This was my first full year working Cinema Blend as my sole pursuit, and as a result I saw more movies than I’ve ever seen in any year before. I think it ended up being around 130. That’s not an exact number, I lost track somewhere around October. It’s still not nearly as much as, for instance, Richard Roeper’s new sidekick AO Scott. He claims to have seen 640, but then he doesn’t have an entire website to run. He only has to show up at screenings and then head home to write about it. Try doing that in addition to writing a couple hundred news stories a month, while battling advertisers, scripting errors, and server managers; then get back to me.
Overall though, I’m happy with the length and breadth of films I saw this year. I caught almost everything that was heavily touted, a lot of films that were not, and plenty of movies that I just wanted to see. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to meet Optimus Prime in person and give him a big, fanboy hug. If I had, maybe he’d have made it on this list.
Looking over my top ten, I’m surprised by the complete absence of middle-east related movies on it. There were so many this year, you’d think at least one of them would wind up being good, even by accident. I guess I liked The Kingdom
, but not enough to put it here.
What you will find in my obligatory top ten list for 2007 are the movies I saw and liked best. Some critics stack their lists, allowing themselves only one mainstream movie or requiring themselves to put at least one foreign language film. Others make a weird differentiation between their favorite films and the year’s best films, as a way of listing mainstream movies they liked while still seeming respectable. Well screw that. This isn’t that kind of a top ten list, and I've never really been respectable anyway. This is my list, and here it is:
Directed By: Michael Moore Starring: Michael Moore
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I am not normally a fan of Michael Moore. People who haven’t seen Sicko often assume that if you like anything the guy does, you must be some sort of slavering Moore acolyte, the Michael Moore equivalent of Rush Limbaugh’s Dittoheads, or whatever he’s calling his sheep this week. Not me. In fact, before Sicko, I kind of hated Moore. Not necessarily for his politics, but for his tactics, which in recent years often seemed more like blatant, manipulative propaganda than actual documentary filmmaking. But with Sicko he gets back to being what he was earlier in his career, a wry commentator on a corrupt system who’s just out there fighting for the little guy. And fight he does. Sicko is a brilliant, foundation shaking film with important things to say not just about America’s crumbling healthcare system, but about the rampant corruption of our system as a whole. Perhaps even more importantly, it delivers all of that in a way that’s incredibly entertaining, funny, witty, sarcastic, and heartwarming. It’s not just a documentary about the problems faced by every person living in the United States; it’s a complete story full of laughter, tears, celebration, and bitter heartache which rings true precisely because it’s the story of me and you. Sicko isn’t just the most important movie of the year, it’s the best.
Best Moment: Moore attempts to find somewhere to pay in a British hospital, only to find the hospital’s lonely cashier behind a window in the basement refunding cab fare.
CB Quote: "Sicko is a desperately important film, one which is less concerned with telling you who to vote for than it is with simply getting you to wake up, see through the bullshit, and step out of line." [CB Review]
2. The Lookout
Directed By: Scott Frank Written By: Scott Frank Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher, Alex Borstein, Matthew Goode, Greg Dunham, Carla Gugino
It blew me away at the SXSW film festival early in the year, and The Lookout has stuck with me ever since. Writer/director Scott Frank’s script is substantive, complex, and smart; an utterly engrossing, edge-of-your seat thriller. It’s a perfect film with incredible, best of the year performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels. Together they form their own skewed version of the dream team, Levitt a kid with brain damage and memory issues and Daniels a man with no sight. It could have turned into some sort of colossal, gimmicky joke but Levitt and Daniels make these characters incredibly deep and shockingly real. Few had the sense to see it back when it was released in March and critics seem to have forgotten it exists in the wave of this year’s late-year Oscar bait, but The Lookout deserves it’s spot at number two and both Levitt and Daniels deserve Oscars, even though they’ll never get them.
Best Moment: Lewis pumps Chris for information about his new girlfriend in a darkened bedroom. Lewis: “You know, here I am, sitting at home alone every night while you're out getting blown and God knows what else by Luvlee something, who probably has a friend, and what, you don't introduce me?”
CB Quote: “With deliciously complex characters and an interesting plot that stems from those characters instead of centering around a simple gimmick, The Lookout is a brilliantly told story.” [CB Review]
3. The Bourne Ultimatum
Directed By: Paul Greengrass Written By: Tony Gilroy, Tom Stoppard, Scott Burns, Paul Attanasio Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez
The Bourne Ultimatum isn’t just a great action movie, it’s the action movie. The best ass-kicker of the year and unquestionably one of the best ever made. The bar has been raised for the action/spy genre and things will never be the same. Director Paul Greengrass never lets up, jamming his film with unstoppable waves of energy and insanity which crash ceaselessly against the screen to the beat of Ultimatum’s relentless soundtrack. The action just keeps flowing, and Matt Damon keeps moving in a steady, straight line throughout the film, crashing through obstacle and avoiding pursuers in a rhythmic dance of carefully planned destruction. Damon’s performance is largely silent, but there’s substance to the character. Unlike most spy movies we’re not after some sort of treasure or piece of information. Jason Bourne is fighting for his memories and his life. Aside from the action, Jason Bourne’s story has layers and history, all of which is used to serve the purpose of getting you to care for the character. And care I did. Jason Bourne is a living weapon, but also a breathing, feeling weapon who I loved rooting for more than anyone else this year.
Best Moment: Jason Bourne gets creative with a book.
CB Quote: "Greengrass and Damon deliver on a movie packed with more “holy shit did that just happen” moments than you can shake a sub-machine gun at." [CB Review]
4. Stephen King’s The Mist
Directed By: Frank Darabont Written By: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Frances Sternhagen, Nathan Gamble, Jeffrey DeMunn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Sadler, Andre Braugher
Combining Frank Darabont with the works of Stephen King continues to make magic happen with this, Darabont’s fourth King adaptation. Darabont is quite simply a master when it comes to finding the carefully hidden, gooey, emotional center of men. He knows what makes guys cry and predictably, The Mist left me a mess of emotion. By the time I walked out I was wrecked and on arriving home I found myself in need of a stiff drink. What sets it apart from run of the mill horror fare is Darabont’s ability to develop characters we identify with, and his insistence on making the film about more than just scary monsters hiding in the fog. By the end of the movie, it’s clear that there’s something even more frightening that whatever screaming beasties there are lurking outside the store in which David Drayton and his son are hiding, and that something is trapped inside the store with him. The Mist connects in a way few other films did this year. It’s a brilliantly smart, unflinching, character driven horror film that absolutely rocked me to the core.
Best Moment: “Shut up, you miserable buzzard! Stoning people who piss you off is perfectly okay. They do it in the Bible, don't they? And I got lots of peas!”
CB Quote:"Frank Darabont earns a living making grown men cry, and there’s no one better at it." [CB Review]
5. The Namesake
Directed By: Mira Nair Written By: Sooni Taraporevala
Starring: Kal Penn, Tabu, Irfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, Zuleikha Robinson
It took me until late in the year to get around to seeing director Mira Nair’s decades spanning immigrant drama, but it was worth the wait. Amazing, restrained, subtle performances from Irfan Khan as Ashoke and Tabu as Ashima make it one of the year’s best movies. Immigrant stories are fairly common, but never has one been told with such a delicate touch. It’s the tale of two people, thrust together through an arranged marriage in a strange country, living together raising kids together, and in their own way falling in love as they age together. Even Kal Penn is great here, the usually comedic actor is a force as Ashoke and Ashima’s son Gogol. But it’s Irfan Khan and Tabu that really make this deceptively simple, beautifully filmed family epic a must see.
Best Moment: Gogol’s father tells him the truth about why he chose his name.
CB Quote: "Worth seeing for its unflinching depiction of family hardships and stunning cinematography." [CB Review]
6. Knocked Up
Directed By: Judd Apatow Written By: Judd Apatow
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr
Judd Apatow’s last directorial effort, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, already ranks as one of my favorite movies of all time. With Knocked Up, he’s solidified his position as one of the most brilliant, all-around filmmakers working in Hollywood. Sure his movies are funny, but there’s so much more to them than that. Apatow’s movies have a magical way of connecting to with the things people are really thinking and feeling, but more often than not, are too afraid to say. I liked Knocked Up from the first moment I saw it back in March at SXSW, but it was only after repeat viewings later on in the year, dragging friends and family to see it, that I truly fell in love with it. Knocked Up is a real rarity, a movie about pregnancy told from the guy’s point of view. It gets guys, and says so much while getting laughs because most of the movie’s best humor comes from people simply talking honestly. Bow down to Apatow, he’s done it again.
Best Moment: Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd do shrooms while exploring their feelings and the furniture in a Las Vegas hotel room.
CB Quote: "Thanks to Apatow’s delightfully complex characters and hilariously irreverent approach to the subject matter, Knocked Up runs the chance of being one of the most brilliant comedies of the decade. " [CB Review]
7. No Country For Old Men
Directed By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen Written By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald
2007 was the year the Coen brothers returned to being the Coen brothers. In the rear view mirror is that crummy movie where they dressed Tom Hanks up as Colonel Sanders and in the limelight is No Country For Old Men, a return to the Fargo-era Coens we used to know and love. No Country is a smart crime thriller about smart people making smart decisions… and still sometimes ending up dead. So often crime movies depend on people doing something stupid or making some sort of error, but that’s not the case here. Instead, we get good and evil pitted against each other at the height of their powers, and good being rendered helpless simply by wrote of being good. Josh Brolin runs away with the film as Llewelyn Moss, a brooding, sly, redneck MacGuyver being pursued by an assassin named Anton who can only be described as absolute evil incarnate. In the background Tommy Lee Jones works magic, as an elderly Sheriff involved in a case that may be over his head.
Best Moment: The gas station coin toss.
CB Quote: "The Coen’s seem to get what Texas is all about, and their dark journey through the heart of the Lone Star State is as gritty and real as it gets." [CB Review]
8. There Will Be Blood
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O'Connor, Ciarán Hinds, Dillon Freasier
There Will Be Blood is almost unrecognizable as a PT Anderson film, it’s such a complete and total departure from his other work. While I can’t wait to have the PT Anderson of Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love back, there’s no denying that this much more bleak, barren Anderson vision is pretty special. It rests almost entirely on the shoulders of Daniel Day-Lewis, who achieved transcendence in extreme, mustachioed close-ups as damaged, driven, and sometimes deranged turn of the century oil baron Daniel Planview. The movie’s stark and filled with long stretches of silence, but because of Day-Lewis it’s absolutely hypnotic.
Best Moment: Daniel responds to preacher Eli Sunday’s demand for money by kicking the shit out of him.
CB Quote: "It works in large part because of PT Anderson’s outside the box method of directing and because of Daniel Day Lewis, who gives one of the best performances of the year." [CB Review]
9. Eagle Vs. Shark
Directed By: Taika Waititi Written By: Taika Waititi
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Loren Horsley, Craig Hall, Rachel House, Brian Sergent
This is another one I fell in love with early on in the year at SXSW, and that’s just sort of stuck with me. It’s not a perfect film, I could have done without so many of the cutsey stop-motion bookends for instance, but I love the way writer/director Taika Waitit refuses to let his characters conform. It’s the beautiful story of out of place, completely dorky people who get together and absolutely do not become cool. He remains true to her incredibly well written characters by letting them stay true to themselves, and the movie benefits from it. I was especially blown away by the way he handles the film’s female lead Lily, and the way New Zealander Loren Horsley portrays her. Shy and uncomplaining, Lily says little but somehow says everything. Horsley gives without a doubt the best, and most overlooked female performance of the year. The film is such a contrast to something like Juno, where the whole thing seems so who’s desperate to be hip. If anything, Eagle vs. Shark, is desperate to be un-hip. It’s a movie about gleefully, genuinely dorky people and not people who are only geeky because it’s fashionable to wear awkward looking yellow headbands and be into indie-rock. These are characters that the Taika Waititi genuinely loves, and he doesn’t give a damn about playing to the cool kids. Me too Taika. Me too.
Best Moment: Lily lets Jarrod beat her in his videogame tournament.
CB Quote: "Eagle Vs. Shark celebrates these characters and the fact that they dare to be different; it’s essentially a crinkled love note to people who don’t quite fit." [CB Review]
10. I Am Legend
Directed By: Francis Lawrence Written By: Mark Protosevich, Akiva Goldsman Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Willow Smith, Charlie Tahan
I Am Legend is an amazing accomplishment for a big-budget, Hollywood blockbuster. This is a Will Smith movie after all, but it refuses to pander to the mainstream soccer mom crowd by watering down its desperately lonely, melancholy story. I knew Smith could act, he’s just never done it in a blockbuster before. Here though, he at last casts aside his wisecracking persona to deliver the heart wrenching portrayal of someone who is truly, and finally alone. Director Francis Lawrence’s movie is uncompromising and haunting, solitary and hopeless, yet thrilling and full of gigantic Hollywood set pieces. The movie is so good, that I’m even willing to forgive the ending, which, falls short of perfection only because the film should have gone on longer. I Am Legend’s only real sin is in being so good that I wanted more of it.
Best Moment: Robert Neville is snared in a copycat of one of his own traps.
CB Quote: "The movie takes chances, assuming its audience is up for more than ear-splitting explosions, zombie retreads, and happy, catchphrase laden endings; even if this is an effects heavy, tentpole Holiday pic." [CB Review]
Great films that didn't make the cut:
3:10 to Yuma,
Black Snake Moan,
30 Days of Night,
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,
The Brave One,
Talk to Me,
Reign Over Me,
The Simpsons Movie,
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,
Just in case you were wondering:
Southland Tales was the worst film of 2007. Also the most pretentious and most disappointing.
For all of Cinema Blend's Best of 2007 coverage click here!