January 24, 2008

2007 at the Movies, Part IV: Behind the Camera

Welcome to the fourth (see alsp parts one, two, and three) part of my reflections on the films delivered during 2007. So far we have gone through the best and worst films, as well as the best performances of the year. The only thing left is to recognize those who work tirelessly behind the camera to create these fantastic films. Without further adieu, let's jump right in!

Best Director
  • Tim Burton for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. What can I say? I loved the film and thought that Burton nailed it. His dark and gothic sensibilities combined with Depp's performance and Stephen Sondheim's original tale of tragic vengeance. The pieces all fell into place as Burton delivered one his best films.
  • The Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men. The Coen's stepped up to the plate of difficult material and proceeded to knock it out of the park. They have crafted a fascinating film, guiding the violence down its path towards its nebuloous conclusion. The finest film of their career.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood. I have not seen much of Anderson's work, but what he did here is nothing short of masterful. He managed to take a tale of turn of the century oil and crafted a fascinating character study.
  • Zack Snyder for 300. Some will question his inclusion here, but I make no apologies. What he did with Frank Miller's graphic novel is incredible. It is a larger than life story of mythical proportions that he managed to bring to the screen using a budding new technology with spectacular results.
  • Julie Taymor for Across the Universe. It is definitely a love it or hate it movie, one that I fell in love with it. This film has adventure, romance, comedy, and some jaw dropping visuals. It is the work of a visionary that put it all on the line.
Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted)
  • Diablo Cody for Juno. Is there anything that can be said that has not already been voiced? The screenplay is magnificent, the dialogue flows from a place where snarky attitude and genuine heart co-mingle. Is it true-to-life dialogue? No, but it feels genuine, and that is more important than attempting to mimic reality.
  • The Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men. A violent story whose words flow like poetry. The best example would have to be Chigurh's (Javier Bardem) conversation with the gas station attendant. That scene sums up what is so great about the screenplay and the film.
  • John Logan for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Not an easy task, adapting Stephen Sondheim's three hour musical to a a two hour film. Logan succeeded in whittling it down and crafting it into a solid, poignant, vicious, and tragic story suitable for the big screen.
  • Adrienne Shelly for Waitress. There is something about the way Shelly's screenplay reveals the characters that is absolutely endearing. It has a sweet heart, a kind soul, and a definite sense of humor. It is a screenplay that hits all the right notes as it weaves its way through these characters lives.
  • James Vanderbilt for Zodiac. Based on Robert Graysmith's novel, the screenplay takes us deep into the world of those closest to the Zodiac murder case. It offers up no answers yet takes us right into these peoples lives and the price they had to pay for allowing it into their lives.
Best Cinematography
  • Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood. Can you think of a film that topped the look of this one? I can't the open oil fields, the in-your-face tight shots, everything working towards creating something unique as the story unfolds. It is strikingly bleak and beautiful at the same time.
  • Roger Deakins for No Country for Old Men. I may have spoken too soon. Here is another film that offers a bleak look into the lives of men with dark fates. This is a year where the best looking films offer the darkest, most violent, and bleak looks of anything that has been released.
  • Dariusz Wolski for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. All right, here is something a little different, it is still violent and bleak, but it is much more tragic in nature. The film is quite busy at times, but it is always bathed in beautifully washed out colors and shadows.
  • Seamus McGarvey for Atonement. The film did not have nearly the same effect on me as it has on others, but there is no denying that it is beautifully shot and is worth seeing, if nothing else, for the four and a half minute unbroken take through the military camp.
  • Harris Savides for American Gangster. I had a similar "good but not great" reaction to this film as I did for Atonement. Like that other film, it was also shot wonderfully. It has a great look and, well, what else to say? It is definitely worth your time.
Best Score
  • Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood. Ignored by the Academy and passed over by the Globes, this is, hands down, the best score of the year. The Radiohead guitarist has crafted a masterpiece in only his second outing as a film composer (the first was Bodysong). It is dissonant, involving, and immediate. It cannot be ignored, and while it is a short composition it leaves its mark.
  • Steve Jablonsky for Transformers. It took an internet petition to get this released, and I am glad it happened. It is exactly what you want from a blockbuster film score, it is big and bombastic and just works great in conjunction with the battling special effects.
  • Michael Giacchino for Ratatouille. Jazzy, catchy, and French, the score for Pixar's latest outing is a great piece of work. It is unique and blends beautifully with the gorgeous images that paint the screen. On a sidenote, if you go to Cloverfield, stay into the credits to hear Michael Giacchino's wonderful piece called "Roar" before you head for the exit.
  • Tyler Bates for 300. The score blends diverse elements together crafting a work that melds perfectly with the film's action. It is realized as something outside the normal orchestra, welcoming an approach that takes elements from disparate worlds, puts them in a room together and lets them come to terns with each other.
  • Hans Zimmer for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. What can I say? I am a sucker for these big summer type films and the music that accompanies them. Zimmer's score brings along the familiar themes from the first films and puts them together with plenty of new material for a score that is memorable and fun.
Best Soundtrack
  • Once. I did not discover this film until DVD, but the music is fantastic. It is emotional, heartfelt, and just really strikes home. It is hard to listen to this and not get drawn into the relationship of the film.
  • Juno. Yes, this soundtrack screams "INDIE," but it really works. It fits the tone of the film, and when listened to separately, the songs still work and are fun. I love that fun nature that is behind the music, both new and old.
  • Walk Hard. While not all of the songs are funny, they are catchy and work equally well without the context of the film (although that may help the humor). Still, I have listened to it many times over and have not gotten bored at all.
  • Black Snake Moan. A collection of blues music. The soundtrack is as gritty, intimate, and raw as the film. The perfect companion.
  • Death Proof. How is it that Quentin Tarantino is so good at picking just the right songs for his films? Love or hate his films, it is hard to deny this fact. This collection is no different. Although, I am still wondering what a "jeepster" is.
  • Special Mentions: This year also featured some first rate musicals, and the accompanying cast recordings also deserve some recognition. Among them are Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Across the Universe, and Hairspray.
Best Special Effects
  • Transformers. Hands down, the best effects of the year can be found here. The image of the transforming vehicles will never get old. The work found here is truly remarkable.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Hard to go wrong with the team that delivered Davy Jones last year. Their high quality work continues on through the third film of the series.
  • 300. Talk about pushing new technology along towards adulthood. This is probably the most fully realized use of the digital backlot yet, and it work sperfectly, creating a surreal, yet believable world of fantasy and bloodshed.
  • Sunshine. Perhaps not as flashy as the other films listed here, but there is a sublime beauty to the realization of Danny Boyle's vision.
  • 28 Weeks Later. Speaking of Dannt Boyle, here is the sequel (that he produced) to a film he directed. The practical and digital effects are in full effect with some great looking zombie and blood effects.

Beyond the above categories, there are a few other films I wanted to mention for technical achievements. The thing is, I could not come up with enough to give them full blown categories. Well, here goes.

Sound design was noticeable in a number of films this year, most noticeable were No Country for Old Men and The Mist for their near complete lack of score. It was a daring move that paid off in the end by heightening the atmosphere. Now, it is not something that I would recommend for all films, or even most, but these films prove absence of score can be used to great effect. Then there are the films that made great use of their sounds, like the use of typewriter in the score for Atonement and the use of the chugging train in 3:10 to Yuma.

Grindhouse offered up a unique experience, beyond the film's content. It attempted to deliver a facsimile of the grindhouse experience that has been lost to the sands of time. A lot of effort, love, and care was put into the experience by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, from the fake trailers to the commercials and interstitials. Everything added up to the most unique experience of the year.

Well, I guess I didn't have as much as I thought. For those of you who put together these recap columns, do you ever notice how hard it is to focus your thoughts on the films you want to recognize? I always feel that I am forgetting something. Nature of the beast I guess.

Here's to a great 2008!


Post a Comment