Over the past few months, The Computer Newspaper has re-visited the year 2007 for an occasional feature called P.I.E., or Perspective Is Everything. This has ranged from an-entirely-too-thorough-to-be-readable music tournament of albums to a retrospective on the Florida Gators’ NCAA basketball success. Naturally, within the holy trinity of popular culture, this leaves us with only film to dissect. Let’s at least have fun with this biotch!
(Editor’s Note: ‘biotch’ is a variation of the word ‘bitch,’ but one would definitely have to travel further back in time than 2007 to remember an instance when this was a funny thing to say)
While doing the research for this piece, it became clear that looking at a list of movies that came out five years ago is an experience fundamentally akin to reviewing your old high school yearbook. Flipping through those pages, skimming images from a simpler time, there are fleeting moments of fond nostalgia.
[Tangent: When I look through my yearbook, ten years later, the nostalgia I feel is not for high school, necessarily, but for the idea of the yearbook itself. I don’t get transported back to a pep rally or English class, but only to the moment I first looked through our senior yearbook and thought ‘oh wow, they put in that picture… that is going to be priceless in ten years!’ Now, honestly, it could be burned in a terrible fire and only like an hour of the rest of my life would be affected. Otherwise, I live in a weird, wistful boomerang where the only thing I remember is what it was like to need a yearbook to remember things. Clearly none of us that shelled out $60 per copy were taking into account the extent to which we all would just live on the internet.]
Traipsing through your high school yearbook is just like looking at a list of movies from five years ago. And in case that does not seem like a fair comparison, how else do you explain this retrospective, hastily-fashioned list of Senior Superlatives for 2007 film? You cannot, unless you believe in the existence of journalism gimmicks.
Most Likely To Have An Unattended Funeral (a.k.a. The Bad Movies)
Look, what I can tell you, the one thing you immediately notice about yearbook reminiscence is that it brings about a lot of negative memories, as in ‘geez, i remember that kid’ which is the same thing as ‘geez, i forgot about that awful movie’ — both statements express a hearty relief to have moved on with one’s life. For example, Dane Cook starring in Good Luck Chuck = senior photo w/ puka shell necklace.
[Tangent: It’s that merciless present-day judgment, that overriding ‘what were we thinking’ feeling that becomes hindsight’s main reward, right? I’m having a blast just writing this! I am a non-religious, barely-patriotic American in the 18-to-49 age bracket — most of my days are spent, directly or indirectly, ironically appreciating something from as recent as a few weeks ago. And while that may sound extreme, please remember you and I likely share the same cultural DNA– we belong to a collective that has immortalized Chuck Norris and gleefully deported Pitbull to Alaska.]
The lesson seems to be that 85-90% of all movies are forgettable, just as you walk away from high school with only a handful of friends you stay in non-Facebook contact with. Not a lot of acquaintances (high school or otherwise) transcend those circumstances in which you were originally acquainted. I am pretty sure I saw 2007’s Live Free Or Die Hard in the theaters and probably even liked it, but that does not mean I remember a single thing about it.
Okay, I can’t resist anymore, check out a list of 2007’s worst! I have included parentheses to help jar your memory or editorialize.
- Drama: Lions For Lambs (Cruise/Streep/Redford shitty political Oscar bait), Reign Over Me (Sandler in 9/11 PTSD drama with Don Cheadle), Catch & Release (Jennifer Garner plays a widower that has Silent Bob as a friend), Lucky You (Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana in Hollywood’s predictable attempt to capitalize on the growing popularity of poker in 2007)
- Comedy: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Norbit, Evan Almighty, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, The Heartbreak Kid (Ben Stiller), Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton and co-starring several misguided ideas about comedy)
- Romantic Comedy: P.S. I Love You (Hilary Swank AND Gerard Butler, where do I sign?), No Reservations (Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart as star-crossed chef lovers), and License to Wed (let’s put Jim from ‘The Office’ with Mandy Moore!)
- Action: Smokin’ Aces, Shooter, We Own the Night (Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix… did that even happen?), The Number 23, Beowulf (ouch!…. that was supposed to be big)
- For the Family: Bee Movie, The Golden Compass (Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig), Mr. Magoriom’s Wonder Emporium, The Nanny Diaries (ScarJo and Paul Giamatti, apparently), The Game Plan (The Rock), Are We Done Yet? (I still can’t believe they had the self-awareness to make this the title for an Are We There Yet? sequel)
I seriously tingle looking at that list of stillborn creations. I try not to take pleasure in failure, but when it comes to disappointing NBA/NFL draft picks or one-and-done bands, I do indulge. As should you, by the way–this is the 1% for all intents and purposes. But nothing, I repeat nothing, quite satisfies like a bad movie, especially those with unfulfilled hype. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, much like that high school bully whose life peaked at 18. And studio movies, specifically, ARE bullies—consider the level to which they are marketed.
- I see a poster for Bee Movie a year before it is even released
- Six months later, I finally see Bee Movie’s trailer, for the first time of several, all because I cannot avoid movie theaters, television, and the internet.
- The week the movie is released, I get to see Jerry Seinfeld on every talk show exalting the film and promoting his return to entertainment
- Then people see it (spoiler alert, it’s awful) and it just vanishes from our consciousness
When you step back from the individual gears and just look at the marketing machine, it is truly incredible what we have become accustomed to. So to go through all that, to wait out that hype, especially a film that aims to be a blockbuster or at least a phenomenon within its genre (cannot wait for 2008 P.I.E., this means you Speed Racer) and then see its decrepit carcass go limp when the curtains finally open… well, that’s like watching the sun set with a good wine nearby.
Most Likely To Be A Compelling Adult At The Reunion (a.k.a. The Good Movies)
Memory lane can be scenic if you know where to look. In researching the films of 2007, the first obvious exercise was to make a top tier of 10 titles (I could only find 9) that stick out now as specifically important or timeless. If my ex-con friend came up to me today and said, “You know, I didn’t get a chance to see any movies in 2007, what should I check out,” the following would be the list, in no particular order. After aggregating box office numbers (can’t trust those), award winners (ditto), and conversations I have participated in over the past half-decade, this is the final sketch.
- Knocked Up
- No Country For Old Men
- There Will Be Blood
- 3:10 to Yuma
- The Bourne Ultimatum
- Michael Clayton
I mean, that’s pretty good. At the end of a given year, how many ‘great’ movies would you say that you saw? I think you’d be happy with 9 or 10, especially considering this is just one man’s list — there are several honorable mentions below that I can see having arguments for.
- Drama: Atonement, Zodiac, Gone Baby Gone, Charlie Wilson’s War, Into the Wild, Sweeney Todd, American Gangster, Once, The Assassination of Jesse James
- Comedy: The Darjeeling Limited, Blades of Glory, Hot Fuzz, The Simpsons Movie
- Romantic Comedy:
- Action: 300, I Am Legend
- For the Family: Enchanted, Across the Universe, Hairspray
After seeing these, how did I do on my top tier? Pretty good, right? I like a lot of these honorable mention titles, but in assembling my personal list, I awarded points for degree-of-difficulty (3:10 to Yuma is a Western!) and docked points for personal bias (Darjeeling Limited) or for falling short of expectations (American Gangster). How films continue to affect a national conversation has to be considered in this imperfect evaluation. For instance, you still hear the general public talk about Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, but does anybody have anything to say about I Am Legend? That movie seems like it sort of just happened and then it was over.
Best Dressed (a.k.a. The Popular Movies)
While not the most appropriate superlative, we would be remiss if we did not use this P.I.E. retrospective to analyze the box office winners of 2007. The reasoning is simply that if you did win ‘Best Dressed’ in a superficial (emphasis on ‘super’) environment like high school, you probably cared too much about your wardrobe (i.e. how much money a movie made) to develop a substantive personality to back it up.
Below is the list of the top ten grossing films of 2007:
- Spider-Man 3
- Shrek the Third
- Pirates of the Caribbean 3
- Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix (5)
- I Am Legend
- National Treasure 2
- The Simpsons Movie
Without going too deep into summer movie criticism and Rotten Tomato ratings, etc., as one can never really expect the highest-grossing films to be the best or most original, the above assortment still feels relatively underwhelming. Especially viewed now, it is curious to look back and see a couple of franchises that were in the process of dying ungracefully in Spider-Man, Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and National Treasure.
Because these were all sequels and guaranteed moneymakers, we may not have realized how mediocre the particular 2007 installments were. It is actually unsettling to think that only five years ago, Tobey Maguire was still Spider-Man, Shrek and Jack Sparrow were kids-backpack relevant, and Nicolas Cage’s identity had not become a (total) running joke.
In addition to these four, 2007 also included Ocean’s 13, Saw IV, Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, Rush Hour 3. Hey, that gives me a novel realization: Hollywood, stop making so many sequels!
Even when considering an entertaining movie like the original Transformers, which was just fine for what it was, I suddenly have to view it as a ‘classic’ because I know that two more terrible sequels happened after this first 2007 helping. The Harry Potter movie was good (I would think, I didn’t care to research), but bear in mind there were still three more chapters to follow. And while 300 had no natural sequel, we have seen several more (many failed) film adaptations of graphic novels, not to mention forgotten there was a day when Gerard Butler was an acceptable human.
Truthfully, I do not know what further feelings I should expect to have when looking back at a list of requisite sequels, Will Smith-as-a-hero vehicles, and CGI kids’ films that may have came out in a given year. These are silver-spoon, trust-fund-baby movies, their financial success a foregone conclusion as it’s happening — the actual quality is a moot point no matter what year you assess it. Ratatouille, personally, is the only entry from the above list that I would care to see again, and that sad state of affairs is probably the direct result of Christopher Nolan spending 2007 editing The Dark Knight and writing the first draft for Inception.
Click here for Part 2 — the individual awards.