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10 Films that almost made me forget "Because I Said So"
by Greg Ursic

2007 began with a bit of a lurch and I had to constantly remind myself the January can be a scary movie month (and not because of intended horrors...). Alas the drought seemed to last longer than in past years, and as the months ticked by there proved to be some truly awful films. Even as popcorn flicks go, the summer was a virtual wasteland marked by a trio of terrible threequels, unfunny comedies and a seemingly endless parade of subpar slasher pics. Thankfully there were enough beacons that shone through the darkness (literally and figuratively) that kept me going. May you enjoy them as much as I did.

10 The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters Perpetual second-bester Steve Wiebe battles recriminations, heartbreak and poor sportsmanship in his quest for the title as the undisputed king of Donkey Kong. With its cast of unique characters –including a folk guitarist referee and a Machiavellian master gamer with a pornstar looking wife – this doc packs in more drama than most of the “serious” flicks playing at the local megaplex, Thoroughly enjoyable and riveting to the final frame – be sure to stay to the end of the credits.

9 The Savages: Expect to see more middle-aged-children-coming-of-age flicks with the growth of the aging boomer population. In this case, siblings Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon Savage’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) quiet lives of desperation are jolted to reality when they have to deal with the father who abandoned them. The top notch writing and solid pacing is bolstered by nuanced performances from Linney and Hoffman.

8 Knocked Up and Superbad: A mismatched duo tries to deal with the consequences of a one-night stand gone horribly wrong and teenagers try to get laid before their Senior year ends. I couldn’t decide what to do with these films because I enjoyed both of them so much so I decided to put them together. So sue me. Boasting multitalented casts (including a few crossovers) and numerous inappropriate rib-splitting moments that left moviegoers in tears, they stand apart from their contemporaries for including plotlines that showcase genuine relationships between the characters and highlight the importance of personal growth. Really, I’m being serious here…

7 In The Shadow of the Moon: This doc focuses on the missions that went to the moon and the pioneers that manned them. The archival footage of the missions, some of it never seen before, is breathtakingly beautiful and often left me wondering how they got it (the sequence showing the separation of the booster rockets for example). It is the wonderfully candid interviews with the former astronauts however – some of whom experienced life changing epiphanies – that kept me enraptured. It’s one movie that you’ll definitely want to catch on the big screen and despite the cliche it's good for the whole family.

6 Atonement: Infatuation and childhood jealousies result in accusations that threaten to destroy the lives of everyone involved. Writer Christopher Hampton’s decision to mute the class system - which played a major role in Ian McEwan’s critically acclaimed novel - proved to be a wise move as it allowed the characters more freedom. I loved the innovative use of the staccato typing as background score (you have to hear it to understand) and the amazing tracking shot at Dunkirk. It was the simmering sexuality between Knightley and McAvoy, both of whom arguably deliver the best performances of their respective careers that won me over. If the story wasn’t so damned depressing this would be higher up on my list. But it is, so it isn’t.

5 Across the Universe: When Jude, the titular Liverpudlian, moves to the US he falls in love and gets caught up in the bohemian lifestyle and tumult of the 60's. And it's all set to music. What saves this from being just another musical is Julie Taymor's diverse reimagining of over 30 Beatles classics all sung by the principles (and damn well I might add). Mix in a collection of eye popping psychedelic visuals and brilliantly choreographed "dance" sequences, and you too will be singing along. Thoroughly engaging and I liked it.

4 Away From Her: A husband must watch as his wife of over forty years drifts off into an Alzheimer’s induced fog, eventually forgetting him and falling in love with another man. First time director Sarah Polley reveals a maturity beyond her years with a script (adapted from Alice Munroe’s short story) that is not only tight and flows well but manages to be heartbreaking without being melodramatic. Expect to see more from this amazingly talented twenty-something. Gordon Pinsent’s subtle performance is perfectly complemented by Julie Christie who provides a study in grace as Fiona slides into mental oblivion. It may very well lead to Christie’s second Oscar. Proof that “good Canadian filmmaking” is not an oxymoron.

3No Country For Old Men: The Coen brother’s latest effort revolves around a hunter who hits the proverbial jackpot after stumbling upon the scene of a drug deal gone horribly wrong. The story, which lacks their trademark comic styling (my least favorite thing about their films), is a suspenseful thriller which features earthy characters and low key action sequences bolstered by stunning cinematography, near perfect pacing and precision editing. Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Kelly Macdonald all deliver powerful performances, yet they pale before Javier Bardem who is positively chilling as the cold blooded enforcer of the piece. If not for the lackluster resolution of one of the story’s main threads near the end of the film it would have been my best film of the year. But it’s still my favorite Coen Brothers film to date.

2 Juno: After discovering she’s pregnant Juno decides to give her baby to a loving family which takes her on a wildly unpredictable journey. From the creative animated opening sequence I knew I was in for a treat: the script is peppered with a collection of teenaged insights and the razor sharp wit meshes seamlessly with the gloriously varied soundtrack. The supporting cast - which includes Michael Cera, Jason Batemen and Jennifer Garner (the latter two delivering their best performances to date) - is solid, but Haligonian Ellen Page steals the spotlight nailing every line. Hands down the most fun I had at the movies this year and I picked up something with every viewing.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen it.....

1 There Will Be Blood: A hardscrabble prospector makes a killing in the oil business and learns that money doesn’t buy you happiness. While I didn’t see this film until early January, its official release date is 2007 so I’m including it here (the 2008 releases can be thankful). It’s hard to convince someone that a movie that has no spoken words in the first 15 minutes could be as captivating as it is, but I was gobsmacked from the outset. Precision directing, amazing cinematography, an exceptional script and a gritty, talented cast, can’t overshadow Daniel Day Lewis’ incredible performance. If he doesn’t win the Oscar, I’ll eat my socks. Or at least a big tub of popcorn – but I won’t enjoy it.

Stay tuned for my list of other films that may not have made my top ten but were notable in their own right.

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originally posted: 01/14/08 18:57:38
last updated: 01/23/08 06:31:55
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