2007: The Year in Pictures
2007: the best year for movies ever? Some critics in the US have been quick to say so, and there's plenty of quality to back up their argument, though not all of it has made its way over the Atlantic yet. Even including the likes of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, both of which will be out here in the next month or so, I'm not convinced it truly stands comparison with such classic vintages as 1939 and 1999, but only time will tell.
1939 brought us Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, The Wizard Of Oz, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, The Rules of The Game and Only Angels Have Wings' not to mention WWII, while 1999 featured Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings, Magnolia, The Matrix, Election, The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project, among others.
On the other hand, Control, Atonement, The lives of Others, Eastern Promises, Michael Clayton, Hot Fuzz, Hairspray, A Mighty Heart, Knocked Up, The Darjeeling Ltd and American Gangster are among the movies that did not make my top ten list(s) this year.
It has been a strange year. Hollywood went to war, with several high profile movies about Iraq and Afghanistan ' some of them still awaiting release in the UK ' but mostly audiences stayed home. Mind you, given the dramatic shortcomings of lions for Lambs and Rendition, for example, the filmmakers have to shoulder some of the blame.
There was a whole slew of serious dramas the likes of which we haven't seen coming out of America since the 1970s' indeed, several of them looked like they could have been made 30 years ago: American Gangster, Michael Clayton, The Hoax, Superbad.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. No movie was more '2007' than the CGI splatter epic 300, with its ghastly videogame pallor and relentless schlock editing effects ' unless it was Michael Bay's mind-numbingly juvenile Transformers, a glossy advert for autogeddon with dazzling fx and zero attention span. If this is the future, I'll take the past.
It was a year of comebacks, many of them quite unexpected. Musicals, for instance (Once; Sweeney Todd; Dreamgirls; Hairspray and Across The Universe). The Western had a good year, with critics praising The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and 3.10 to Yuma topping box office charts. Although it's not out here for another couple of weeks, the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men is their best film in a decade. Sylvester Stallone made another Rocky movie and got away with it. Peter O'Toole earned an eighth Oscar nomination at the age of 75 and lost for the eighth time.
Ten years his junior, Martin Scorsese won his Academy Award at the seventh attempt. Sexagenarian Helen Mirren was named Best Actress for The Queen (and Forest Whitaker was crowned alongside her for playing Idi Amin in The Last King Of Scotland).
It was the year of threesomes: Shrek, Jack Sparrow, Spider-man, Danny Ocean, Detective James Carter and Jason Bourne all returned for third helpings. Most of them seem unlikely to make it four, the end is nigh for Harry Potter and The Hobbit movie is still stalled, which means Hollywood has to mint some new franchises in the near future. After a disappointing US opening, The Golden Compass won't necessarily be one of them, but we have every right to expect a lot more cheap, raunchy comedies from the Judd Apatow stable after the runaway success of Knocked Up and Superbad.
Ryan Gosling also had a very good year, with an Oscar nomination for Half Nelson and much (well deserved) praise for the thriller Fracture. He's also been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance opposite a sex doll in Lars and the Real Girl. On the other hand, it was a bad year for starlets in general (Jessicas Biel, Alma and Simpson; Mandy Moore; Britney Spears) and for lindsay Lohan in particular, who appeared in films with Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda, but only got noticed for her myriad drive-ins with the law. Not a good year for Quentin Tarantino either, who bombed with Death Proof ' maybe because he packed it with starlets, only a couple of whom could act.
Britain produced its usual quota of half a dozen or so acclaimed pictures ' including Sunshine, 28 Weeks Later, This Is England, Control, Atonement ' but Elizabeth: The Golden Age was a disappointment, and there were at least two Kenneth Branagh movies too many.
Hollywood-wise, this could prove a watershed year. On the face of it, box office was healthy enough ' more or less on a par with last year ' but costs continue to go through the roof, up 13 % on 2004. In the same time period box office has fallen by 8 to 10 % and DVD revenues by 11 %. According to a recent report, Hollywood's 2006 slate will still be in the red to the tune of $1.9 billion by the end of its significant earning potential circa 2011. Troublingly for the studios, the movies that have clicked with the public this year have generally been the most expensive. CGI doesn't come cheap. Meanwhile the writers' strike proves that the talent is still sniffing for a bigger slice of the pie (actors and directors' contracts are up for renegotiation in 2008), and the debilitating format war between Blu-ray and HD shows no signs of resolution.
A great year for film? As I say, time will tell.
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