12 Months of Movies 2007: January

It’s another year in cinema! I don’t think I did quite as much as last year, considering that there were some barren weeks, I missed a few things at the indie places that I really wanted to see. Still, it’s always an interesting and thrilling adventure, particularly as I had the site the whole year but didn’t write about everything I saw. I call 2007 “Year of the Sad Sack”. 2008 is going to be the year of amazement and wonder! Or double my money back, damnit.

Happy Feet
Tuesday January 2, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 8, 6:30

What a way to start the year: leftist penguins dancing for their supper. One of my misanthropic friends suggested that there weren’t even six films worth watching in 2007, but that’s something that I reject … however, Happy Feet as my opening gambit? So uninspiring! I can’t think of many good things to say about this movie, which I disliked to the point that I’ve forgotten the majority of it. I liked Robin Williams, but I was unimpressed in so many other ways. I’d like to meet someone who thoroughly enjoyed Happy Feet so I can find out what’s so different between him and I. Perhaps I’m a replicant? If so, I’m crossing my fingers for unicorn dreams tonight.

Marie Antoinette
Friday January 5, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 18, 6:30

Marie Antoinette is my dream movie. I saw it again in June or thereabouts and I still couldn’t believe that it existed. I was fully conscious, but I felt that I’d been swept away into something cosmic. I don’t know, maybe Marie Antoinette is the ultimate zen experience. I loved it, but I can understand why others wouldn’t. Nothing much happens, it ignores the dilemmas of France at the time, but it deals with the malaise that a child queen might have felt with a light and sensitive touch. It’s not a cinematic experience, it’s just … something undefinable.

The Queen
Tuesday January 9, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 14, 6:30

Helen Mirren’s tour de force is another understated movie, but one that feels more solid. I’ve done a lot of thinking about the UK this year, and it seems that there are indeed two sides to the coin: the rarefied ultra high class and the super tacky commoners who thrive on novelty number ones. I will never forgive the nation for raising The Fast Food Song to the top of the charts. Anyway, the Queen capitulates a lot at the advice of Tony Blair, and James Cromwell’s Prince Phillip is truly awful (“A parade of soap stars and homosexuals!”). The prophetic nature of the Queen’s final words to Blair before they go for their walk is quite tickling. In my mind this movie is a lot of rolling countryside, but I know it was more substantial than that – and the Ghost of Diana still looms.

Pan’s Labyrinth
Friday January 19, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 5, 6:40

Unfortunately the first thing I thought about when writing this up was a scream of “PANNNNNNN!” to the heavens. This movie … is somewhat more than that. I had many thoughts about how this one worked, and to whether the fantasy was “real” or not. I always love that question, particularly when the answer is that it frankly doesn’t matter. The fantasy is real enough to Ofelia, and that is the only element of any consequences. Pan’s Labyrinth is truly horrible, in a pure meaning of the word. It’s one of the only movies that I saw in the year that had me cringing from the violence and graphic nature of proceedings (the other one, oddly enough, being Blade Runner), and it wasn’t cold … but it felt ever so lonely, and one could definitely feel the pinch of fascism. It’s safe to make a movie about a terrible regime that you now know is over, but the characters have no way of knowing this. It’s also scant comfort to a man who gets bludgeoned to death with a wine bottle. Pan’s Labyrinth was intense, and all the better for that.

Apocalypto
Tuesday January 23, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 1, 6:15

Hey, Mel Gibson! Want to expand your dead language empire? This would have been better if it was called “Bee Movie”, because that was clearly its best element. Yeah, Apocalypto was a lot of running, a little dialogue, and a woman trying not to drown … complete with water birth! Apocalypto wasn’t a bad movie, I think I was just bored. I was more interested in some people in the audience than I was in the film itself. Then it redeemed itself by featuring the true villains of the piece at the very end: the accursed Jews. Keep fighting the good fight, Mel.

Dreamgirls
Wednesday January 24 Greater Union Campbelltown, Cinema 1, 6:40

Dream Girls have never left me! Do you have any idea how good this movie is? It has actually improved for me on each viewing. This is a subtle masterpiece, the strength of which lies in the audience not realising. Do you have any idea how great the camera work is? How good Beyonc√© can be if given the right material? I’m always surprised when people can’t see the obvious telegraphing in regards to certain characters, but I suppose that a shock is still a good thing. While Dreamgirls plays out like every musical biopic ever, despite not being a biopic, it’s still great to watch. It’s not an orthodox musical, but it’s a champion of my heart.

The Last King of Scotland
Monday January 29 Greater Union Bondi Junction, Popcorn Taxi, 7:30

“But you did not persuade me!”
Everyone goes on about how good Forest Whittaker is in this movie, but that’s not the half of it: the other half of it is clearly James McAvoy. Mr. Tumnus in Uganda! This was a Popcorn Taxi experience, albeit one conducted via satellite phone, and it was all the better for it. It’s a very uncomfortable movie, because Idi Amin is a totally unpredictable presence. He’s the sort of charismatic yet utterly total villain that you simply cannot believe is a real person. The Last King of Scotland jumps genres and becomes not just tense but ultra dramatic and even deliberately painful to watch. It’s a whirlwind of semi-fictional character drama that occupies a special place in the grand scheme of cinema – if not of the world, then of my mind.

The Pursuit of Happyness
Tuesday January 30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 2, 6:50

We all know that the greatest thing that movies can do is be emotionally manipulative. It’s even better when they completely fail and you can see the strings being pulled by the director. The Pursuit of Happyness is like swallowing a sugar cube with a salt lick in the centre: it’s not really sweet, and after a while you realise that it’s packed with lies.

Pick of January 2007: Pan’s Labyrinth

You’ll have to forgive me, but this was a pretty good month. For horror, magic, and chalk portals, Pan’s Labyrinth has to come on top.

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