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THR: ’07 and ’70s, when movies took chances

THR: '07 and '70s, when movies took chances

I like Gregg Kilday’s brief column this week for The Hollywood Reporter, taking a look at how some of the best films of 2007 embody the same spirit as some of the best films of the 1970s. A lot has been written about how 2007 was a great year for new films, and I’d agree. I can’t recall a recent year when there was so much healthy debate over which films were the best over the last 12 months. Lots of disagreement, but also lots of respect for each others’ choices.

As one noted film writer remarked recently in conversation, “Sidney Lumet is getting a lot of love this year, not only because he made a great film (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), but also because it’s a year full of ‘Sidney Lumet type’ movies.” Just the other day, I was watching the Criterion DVD of Malick’s Days of Heaven and was reminded of how much it feels like There Will Be Blood in places (helped by having the same art director/production designer Jack Fisk, no doubt). But it goes beyond these, as Kilday notes in his column:

Reviewing this year’s best films, it’s tempting to summon up the spirit of the early ’70s, fondly remembered as a veritable golden age in which a new generation of American filmmakers threw off convention and produced a series of iconoclastic movies.

This year’s movies almost seemed to beg for the comparison. There were, for example, movies that were explicitly set in the ’70s, like David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” which doggedly pursued the police investigation of San Francisco’s elusive serial killer. There were attempts, with various degrees of success, to remake movies from the ’70s, including Rob Zombie’s “Halloween,” the Farrelly brothers’ “The Heartbreak Kid” and Neil Jordan’s “The Brave One,” which might not have been an actual remake but did provide a feminist response to the 1974 revenge fantasy “Death Wish.” And there were movies like Tony Gilroy’s drama of corporate intrigue “Michael Clayton” that echoed the paranoid undercurrents of such quintessential ’70s movies as Alan J. Pakula’s “The Parallax View”…

It’s around the edges where the system, aware that it’s facing new modes of distribution, is experimenting. New sources of money and new producers determined to make their marks have shown themselves willing to take chances: Jeff Skoll’s Participant Prods., for instance, had a hand in “The Kite Runner” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.” New blood at the studio specialty divisions — John Lesher at Paramount Vantage, Daniel Battsek at Miramax — demonstrated a willingness to take similar risks. Par Vantage and Miramax together teamed to co-produce the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood.”

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