once I get some distance from it, will likely take its place on my all-time top 10 list. (Said list doesn’t really exist of course and would likely be 20-30 strong if it did.) I recently saw the film for a second time and I am begging Manohla Dargis and Kenneth Turan to go and see the film again. I’ve given up on Anthony Lane, Kirk Honeycutt and Lou Lumenick…hopeless, the lot. I mean, Honeycutt liked The Walker, for god’s sake!
I know quite a few devotees of this film and it might take some work to convince them that it actually gets even better on second viewing but it does. It’s an even more layered and nuanced portrayal of celebrity and the desperate urge it stirs in fans. The script is more lyrical and the characters more poetic and tragic.
This is the perfect film to relate to Tom Hall’s post about film length in The Back Row Manifesto. Yes, this film is 160 minutes long and no, I didn’t feel it a bit. This is coming from someone who tends to doze off repeatedly during the day, but this film held my interest, even in Toronto at 9am and hungover. The second viewing was simply just perfect.
In September I made a pledge to eat my hat if it doesn’t get 10 Oscar nominations and I guess I am going to have to break said vow. No way am I eating one of my hats. Who do you think I am, Werner Herzog? As it is, Casey Affleck picked up a nomination for best supporting actor (notwithstanding the fact that his performance is a leading one) and Roger Deakins got one for his stunning cinematography. Both have a chance of winning but of course that would require the Academy voters to actually see the damn film.
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Much more after the jump!

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Critics Groups, Oscars, Bloggers…What Does It All Mean? Fuck If I Know!

So the majority of the year end awards have come and gone and since I haven’t been keeping a running tally (I really should have been) I’m gonna give big ups to Movie City News for their obscenely comprehensive awards section. The thing is, the damn site’s so comprehensive (The top 10 from the UC Gauntlet’s Ryan Pike….300 at #6 and Transformers at #10? Really dude?) that anyone could pick and choose from the info and shape it to illustrate almost anything….except that 300 is the sixth best film of the year.
While it’s clear that no single critics group can predict the Oscars (assuming they are the ne plus ultra of awards “season”) some front runners are emerging in the race to fill out the nomination fields. The last to present their awards, the Oscars are still the “big show” and despite attempts by the Independent Spirit Awards and Golden Globes to chip away at their luster, one is always drawn back to what Roger Avary said when accepting his Spirit Award for co-writing Pulp Fiction (and I may be paraphrasing, here…I was pretty drunk at the time): “This is really nice…. it won’t fit up my butt as well as an Oscar, though.” I can’t think of a cruder way to put it, but yes, winning an Oscar is largely considered to be better, in every way, than winning a Spirit Award or Golden Globe.
As for the Globes, in nominating 12 films between their two best picture categories, they’ve proven themselves to be even more of a farce than in years past. Why not 14? Couldn’t they find 7 musical/comedy films that “rated?” Speaking of the Musical/Comedy category, how is La Vie en Rose a musical? If every film that had music in it was considered a musical… And then there’s the oddity of Persepolis. So the acclaimed Sony Pictures Classics release was good enough to be nominated for best foreign-language film, but not as best animated feature? So Bee Movie is a better film? (NOTE: I read somewhere that films can only be nominated for one “Best” category at the Globes, but can’t confirm this, because the Globs don’t seem to post their voting rules on their site). And whither The Counterfeiters? In my not-so-humble opinion, this film is clearly one of the best five foreign language films of the year, but it’s getting no love from critics groups and very little press attention, possibly because Sony Classics isn’t releasing it until next year. Will this affect its chances at the Academy Awards? I hope not, because it’s an exceptional piece of work.
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Keep On Ranting: More On Jesse James or “Where The Hell Is Brad Pitt?”

Just to let you all know, I am going to be hammering on this issue at least until this particular film vanishes from theaters and probably after that, too. Why? Because I think it’s that important, that’s why. This weekend, while it’s raining and blustery in the Northeast, why not bundle into the car or subway and head to the local theater and check out what is for my money, so far, the best picture of the year. Yup, you guessed it. It’s Andrew Dominik’s brilliant The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. What about the rest of the country? Well, click here, enter your zip code and find the film!
Personally, I am astonished that this soon-to-be classic film is no longer in playing in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood or Santa Monica. In fact, if you live in the area, the closes theater is probably AMC Theaters Burbank Town Center 8 or Laemmle’s One Colorado Cinema in Pasadena. Fucking Burbank!!?? Pasadena!? People who live on the West Side in LA have enough trouble getting into their cars on weekdays, so the odds of them driving to the Valley on a weekend are astronomical.
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The Saving Of Jesse James or The Death Of An American Classic: You Choose.

Much has been written in the blogosphere (whither the mainstream media?) about what is being called Warner Brothers’ clear and shameful dumping of the masterpiece that is Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and while it’s clear that the studio isn’t putting as much money behind this films as say, Michael Clayton, they aren’t exactly completely dumping it out of malice aforethought, either. Suffice to say that the film is going to need some help from us, the folks that love it, if it’s going to survive more than a week or two more and no amount of hectoring and badgering of Warners is going to get them to throw what they likely see as “good money after bad.”
What is going to get them to release the film wider and wider still? Banging the drums about this extraordinary film, that’s what. Blog the fuck out of it. Link to this blog and others. Tell your friends to see it. Find every possible positive review you can and add them to your Digg, del.icio.us, Twitter, Fark, Facebook, etc. (see “Bookmark” button in this post). If you feel at all passionate about this film, force your friends to see it. Bribe them. Go with them, even if you’ve already seen it. From what I’ve been told, this film is much like “next day” spaghetti in that it’s something that’s even better the second time around. I will be making my 2nd trip to see it later this week.
This past weekend’s gross numbers are an improvement for the 3rd straight week and to their credit, Warners has expanded from 5 to 61 to 163 to 301 theaters, even in the face of a raft of blog posts accusing them of outright dumping the film. I must confess, I was one of them, but I have moderated my opinion a bit. It’s silly for me to assume that a giant entertainment corporation is going to take a huge chance on a film like Jesse James by releasing it on over a thousand screens from the start. However, awards season is upon us and the “serious” awards contenders are going to be flooding the theaters from here on in, so if you like this film, tell you friends to see it before all others.
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TIFF ’07: More On The Assassination of Jesse James

Ok, so a little more about Kiwi director Andrew Dominik’s astonishingly good sophomore outing (after 2000’s Chopper) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. To be honest, it’s 2:10am and I have to see Sean Penn’s Into the Wild in 9 hours, so I am a little worried about getting sucked into a 1,500 word review of this film that I (and others) have called a masterpiece, but I have too long a history of letting things get away from me, so here we go….
The trades and mainstream press have been bemoaning the dearth of “buzz worthy” pics leading into Oscar season this year and well, they can all shut the fuck up right now, thank you very much. As I was leaving the theater, the editor in chief of one of the major trade dailies turned to me and said, and I paraphrase: “It’s hard to imagine a better film coming out this year,” and I fully concur. If this film gets fewer than 10 Oscar nods, I’ll eat my hat (just not one of my good ones). Right now I am willing to predict nods for: picture, actor (x2-Pitt and Affleck), screenplay and director (both Dominik), cinematography (Roger Deakins), score (Nick Cave and Bad seeds bandmate Warren Ellis), editors (Dylan Tichenor and Curtiss Clayton) and at least 1 supporting actor (too many to choose). Of course many of the “smaller” categories will come along with main category nominations.
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I’ll be writing something more about this tomorrow, but for now, I must be brief.

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