I saw somewhere on the order of 60 movies that were released in 2007. This is somewhat lower than most critics, but higher than your average moviegoer. Also unlike most critics, I don’t consider this to be a spectacular year for film. For instance, I left several films off my 2006 list that would have been shoe-ins this year. If I were to take a more objective stance, limiting my picks to the movies with the best technical qualities, the list would be somewhat easier. But that’s a boring way to assemble a list and absolute objectivitiy is not possible in any case. Movies that really caught my attention and interested me were somewhat fewer this year. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies and there were a lot of good ones this year, but there were few movies that really clicked with me. As such, a lot of the top 10 could easily be exchanged with a movie from the Honorable Mention section. So without further ado:
Top 10 Movies of 2007
* In roughly reverse order
- Zodiac: This one barely makes it on this list. It’s one of the few early year releases that has made it on the list, and as such, it’s something I actually want to revisit. But of all the early year films I saw, I remember this being the most interesting and best made. If you know about the Zodiac killer, you know the ending won’t provide any real explanations (nor should it) as the killer was never caught in real life. As such, this does diminish some of the tension from the film. Still, director David Fincher has made an impeccable film. It’s not as showy or spectacular as his previous efforts. Stylistically, it’s rather straightforward, and yet, it’s a gorgeous film to look at, and Fincher does manage to imbue some tension throughout the film, which focuses more on the obsession of those trying to find the Zodiac than the Zodiac himself.
- Gone Baby Gone: It basically starts out as a straightforward crime thriller and mystery and those elements are very well done. But the ending introduces a moral dilemma that has no good answers. You can’t help but put yourself into the movie and think about what you would do in such a case, and to be honest, I don’t know what I’d do. I suppose I should mention that this is Ben Affleck’s directing debut, and he proves shockingly adept at doing so.
- The Bourne Ultimatum: A fantastic action film, and one of the few sequels worth it’s salt in a year of particularly bad sequels. Paul Greengrass’ infamous shaky camera is actually put to good use here, and the film also features good performances and great stuntwork. Some may be put off by the camera work, but when you look at a film like this, and then you look at a film like Transformers, you can see a huge difference in style and talent.
- Superbad: Hands down, the funniest movie of the year. I’m a sucker for raunchy humor with a heart, and this movie has that in spades. Great performances by Jonah Hill and the deadpan Michael Cera, as well as just about everyone else. Of all the movies on this list, this one probably has the most replay value, and is also probably the most quotable.
- Stardust: This might the most thoroughly enjoyable movie of the year. A great adventure film that evokes The Princess Bride (perhaps unfairly leading to comparisons) while asserting an identity of its own. In a year filled with dark, heavy-hitting dramas, it was nice to sit down to a well done fantasy film. Well directed with good performances (including an unusual turn by Robert DeNiro as a flamboyant pirate) and nice visuals, the real strength of this film is the story, which retains the fun feeling of a fantasy while skirting darker, edgier material.
- The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters: Documentary films don’t generally find much of an audience in theaters, but The King of Kong should be in every video game enthusiast’s Netflix queue. It delves into the rough and tumble world of competitive video gaming for classic games, particularly Donkey Kong, but it does so kinda like an inspirational sports film. You’ve got your lovable underdog who has never won anything in his life, and of course the villainous champion who looks down on the underdog and seeks to steal his thunder. It’s a great movie and highly recommended for video game fans.
- The Orphanage: Certainly the creepiest movie of the year. Though perhaps not exactly a horror film, it establishes a high level of tension all throughout the film, and the story, while a little odd, works pretty well too. A spanish language film that gets unfairly compaired to Pan’s Labyrinth, it is nonetheless worth watching for any fan of ghost stories.
- The Lives of Others: This film actually won the Oscar for best foreign-language film last year (beating out Pan’s Labyrinth – a surprise to me), so I might be cheating a bit, but it didn’t really have a theatrical release in the U.S. until 2007, so I’m putting it on this list. Set in East Germany during the Cold War, this film follows a Stasi agent who begins to feel for the subjects he’s surveiling. It doesn’t sound like much, and it’s not exactly action-packed, but it is quite compelling and one of the most powerful films of the year. All of the technical aspects of the film are brilliant, especially the script and the nuanced acting by Ulrich Mühe. This film would be amongst the top of any year’s list
- Grindhouse: I’m referring, of course, to the theatrical release of this film. I say this because a lot of critics like to separate the two features and heap praise on Tarantino’s Death Proof (which I’ll grant, is probably the better of the two, if I were forced to chose), but to me, nothing beats the full experience of the theatrical version. It starts out with a hilarious “fake” trailer, then moves into Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, an over=the-top zombie action film done in true grindhouse stile (missing reels and all). Following that we get three more absolutely brilliant fake trailers and Tarantino’s wonderful Death Proof. The films are dark, they’re edgy, and they’re probably not for everyone. In attempting to emulate 70s grindhouse cinema, the filmmakers have lovingly reproduced the tropes, some of which may bother audiences (particularly the awkward pacing of both features, which is actuall brilliance in disguise). It’s a crime that the theatrical version is not available on DVD. The double-billing was poorly advertised, so it looks like the studio opted to split the films up and give longer cuts of each their own DVD. Supposedly, a 6 disc boxed set containing everything is in the works.
- No Country for Old Men: The Coen brothers have outdone themselves. This is perhaps a boring pick, as this film is at or near the top of most top 10 lists, but that happened for a reason. It’s a great damn film. Gorgeous photography, tension-filled action, and that rare brand of dark humor that the Coens are so good at. It also features the most memorable and terrifying villain in years. The ending is uncompromising and ambiguous (which may turn some viewers off), but I found it quite appropriate. Of all the films this year, this one is best made and most entertaining (if a little dark), a combo that’s certainly difficult to pull off.
As I mentioned above, a lot of these honorable mentions would probably do fine for the bottom half of the top 10 (the top half is pretty strong, actually). In some cases, I really struggled with a lot of the below picks. If my mood were different, I bet some things would change. These are all good movies and worth watching too.
- Juno: This film could easily have made my top 10 list, and it’s the dark horse pick for the best picture oscar. Funny comedies that are also smart and clever are rare, and this is a wonderful example. Juno‘s too-cool-for-school hipster dialogue was definitely a turn off for portions of the film (particularly the beginning), but it sorta grows on you too, and by the end, you’re so involved in the story that it’s not noticeable. Of particular note here is Ellen Page’s brilliant performance as the title character and her parents, played ably by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. Michael Cera puts in another subdued performance, but hey, he’s great at that and it fits well.
More Info: [IMDB]
- Waitress: Yet another unexpected pregnancy movie (there were three this year, the others being Juno and Knocked Up). It’s a “chick flick” but I found that I really enjoyed it. Aside from the fact that nearly everyone in the movie is cheating on their partner, it’s really quite an endearing movie, and it’s very sad indeed that writer/director Adrienne Shelly will not be making any more films (she died shortly after production). Great performances by Keri Russel and Nathan Fillion (of Firefly/Serenity fame) and a nice turn by Andy Griffith as the crotchety-old-man-with-a-heart-of-gold.
- Rescue Dawn: Werner Herzog’s great film depicting a vietnam POW’s struggle for survival in the jungles of Vietnam could easily have made the top 10 (a lot of the films in the honorable mention could have). I’m not that familiar with Herzog, but after seeing this film, I’d definitely like to check out some of his older classics. Good performances by Christian Bale (one of the best of his generation) and Steve Zahn (who is normally relegated to comic relief, but doe a nice job in this dramatic role).
- Sunshine: Solid space-based science fiction is somewhat of a rarity these days (actually, SF in general seems to be), and this film manages to pull it off. It’s a little cliche-ridden (some good, some bad), but I really enjoyed tihs film, even the ending which seems to strike a lot of people the wrong way (I loved it). Good ensemble cast, wonderful high-contrast lighting and a decent story. Perhaps hot the greatest film, but there’s something to be said for a well executed genre film
- Ratatouille: Brad Bird is perhaps my favorite American animator working today, and this film really is a delight. It is, perhaps, not as seamless as his previous efforts (I was particularly taken with his last film, The Incredibles), but it’s still quite a good film. The story follows a rat who seems to have developed a talent for cooking. This rat eventually teams up with a young human guy so that they can elevate the cuisine at a famous French restaurant. It sounds silly, and well, it is I guess, but who cares? It’s fun. The one ironic bit is that the character of the rat is much more compelling than any of the human characters. There are a lot of nice touches in the movie, and I’m quite looking forward to Bird’s next project (whatever that might be).
- Michael Clayton: This slow-burning legal thriller was actually quite good. Helmed by Bourne collaborator Tony Gilroy, this film goes perhaps a little too far at times, but is otherwise a keenly constructed thriller. At times, it doesn’t seem like there’s really that much going on in the film, but Gilroy somehow manages to keep the pace high (a neat trick, that) and I did genuinely find myself surprised by the ending.
- There Will Be Blood: Amazing character study from director Paul Thomas Anderson. The first 20 minutes of the film are an outstanding exercise in breaking from tradition (there’s almost no dialogue, but it’s also compelling material and necessary for the story). The over-the-top ending is a little strange and leaves you wondering “Why?” but it’s also oddly appropriate. It’s one of those movies that has grown on me the more I think about it. Daniel Day Lewis gives an amazing performance (yeah, I’ll even give it to him considering the last 20 minutes of the movie) and director Anderson is at the top of his game. Oh, and I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!!! I DRINK IT UP!!!!!!
More Info: [IMDB]
- Eastern Promises: Well, the premise of this film isn’t all that exciting, but I found Viggo Mortensen’s performance riveting and his character provided most of the film’s interesting twists and turns. It’s worth watching because of him and his character, but it’s also a flawed film (especially in comparison to the other recent Cronenberg/Mortensen collaboration, A History of Violence).
- Hot Fuzz: Among the better comedies this year, Hot Fuzz is an effective action movie parody. While much of that is overt, there are some great subtle touches as well (particularly with respect to Simon Pegg’s peformance, as he evokes shades of Schwartzenegger in Predator or the T-1000 in T2). Ultimately, the story devolves into something rather stupid, which puts this a peg below Shaun of the Dead (which was made by the same filmmaking team), but it’s still quite entertaining.
- Black Book: Despite the involvement of Paul Verhoeven (whome I generally dislike except in rare exceptions), this turns out to be one of the more involving historical thrillers that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s not a profound journey, but it’s got some wonderful pot-boileresque elements and it managed to pull me in to the story, which was complex and well done.
Should have seen:
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
- Into the Wild
- The Savages
- The Kite Runner
- Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- The Lookout
- Southland Tales
Well there you have it. A little late, but I made it. That just about wraps up the Kaedrin movie awards, hope you enjoyed them. I don’t know if I’ll do another Top 10 Box Office Performance analysis, but if I do, it probably won’t be for a little while (that actually might make it a little more accurate too)