Monday, January 14, 2008

Best Movies of 2007: I Hate Posses

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

Backtracking: Saw 3:10 to Yuma some months ago. I know I'm going to give it short shrift after the jump, but that's more because it's been a while than because there isn't much to say about it...

3:10 TO YUMA, dir. James Mangold

Unforgiven has carved out a place for itself in the film pantheon by positioning itself as the anti-western. 3:10 to Yuma may not have been crafted with such lofty ambitions -- to subvert one of film's most classic genres -- but "crafted" and "classic" are two good words for it. 3:10 falls so comfortably in step with classic Westerns that it is nothing but a joy to watch, as it rides crisp plotting and great performances.

I had quite the man-crush on Christian Bale after Batman Begins, and, watching him here, stone-faced yet suggestive, this semi-healthy, mostly-platonic infatuation, sublimates into something more... much more. (I mean.... crap.) One can't keep one's eyes off Ben Foster, as the dandyish Charlie Prince, costumed perfectly in probably the only white coat ever worn in the Wild West, and sporting a healthy man-crush (and more, much more) of his own for most-fearsome outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe).

That Bale's Dan Evans wears a prosthetic is a primary trope for a film that looks at one man's quest to become whole again. Out to prove himself capable of providing for his family, and, simply physically capable, Evans must shepherd Wade to the titular train (no, not that kind of train) which will take the outlaw to the gallows. Along the route, revelations about each character make for a climatic final scene in which motivations are complex and complicated, and set the table for rich post-theater discussion. What makes the movie, however, is the tension in the scenes preceding it, as Evans and Wade sit in a hotelroom waiting for the 3:10 to pull in, with Wade's gang massed ominously outside. In lesser hands, it would have felt like waiting. With Mangold shepherding 3:10, the scene is crafted so well as to be worthy of the tradition laid out by High Noon, Shane, Liberty Valance and the rest of the Western canon.

TONIGHT: There Will Be Blood, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Daniel Day Lewis.