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January 16th, 2008

Hollywood in 2007

Has anyone else noticed that most of the best American films of 2007 were incredibly misanthropic? Whether it was the eponymous character of Sweeney Todd belting out a song with the line "They all deserve to die!", or Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood confessing his loathing for the human race, these films often had a gleeful in-your-face hatred that I couldn't recall seeing before, at least not in protagonists. In Zodiac and No Country for All Men, the misanthropy might be most obviously expressed by a killer, but it seems to rub off on the heroes, leaving them drained by the end.

It's also worth noting that these films all have a great deal of energy. Unlike, for example, a recent spate of Hong Kong films which were slow and grim, these movies verge on being downright exhilarating. Apparently it's fun to tell people you hate them all.

With the exception of Sweeney Todd, these are all very American films, with American settings and characters, and they are made by the last of the great American film directors (David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Tim Burton...only David Lynch is missing).

So what's going on here? It would seem that our best filmmakers are telling us that we've become a people in love with our own hate. Certainly many of us have developed some misanthropy over the last few years, as we've seen our nation fall under the control of a regime that seems to glorify stupidity. I suppose it was inevitable that our films would express that.

I wonder what the post-election crop will look like. Will we see Tim Burton return to the kooky optimism of Ed Wood? Will PTA come back to the giddy enterprise of Boogie Nights?

It will be interesting to see. In the meantime, I for one am digging these movies and letting my secret misanthropist come out to play a little.