My Picks for 2007

Well, the moment is finally here, where I unveil what my favorites and not-so-favorites of 2007 were. I’m sure you were all waiting with baited breath for this list, so before I go into it, I’m gonna say a few things. I try to make this list objective, but as any critic knows, taste comes into play when reviewing movies. I truly believe that there are good and bad movies, but when making a top 15, I’m more likely to pick a film I liked than admired. What ended up making the top 15 made it because of a combination of quality and how memorable it was. For example, IMO, Dragon Wars: D-War was pretty dang memorable, but that will never in a million years make my best of the year, simply because it’s absolute crap. Here’s a preliminary explanation of the categories.
The Moments: This is a new category in addition to 2006’s, designed to honor the moments in film in 2007 that made my heart leap, stop, cry, break, or cheer. They’re the kind of moments that you keep thinking about even after you’ve left the theater. These may contain spoilers, but if they do, it won’t be anything big.
The Disappointments: For some reason or another, whether it be an idiotic studio exec, a cocky director, or just plain bad acting, a movie often sinks under its own weight and doesn’t even come close to living up to its reputation. Some of these films may actually be quite good in their own right, but when compared to other factors surrounding its inception, fall short.
The Underdogs: This category is to honor those films that may not necessarily have been excellent from a purely objective standpoint, but deserve to be honored for how well they trumped expectations and gave us something that was actually good. No, you will not find “Underdog” in here.The Bad: This category is pretty self-explanatory. Films that make it in here have to be pretty awful. The films in the list are seriously lacking anything good or worthwhile in terms of filmmaking.The Honorable Mentions: Films that make it in here are ones that I could not bring myself to put in my top fifteen, either because they didn’t mean that much to me personally or because I don’t believe they’re good enough to be in the top fifteen. But they’re still excellent films and every single one that made this list should, I believe, be required viewing for anyone who went to the movies in 2007.

The Best: Once again, self-explanatory. These films are just plain awesome. They impressed and moved me more than any other films in 2007, and I believed they demonstrated best what makes good filmmaking, and in some cases, controversial filmmaking.

I saw 103 films that came out this year, so let’s get to it. Without further ado, the awards go to….

The Moments

5. Shoot ‘Em Up: Carrot In The Head

Though the rest of the film did not live up to this gloriously bloody opener, it nonetheless certainly stuck in my head as one of the most memorable moments of 2007 (pun intended). It’s the perfect combination of violence, gross-out, and bad ass-ness. In the scene, Clive Owen uses a carrot to kill somebody by shoving it into his mouth and through the back of his skull. The implausibility of the scenario only adds to its charm.
4. Live Free or Die Hard: Car Crash

If there was any doubt left that John McClane was truly back and just as BA as when he left, the doubt collapsed in on itself when he crashed that car into the helicopter. It was a glorious moment, for several reasons, the most obvious of which was that stunt work was back. CGI had been quickly gaining ground, but this film helped to show studios that audiences still love a good old fashioned stunt show, and this moment in movie history was instrumental in providing that.

3. Superbad: McLovin

Teen movies now have a new phrase. Ten years down the road, when high school movies are being made for teens, it would not surprise me at all that a regular cliché will become the name “McLovin.” It rings true from the moment Michael Cera’s character reads it off Fogel’s new driver’s license. “McLovin’?” he blubbers. “Who are you, Seal?” The name carries the movie, drawing laughs at every turn and never growing old. It’s hard to believe we once lived in a world without McLovin’. That’s how you know it’s an instant classic.

2. Juno: Feeling the Baby Kicking
A more touching moment did not exist in all of 2007. When Juno randomly meets the person who’s going to be the mother of her child in the mall, it’s a character whom the audience is as yet uncertain about. But when you see the pure joy wash over her face as the baby kicks deep inside Juno’s swollen belly, it’s difficult not to cry along with her. I’ve never seen such a single moment define a movie. It shatters what we thought about that character beforehand, overturns our expectations, and sets them on a new course. Jennifer Garner deserves major kudos for that scene. It is fantastic.
1. 300: This is Sparta!
To leave the fanboy favorite of 300 completely off this list would be something akin to a tragedy, so here is its appearance. When the messenger from Persia came to give Leonidas the message (that’s what messengers do, I suppose), there was a second of terror on his face as he mumbled, “This is madness!” Then Leonidas, played by the charismatic Gerard Butler, spoke THE cultural catchphrase of 2007: “This is Sparta!” A shove of the foot in slow motion sent the poor old messenger dude into the black pit, and from his death rose a chorus of “This is Sparta!!” from around the US by fanboys and just plain old moviegoers alike. There’s little doubt this takes the cake as the top moment of 2007. “This is madness!” you say. “Madness?” I reply. “This is SPARTA!”
The Disappointments
5. The Kite Runner
The novel was a blockbuster success, so of course you knew it was going to get turned into a movie. Even though Marc Forster’s vision of the novel wasn’t a complete flop, it failed to capture all the cultural subtleties of the novel and gave us a generic “inspiro-pic” that far too often didn’t explain itself and whose characters and story were cookie-cutter perfect. Even the violence wasn’t shocking – it was boring.
4. Bee Movie
This movie can be summed up in just a couple of words. “Haha, bees!” With little else to say except, “Look at me!”, Seinfeld’s latest outing was not only a disappointment, it was just kind of dull. Yes, it’s full of trademark Seinfeldian humor, and if that’s your thing, you’ll probably laugh your butt off. But this doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie. The characters were all bland, the animation was competent but unimaginative, and the tension between kiddie film and adult commentary did not work at all. Seinfeld should have taken lessons from Brad Bird.
3. 28 Weeks Later
This film is still better than most other horror movies out there, but that doesn’t keep it from falling far short of the greatness of the original. Danny Boyle’s vision of a futuristic bloody London was actually good because it revamped the zombie genre and gave us real characters instead of horror archetypes. In this stylish sequel, we’re back to the old horror standby of people doing unbelievably stupid things and causing chaos. It keeps on happening throughout the movie, these people are so unbelievably stupid. The film also never seems to know where to to go with itself, so it almost literally runs around in circles, and by the end I didn’t really care who lived or died. I am curious to see what they’ll do with 28 Months Later, though.
2. Shrek the Third
The reason Shrek was so brilliant when it first came out was because it skewered the mass marketing advertising culture of Disney, saying, “Hey, look, your films are crap lately! Make them good!” Years down the line, it’s almost tragic to see the green ogre stand as the very symbol of the consumer culture he was satirizing. Though it was hilarious in places, the franchise has become bloated with its own import. Puss in Boots has become a, well, you know, and Eddie Murphy was probably filming Norbit when he phoned in this voice work.
1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I’ve heard some critics call this the most adroit of the series in interpreting the book, but when you look at the pure facts, this received the worst critical ratings of all five movies, and for good reason. Director David Yates’s take on the story eliminated all the subtleties that made the otherwise overly long book bearable. The finale is a ridiculous clash with meaningless spells flying around in the dark, important characters are disposed of with nary an explanation to where they went, and a lot of the acting is disappointing and cliched, though thankfully Daniel Radcliffe turns in his best performance yet. Here’s hoping that Yates is NOT chosen to direct Deathly Hallows, and that he does a better job with Half-Blood Prince.
The Underdogs
5. Music & Lyrics
This syrupy sweet sap fest had all the makings of a crappy early year by-the-numbers romantic comedy, and it was, but the surprising thing was that it ended up actually being fun. Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore’s chemistry is excellent, and the songs are the perfect combination of pop cheese and self-importance. This is a romantic comedy that knows how to make a romantic comedy.
4. Disturbia
For the first hour of Disturbia, it’s difficult to look away from the screen. This stylish update and homage to Hitchock’s “Rear Window” and voyeurism knew how to up the tension without copping out with cheap scares, which is why it’s so sad when the last half hour devolves into predictable slasher mania. Nevertheless, despite the fall from grandeur, it’s riveting and much better than expected, and Shia LeBoeuf shows he knows how to act incredibly well, effortlessly carrying that elusive everyman persona that Tom Hanks has perfected.
3. Bridge to Terabithia
The silly little trailers made it look like it would be some cheesy fairy tale land adventure with nary a regard to the source or what made it so powerful. The movie, however, thankfully skimped on the fantasy and focused on the tragedy and warmth and reality of the characters. What emerged was a surprisingly compelling story and an elegantly faithful adaptation of the novel.
2. Enchanted
Amy Adams captures the title in a wonderful performance that perfectly channels the classic Disney princesses. The story is surprisingly good, the songs are scene-stealing excellence, even though the Academy has favored them too much in their nominations, and the special effects are first rate. But the best part about it all is how much it played with the genre and ideas of happy endings. It’s one of the most delightful pictures of the year.
1. Live Free or Die Hard
John McClane is back and as bad a motherf***er as ever in this excellent update of the series that’s the best since the first. This one, in a similar way to “Rocky Balboa” last year, overturned all expectations and proceeded to soundly smack them in the face with an exploding helicopter. Towards the end of the movie they get too preoccupied with CGI, and one wonders why he didn’t say his famous line, as according to MPAA rules, PG-13 films can still get away with saying the F-word once. Eh, there’s an unrated version of DVD, though, so it’s all good. 🙂
The Bad
5. Happily N’Ever After
“From the producers of Shrek!” the posters proudly proclaimed. Well, based on this film, choosing Shrek was a complete fluke on their part, because no trace of hilarity can be found anywhere in the entire picture. It’s another fractured fairy tale, only with none of the wit, imagination or satire that made Shrek such a household name. The animation is bland, the characters are boring, and Andy Dick is one of the voices. Yeah. It’s bad. I think the producers of Shrek should be put down.
4. Epic Movie
You know it’s a year for bad films when Epic Movie is only fourth on the list. This film was made by the guys who did “Date Movie” and “Meet the Spartans,” and it seems like they’re getting progressively worse. Soon they may even overtake Uwe Boll as the worst filmmakers in Hollywood. They seem to believe that all that you need for humor is to stick random pop culture references in wherever you can. It never, EVER works. This film is a bore, a dull chore from beginning to end. I was prepared to simply laugh at stupid humor, but this is beyond even that. It’s boring. The absolute worst kind of humor there is.
3. The Number 23
In the original poster for this film, it shows Jim Carrey with random crap scribbled all over his face. Next to his mouth is a speech bubble that says, “Help!” I’m convinced he’s pleading for his career. This film was a contrived mess. Movies being psychological do not make them good. Movies being stylish do not make them good. Right combinations of these two, and other elements, can really help a film, but the Number 23 is confusing, pointless, and idiotic. The ending can’t decide what to do with itself, Carrey’s acting is schizophrenic even by the rules of his own character, and the whole “Number 23” thing is a gimmick. And I can’t take it as a joke, because of all the ads with Jim Carrey ominously telling us how evil The Number 23 is. There’s nothing evil or mysterious about the number 23. You can literally pick any number in the world and find it everywhere. The number 23 is third place in my worst movies list, and it came out in february which is the second month of the year! Two and three is 23! Gaaah!
2. Good Luck Chuck
I’m sorry, but this movie wasn’t funny. Not even close. You just kind of sit there, stunned that anyone, ANYONE would actually find this funny. It’s gross, crude, pointless, idiotic, and Dane Cook is just so dang creepy. Jessica Alba is her usual vapid self, and HAHAHA SHE’S A KLUTZ HAHA OMGZ SO FUNNY. There’s no depth to these characters, the portrayal of women is offensive and stupid, and I don’t need to see a shot of sixteen different screens of Dane Cook having sex with sixteen different women. Now my brain is half scarred because of Dane Cook’s buttocks.
1. The Heartbreak Kid
When I first saw the trailer for this, five or six months before it came out, I said to myself the basic plotline of the movie, from beginning to end. I did not miss a beat. This, in itself, though, is not necessarily a horrible thing. But when combined with the putrid mess of the film, it’s hard to imagine worse. I’m not easily offended by movies. I’m one of the few who liked Chuck & Larry, and Borat was one of my top five last year. But I was offended by this. Ben Stiller is a complete douchebag, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with him. They make the wife completely hateable just so it seems okay that he doesn’t want to be with her anymore, and much of the storyline feels like it belongs in a sitcom. And some of the humor is simply unspeakably crude. As if that weren’t enough, the ending drags on and on and on and on for thirty or forty minutes to give us closure to characters WE DON’T EVEN GIVE A DAMN ABOUT. Maybe the Farrelly Brothers should be executed along with those Shrek producer dudes.
The Honorable Mentions
5. Gone Baby Gone
This film is for anyone who completely lost faith in Ben Affleck after Gigli, Paycheck, and Jersey Girl. Oh wait, that was all of us. Well, all the more reason you should see “Gone Baby Gone”, which is actually a fairly straightforward crime thriller, but director Affleck proves he learned a lot being in front of the camera over the course of his career, and he knows how to make a solid cop drama. His brother Casey Affleck also turns in a performance that floors anything poor old Ben ever did.
4. No End in Sight
The more documentaries I see like this, the more I realize how much Michael Moore is an idiot. For one, because the films he makes aren’t so much a balanced and even-sided exploration of the subject, but more contrived and made-up screaming without much attention to stupid little things like facts, for another, because there’s enough evidence against the Bush administration without him making stuff up, and finally, because his hate for Bush clouds everything and very often gets in the way of him being unbiased on a subject. “No End in Sight” is a riveting and important documentary that Michael Moore should be required to sit and watch like that dude in “A Clockwork Orange” who had his eyes forced open so he could not blink or look away. It’s never embellishing, reporting the facts in a cold hard manner and driving the point straight home to our hearts. Sobering, smart, and moving, it is excellent.
3. The Host
It’s doubtful you’ll see a more weirdly unique film all year, or for that matter, it’s doubtful you’ve EVER seen a film quite like it. Never have I watched a film that was so daring in combining so many different elements, from horror drama to family drama to melodrama to political intrigue, to science fiction shlock, to comedy, and many many many others. It’s a twisted, bold, and unique weird-out fest that will have you shaking your head in amazement by the time it’s over. A must for any fan of Asian cinema, or even horror cinema. In fact, this may be the only film I saw all year that everybody needs to see to believe.
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The best thing about this movie how much it refuses to be your typical sob story. Director Julian Schnabel never asks us to feel sorry for the main character. He simply presents the story in a spectacularly moving way, and the pitch-perfect cinematography and deeply nuanced voice of the main actor all serve to make us really feel as if we are trapped inside Jean-Do’s body with him. The fact that it’s based on a true story, as well, makes it all the more fascinating.
1. God Grew Tired of Us
In the same vein of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, this is not one of those films that’s designed to make us feel depressed and guilty over the tragedy of the Lost Boys. It’s a tale of culture shock, integration, loneliness, companionship, brotherhood, as well as a none-too-subtle jab at America’s loner consumer culture. The film is hilarious at times, tragic at others, and always powerful. It’s one of the best movies of its kind.
The Best
15. Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Since the disastrous Planet of the Apes remake, which soundly failed with critics, it seems Burton had moved to the backstage of Hollywood. “Big Fish” was overlooked, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was over-hyped, and the recent “Corpse Bride” drew positive reviews, but most of them acknowledged that it was fairly predictable. With Sweeney Todd, though, Burton returns to glorious bloody form in a wickedly dark story where Johnny Depp sizzles in his role as the murderous barber. The music is haunting and perfect, the production design is cleverly dark, and the entire film flows like an excellent somber melody. It’s one of the more unique films of 2007.
14. Persepolis
This story was powerful, emotionally charged, and culturally aware, something that “Kite Runner” was severely lacking. It throws into harsh relief how much most American filmmakers suck at making movies about that area of the world, and it’s a perfect translation of the graphic novel, the kind that uses the medium of film to transform it appropriately, while also remaining faithful and elegant in relation to its source. The storyline is compelling, the protagonist is smart and interesting without being annoyingly arrogant (er-hem, Lyra in The Golden Compass), and the whole movie works so well weaving all the different stories of the revolutionary war in Iran, her coming of age, her exile in in Europe, her displacement, and so on. It’s a marvelous little gem of the film. Shame on the Academy for ignoring it in the Best Foreign Language category.
13. Sunshine
When Danny Boyle revamped the zombie genre, it revolutionized the entire thing. It was a near work of genius, with excellently done social commentary, a gripping storyline, and terror that rose from human interaction and evil and not cheap scares and blood. Sunshine does for space movies what Boyle did for zombie ones. Admittedly it’s not as revolutionary, but that’s okay. Besides, right now science fiction seems to be in a kind of decline and it’s probably why this movie was overlooked and under-advertised. It’s gloriously haunting, the acting is good, and the special effects are the most dazzling I saw all year. It’s an homage to all those space films, while remaining a great one in its own right. The social commentary in this one isn’t as well thought out as it was in 28 Days Later, but it’s still a very fascinating story.
12. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Who would have thought watching people playing a game that’s over twenty years old could be so entertaining and enlightening? King of Kong overturns our expectations of what a documentary should be like, while at the same time providing an illuminating look into the lives of extreme gamers. It’s a film that works on many different levels, from the praise of good sportsmanship to the cautionary tale of what obsession can do to a person, in any form. People who look at this movie on the surface will probably hate it, but once you dig just slightly deeper you’ll find a surprisingly compelling story. It’s also flat-out hilarious, because everyone in this world takes these things so seriously. Even if you’re not part of video game culture at all, which I am, though not so much retro games, chances are you’ll find this interesting.
11. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The acting in this film is unparalleled with anything else I saw this year. Brad Pitt gives the best performance he’s given in a long, long, long time, and Casey Affleck, who for years has been living undeservedly in his brother Ben’s shadow, finally breaks out with a role so nuanced, intricate, and complex that it’s really difficult to see any acting going on. That’s not Casey Affleck in the scene, that’s Robert Ford. The film explores the cost of fame, hero worship, the death of both, the acquisition of knowledge, and the danger of pride. It’s not a film to sit through right before bed; chances are you’ll fall asleep, as the dialogue is very sparse and very specific. But it’s so dang good. The cinematography is also glorious and breathtakingly beautiful, perfectly capturing the Old West. None of these characters ever seem like celebrities; they’re all very real, and very, very interesting.
10. No Country for Old Men
I’ve never seen a Coen Brothers film, and perhaps that makes me unqualified to judge this movie, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the most riveting and intense movies of the year, and it has me salivating for more of their films. The atmosphere, mood, characters, plot, setting, and dialogue all work in tandem to bring about the conclusion. There’s barely a second of wasted space in the whole thing. Tommy Lee Jones is superb as the old sheriff, Josh Brolin is excellent as the poor man who happened to stumble onto 2 million dollars, and, of course, Javier Bardem is truly frightening as the ruthless killer who embodies everything that is wrong with “young people” today, as Jones puts it. It’s a terrifying performance, to say the least, and all the actors complement themselves in a whole that is about as seamless as I’ve ever seen. The Texas cinematography is sweeping, epic, oxymoronically claustrophobic, and deadly. There are also some of the most breathless chase scenes that you’ll ever see in a movie. It’s a terrific film.
9. Juno
You’d be hard pressed to find another film this year that has had such a wide gap between its lovers and its haters. Try to find someone who’s seen it who doesn’t either love it or hate it. They exist, but they’re very rare. Why did this film have audiences so divided? It all depends on who you ask, but for my vote, Juno is one of the best movies of the year. No other movie this year had me change my mind so completely about it thirty minutes in. We are presented with an array of characters, and like most moviegoers, we peg them for who we think they are. Over the course of the last hour of the film, every single one of those expectations is turned on their heads, as the script and acting flesh out these characters beautifully. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner as the couple dazzle the most; their characters are the most deep and the most complex, and when they’re first introduced they seem like the most shallow. None of the characters are easy reads; many of Juno’s detractors have simply stamped them as one-dimensional blobs, but that’s because, just like in real life, you have to LOOK for the details, you have to get to know them YOURSELF, and the movie refuses to do it for you. Yeah, sure, Juno wisecracks a little bit too much, but that doesn’t change that this movie is one of the most surprising and best films of the year.
8. Paris, Je T’aime
Translated literally as “Paris, I Love You,” this homage to the city of love, composed of eighteen different shorts from twenty one directors, is as excellent a collection of short films as I’ve ever seen. Another collection of shorts that came out earlier in the year, “The Ten,” was dull, boring, unimaginative, and, at the heart, really had nothing to do with the Ten Commandments at all, which was supposedly its subject. THIS film, though, is an excellent tribute to one of the most famous and romantic cities in the world. Though there are a few misfires, taken as a whole, they all beautifully encompass the theme, and each vignette is a perfect glimpse into the life of a Parisian (or two). It never feels disjointed or contrived. It’s also pretty cool that they got such a variety of names as the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, and Gerard Depardieu on board to direct. No two shorts are alike, as we see everything from a gay love story, to a vampire one, to a mother and child, all the way to a couple of mimes. It’s enchanting and creative filmmaking at its best, and you can tell every single one of the directors is having a fantastic time. Elijah Wood, Bob Hoskins, Natalie Portman, and others, all make appearances too, and they each bring their own brand of acting into play seamlessly with the short they’re in. It’s charming, sweet, not too long, not too short, and it ends on just exactly the right note.
7. Once
Before I saw this movie, I had heard of the critical ratings, but I was still pretty skeptical. Because I don’t know much about music, I didn’t expect to really get anything out of this film other than an appreciation for how well it was made. Though I did end up getting the latter, I got so much more on top of that. Once is the most purely emotional movie of 2007. The love story between the two protagonists is never easily pegged, the music is enriching, soulful, and true, the camera-work is harsh and real, and the characters themselves are so likeable while remaining so true that you never really think of them as two actors, even though the actors do a superb job. The songs can’t be described here, you’ll have to see it to really understand, but suffice it to say that you probably won’t leave Once without feeling some of the pain and joy that these characters went through. It’s the perfect movie about the way music can bring two people together in a close personal bond that is part friendship and part lover. A superb film.
6. Southland Tales
Warning: watching this movie may cause you to want rip your eyes out in frustration. It almost made me do it. You could be next! Richard Kelly’s follow-up to the mega surprise hit of Donnie Darko had critics very divided. Most everybody called it an incoherent mess, and they’re absolutely right, but the genius of this film is that it needs to be a mess to communicate its message. Kelly is an ambitious and visionary filmmaker, and his vision of the future is hilarious and terrifying at the same time. The actors all turn in excellent work, from the surprisingly comedically talented Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, all the way to the perfectly portrayed self-important soul-dier boy Justin Timberlake, whose scene in a brief music video with the Killers’ “I’ve Got Soul but I’m not a Soldier” steals the entire show. It’s a pop culture-infused, motion-sickness-medication-necessary, mind-blowing apocalyptically and visionarily stunning and hilarious, chaotic meta narrative mish-mash-mess of a thrill ride film that will leave you with your head spinning and either loving it or hating it. Kelly puts in so many layers to his film that it will rack your brain like few other films have ever done, and it speaks to his uncompromising cinematic anarchy. It’s a work of powerful genius that many people may be right in hating, but sometimes that’s what genius does.
5. Hot Fuzz
Comedy does not get nearly enough recognition in the critical world. People realize that it’s one of the most difficult genres to get right, but for some reason when great films like Hot Fuzz come along they’re overlooked because they don’t deal with “important” stuff like the war in Iran or teen pregnancy. It’s a shame, because Hot Fuzz is one of the best movies of 2007. Satirizing a genre that probably needs it the most, action and cop movies, it never misses a beat or a laugh. The filmmakers watched more than one hundred cop movies before creating the film, and it shows, as the entire film is sprinkled with dozens of references to other movies, with two being mentioned by name: Bad Boys II and Point Break. You would think that this would lend itself to heavy-handed and obvious parody, but it’s handled in such a way that it’s hard to imagine the film without these movies mentioned. The acting is superbly done, and it’s a joy to see famous British actors peppering the mix liberally, from an old Bond villain Timothy Dalton, to the respected British actor Jim Broadbent, all the way to a small almost unbelievable cameo by a certain female British star that I won’t spoil simply because spotting it is half the joy. It’s a fun-fueled romp through the world of cop movies, while maintaining a perfectly respectable and interesting story on its own. A lot of satires don’t create characters – they just use the ones that were in the originals. Parts of “Hot Fuzz’s” genius is that it creates an entire believable world whose characters are ones you actually care about. And the final half hour is one of the most jaw-droppingly hilarious bits that I’ve ever seen in a movie. I’ve seen this movie about five times now, and it never gets old. You constantly find new things hidden here and there, and the jokes are so well written and the targets so brilliantly skewered that it’s hard to imagine them ever getting old. But the best part about Hot Fuzz is how much its makers love the genre they’re parodying. You can’t create good parody without loving what you’re doing, and these guys certainly do. It’s easily the funniest movie of the year.
4. Into the Wild
Based on the true story of Chris McCandless, what gives “Into the Wild” its power is easily Emile Hirsch, who plays him. There is such exuberance for life in his eyes that you never really question his decision to get up and go off and actually live the life that so many of us dream of doing but never actually do. I love my little creature comforts, but sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the wonderful vision or really roughing it, making your own way, creating your own reality, all by yourself, away from all these pesky people. But then reality sets in and you never do it. Chris did, and it’s an awe-inspiring journey as we go across the untouched parts of North America that are so easy to forget. We’re reacquainted with the beauty of the Grand Canyon, the vastness of the deserts, the lushness of the Alaskan wilderness. All the supporting actors do marvelous jobs here too. And by the end of the movie, you’ve been so invested in Chris’s journey that you’re emotionally exhausted. It’s a powerful film about the triumph of the human spirit and the lessons that one learns along the way.
3. There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is a disturbing and masterful work, a terrifying look into how far down a blackened well the human soul can go. It’s ambitious, grotesque, deeply powerful, at times schizophrenic, manic, calm, quiet, and gritty as all get out. This is only Anderson’s fifth film, but you can bet he’s going to be one of the greatest filmmakers of the 21st century. There are so many layers to this film and so many different possible ways that they can interact that you could watch it about a dozen times and still come away with something new, wondering, “How the HELL did I miss that?” Daniel Day-Lewis as the oil tycoon Daniel Plainview is terrifyingly intense, carrying a deep baritone voice that makes you believe HE sincerely believes in everything he says and does, and it’s a performance that boasts what may be the best performance of the year. He’s a villain through and through, a dark and scary monster of a man with ambition, greed, and power. The film is a deeply religious and philosophical work, too, and all these seemingly disparate elements work together to give us a screechingly twisted epic that must be seen to be believed. It’s awe-inspiring stuff, on the level with some of the greatest films of all time. Grippingly good.
2. Zodiac
This is David Fincher’s best work yet. He directed both the grotesque and compelling “Se7en” and the weird-out metaphysical-fest “Fight Club,” but here he gives us a much more real story anchored in the truth of the infamous Zodiac killings. The film spans several decades, and Fincher has a keen eye for the cultural subtleties of each decade and the various styles, fashions, and fads that come and go. Because of this delicious attention to minute detail, the film is that much more terrifying, a true and cautionary tale about the monsters that haunt our time and the near absurd effect they have. Everybody turns in stellar performances, from the always entertaining Robert Downey Jr, to the skeptic detective Mark Ruffalo, and most notably, the intense newspaper cartoonist Jake Gyllenhall. It’s the best performance of Gyllenhall’s career, as he plays his character true to life and never once acts like he’s in a movie. When he is scared, you can see it deep in his eyes, and you feel that fear too, down to the very marrow of your bone. The clinical precision with which Fincher approaches the story is near-perfect in its execution, making Zodiac a tour-de-force, a chilling and deeply unsettling film that will probably scare you more than any other movie in 2007.
1. Ratatouille
No film impressed me more this year than Ratatouille. It’s the closest to perfect that I saw a movie come this year. The pacing is perfect, the animation is perfect, the story is perfect, the characters are near-perfect, and the whole thing just carries such a delicious aroma that it’s hard to find something I should recommend more. I know many people who are part of the “cartoons are just for kids” department, but I encourage them, and you, if you’re a part of that, to look beyond the superficial and to the true themes that resonate and make Ratatouille so compelling. It’s a tale of the pursuit of excellence, the following of one’s dream, the reconciliation of family, finding one’s place in the world, the refusal to settle for garbage (er-hem, direct-to-DVD-Disney), and much much more. The animation is the best Pixar has ever done, and the best I’ve ever seen period. Everything is so beautifully rendered that each frame of each second of each minute is like a painting by a grand artist, shining with intricacies, a delicate touch, and a soft, warm glow. And what’s probably most impressive about this movie is that it managed to take the idea of a rat in a kitchen and transform it into something beautiful and compelling. Once again, I know many people who said, “Ew, a rat in a kitchen! Gross!” and decided flat-out there that they would not see the movie. Well, don’t be fooled. This is the best reviewed movie of the year for a reason, because it IS the best movie of the year. The voices are all top notch, too, especially Patton Oswalt, who voiced Remy, the main rat. I was very skeptical of Oswalt, but he turned out to be the perfect choice, expertly putting all the nuances into his character necessary to make him into something real. Not to mention Peter O’Toole as the excellently evil Anton Ego, the best cartoon villain to come along since…well, possibly ever. And the food….oh my gosh, the food. You will salivate just looking at the screen. The love for food is conveyed in every single second of this movie, and the beautiful way that it is portrayed makes it all the more mouth-watering. “Ratatouille” is directed by Brad Bird, who also did “The Incredibles” and “The Iron Giant.” When he did both of these excellent films and “Ratatouille” is his masterwork, you know it’s good. Simply divine.

2 Responses to “My Picks for 2007”

  1. You have never seen a Coen Brother’s movie until you saw “No Country fo Old Men?” Seriously? How can someone write a movie blog and never have seen a Coen Brother’s movie?

    Then you put Ratatouille ahead of all other movies made last year? How old are you? It was a cute film with impressive animation. But 20 years from now “No Country” will be a classic and “Ratatouille” will be long forgotten.

    As for the “war in Iran” comment…I’m sure that you realize it’s Iraq and that’s just a typo. But, come on…proof read!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I like it when people comment on my blog, as I love discussion surrounding film and such. However, I felt that your comment was more of a blast against my list and not intended to illicit discussion so much as demonstrate your superiority in the knowledge of movies, or at least, your disregard for my knowledge of movies. So, in response to this, let me state the following.

    1. Ratatouille was the second bast reviewed movie of the year. Number one was 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, and the other was Persepolis. What does this tell you about it being sandwiched in between two films that deal with incredibly serious stuff? That’s it’s actually good. Critics generally tend to not revere the “fluff” you claim Ratatouille to be. There was so much more in Ratatouille than what you claimed. From your comment, I would tend to guess that you haven’t seen it, but if you have, watch it again and try to look at it as more than a cartoon. The idea that cartoons cannot be great and long-lasting is absurd.

    2. It’s number one on my list because I think it’s the most well-made film of 2007. You insinuated that because I put it at number one I must be young, as an old person would never put it at the top, or at least so close to the top. Well, for one, I’m 22 years old, and for another, the American Film Institute put it as one of the ten best films of 2007, and the AFI is composed of over 4,000 judges across the country. If they put it in the top ten it can’t be too bad. Not to mention something else. Have you ever heard of a little old magazine called the New York Times? A.O. Scott, the main critic for it, has it as his number 2 pick. This guy saw hundreds of movies in 2007. And he still put Ratatouille at number 2. Hmm…something tells me he saw far more movies this year than you or I saw, and he doesn’t seem to be too young, either.

    3. No, I did not have a typo. If you look it up, you will find that Persepolis is about the revolution in Iran. NOT Iraq. Forgive me for being so blunt, but perhaps you should “proofread” your comments before you put them down.

    4. I did not know that being a movie blogger required me to have seen a Coen Brothers film. Obviously every movie blogger who has ever existed has seen one of their films. And obviously you’ve seen every classic film that exists as well. Perhaps I should reconsider my identity. Instead of “Movie Buzz Review Dude” have it be “Coen-Brothers film-less Movie Buzz Review Dude.” Would this suit you better?

    5. Finally, I don’t really appreciate you just putting a poorly researched and, quite frankly, ignorant comment, that tries to put me down for lack of movie knowledge and the ability to proofread when it is in fact you who suffers from both. Thanks for your time, and have a great day.

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