The 2nd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The year’s best film , There Will Be Blood, closed in a orchestral flourish with this amazing piece from Brahms.  It was a fantastic way to end a wonderfully strange year at the cinema.

2007 ended up being a great year for films, possibly the best since 1999.  While 2006 was consistent in its passably entertaining mediocrity, filmmakers seemed to take more chances in 2007 leading to more highs (see below), more curiosities (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Beowulf, Sweeney Todd), and more lows (I Am Legend–not quite legendary).  The year’s two greatest films explored Greed and the American Dream.  There Will Be Blood took an epic approach to explore how greed driven and focused can build nations while slowly devouring the soul of the individual, while Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead took an intimate approach and explored how greed ill-planned and misdirected can destroy a family in the blink of an eye.  While Hollywood seemed to cash in on more name brand sequels and three-quels than ever before (and the public ate them up ad-naseum only to quickly forget them a few weeks later) three trends stood out in my mind that I feel defined 2007:

1.  It was a great year for the auteur.  Some, who we thought had passed on, came roaring back firing on all cylinders.  Sidney Lumet regained his 1970’s stature with the darkly complex ensemble piece Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.  Meanwhile, Joe Wright came into his own by delivering his first near masterpiece, Atonement, a movie with an already classic continuous tracking shot of the Dunkirk evacuation during WWII that nearly a month later still holds me breathless.  Still another auteur who already seemed to have settled into his own unique style, Paul Thomas Anderson, performed a shocking evolution on a Kubrickian level with There Will Be Blood and delivered an American Epic on the scale of The Godfather.

2.  Thanks to the success of last year’s Oscar and Davies winner for Best Picture, The Departed, 2007 became a renaissance year for the grim melodramatic crime thriller.  Flicks like Zodiac, Eastern Promises, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and Gone Baby Gone point towards a film movement not unlike the film-noir of the 1940’s that mirrors America’s anxiety towards the chaotic outside world inward against the intimate settings of neighborhoods and families in stylish and unsettling ways.  While these films were similar to their more overt counterparts that feebly attempted to deal directly with the greater world’s current ills (films like A Mighty Heart, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, and Lions for Lambs) in that they didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, I suspect the former rather than the later group with have a more artistic resonance in future years.  I don’t think anyone will be watching In the Valley of Elah in twenty years, but I can imagine Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead being studied shot for shot in film classes.

3.  On the flip side, it was also a watershed year for comedies.  At the forefront, and rightfully so, is Juno, which has positioned itself as this generation’s Annie Hall.  We also saw laugh-out-loud teen sex romps (Superbad), lightly satirical animated films (The Simpsons Movie), obscure absurdist sketch humor (The Ten), and destined to be cult classic spoofs (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story).  We needed these laughs in the worst way, and they provided the perfect escape from the horrors of the real world and the neo-noir films playing right next door at the multiplex.

In the end, it was a wild year at the cinema.  At times, it was extremely frustrating.  There was one actor I just wish would retire.  After 2005’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones essentially phoned in the same performance in 2007’s In the Valley of Elah and No Country for Old Men.  Nobody else seemed to notice he played essentially the same character in all three films, but I say enough already, old man!  The summer movie season also seemed endless and void of anything worthwhile.  Still, in the final weeks of December, two films that couldn’t be more different emerged and have the potential to become cultural landmark films for this generation.  With Juno touching our hearts and tickling our funny bones, “I swear to blog!” all the hip teens will be copying its quirky fashions and spouting off its one-liners well into the summer.  Meanwhile, There Will Be Blood is just beginning to infect its select audience and is making an indelible impression on those who have experienced it.  There are speeches in There Will Be Blood that will be memorized and studied in acting classes for years to come.  There are also many quotable lines that may find their way into films like Juno twenty years from now.  My early money was on “I drink your milkshake”, but upon a second viewing of There Will Be Blood, “why don’t I own THIS?”, “I see the worst in people”, “bastard from a basket”, “draaaaaaaaaaaainage!”, and “I’m finished!” all run the risk of joining the pop culture lexicon.  Well, I’m not quite finished…

And now…move over Golden Globes.  Say goodbye to the Oscars.  Novelist D. H. Schleicher semi-proudly presents:

The 2nd Annual Davies: Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film (for the year 2007).

The Top Ten Films of 2007:

  1. There Will Be Blood
  2. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  3. Atonement
  4. Gone Baby Gone
  5. Rescue Dawn
  6. Sicko
  7. Juno
  8. Zodiac
  9. Eastern Promises
  10. Amazing Grace

*Special honorable mention goes to The Lives of Others and Black Book, two thrillingly thought provoking foreign films that were technically released in 2006 but didn’t reach stateside until early 2007.  As such, they have unfairly ended up in limbo with no official place on lists from either 2006 or 2007.

Best Picture: There Will Be Blood

Best Director:  Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood

Best Actor:  Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood

Best Actress:  Ellen Page for Juno

Best Supporting Actor:  Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:  Marisa Tomei for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Best Emaciated Actor:  Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn

Best Emaciated Actress:  Keira Knightley in Atonement

Best Reading of a Dramatic Line:  Daniel Day Lewis’ satirical, hilarious, nerve-wracking, and scary “Here is my Straw, and here is your Milkshake” diatribe to Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood.

Best Dramatic Reading of a Comedic Line:  Kristen Wiig’s “I believe you’re gonna fail” retort to John C. Reilly’s “I need you to believe in me” cry in Walk Hard.

Best Original Screenplay:  Kelly Masterson for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Christopher Hampton for Atonement

Most Overrated Film:  The Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men

Most Underrated Film:  Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn

Best Film I Didn’t Like (Most Misunderstood Film):  The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Worst Film I Did Like (Best Guilty Pleasure):  Live Free or Die Hard

Best Franchise Film:  The Bourne Ultimatum

Worst Franchise Film:  Transformers

Best Editing:  Atonement

Worst Editing:  Transformers

Best Music Score:  Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood

 

Best Cinematography:  Roger Deakins for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Downer Film: Gone Baby Gone

Worst Downer FilmIn the Valley of Elah

Most Uplifting Film:  Amazing Grace

Best Comedy:  Juno

Best Horror Movie:  30 Days of Night

Best Action Movie:  The Bourne Ultimatum

Best Ending:  There Will Be Blood

Worst Ending:  The Mist

Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed:  The Neo-Noir Movement of Grim Melodramatic Crime Thrillers (Zodiac, Eastern Promises, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Gone Baby Gone)

Movie Trend I (Mostly) Ignored:  Overtly Political MidEast-themed “Reality” Films (A Mighty Heart, Rendition, The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs, Charlie Wilson’s War, and the one film of this ilk I did suffer through, In the Valley of Elah)

_______________________________

Results from the 1st Annual Davies can be found by clicking below:

http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2007/01/20/the-1st-annual-davies/

We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.

Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.

All of my reviews of this year’s winners, as well as many other insightful critiques, can be found archived on the Internet Movie Database:  http://imdb.com/user/ur1069062/comments

Written by David H. Schleicher

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9 comments on “The 2nd Annual Davies Awards in Film

  1. Kimberly MacDonald says:

    I must run out and see There Will Be Blood. I mean, it made the top of the Davies!

    Oh, Kimberly, you must, you must, you must see There Will Be Blood. –DHS

  2. Spanky says:

    What happened to the best worst film title?

    Oh, yes, how could I forget The Last Mimzy? WTF is a Mimzy? We may never know. –DHS

  3. The Letter C says:

    The Davies shed some light on several films I was thinking about going to see–Juno sounds like a must.
    Excellent analysis as always—written from first hand experience that was not influenced by the media monster.
    Well done.

    C, thank you, I do what I can. –DHS

  4. Horse Apples says:

    Man, Transformers at least deserved ” most visually satisfying ” special effects. I mean, if we don’t support Michael Bay he might actually STOP making movies and then…………

    oh wait.

    I won’t deny the awesome-ness of the special effects, but what a load of horse dung the movie was. If I could in any way stop Michael Bay from making movies, why I’d be the happiest man on earth! –DHS

  5. filmaday says:

    A very well thought out summary of a year in review. You know how I feel about There Will Be Blood, but you don’t think Juno will win for best original screenplay? I love the top 10, I’m glad you gave a shout out to Rescue Dawn. If There Will Be Blood sweeps as you predict I will go and see it again.

    Jesse

    PS. You weren’t pretentious at all! Very down to Earth

    Jesse, I value your opinion as always. If you were to ask me to put money in an Oscar pool, I would definately bet on Diablo Cody winning best original screenplay for Juno. This, however, was the Davies, and Kelly Masterson deserves the cred for BTDKYD (though I heard Sidney Lumet did numerous rewrites on it). –DHS

  6. This is impressive and entertaining. Having gone to film school, I think your analysis is right up there with some of the best film school dissertations. Well done!

    Wow, thanks! My Dad has always been a huge film buff, so growing up in that house was almost like film school! I did take two film classes in college that certainly helped my analysis skills. –DHS

  7. Nancy says:

    One thing I did disagree with though–I liked Transformers! :)

    Nancy, I prefer the toys from when I was a kid over the movie. –DHS

  8. :)

    That’s probably one reason Michael Bay made the movie (childhood nostalgia).

    And you’re welcome; your entries about films/movies really are something to read.

    Nancy, I suppose I’m more of a cynic. I honestly think Michael Bay made the movie for one thing only: profit. And he knew he could make that profit by selling the film on the childhood nostalgia of Generations X and Y. –DHS

  9. Heath says:

    “Best Cinematography”

    It seems like you and I have always been at odds over this since college…..you a writer…..me….an international award winning director/photographer/producer/editor. Am I full of myself? Yes!

    For Best Cinematography, you have to look a little deeper than at “new film noir” or any use of shadows. Think from the camera man’s perspecive and difficulty of achieving “the shot.” All that said, you’re acutally right on :) LOL! Good job dude, great list!

    If there were an award for, “Best Photog/Camera man period”, it would have to go to anyone behind the cam for the Bourne films. Man, those guys/gals are pretty amazing. Shooting a GOOD action pic (not those old Arnold pics or ones like Ronin) is a pretty amazing talent. Almost takes an eye from the likes of Tony Kaye as a director to acutally catch to true art. But folks that don’t know what goes in behind the camera, it’s always overlooked.

    My wife asks me a lot, “can you do that?” Most times, I tell her sraight up, “NOPE!”

    Heath, did you see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? The cinematography in that was astounding, especially during the build-up to the train robbery scene. There Will Be Blood also had great cinematography. I agree with your comments about the camera crew for the Bourne films…to have been able to get all of those hand-held shots…truly amazing. –DHS

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