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January 7, 2008


Top Movies of 2007

Rose McGowan, 2007 icon, Grindhouse

We had a few big stand-outs this year, and a whole bunch of memorable movies that I loved despite their flaws. This list could be about 20 movies long, but I've gotten it down to a rough approximation of a Top 10 list.

There are a couple of movies that came out in the last few days of 2007 that I haven't seen yet and aren't included, but that's what happens when you're not a real movie critic and don't get advance screenings to help you get your list out in December. I learned recently that real movie critics in other cities solve the problem of movies that open in NY and LA in December, but don't get to their city until January by just including those movies in their list for the following year (example: Memphis' alternative weekly paper--they liked Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth this year.) I just do what I can with what I got.

These aren't strictly ranked. A few of the best movies of the year were:

No Country For Old Men
Just about a perfect movie, completely engrossing and tense. The Coen Brothers and the cast somehow made Cormac McCarthy and his squinting, tough-guy characters funny at times. Javier Bardem and his pneumatic piston gun thing was the coolest movie weapon since Uma's Hanzo sword in Kill Bill. Some of Tommy Lee Jones' voiceover musings about the nature of evil toward the end could have been cut, but that's my only complaint. Also: the main character dies offscreen and the movie doesn't pause even for a second. You sure don't see that everyday.

There Will Be Blood
Emily predicted that this movie would be Boogie Nights, but with oil instead of porn, and she was pretty much right. If you take the Boogie Nights scene where Mark Wahlberg is out of his mind on cocaine and storms out to the pool angrily demanding to start shooting a scene right now, and the scene where Mark Wahlberg and his posse try to buy/steal drugs from the Rick Springfield-loving Alfred Molina while that weird guy walks around the living room lighting firecrackers and throwing them in the air, then make those scenes way more violent, blood-thirsty, and totally fucking nuts, that's what There Will Be Blood is like. Completely disturbing and really great. I am just going to assume that Daniel Day-Lewis knows how funny he is while he lurches around the screen as a megalomaniacal sociopath, getting crazier by the second. Because the audience was howling.

I'm Not There
By far the most creative of the musical biopics of the past few years. My favorite segments were the wonderboy blues guitarist riding the rails and pretending to be someone he's not, big-time rockstar Cate Blanchett having a meltdown, and especially Christian Bale's frizzy-headed pentecostal performance of "Pressing On". I'm not any kind of Bob Dylan fan, but this movie goes beyond fandom, and way beyond the hammy celebrity impersonation that has been so popular with the Academy in recent years. But OK: what the hell was up with the Richard Gere section? If anyone can explain to me why his old west town was populated by circus performers, I will give you one US dollar.

It's too bad that so few people took advantage of what Grindhouse had to offer: a big, noisy, messy double-feature of fun, goofball action movies, with what is clearly the most iconic image of 2007 (see photo above.) Now that the two movies were ripped apart for DVD, just like Kill Bill was for the theater (goddammit), you have to rent them separately to watch what was intended to be seen in one straight shot. I was a little disappointed in Quentin Tarantino's betrayal of the cheap-o sleazy aesthetic of real grindhouse movies--using all that clever dialogue and thoughtful character development made the critics like his movie better than Rodriguez's, who stuck to the original formula better. Even if QT did cheat a little, I could have sat there and watched Rosario and her friends chat in the diner all day long. Plus: the trailer reels, the car chase at the end, and Kurt Russell's beguiling evil sneer. Awesome.

Black Snake Moan
The weirdest movie about compassion, kindness, and redemption I've ever seen. It will be remembered forever as the movie where Samuel L. Jackson chained Christina Ricci to his radiator, but the truth is, sometimes what a character needs most in the world is for someone to chain them to a radiator. The three main characters (chainer, chainee, and Justin Timberlake) are seriously flawed and have all kinds of messed-up diagnosable psychoses, but by the end have started to figure out how to live their lives and be happy anyway. The acting is unreal. I can hardly believe that this movie is so good at addressing such wholesome, feel-good themes, but man, it really is.

And some others:

There were other very funny movies that came out this year, but Superbad is one of the funniest movies that has ever come out, ever. I find that it holds up to multiple viewings, especially if you take the number of times you have already seen it, and have that number of drinks (or, if you're me, twice that number of drinks) before you watch it again. The most impressive thing about this movie might be that the whole world already knew the "McLovin" joke from seeing the trailer a bunch of times, and they somehow still managed to make it funny for the entire duration of the movie.

The Lives of Others
This movie is really good when it focuses on the unintentional complications of secret surveillance. Watching the Stasi agent grow interested in his subjects, and become aware of the corruption at the heart of the state he works for, were the best parts. Some of the plot points were clumsy and contrived, but the agent's quiet, unrewarded insertion into his subjects' lives was smart and believable.

Into the Wild
The great friendships that the self-styled grizzly boy makes along the way to getting annihilated by nature make it hard to believe that he really thought he could find The Truth out in the woods by himself. Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook are both so fantastic and appealing in this movie, I wish we didn't have to spend so much time with the misguided teenage main character, who keeps missing what's really important until it's too late.

And a bunch of other ones I liked:

Eastern Promises
I love how, even when he makes a fairly straightforward crime-thriller about the Russian mob, when you get to the scene where a guy gets his throat cut and the camera lingers for a solid 6 or 7 seconds on a close, steady shot of blood gushing out of the wound while the victim gurgles and sputters helplessly, you remember you're watching a David Cronenberg movie.

An unapologetic chick-flick, but a sincere, unpretentious, and sweet chick-flick that made me want to eat pie. RIP Adrienne Shelly.

Michael Clayton
Probably as good a legal thriller as you're gonna get. George Clooney is driven and intense like he's always good at playing, but Tilda Swinton sitting in the bathroom stall with huge armpit stains, hyperventilating, is the image that stays with me.

Southland Tales
Freakiest movie yet about where the world is headed post-Iraq. Buffy singing "Teen Horniness Is Not A Crime" and Justin Timberlake pouring beer over his head while dancing with a line of Busby Berkeley skee-ball lovelies were some of my favorite moments all year.

The Bourne Ultimatum
Nothing clever to say about it. The latest Bourne was awesome.

Some movies that I haven't gotten around to seeing yet but if I had, might be on this list:

Away From Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Persepolis, and No End In Sight. They all sound really good.

Not on the list:

I didn't include Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, because with that cast, there is just no excuse for this movie not to be incredibly great. Somehow it all added up to less than the sum of its parts. I loved the scenes in the cleanest shooting gallery in New York, and the scene of Philip Seymour Hoffman trashing his apartment in slow-motion. Other than that, eh.

Juno had some wonderful moments, but was a little too precious for me, I hated the soundtrack, and the dialogue drove me up the wall for the first 15 minutes. The movie got better, but I think Juno is ultimately this year's Little Miss Sunshine/Sideways.

Atonement, aka this year's The English Patient, aka this year's Titanic. Just read the book.

For next year, I'm looking forward to Steven Soderbergh getting back in shape. After his latest unnecessary Ocean sequel and 2006, the year of Bubble and The Good German, we really need him to pull it together and start making some great movies again. In 2008 we'll see his Che Guevara movie, which is either going to be called Guerrilla or The Argentine. It stars Benicio Del Toro, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Franka Potente, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Ramon Salazar from the third season of "24". I have high hopes.

Here's the 2006 list.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 1:37 PM | #

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A friend of mine popped in that Juno soundtrack in the car and I thought I was going to have to slit my wrists to escape it. I hate that kind of music. Haven't seen the movie, but I'm not sure if I could take the music. We just rented some of your past top picks. I tired to access the 2005 and earlier from the 06 page, but couldn't. I'll check back soon to see if I can access it.

Posted by: Leigh at January 14, 2008 1:55 PM

Yeah, right? And it looks like it would be pretty good, too, if you just look at the track listing. Off-key fake folk, ugh.

I fixed the links on the 2006 list, thanks. Hope you like some of the past picks. By the way, I don't know what I was thinking putting Munich on there. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that a movie you thought was one of your favorite ones from that year was actually awful.

Posted by: amy at January 15, 2008 1:09 AM

+ persepolis
+ paranoid park

Posted by: chrr at January 23, 2008 5:12 AM

I still haven't seen Persepolis due to my long-standing aversion to the center aisles in the Angelika theaters, and the only other theater that's showing it in NYC is Lincoln Plaza, which I vowed to never visit again after a series of bad experiences in 2006. But I'll see it. It looks very good.

Paranoid Park hasn't come out in the US yet, right? It looks good, and I see the Europeans really like it. Looks like we'll get it here in March.

Posted by: amy at January 23, 2008 9:44 AM

both are excellent movies and worth any theater pain!

Posted by: chrr at January 23, 2008 4:34 PM

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