12 Months of Movies 2007: December

I have to have more tickets than this, because December was a great, great month indeed. Australia saves everything for Summer, which is why I had the October drought. It was almost worth it for what I witnessed in December ’07.

The Japanese Film Festival continued until December 7 – as promised, some day you’ll hear of it.

Bee Movie
Sunday, December 9, 1:30, Greater Union Hurstville, Cinema 6

I was surprised at how good Bee Movie was, going in almost fully expecting it to suck. It gets off to a bad start, making obvious bee jokes and ridiculously lame references or fake puns. (At Barry’s graduation: “There’s a lot of pomp, considering the circumstance” – what the hell is this?!) Then, as it progresses, the movie just stops even trying to make sense. The jokes become hilarious because they’re not bound by petty rules – they’re just out of nowhere, and the whole experience becomes much more pleasant for it.
I’ll admit that it took me about ten months to “get” the name of the movie – but everyone I said that to only got it when I told them it was a joke! If you can get through the early stages, Bee Movie is a pretty rewarding effort, even if I’m not sold on Renee Zellweger.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Saturday, December 15, 12:50, Greater Union Hurstville, Cinema 1

This movie is what happens when you take large doses of talent and then you hope for the best despite your script being nowhere near as good as your last one. Zach Helm, who moved us all with his work on Stranger Than Fiction, was given complete control of this well cast mess. When I say “well cast”, I don’t mean the children. Casting children in a movie is always a risky business, but if I find myself thinking a childrens’ movie would be better without children, then you have done something terribly wrong with your childrens’ movie. This is about finding the magic and playfulness within, but it’s also a series of embarrassing and overdone scenes that makes one wonder how the hell Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman managed to get through it. A kid who has hats: this is not whimsy! You can give this movie points for having a relatively mature approach to death, but you can’t give it points for being insufferable, indeed painful. But at least they tried, I guess. No, actually, that’s not good enough at all. I only saw this because of its pedigree, and it let me down big time. The only good really, really good part of the movie is a) in the trailer; b) the penultimate shot. Come back to me when you have better judgement on the menu.

Into the Wild
Wednesday, December 19, 6:15, Dendy Opera Quays, Cinema 3

Into the Wild was my pleasant surprise for 2007; I knew how it ended before I went to see it, and I expected that Emile Hirsch’s character would infuriate me. Fortunately for the movie, Alexander Supertramp really grows on you. You can see how he touched the lives of all of the people that he met, and how much better off he would have been to stay with them rather than lighting out for the territories on his own. Of course, a man who completely deserts his family, offering no contact whatsoever until his death, is not the most admirable man, but you can still feel for him. Beautifully shot, well acted by everyone (Emile Hirsch to star in Speed Racer[!]) and ultimately tragic, Into the Wild proves a few things: Sean Penn isn’t just an obnoxious political agitator, movies are awesome, and real life sucks.

No Country For Old Men
Saturday, December 22, 4:00, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 6

No Country For Old Men: great movie or greatest movie? I find it hard to love a movie more than this one, and it’s not because I love the Coen Brothers: in fact, I don’t have the highest estimations of most of their films that I have seen – although a lot of them are now in the morass of youth and will need revisitation. At any rate, this movie has everything: Tommy Lee Jones narrating and being an old man; Josh Brolin on the run from everyone; Javier Bardem being the ultimate badass, and Woody Harrelson not really achieving much of anything. It’s dang near perfect and I love it absolutely. On my deathbed, eighty years hence, surrounded by my countless and inexplicable children, grand children and etcetera, I’ll tell them about the time when Grandpappy X went and saw No Country For Old Men three times in three months, across two years. Then I’ll die, and my spirit will hold out a light ahead of them. Yes, indeed: this is a storied movie.

Enchanted
Monday, Decmber 26, 7:00, Greater Union Campbelltown, Cinema 8

Enchanted is very much a Liz movie, but one that has value beyond that. There is a lot that Enchanted has to work against to come out on top: the dead-eyed acting of Patrick Dempsey; the return of blatant racial caricature on the part of Timothy Spall; the annoying chipmunk who can’t speak (actually, that one may be a blessing), but Amy Adams and James Marsden well and truly save the day. Amy Adams is infectious, and this whole movie could have just been her being insanely cheery and it would have worked. Adding Idina Menzel to the mix so that you don’t feel bad about the inevitable conclusion was a good move, too. The only other problems are this: it may as well have not had the kid in it (although that’s a small blessing, too), and it ends with a Carrie Underwood song that makes you want to stab out your eyes. Otherwise, not a bad movie at all.

Atonement
Friday, December 28, 6:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 8

This is another one of the highlights of last year, catching me offguard in its awesomeness. With a deliberately vague Australian campaign, it was hard to tell precisely what was supposed to happen. I like seeing movies that are mysteries to me that I have to unravel myself, and this was one of them. Great performances all around, proof of the unfairness of the universe, and that no amount of being sorry can fix certain things once they’re broken.

The Golden Compass
Sunday, December 30, 6:45, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 1

All you really need to know is that this movie features a disgraced noble alcoholic ice bear. That’s all it needs. Compound that with the fact that the Ice Bear is Sir Ian McKellen and you’ve got a marvel. I’ve yet to read the books, but this movie was entertaining and hardly sneering at religion. Why can no one see that there is room to criticise organised religion, without even having to wear a Guy Fawkes mask. This is dang good stuff, not the greatest but far from objectionable or incoherent. (Wait, that’s like the most backhanded positive criticism ever).

I’m Not There
Monday, December 31, 3:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 11

What a strange film this was. Todd Haynes’ awesomeness is counterbalanced by Soderberg’s awkwardness to forge a movie that makes very little sense to people who aren’t hardcore into Dylan. I’m not hardcore into Dylan, I’m sorry to say, so a lot of this was lost on me. Good performances, though, and very strange to write about after Heath Ledger has died, particularly as he played the sort of domesticated James Dean Dylan.

Pick of the Month: Atonement

This was tough. I’m giving it to Atonement, although to be honest both it and No Country For Old Men were better in January 2008. But this is 2007!

And with that, I bid the films of 2007 adieu. We had a good run, and soon enough I’ll honour them arbitrarily. Good night, everybody.

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