Monday, January 21, 2008

Sombrero Grande's Best 'n' Worst o' '07

Following my lead from last year when I chose to highlight just one "Best" and "Worst" DVD of the year, I now present to you the clearest triumph and grossest bungling I witnessed cinematically this year. Let's begin with the good, shall we?

Ratatouille ranks among Pixar’s best films, and with a catalog like Pixar’s that’s really saying something. In Ratatouille, Pixar served up a fresh and new multi-layered story, chocked full of engrossing performances (both vocal and animated) and coated with a lustrous eye-catching glaze that actually managed to achieve tasty-looking CGI food! The climactic moment of the film comes down to a very tiny thing--the mere tasting of an item--yet the result is so simply, brilliantly and elegantly executed that it actually brought a tear to my eye and proved to be the single most memorable cinematic moment of the year for me. While it may not ensnare the attention of small kids as easily as Finding Nemo or Cars, like Ratatouille's writer/director Brad Bird's other Pixar film, The Incredibles, this story skews older and is targeted more to the adult kids-at-heart in the audience than the little rugrats. This is one to savor with or without kids around.

For the worst movie I saw in all of 2007, we remain in the flavor of cooking, but in a vastly different setting. From a gourmet restaurant in Paris we head to a little taco shop in New Mexico for a cinematic meal sure to leave you heaving in the bathroom for the rest of the night.

Offensively awful, and I'm not just talking about the blasphemous portrayal of Jesus at the end of the film, Tortilla Heaven is an excruciatingly ineptly-made movie that appears like either a grossly overblown student film or a Hallmark movie of the week that just happens to feature swearing and nudity (I can't decide which as it seems to present the worst of both worlds). It's the story of a small restaurant owner in a tiny town who one day serves up a tortilla with the face of Jesus miraculously baked right in. Sloppy, one-dinemsional characters, brainless cinematic gestures and hackneyed scripting abounds as the story plods its way along to a predictable yet still bizarre conclusion. The only laugh to be had in this “comedy” comes late in the film when the audience is shown an obviously hand-scrawled (in black marker!) construction company sign taped to the side of a bulldozer. Not since the paper star on the side of the sheriff’s car in the blaxploitation classic The Human Tornado has the world of cinema been subject to this level of production design, people.

While Tortilla Heaven feels more like cinematic damnation, Ratatouille is a feature to savor. Both are works stemming from a single writer/director, and both revolve around food and cooking, but only one will leave you satisfied and happy while the other will make you sorry you ever tried it.


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