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Caught Red-Handed Stealing Santa’s Sleigh

No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men; courtesy of Paramount Vantage

The Best Cinematic Sugarplums of 2007


Season’s greetings and salutations* movie elves …

And so I offer an apology
To those from 1 to 92 (you know who you are)
Whose chimneys I ran over
Many times, many ways (last night)
Merry Christmas, to you …”

Happy Holidays Bay Area … Just a quick personal note: Poppa H has apology fruitcakes for all the good folks living on Candy Cane Lane who threw snowballs loaded with batteries at the squad car last night and left death threats on my voicemail. Oh you Who’s Down in Whoville … where’s your sense of humor? Once you get a little Roast Beast in your bellies, I just know you’ll drop those silly charges. I mean, it’s the holidays and I admit I had no business* driving that crazy hot rod home I won in a Celebrity Poker Game at the Brass Balls Casino in Reno. But how could I have known the jalopy was stolen?  Really.  

The cops and insurance investigators ID’d it as Santa’s Souped-Up Sleigh* but the gambler (Melvin Dummar) I rooked called it Melba Toast. He said, “wanna know what Melba Toast is packin’, all right. We got 4:11 Positrac outback, 750 double-pumper Edelbrock intake, bored over 30,11 to 1 pop-up pistons, turbo-jet 390 horsepower. We're talkin' some fuckin' muscle …*” Hey man, the dude had carnal knowledge of the vehicle and the papers to prove it. What’s not to believe Whoville PD

While we all try to forget our miserable and or horrible * lives for a few brief eggnog-laden moments in time, my editors down at 7x7sf.com think now’s the time to gather all loyal followers of The Reel round the holiday campfire to shove one final batch of cinematic niblets down your movie hole. I know, I know, you’re stuffed to the gills, but my Top 5 Movies of the Year are so damn good, you have to (at least) try a taste …

Ultimate Bad Ass Picture of the Year

No Country for Old Men: Dir. Coens - The only film in 2007 that puts your soul in hazard’s way is a gut-wrenching noir Western thriller that begins and ends with Tommy Lee Jones, a disillusioned sheriff who can’t reckon the motives of a psychotic hit man who happily kills anyone in the way of recovering a lost briefcase full of drug money. This absolutely perfect movie belongs to Javier Bardem, a cold-blooded killing machine who lulls his victims to sleep with a strange Dutch-boy haircut then whacks them to hell with an air-compressed cattle gun. “What is he supposed to be, the ultimate bad ass?” Uh, yeah, something like that. If you’re into the film equivalent of a head-on collision with the Angel of Death, and have the cajones to Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moonlight, then tighten up your panties boy and check the Old Men out.

Best Supporting Ginsberg

I'm Not There
I'm Not There; courtesy of the Weinstein Company

I’m Not There: Dir. Haynes - A totally mod re-imagining of the legend and mystery surrounding the enigmatic career of Bob Dylan employs six actors (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett) in the title role during artsy-fartsy vignettes where Dylan plays to mythic reputation in several contrasting periods in his life. At one moment he’s a poet, a conscience and a moral referee, at other times he’s a preacher, a rock star and a threat to society—in any period, the picture shows Dylan was able to have a profound influence on the world without really trying. I’m Not There is a beautifully constructed cinematic meditation on the meaning of fame that’s worth seeing if you’re like me and into pondering your salvation with a gender-bending female Bob Dylan (Blanchette) and an angelic Allen Ginsberg (brilliantly played by David Cross).

Best Philip Seymour Hoffman

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead; courtesy of Thinkfilms

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead : Dir. Lumet – Who needs Dusty Hoffman when we’ve got Philip Seymour Hoffman, the best (and hardest working) actor in Hollywood tickling our cinematic fancy year-in-year-out? The man certainly kicked major ass all over the screen in 2007 with Oscar-worthy perfs in three movies (Devil, The Savages and Charlie Wilson’s War). But if you ask me, his best comes as Andy, the beautiful loser in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

What could possibly go wrong when two downtrodden brothers (PSH and Ethan Hawke) decide to hold up a mom-and-pop jewelry store? Er, what if the boys target a jewelry store literally owned by their mom and pop? …. And so it goes down the path to hell. A Shepard/Mament/Lumet blend of a heist flick crackles with enough black tar comedy and modern Greek tragedy to fill two narratives with stone-faced liars, killers and thieves. Despicable bully and shameless cheat, PSH steals the show as a beautiful loser that we somehow still love, sweaty failure and all.

Best Tattoo Design

Eastern Promises
Eastern Promises; courtesy of Focus Features

Eastern Promises: Dir. Cronenberg – While most movies, in the words of David Lynch, “pop and evaporate,” David Cronenberg films are like bowls of existential oatmeal that stick to the essence of your very soul. Eastern Promises is the latest batch of weird from the master director that is almost certain to keep your fingernails ground to bloody nubs. The brooding tale of dark secrets and bloody revenge follows the diary of a dead Russian prostitute as it travels through the seamy sides of London, moving from the hands of an innocent midwife (Naomi Watts) to the tatted-up mitts of a foot soldier for the Russian mob (Viggo Mortensen). If you’re a film savant like me who worships the “well-made-but-weird” genre, it’s time to swallow hard on a formula-subverting taste of Cronenberg’s latest cinematic ehew. You’ll thank me in the morning.

Comeback Director of the Year

Youth Without Youth
Youth Without Youth; courtesy of Sony Pictures

Youth Without Youth : Dir. Coppola – Francis’ first film in a decade is an under-the-radar art house masterpiece that will be worshipped by film nerds who have the mental capacity to follow the esoteric plot. If you have the little grey cells to keep up, go see Youth Without Youth, a fascinating Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque adventure that’s like a brainy Christmas Carol gone mad. As for the hook: when 70-year-old (Tim Roth) awakens after being struck by lightning, he find himself young (and smart again) and on a mission to develop a new language. Independently financed by Coppola's wine empire, Youth is a mind-bending journey of understanding where language and consciousness are flipped on end again and again. Sure, there’s no Search for the Holy Grail in this “thinking man’s” movie but there is Tim Roth speaking in tongues …

And scene … Guess what, Poppa H is on vacation till next year—woo hoo!  2007’s been real ya’ll, thanks for tuning into the Reel. Until next year, this is Poppa H signing off. Don’t listen to what that Kringle guy says, be bad and get into trouble baby . *

Volume 45 Footnotes*
•    “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder.
•     “He had no business, no business!!” – Parenthood (1989): Ron Howard’s brother heckles Steve Martin’s dorky Little League son after he drops a can of corn and loses the game for the home team.
•    “When you hear those rockets roar, you'll know Santa's on his way. But he'll be back again next year In his souped up Santa's sleigh!' – Melvin and Howard (1980): Heir Hoaxer Melvin Dummar forces vagrant billionaire Howard Hughes into singing for his supper all the way to Vegas.
•    “Let me tell you what Melba Toast is packin' right here, all right. We got 4:11 Positrac outback, 750 double pumper, Edelbrock intake, bored over 30, 11 to 1 pop-up pistons, turbo-jet 390 horsepower. We're talkin' some fuckin' muscle.” – Dazed and Confused (1993): Matthew McConaughey, as high school legend Wooderson, brags on his muscle car at the Emporium pool hall while burning a doob and nursing a Texas coolie.
•    “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That's the two categories. The horrible are like terminal cases, you know, blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else.” – Annie Hall (1977):  Woody (as Alvie Singer) waxes his life philosophy while breaking the 4th wall.
•    “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack.