The Movie Club

Oh Man, Let the Insanity Begin!
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 3 2008 11:08 AM

The Movie Club

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Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
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Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Oh man, let the insanity begin! I, too, just wanna give a great big shout out to 2007. Apropos of Scott's "Zodiac will outlive us all" testimony, I too believe that a lot of the movies from the last year will be gifts that keep on giving. From the heavens to the gutters, from movies everybody saw to movies nobody did, how many were plugged in, accidentally or not, to the way we're living—or dying? 

It all happened in 2007. The closet-closet cases in 300. (Don't ask, don't tell? Totally.) The blissed-out gay-acting straights in Chuck and Larry (Nathan, you're right; it's to be loved more than feared). All those "allegorical" "Westerns" (war, war, war, how do you like it, how do you like it?). And all those fretful movies about keeping your baby—or not (there will be blood, indeed).

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This is a year when the most interesting torture scene didn't happen to that chemist in Rendition, to Heather Matarazzo (poor Heather Matarazzo) in Hostel: Part II, or to us at Lions for Lambs (poor us); it happened to the Silver Surfer in that Fantastic Four movie—dude, he was water-boarded!

Dana, Zodiac is much more than the work of a niche director. But I see where you're coming from about how underwhelmed you were. David Fincher has made a movie about the very underwhelmingness of procedural work. On the other side of the screen, it's so often anti-climactic. The movie is all the more daring for taking that on, for wrestling with tedium, for making it look and feel like something nightmarish and dreamy in its way. Its fright is both visceral and existential. I won't forget the wrecked look on Robert Downey Jr.'s face when he resurfaces late in the second hour. The semaphores and symbols are great, and the visual textures are so rich and thick and painterly.

I like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly more than you, Nathan. I recognize its pomposity but can forgive it. Moreover, the optical lexicon that Janusz Kaminski and Julian Schnabel devised for their ballad of the human spirit (yes, another one of those) isn't nearly as discreetly ingenious as the terrifying perspectives Harry Savides comes up with for Zodiac, with is both deeply cinematic and slyly post so.

Incidentally, with Zodiac, we're arguing for a great movie no one saw (yes, another one of those, too!), a movie that was made for these times but underembraced during them. Like Richard Kelly's ignored Southland Tales, it'll play better in 2027, I'm sure. Kelly's movie was frustrating, but he really is a visionary—and, as Nathan implied, a fusion of the best/worst of the Cronenlynch connection. Well, I'm saying the "worst." I still don't think the jokes or the Timberlaking work, although watching it again, I didn't mind those much, either, because it is this great amalgam of all our various screens, platforms, mediums, moods, and movements—the screenplay just needed to go on a diet. And after two movies. I'm not ready to toss Ousmane Sembene and Edward Yang or their headstones over for Kelly. (Nathan, you vandal!) Not after two movies, neither of which is as good as all of theirs. But I'm a progressive. So, along with Apichatpong (Readers, Dana, you must see whatever of his movies you can because—traditionalists, avert your eyes—he's Antonioni with humor and feeling), Kelly is now. Even better: He's 30 years from now.     

Speaking of No Country for Old Men: I don't think it's overrated, or too academic, either. This was a very good year for surprise horror movies, from Zodiac to 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. The Coens' humor and formal grace were not a shock, but the movie's lack of condescension (wha??) and its soul were. As for Ratatouille, it's so great in its understanding both of the ambition to create and of the need to experience something new, that I'm surprised Nathan didn't fall for it. It made me cry—twice. It's also the only movie I've seen about consumption that I've actually wanted to eat.

But if we're going to start fighting about the Coens now, all I ask is that we do it and get it over with.

Love,
Wesley

Wesley Morris is a staff writer at Grantland.

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