Movie 1: Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)
I was a little skeptical watching the trailer that this was going to try too hard to be hip and as a result seem forced. And early on in the movie it does (I can’t tell you how grateful I was that Rainn WIlson was only on one scene - nothing against the actor, but his character grated on my nerves). Luckily the movie eventually starts concentrating on the characters more than their quirks, and turns out to have some real emotion by the end. The relationships all seem real, thanks to well written characters played by strong actors. Everyone here has done more noteworthy work, but there’s not a false note among the principle cast, who work together to make every interaction work. There was no shortage of 2007 movies about unplanned pregnancies, but this one goes on the top of that list for me.
M2: Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008)
There have been and will continue to be comparisons to Blair Witch because of the shared technique of having the entire movie seen through the lens of a camera carried by one of the characters. But what this most reminded me of was amateur footage that ends up on the news when something happens that an average person happens to have a camera for. Reeves and his DP Michael Bonvillan did a great job of making the recording seem unplanned and unprofessional (something that’s a challenge to balance with making sure you get the shot you need), giving a real feeling of what average unsuspecting people go through when a monster attacks the city. Not a lot is explained because we only know what the characters experience, following their journey as ordinary people in the midst of something far bigger than them. The result is a very exciting movie that I look forward to picking up on DVD so I can see the making up features.
M3: There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
This looks and feels nothing like any other Anderson movie I’ve seen; it’s excellent for entirely different reasons. The main reason being Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as oil man Daniel Plainview. This is one of the most evil characters I’ve seen in recent film, largely because he’s so good at convincing people he’s working for their own good, all the while delighting in his profits and their misfortunes. In truth, the fact that this is playing in an election year is fitting, because his false promises and insincere grandstanding are reflective of the worst in politicians trying to gain public favor. Also worth noting is Paul Dano as Eli Sunday, a preacher who is in every way Plainview’s opposite. The scenes between these two actors are the best in the movie, especially their interaction at the film’s climax, where Plainview is at his worst, and enjoying every second of it.
Book 3: Election by Tom Perrotta
Short, funny book about a high school election that does a good job of capturing the dynamics of teenagers. Probably the best example of this is the election itself - it’s noted early on that the title of class president is meaningless, but the kids (and a few of the adults) involved all treat it like it’s the most important event in their lives. The narrative rotates between the characters, which allows the reader to get inside everyone’s head and often see conflicting views of the same events. A satisfying read.
B4: I Am America (And So Can You!), by Stephen Colbert
This really is his character from the show in book form. The subject matter is less topical than his show, but his attitudes on American life are just as absurd as those he spouts off about the day’s news. In short, if you like the show (especially “The WØrd,” which the margin notes are reminiscent of), than you will enjoy the book. Especially if you’re looking for something to hold you over until his writing staff returns.
DVD 3: Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Another one I was skeptical about, because I thought Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, which also starred Viggo Mortensen, was very poorly executed. Luckily this one doesn’t suffer from the same pacing issues, and is actually an interesting and entertaining mob movie. I don’t think I’d add it to my library, but as a Netflix rental it was time well spent.