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The Best of 2008, 3: Film and Film Posters

December 31st, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Somehow I went a full year without seeing many films, so the competition wasn’t all that steep, though I’m still relatively happy with most of my top picks. Remember that they count if I saw them in 2008, hence some of the 2007 entries.

Movies

10. Enchanted. Silly but fun, and ideal for the second 9 hour leg of a trip to Malawi.

9. Sweeney Todd. I like Tim Burton’s aesthetic. Odd, dark, kinda cool.

8. The Bourne Ultimatum. If only I could move and fight like Bourne, my subway commute would be so much less of a hassle.

7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Admittedly, in other years, the movie that gifted the phrase “nuking the fridge” to movie criticism wouldn’t make the list, but it was fun, and it was great to see Harrison back in action. I spent a lot of playtime trying to be him as a kid, so he has a long leash.

6. Quantum of Solace. Not quite Casino Royale, but I’m intrigued by the decision to serialize the Bond films, and Daniel Craig is still easily the best Bond.

5. There Will Be Blood. By the time Daniel Day Lewis was drinking from the other dude’s milkshake, I was a little tired, since I also saw this on the way to Malawi, but it was gripping stuff. I wish I could’ve seen it on the big screen.

4. Cloverfield. A great ride. My sense is that New Yorkers liked this film more than others. I loved it. Wouldn’t want to own it or see it without a full theatre, but I really liked it.

3. No Country for Old Men. I have a real weak spot for totally dark, badass villains, so this movie hit all the right chords with me. And I love the Coen Bros. stuff.

2. Iron Man. Like Batman Begins, Iron Man has a brilliant first two acts, then falls quite flat. But its first two acts were really fun.

1. The Dark Knight. I know I’m not supposed to like it, because hype is bad, right? Well, much of Dark Knight‘s hype was really bad (a Gotham pepperoni pizza from Domino’s? Come on!). I think much of its marketing sucked. To the point that I was ready to dislike the film, and especially Heath Ledger’s performance. Instead, I really liked it. The IMAX screen helped, no doubt. But it was great fun. Let the haters hate, but I won’t. I’m even one of the only people I know who actually likes Christian Bale’s Batman voice.

Now for movie posters after the fold. Yes, I get to the extratextuals eventually …

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Digressions at the Cinema, 2008

January 19th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Barbara Klinger has an excellent essay about listening to people’s comments in the cinema, and all the intertextual links that get introduced this way, and all that we can learn from them: “Digressions at the Cinema.” I was thinking of that today when watching Cloverfield, which I enjoyed (though I need time to work out how much). Behind me in the theater were 3 friends who formed the movie’s peanut gallery, piping in comments at volume throughout. Rather than being annoying it was really funny. And very grounding, since it became impossible to take the movie too seriously when they weren’t.

A few selections:

  • as J. J. Abrams’s Bad Robot logo came on before the film, one said, “oh shit, man. I know I didn’t pay this money to see a fuckin’ robot. This better not be no robot movie”
  • as some characters walk down a dark subway tunnel, one announced that “me spidey sense is tingling, motherfucker”
  • they would also frequently comment on the camerawork, such as “that is a good picture. Right there, see that? That’s good!”

I usually prefer silence when watching films. I’m a shusher. But there was something special here, since the whole film places you in the middle of this attack, with comments coming from all directions. To add these three audience members exclamations of surprise, fear, relief, humor, horror, or disbelief simply gave the film another layer, a third dimension in the crowd reacting to the film’s events in real time, especially when they often voiced comments appropriate to the film (“what is that thing? I can’t fuckin’ see it, hold the damn camera straight, asshole”), adding to the sense of frustration and confusion that the film creates with skill.

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Extratextuals’ 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, Pt. 2

January 11th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Derek’s first part is a hard act to follow, but I decided to focus on trailers, teasers, hype, and TV opening credit sequences. I’ll wage in later about the TV opening credit sequences, but for now, should the clip embedding work:

Best Movie Trailer
Trailers are one of the most underrated, under-appreciated art forms in the contemporary media environment. Indeed, it bears reminding that amidst enthusiastic discussion of YouTube debates, political satire, reporting, virals, etc., many of the most viewed videos on YouTube are trailers. Moreover, as media companies try to saturate our daily lives with trailers, so that we see them somewhere, they also need to be aware that many of us will see many trailers multiple times, and so there’s a fine art to making a trailer that hasn’t sickened you by the time you see it for the tenth time.

Runner-Up: Juno. Ideally, I’d have loved to pick two excellent trailers for bad movies here, but (a) I didn’t see many movies in 2007, so I don’t have much to work with, and (b) the point is that Juno’s trailer had me convinced that I’d like the film. The crispness of the script jumps out at you, and it offers a supremely recognizable (ie: real, not Saved By the Bell-ized) high school life. Ellen Page’s performance announces itself as fantastic, and the trailer chooses wonderful scenes to showcase two great cult properties in Rainn Wilson and Michael Cera. Plus it has Allison Janney/CJ Cregg in it. It pandered to everything I wanted, right down to being filmed in my hometown, Vancouver (which I can nearly always tell visually. No bullshit. It’s the quality of the green. All that rain. And the sky. And the houses).

Winner: Vantage Point. I already blogged about this, so let me just link to it here. But I haven’t seen it, and even if I don’t, or don’t like it, I think the trailer rocks.

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