Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: lists

Top films of 2007: will ‘There Will Be Blood’ be there?

Filmspotting’s recent Sacred Cow review of There Will Be Blood inspired me to rewatch it for the first time since seeing it in theaters, and go back and look at my top films of 2007. They were:

1) The Lives of Others (technically 2006, but released in the U.S. in 2007)
2) Once
3) Waitress
4) Zodiac
5) Michael Clayton
6) No Country for Old Men
7) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
8) Ratatouille
9) Juno
10) 3:10 to Yuma

As you can see, There Will Be Blood did not make the list. I remember in the theater being impressed but bored, which was not the case for its Oscar “rival” that year, No Country for Old Men. Because of that I predicted Blood wouldn’t win Best Picture; compared to the tight plotting and propulsive thrills of No Country, its sprawling scope and tonal opacity would be a tough sell in a popularity contest.

I’d still give Best Picture to No Country. But a second viewing of Blood brought it way up in my estimation. What P.T. Anderson’s films lack in scrutability they more than make up for in production design, soundtrack, and acting prowess. What superlative could I use for Daniel Day-Lewis that hasn’t already been beaten to death with a bowling pin? The man is mesmerizing. In a 158-minute movie, I couldn’t take my eyes off him for one of them. He shares MVP with the cinematographer Robert Elswit, who similarly has earned the hyperbole around his work.

So where would I rank There Will Be Blood now? Making a new list without rewatching all the films I rated highly but haven’t seen since then, like Waitress and Michael Clayton, is a bit of a fool’s errand. But as it stands now, including the 2007 films I’ve seen since making the list, here’s what it looks like:

1) The Lives of Others
2) Once
3) Zodiac
4) No Country for Old Men
5) Waitress
6) Munyurangabo
7) There Will Be Blood
8) Michael Clayton
9) Ratatouille
10) Into the Wild

Sorry, Juno, 3:10 to Yuma, and Sweeney Todd, but I had to make room for There Will Be Blood, Into the Wild, and Munyurangabo. Honorable mention goes to The Diving Bell and the ButterflyHairspray, and Enchanted. Pretty great year overall!

The Apu Trilogy

Finally watched all of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy: Pather Panchali (1955) and Aparajito (1956), and Apur Sansar (1959). Filmspotting’s recent Satyajit Ray marathon compelled me to finally give them a go. The Criterion editions are, no surprise, beautifully rendered. I’d heard of the trilogy first from Image‘s Arts & Faith Top 100 Films list, which I’ve used along with Top 100 lists from AFI and Time magazine as a guide for films to seek out. (At this writing I’ve seen 92 of AFI’s list, 51 of Time, and 47 of Image; we could debate the merits of these lists all day, but they are undeniably handy guides for pursuing quality cinema.)

The movies do revolve around Apu, but his mother Karuna was as much the star of the first two as Apu was. I suspected this was the case after watching Pather Panchali, but her role in Aparajito confirmed it. She’s often exasperated or stressed in her role as a homemaker struggling to provide and care for her two children in rural 1920s Bengal, but moments of delight and grace sneak through as well. Then, as tragedies mount and modernity creeps in, her struggle intensifies just as Apu ages into a bright and aspirational teen. His visits home dwindle along with Karuna’s health; she doesn’t disclose her illness to Apu, nor her despair at his increasing distance.

This culminates in a crushing scene when Apu, on a rare visit home, fades to sleep as Karuna peppers him with questions. “When you earn money, will you arrange treatments for me?” she says. “Apu? Will you, Apu?” No answer. Whether she was expecting answers or just needed to voice her concerns, the look on her face takes a devastating turn through concern, fear, and desperation before arriving at resignation.

Apur Sansar brings the trilogy back under Apu’s domain, following his perambulations as a struggling writer and reluctant evolution as a bridegroom and father. Despite being closer in age to the Apu of Apur Sansar, I was less enveloped in this story than those of the first two movies, but still felt satisfied by the trilogy’s full-circle conclusion.

The lists from Time and Image group all three films together, but I favor the approach Sight & Sound takes on their Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time list, which separates Pather Panchali from the group (just as they rightfully split up The Godfather and The Godfather Part II). Though the second two films fill out the rest of Apu’s story, Pather is the strongest self-contained film, and the story I could most envision returning to again.

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