eKC feature
January 4, 2008

 


Best and Worst of 2007
by Deborah Young



BEST:

Away From Her
Canadian actress-turned-director Sarah Polley has captured many industry insiders with her feature film debut. Though still in her 20s, Polley has crafted an insightful and compelling film adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story, “The Bear Came over the Mountain.”

The story tells of a loving relationship forever altered by Alzheimer’s disease. Veteran performers Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent give credible and unforgettable performances as a couple very much in love and willing to make great sacrifices for each other. Unfortunately, this is not a typical box office smash (shamefully, Norbit has sold exponentially more tickets than Away From Her). But in the film industry Away From Her is a hit.

The Canadian Director’s Guild gave the film its best feature award; the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) honored Pinsent with its best male performer award; and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has nominated Christie for a Golden Globe. With any luck these professional accolades, along with the endorsements of many movie critics, will boost this fine film’s profile with mainstream audiences.

Into the Wild
Usually the book is better than the movie, but not this time. Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s biographical story of a young wanderer is visually beautiful and emotionally touching. Special kudos to Emile Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown), who transformed himself into protagonist Chris McCandless, to cinematographer Eric Gautier (The Motorcycle Diaries) for his picturesque renderings of dozens of outdoor locations, and to Eddie Vedder for a terrifically gritty soundtrack.

La Vie En Rose
This musical biopic’s strength lies in the strong, nuance performance of Marion Cotillard in the role of French singer Edith Piaf and in the movie’s structure, which takes us back and forth in time to present two distinct Piafs, one healthy, strong-willed and arrogant and the other ill, lonely and frightened. Ultimately, La Vie En Rose paints a moving portrait of an extraordinary life ravaged by time.

Atonement
Beautiful and horrible images meet in this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s tragic novel about lovers separated by a child’s lie. Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) and James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland) provide moving portrayals of the ill-fated lovers. Composer Dario Marianelli’s soundtrack (and the beautiful solo performances of pianist Jean-Yves Thiabaudet) provides aural beauty and sadness that matches the emotions evoked by the film’s visuals and storyline.

Ratatouille
The folks at Pixar (the birthplace of The Incredibles) have done it again with this animated comedy about a rat as a gifted chef. Amazingly, the rats in this film look much like the real thing, but a few minutes into the film the little creatures become easy to empathize with, primarily because screenwriter Brad Bird’s script is so good. At times Ratatouille is laugh-aloud funny.

Honorable mention:
Once, Juno, American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters


WORST:

Margot at the Wedding
How can a movie go wrong when it has a great cast? See writer/director Noah Baumbach for the answer to that question. His Margot at the Wedding features Nicole Kidman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Yet it’s a disaster because the characters he’s created are so creepy and abominable that it’s difficult (if not impossible) to empathize with them.

Love In the Time of Cholera
Again, the movie’s got great actors and competent production, but this adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel of the same name just doesn’t work. Perhaps magical realism doesn’t translate well to the big screen. Or, the problem may be miscasting or bad direction. In any event, it’s hard to imagine women throwing themselves at the lumbering and socially inept main character, Florentino (played by Javier Bardem).

The Kingdom
The Kingdom made my worst list simply by virtue (or I guess that would be vice) of being a disappointment. The big flaw: the movie suffers from an identity crisis. Director Peter Berg and screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan appear to have been confused about whether they wanted to make an action film or a thought-provoking drama about the pitfalls of xenophobia.

I Think I Love My Wife
I never expected this one to be great, but the trailers created the impression that it would be funny. Chris Rock’s flick has a few funny moments. Unfortunately, this movie will only provide major amusement to those who can see the humor in an Oscar-caliber actress (Kerry Washington) freely dropping the F-bomb and a wealthy banker falling hard for a classless, infantile, overgrown girl-child.

The Heartbreak Kid
One of this film’s big jokes involves a woman having sex with a donkey. Need I say more? Brother directors Bob and Peter Farrelly (Shallow Hal) are known for their outlandish humor, but they went a bit far this time with the story of a man that falls in love too easily. The Heartbreak Kid features the basest kind of jokes, and the story lacks luster.

Dishonorable mention:
Balls of Fury, Perfect Stranger, Year of the Dog, You Kill Me, 2 Days in Paris.



              
              
                 

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