MY TOP TEN OF 2007
1. No Country For Old Men
Written for the Screen and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
No Surprise here. The Coens astound here in their best film since 1996's Fargo. Based on Cormac McCarthy's best-selling novel, this story pulsates with suspense, violence, brilliant acting, and the usual humor that we've come to love from the Coens. Simply stated, the film is just about perfect in every way, from Roger Deakins' bleakly brilliant cinematography to the seemingly absent score. Mix in incredible performances from Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly MacDonald, Woody Harrelson, and Tommy Lee Jones, how could you not see this as the best film of the year? I'm just calling as I see it, friendo.
2. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
Directed by Julian Schnabel
It helps to have a screenplay which is written by a multiple Oscar-winner, Ronald Harwood, but the brilliance of the film comes from the masterwork of director Julian Schnabel. He's shown his skill before in such films as Before Night Falls but never has he made a film this beautiful or imaginative. The story of famed Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Matheiu Amalric) after he suffers a paralyzing stroke is one that is heartbreaking, but eventually uplifting as he uses the one functioning part of his body, his left eye, to write his biography. A cameo by acting legend Max von Sydow makes your heart melt, and so does everything else in this astonishing film.
3. Away From Her
Written For The Screen and Directed by Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley, formerly known as an actress who bounced around in such films as eXistenZ and The Sweet Hereafter goes far beyond anyone's expectations with her debut feature as a director, Away From Her. The film chronicles the older couple of Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Jule Christie), and how they must cope with Fiona's mental disintegration at the hands of Alzheimer's Disease. Needless to say, Christie seems bound for an Oscar nomination for playing Fiona, but we should not forget the film experience as a whole. No movie this year is more moving or heartbreaking, nor does any film show bare emotion more accurately.
Directed by Jason Reitman
Written By Diablo Cody
The stripper-turned-cult blogger-turned-screenwriter, Diablo Cody came right out of left field with this incredibly wonderful film about a young girl named Juno (the effervescently funny and sweet Ellen Page) who is forced to learn about life rather quickly when she becomes pregnant. In a year filled with a bundle of feel-bad pictures, something about Juno felt extra refreshing. Page along with J.K. Simmons, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Allison Janney complete what is easily the best ensemble acting performance of the year. Filled with hilarious, pithy dialogue and a great soundtrack, no other movie will leave you with a better feeling.
5. There Will Be Blood
Written For The Screen and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
No other movie this year overcomes it flaws the way Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood does. Despite the few chinks within it's story (it's relentlessness; it's complete abandonment of reality), it well makes up for it by being absolutely unforgettable. Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Daniel Plainview, the manic oilman who despises humanity, is another achievement of acting that Day-Lewis can add to his already vastly impressive resume. Anderson, always a true visionary, channels the character perfectly with help from cinematographer Robert Elswit, and a score from Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood.
6. Michael Clayton
Written and Directed by Tony Gilroy
I think many were surprised that Michael Clayton was an original screenplay by Gilroy, and not some reworking of a John Grisham novel. Instead, Gilroy created a film that goes back to the classic law dramas of the 70's with true suspense and an infallible cast of actors. George Clooney, as the title character, gives his best performance to date as a man who is paid under the table by a major law firm to fix the messes that created by the clients and lawyers alike. When his next project becomes his crazed friend Arthur (the wonderful Tom Wilkinson), he has to rethink what he is doing. Add great performances by Tilda Swinton and Sidney Pollock, and you have one of the best law dramas in years.
7. Into The Wild
Written for the Screen and Directed by Sean Penn
The story of Christopher McCandless is one that is whimsically captivating despite it's tragic ending. Based on Jack Krakauer's book, Sean Penn recreates the story of McCandless, a young man who abandons his privileged life to travel to Alaska and live amongst nature. Emile Hirsch, a twenty-two year old, gives one of the best performances of the year as McCandless, and is boosted by a supporting cast which includes Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and the always wonderful Hal Holbrook. Penn's meditation on McCandless is one of wonder and adventure, and using a soundtrack filled with songs penned by Eddie Vedder, he is able to perfectly capture the world of transcendentalism that McCandless admires.
Directed by Joe Wright
With the top billing going to rising stars James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, few knew that the film Atonement would be dominated by another trio of actresses: two unknowns and one legend. The story of Briony Tallis (played by Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave, respectively) and her successful attempt to destroy young love is heartbreaking and enthralling. Wright, hot off his beautiful version of Pride & Prejudice, constructs a film so well put-together, seeing it is like watching a masterful piece of art. All of the performances are first-rate, and the addition of Dario Marianelli's pulsating score and Seamus McGarvey's incandescent photography make this film simply beautiful.
Written and Directed by Brad Bird
With The Incredibles, Brad Bird made a masterpiece that brilliantly addressed the themes of responsibility, marriage, and family. With Ratatouille, the message is not as profound, but the story and characters are so much more lovable and cuddly. Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), is a cultured rat, obsessed with the idea of becoming a famous chef in Paris, France. When he finds his opportunity by helping a hopeless chef named Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano), he's finally able to make his delectable masterpieces. The story is touching, as all Pixar stories tend to be, and has probably the most lovable rat ever to grace the silver screen.
10. Knocked Up
Written and Directed by Judd Apatow
Another film in the Judd Apatow repertoire, Knocked Up is probably the funniest film of 2007. Filled with dirty jokes and the usual gang of Apatow actors (Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel), it's brash humor and wicked description of pregnancy is hilarious. Seth Rogan (another member of the Apatow crew) and Grey Anatomy's Katherine Heigl make up the "beauty and the slacker" couple who come together for one night, only to become pregnant. Add a strikingly venomous performance by Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann as Heigl's disapproving sister, and you have a perfect companion piece to Apatow's earlier classic dirty comedy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
TIED FOR 11TH PLACE
(cause there were much more than ten good films this year)
Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited was as beautiful as it was puzzling; the denouement to the Bourne series The Bourne Ultimatum was the best and most exciting of the three; James Mangold's 3:10 To Yuma was one of the best westerns to be made in many years; Julie Taymor's meditation on the Beatles and life in the Turbulent 60's, Across The Universe, was exquisite; Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was as bloody as it was mesmerizing; David Cronenberg's second combination with actor Viggo Mortenson in Eastern Promises paid off as they make one of the most thrilling films of the year--with one killer nude/killing scene; John Carney's "modern-day musical", Once, is filled with incredible music and heart-tugging characters; and Tamara Jenkins' return to the silver screen with The Savages was one of tenderness and wonderful humor.