What is perhaps most interesting about both of them is the light each sheds on its chosen form. Jesse James is a formally experimental Western in which James is both the outlaw and the gunslinger, creating Bob Ford to kill himself and rid the West of his own barbarity. (Needless to say, this is a myth. So is the whole movie, a glorious myth complete with sacred king killing. The legends and the printing and the glavin.)
In King of Kong, meanwhile, the story presented is so trite, so cliche, so obvious (should it need repeating, none of these are necessarily drawbacks), that like all great documentaries it calls into question the whole epistemology of narrative -- is the truth really that fictional? Do we perceive the True Fiction behind reality, or do we pattern-match Reality until recognizable fictions emerge? And if the latter, why is it always the same damn fiction?
Jesse James should also get huge thumbs up for the sound mixing and sound design -- neglected for some odd reason by the Oscars, which here's hoping get cancelled, or at least drown everyone involved in their own scabby flop-sweat.
Which leads ineluctably to the Top Ten 2007 Films I Saw:
No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Shoot 'Em Up, American Gangster, The King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Die Hard 4: Live Free Or Die Hard, Sunshine, and 300.
The Next Best Ten:
The Bourne Ultimatum, Grindhouse, Paris je t'aime, The Mist, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, 28 Weeks Later, Alpha Dog, Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.
Despite the real drop-off right around number 14-15, the startlingly high quality of 2007 as a film year can perhaps be judged by the Pirates of the Caribbean slip. Though not appreciably worse than the second installment, Pirates 3 is only the 21st-best 2007 film I saw in 2007, where Pirates 2 made it up to 14th-best in last year's list.
Or you can judge 2007's cinematic puissance by the Ten Best 2007 Films I Haven't Managed To See Yet: Persepolis, Rescue Dawn, The Darjeeling Limited, Michael Clayton, I'm Not There, Helvetica, My Kid Could Paint That, Juno, Ratatouille, and Lust, Caution, which gets the tenth spot mostly because it's easier to punctuate clearly there. (That's why I left the comma out of Paris, je t'aime, at thirteenth place above.) I strongly suspect that a lot of those will belong in my top ten when all is said and done.