Monday, December 31, 2007

The Best of 2007

So in a few hours, the year will have drawn to a close, and it was a pretty great one for movies. Though every one on this list deserves mention, like every year, there's one or two that deserve mention above all the rest, and this year, that's my #1 and #2. Last year had numerous movies I loved, but "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Children of Men" were clear the two that really MATTERED, and similarly, this year's efforts from the Coens and PTA were the big kahunas. This year, I've allowed my list to go on past my top 10 (it sprawls down to forty), just in case anyone was curious. What's most apparent is that my list is particularly testosterone heavy this year, and for that I apologize-- my top 5 in particular is an especially violent group of films. Just to clarify, it wasn't intentional, it just so happened that my favorite movies this year happened to have vicious subjects.

And also, in the performance categories, I've gone with ten "nominees" instead of five, and it was tough just to get it down to ten. George Clooney, James McAvoy, Ellen Page and Johnny Depp are just some who nearly made it but regrettably had to go. Anyway, it's with a wistful sigh that I say goodbye to 2007 and we re-enter the dog days of January, complete with "One Missed Call" and the like. Looking at the spring release schedule, I can only spot six movies I'm even a little bit excited about: "Cloverfield," "In Bruges," "Be Kind Rewind," "Funny Games," "Stop-Loss" and "Leatherheads." Eh, nonetheless, Happy New Year.

1. "No Country for Old Men"

At this point, it's almost an eye-rolling foregone conclusion that someone names "No Country for Old Men" their #1 movie of 2007, but there's a reason for that: this really is filmic perfection. Aside from just the astonishing mastery of the craft involved, the Coen Brothers give us an enormously sad lament of society going to shit, filled with amazing moments of intensity, pitch-perfect metaphor and one of the most viscerally frightening screen monsters ever. "No Country" singlehandedly puts to rest any doubt that the Coens aren't the most talented filmmakers working today.

2. "There Will Be Blood"

Whenever Paul Thomas Anderson decides to give us a new movie, it's a cause for celebration, and at seemingly the last second of 2007, he gave us yet another triumph. An epic portrait of a turn-of-the-century oil man consumed by greed and misanthrophy, Anderson gives us just enough to titillate and fascinate but not enough to feel like we have the man nailed down. Featuring the most memorable sequences of any movie this year, as well as the best (and most conversation-inspiring) ending, "There Will Be Blood" features more ambition in a single minute than most movies have in their entirety.

3. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

Coming out of nowhere, writer-director Andrew Dominik produced a lyrically tragic, fascinatingly strange western that had the tenacity to depict one-note historical figures with complexity, and create a disturbing game of one-upmanship with unequivocal beauty and ambiguity. Abandoned by its studio, the film is destined to find an audience of cineastes years down the line, but those with an open mind will be infinitely rewarded. Equipped with a glorious score and two of the best performances of the year, "Jesse James" was too long for some, but left a haunting impression on me that lingered for days.

4. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Anyone who's ever met me knows the extent of my unhealthy obsession with Stephen Sondheim's musical "Sweeney Todd," and how much it means to me. So, when anticipating Tim Burton's film adaptation of the show, I figured, at worst he would fuck it up a lot, and at best he would only half-fuck it up. It was to my great relief and surprise that Burton didn't fuck it up at all, and never allows his macabre production design fetish to overwhelm the lyrical beauty of Sondheim's music and the inherent awful tragedy at the story's core. Sure, he may underplay the humor a bit too much and Helena Bonham Carter's singing voice may render certain lyrics unintelligible, but all the important stuff was retained and myself, and many Sondheim fans, were grateful.

5. "Zodiac"

Simultaneously maddening and electrifying, David Fincher's nearly-three-hour procedural documented four men's obsession with the Zodiac murders until it consumed them. For a film that is ultimately "Case Files: The Movie," Fincher keeps things remarkably well-paced and consistently fascinating. It's a testament to the filmmaking, and the exhausting attention to detail, that, even knowing the real-life outcome, you could be forgiven for getting your hopes up with each new suspect or piece of evidence. Dumped by Paramount in March (and marketed by them as a horror movie), "Zodiac" has remained sadly unheralded at year's end by anyone except the great Manohla Dargis. Despite a story that culminated in one of history's all-time unsatisfying endings, it's difficult to imagine any true lover of cinema not getting wrapped in what Fincher's woven here. At the very least, you'll never be able to hear "Hurdy Gurdy Man" the same way again.

6. "Ratatouille"

After disappointing with last year's "Cars," Pixar, armed with a borderline-brilliant screenplay and outstanding voice work from Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garafalo, and especially Peter O'Toole, regained their animation crown this year. Dispelling the idea that animated films can't be more than "cute" and serving as yet another reminder that Brad Bird is one of the great directors working right now, and not just in the animated world, "Ratatouille" took inspired storytelling to a whole new level. Not only saying substantive things about striving for greatness and the principles of artistic creation, "Ratatouille," more than anything, just makes me astoundingly happy each time I watch it.

7. "Once"

John Carney's Irish musical romance (budgeted at $150,000) would be impressive alone for boasting the best soundtrack of the year (by far) , but it also has the emotional nuance and offhand charm to go with it at every turn. Telling the simple, sweet story of a week-long relationship between two nameless people with a shared passion for music, "Once" makes your heart alternately swoon and break and does it effortlessly.

8. "The Darjeeling Limited"

Okay, so Wes Anderson may not feel up to trying radically different things aesthetically, but that doesn't mean it's not a pleasure to watch his latest. While his old familiar quirks are all here, there's a real definition and love for the characters here that was missing his last time out, and in several ways, I'd say this is Anderson's most mature work to date. Despite the light feeling and whimsy on display, there's weighty stuff being dealt with here, and it's a surprisingly difficult film to shake.

9. "The Mist"

Based on Stephen King's novella, Frank Darabont's nasty little horror flick delivered frighteningly grotesque creatures and even more frightening humans while raising provocative questions about how people react in times of crisis. While there was gore a plenty, "The Mist" was significantly(and refreshingly) more reliant upon atmosphere and character building than "boo" scares or carnage, and Darabont kept things perpetually clever, nerve-wracking and unpredictable. All of which leads up to an ending that is equally shocking and deeply unsettling.

10. "Gone Baby Gone"

Everyone officially has to apologize to Ben Affleck. In his directorial debut, Affleck delivered (from Denis Lehane's novel) one of the more gripping, surprising crime thrillers I've seen and filled it with terrific performances, tough moral questions and a stunner of an ending. Set in Affleck's native Boston, the beantown on display here feels realer and more intimidating than the one on display in last year's "Departed," and casts a suitable layer of grime over the quietly powerful and devastating content at its core.

11. Hot Fuzz
12. The Host
13. Rocket Science
14. The Bourne Ultimatum
15. Away From Her
16. This is England
17. No End in Sight
18. Sicko
19. Black Snake Moan
20. Southland Tales

21. Year of the Dog
22. The Savages
23. Eastern Promises
24. Lars and the Real Girl
25. Grindhouse
26. Bug
27. The Simpsons Movie
28. The Orphanage
29. Hairspray
30. Persepolis

31. Knocked Up
32. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
33. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
34. Sunshine
35. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
36. Into the Wild
37. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
38. Michael Clayton
39. Juno
40. Charlie Wilson's War


1. Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
2. Ryan Gosling, "Lars and the Real Girl"
3. Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
4. Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"
5. Chris Cooper, "Breach"
6. Brad Pitt, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
7. Samuel L. Jackson, "Black Snake Moan"
8. Adam Sandler, "Reign Over Me"
9. Reece Daniel Thompson, "Rocket Science"
10. Sam Rockwell, "Joshua"


1. Laura Linney, "The Savages"
2. Nicole Kidman, "Margot at the Wedding"
3. Tang Wei, "Lust, Caution"
4. Ashley Judd, "Bug"
5. Molly Shannon, "Year of the Dog"
6. Helena Bonham Carter, "Sweeney Todd"
7. Belen Rueda, "The Orphanage"
8. Marion Cotillard, "La Vie En Rose"
9. Sienna Miller, "Interview"
10. Julie Christie, "Away From Her"


1. Peter O'Toole, "Ratatouille"
2. Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
3. Robert Downey, Jr., "Zodiac"
4. Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
5. J.K Simmons, "Juno"
6. Ed Harris, "Gone Baby Gone"
7. Mark Ruffalo, "Reservation Road"
8. Kurt Russell, "Grindhouse"
9. Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
10. Samuel L. Jackson, "Resurrecting the Champ"


1. Kelly MacDonald, "No Country for Old Men"
2. Marcia Gay Harden, "The Mist"
3. Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
4. Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
5. Allison Janney, "Juno"
6. Leslie Mann, "Knocked Up"
7. Samantha Morton, "Control"
8. Catherine Keener, "Into the Wild"
9. Sigourney Weaver, "The TV Set"
10. Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"


Blogger JS said...

How cool. You also included Peter O'Toole's performance in Ratatouile. It was the first supporting performance that entered my "favorites" for 2007. :)

1:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your nominations are hot.

11:18 PM  

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