2.23.2008

Top Ten Films of 2007




With the Oscars coming up tomorrow evening, this seems as good a time as any to list and rank my favorite films from 2007. One problem with trying to do so is that I only saw about twenty or twenty-five new films total, so inclusion on this list is not in itself a guarantee of top quality. On the other hand, with the exception of the number ten slot, I didn't have too many problems deciding what went on the list, and I didn't have to hold my nose too much.

10. I’m Not There (dir. Todd Haynes). I thought it was a disaster overall, but the music was great, and Cate Blanchett's performance was superhumanly good--good enough that the film was able to edge out Children of Men, Cloverfield, Gone Baby Gone, Superbad, Zodiac, The Darjeeling Limited, American Gangster, and Michael Clayton, the only other possible contenders. OK, Cloverfield and Michael Clayton never had a chance.

9. Grindhouse (dirs. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino). Arguably, this is two movies, and Rodriguez' Planet Terror wouldn't cut it on its own, but it's just enough fun as a double feature that it bumps Tarantino's Death Proof up past what would probably otherwise be the number 12 or 13 spot.

8. 28 Weeks Later (dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo). Really not much more than your garden-variety, fast-paced, stone cold zombie movie with a depressing subtext of global hopelessness. I.e., a shoo-in.

7. The Mist (dir. Frank Darabont). See above, but substitute creatures from another dimension for zombies. This movie pissed me off for days. I found myself having mental arguments with it and losing. It still pisses me off. How dare it end up on my list.

6. Inland Empire (dir. David Lynch). Demanding, disjunctive, and dark (I mean literally, as in optically--I made the mistake of trying to watch it first in the daytime, and over half the time there was no way to get the room dark enough to make out anything on the TV screen). Careful out there: when I hear the word "self-indulgent" I reach for my existential rabbit sitcom.

5. Eastern Promises (dir. David Cronenberg). Cronenberg at his most Hitchcockian--something about the way Naomi Watts zips around on that little scooter. I love the way Cronenberg goes out of his way at key moments to make it look like his budget was even lower than it actually was, especially when it comes to the wound makeup. I can't believe Viggo Mortensen got an Oscar nomination for this. He'll never win, but the mere fact that some Academy members even saw the film gives me a tiny scrap of faith in humanity.

4. 3:10 to Yuma (dir. James Mangold). I can't help it. Parts of it are terribly corny, and there's a little too much "production value" at times (Mangold somehow gets a shootout with nineteenth-century firearms to feel like a scene from Die Hard), but this is good ol' western stuff.

3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (dir. Andrew Dominik). Another western, but this one paced and plotted more like a Russian novel. Just a beautifully realized piece of cinema, with the best performance Brad Pitt has yet given.

2. There Will Be Blood (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson). It was a close call between this and the number one film--I waffled several times. Daniel Day-Lewis is almost too good: he threatens to implode into dark matter and generate a black hole that annihilates the rest of the film and the audience and theater and solar system with it (go ahead, laugh at me, you people who know how to use "dark matter" correctly in a sentence). The little imperfections, mostly revolving around Paul Dano's character, are at worst mildly distracting, and cannot seriously diminish the cumulative impact of the film. Perhaps the most damaging criticism that has been leveled against it is that it shies away from fully engaging the political content of Upton Sinclair's novel, but I see this as one of the film's most impressive accomplishments: what might have been didactic and heavy-handed emerges as a parable in which the personal and the political are packed tightly together into an enigmatic, rock-hard core of devastated values and visions.

1. No Country for Old Men (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen). Another film that I found myself arguing with. I'm still not completely down with the "literariness" into which it lapses, or lurches, in its final moments. On balance, however, this is some of the most viscerally astounding moviemaking of the past couple of decades. That Josh Brolin didn't receive a Best Actor (or even Best Supporting Actor) nomination from the Academy is a disgrace.

5 comments:

Classy Ass Action Suit said...

Kasey,

We might have to agree to disagree on the top 2, but I'd just switch them around and keep the order.

I saw "The Assassination of J.J." last night. I thought Pitt was passable, and you can see his Pittiness come through during extreme emotions (when he cries/gets really angry he just seems like good ol' Missourian Brad). That and, oh yeah, Ridley Scott should've never had anything to do with this film; parts of it remind me of Gladiator, and that's no good.

phaneronoemikon said...

I talked with someone who read the novel for No Country, and they said the last part is like a taste of what
occurs regularly in the novel, the inner dialogue of the sheriff, which renders your reading correct I think.
They shouldn't have tacked on that last bit without introducing that form of narration earlier, as it stands, it reads vestigially. I couldn't see that earlier or was willing to fogive it, or just forget it, but after hearing that this did occur to me.

I really agree with your assessment of JJ too. I liked that film alot
and think that's the best Pitt I've seen. It did a good job of rendering the immanence of James' historicity according to unique details that when heard as part of the narrative give rise to an uncanny materiality that compliments the paradoxical culture of the outlaw as special category or something, a kind of mystic anthopology almost. This movie made me think much more than No Country.
Especially the way the people looked. Ford looked like he was living in a 19th century body. He looked pallid and somewhat undernourished, how I imagine most of those people looked.

Ryan said...

To me, where JJ fails is in the narration. At times the narration makes up for a lack of acting, at time it describes what's being seen. I didn't like this. I found the narration in a movie like Y Tu Mama Tambien or Little Children to be much more effective.

Casey Affleck does well in assuming his character's creepiness. And if R. Ford wasn't creepy, well, he is now.

kyle said...

my fiance and i still have arguments about "The Mist". glad i'm not the only one who was so dominated by what i thought was a pretty bad movie.

my list looked a lot like yours: www.xanga.com/thecrimsonninja. i did notice we both had Inland Empire on our lists, which technically was released in 2006. now you have room for Cloverfield!

...

Children of Men was released in 2006 as well, or it would definitely be on my list.

i thought 'There Will Be Blood' and 'No Country' both kind've petered out at the end. the former has that sudden jump in the timeline for the last half hour of the story and that was jarring and awkward for me (and not in that good Lynchian sense) and the latter has the offscreen murder of our "protagonist", which is infuriating to me. i don't understand why all the fuss was about Tommy Lee Jones' dream... the offscreen murder was the aborted orgasm of that movie.

GFS3 said...

Liked your list, but hated the inclusion of "3:10 to Yuma." I can't tell you how much this movie annoys me. But you can read about it here if you so desire.

http://darkpartyreview.blogspot.com/2008/01/fantastically
-bad-cinema-310-to-yuma.html

Your inclusion of "The Mist" and your comments about it now want to make me see it. So thanks for the tip.