Let’s be clear: Austria’s The Counterfeiters was not the best foreign-language film of the year. (For my money, that would be the minutely observed, grim-but-humane Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days.) It is a good, compelling film, but, its Oscar win notwithstanding, it is an uneasy hybrid of competing forms: Holocaust fable, crime thriller, true(ish) story, and moral inquiry. The story begins in prewar Berlin, where master forger Salomon Sorowitsch, or “Sally” (Karl Markovics), is happily availing himself of the income, and feminine attentions, that accompany his profession.
With the door perhaps beginning to shut on the brief era of torture porn--low-budget bloodspatterers such as Saw and Hostel, released by arty studios for enormous profits--it is perhaps unsurprising that Warner Independent Pictures (distributor of such lofty fare as Paradise Now, In the Valley of Elah, and Good Night and Good Luck) had the bright idea of remaking Austrian director Michael Haneke’s Funny Games.
Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) stands at the scaffold, sentenced to death. Next to her hovers the headsman, his broad sword gleaming. All around, the crowd brays for blood. All of it, that is, except for her gentle sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson), who watches with fear and apprehension. Henry VIII (Eric Bana) has promised Mary that he will spare Anne’s life, but time is running out. Suddenly, there is a rustle at the edge of the throng, and royal couriers hurriedly make their way to Mary, bearing a handwritten message. Is it the king’s pardon? It’s a real cliffhanger.
What better time to start handicapping next year's Oscar nominees than 40 hours after the conclusion of this year's broadcast? Scott Feinberg of And the Winner Is...--who like the rest of us, hasn't actually seen any of the films in question--goes through some of the likely contenders and wild-guesses that Australia, Defiance, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road will vie for the little gold man (with The Young Victoria as an alternate). Personally, I'm pre-rooting for Charlie Kauffman's Synecdoche, New York. (via Vulture) --Christopher Orr
The first thing you notice about Park City, Utah, in January is that it's really cold. This is also the second thing you notice. But after you've noticed it a few more times, you realize that there's some kind of commotion going on. Everywhere. I was in Park City for two days of the Sundance Film Festival last week. The trip began with a lost wallet and a missed flight, ended with a nasty bout of flu, and featured a mild case of frostbite (frostnibble might be a more apt description) somewhere in the middle, but I still managed to squeeze in eight screenings.
The first thing you notice about Park City, Utah, in January is that it’s really cold. That’s also the second thing you notice. But after you’ve noticed it a few more times, you’re struck by how beautiful the town is. Flying into Salt Lake City, thirty-odd miles away, it’s hard not to be awed by the majestic peaks that surround the city’s wide basin. But Park City is far more intimate, with the mountains nestled in snugly around the town like spectators at a hockey game.I was in Park City for two days of the Sundance Film Festival last week.
As a general rule, if you say a film doesn't live up to its marketing, you're saying it's pretty bad. That's not the case with Cloverfield, which is a very solid entrant in the cinematic subgenre of--well, I'm not going to say what subgenre it is. You may well already know.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood opens with a pair of primordial vignettes set at the turn of the century. A solitary miner clawing at the earth with a pickaxe falls down a stony well and breaks his leg. Through savage will he somehow climbs back to the surface, where he drags himself across the arid land, twisting and flopping like the first fish to explore sandy shores. Then, another hole--this one dug for oil--and another man, this one not so lucky.
If you are reading this, you hopefully have already seen There Will Be Blood and perhaps read my review as well. Those who haven’t seen the film will a) have very little idea what I’m talking about; and b) encounter numerous spoilers. So get thee to the multiplex and come back when you’ve gotten religion. Ready? In the review, I described There Will Be Blood as a flawed masterpiece, and cited the closing scenes, and the last in particular, as its crucial flaws.
2007 was a great year for movies and a tough one for making lists. A few quick caveats before unveiling my own attempt. There were a lot of very good films last year; if your favorite rates lower than expected (or even not at all), it’s not necessarily because I disliked it, but merely because I liked something else better. Also, I didn’t see every film that came out, so if an expected entrant doesn’t show up, it’s possibly because I didn’t see it. Though it was technically released in the U.S.