Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
I didn’t spend much time at the movies this year – TV was way too good. Because I couldn’t compile 10 great movies, I’ve decided to choose 10 great pop-culture experiences from the past 12 months. Keep in mind that some of these experiences include material produced before 2007, like a few TV series I inhaled on DVD. I also honor a few standout movies along with a concert and a great new TV series.
1. No Country For Old Men (the movie and the book)
Like many geeks, I buzzed through Cormac McCarthy's original novel before going to see this instant classic, and what a pleasure it was to discover McCarthy's austere prose right before I saw the Coen brothers get their shit together for the first time since The Big Lewbowski. Who knew that McCarthy's gothic 80s western would provide the Coens with better dialogue, better action, better heroes and a better villain than their previous crime classic, Fargo?
2. Daft Punk in concert for the Alive 2007 Tour
I’m not much of a music fan. How do I know this? Well, it took me until 2007 to actually see a band I love in concert – and I’m still kicking myself in the ass for not doing it sooner. I’ve been a huge fan of this French electrofunk duo since I first caught Michel Gondry’s video for “Around the World” on MTV. This year I saw them in concert in Los Angeles.
I’m still happy.
Imagine if a pair of friendly aliens tried to communicate with humanity using only happy-crazy techno music. That’s roughly the experience of this concert, which opened in darkness with the greeting chimes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and featured a series of clever mashups of the duo’s best tracks, including an orga/mecha duel between “Human After All” and “Robot Rock,” all of them performed by Punk atop a glittering pyramid that looked like the Tyrell Corporation had built a tomb for Tutankhamen out of neon and Lite-Brites.
3. The Office, seasons 1-3 on DVD, season 4 on TV
Although I haven’t seen the original British incarnation of this eccentric show, I’m already tired of the meme that it’s superior to the American version. Even if the two seasons of the British Office are better, I admire the hell out of the American version, which combines Dilbert-style absurdity with Tolstoy-caliber angst – and I’m not kidding. Pam and Jim’s tortuous journey toward each other includes enough pregnant, dissonant silences to satisfy fans of Anna Karenina, while Steve Carell’s performance as a bumbling regional manager stands as one of the best comedic creations of the decade. Fresh, satisfying choices positively litter this series.
4. The Bourne Ultimatum
This decade has seen two of the greatest trilogies in film history: The Lord of the Rings and the Bourne movies. Peter Jackson’s unified, unstoppable vision powered Tolkien’s dense prose to life onscreen, while hipster action director Doug Liman took Robert Ludlum’s potboiler and finessed it into a paranoid masterpiece in The Bourne Identity.
But Liman’s slick work merely set the stage for Paul Greengrass, a Brit who has distinguished himself as one of the great cinematic voices of the post-9/11 world. Having already established himself as a master of bracing, faux-documentary moviemaking with Bloody Sunday, Greengrass applied his jittery, handheld, in-your-face showmanship to The Bourne Supremacy and his harrowing recreation of United flight 93.
But for my money, the Bourne movies reached their peak in Ultimatum, which featured some of the best action scenes ever, including a crackling footchase across the rooftops of Tangiers.
5. Pushing Daisies
I’ve inhaled a lot of great episodic TV on DVD over the last seven years. Naturally, this has led me to start actually watching great shows when they air. Lost, House and 24 were some of the first shows to catch my attention, but Brian Fuller’s Pushing Daisies stood out from the slew of geek-chic pilots that dominated the fall lineup by combining a kooky plot device (a guy with the ability to temporarily revive the dead) with charming, anachronistic design (technicolor 1950s fashion stands alongside retro-modern technology), and heart-on-the-sleeve, fairy-tale storytelling (sample line: “Olive Snook didn’t want to speak, but her heart was so full, it reached up into her mouth and made her ask the question”). If Roald Dahl were alive, he’d be a staff writer.
I admit that I’m honoring Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ode to exploitation movies mostly because I saw it at an awesome old movie house in L.A., but I also want to support nutty cinematic experiments like this, especially in this age of corporatized movie-events that can’t function unless they’ve been laterally and virally promoted in every medium we can communicate in.
So kudos to Tarantino and Rodriguez for making a pair of movies that are fucking movies, right down to the kick-ass trailers, pornographically extreme gore and rousing stunt work.
I caught this one over Thanksgiving break in a theater packed with delighted children, and let me assure all the jaded cynics out there: this one’s worth it. As a longtime Disney geek, I was intimately familiar with all the tropes Disney was self-spoofing, and while this formula had the potential to be cloying, a headlong, earnest tone saved it. Amy Adams claimed a rightful place in the pantheon of Disney princesses, while Patrick Dempsey managed to make a thankless love-interest role into a memorable one.
My only complaint? I wanted to know why Dempsey’s fiancée decided to abandon her life in the real world and run away to the cartoon realm. Maybe that storyline will be revealed in the DVD’s deleted scenes?
8. Friday Night Lights, season 1 on DVD, season 2 on TV
Word recently broke that Peter Berg, the brain behind this rock-solid, red-state drama, will direct a new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, and the prospect of applying Berg’s effortless dramatic craftsmanship to Herbert’s epic masterpiece makes me want to hack into the Times Square jumbotron so I can scream “Fuck, yeah!”
But back to Friday Night Lights. I grew up in a great high-school sports town, and let me say that this show captures the small-scale epic narrative that drives small town sports life while providing a showcase for the talents of Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and some of the best young actors working today.
9. The release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Although I was terribly disappointed in J.K. Rowling’s final novel, I will always remember that electric week in July 2007 when the release of the fifth (and best) Potter movie preceded one of the decade’s great literary events.
That’s all I got for this one. Maybe Joss Whedon can unfuck the final novel in his screen adaptation. He is directing it, right?
10. Project Runway, seasons 2 and 3 on DVD, season 4 on TV
I got completely hooked on this series after watching the season four premiere. Within days I had picked up the second and third seasons, and within a week I had inhaled them both. You don’t have to be a fashion plate to enjoy this extended love letter to artists everywhere – you just have to enjoy watching creativity elevated to an Olympic sport.
Honorable mention: Rescue Dawn, Battlestar Galactica, Lynch, Michael Clayton and 300.
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.