Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Best Films of 2007

The year of 2007 had an interesting array of films. Most of which were blockbuster crap, but some of which had a really dark tone and interesting moral messages. A sign of the times? Maybe, but regardless some amazing performances were delivered on the big screen. Here are my favs of the year.

10. Superbad - Easily one of the best comedies of the year, maverick producer Judd Apatow delivers anothe rhit, but this time one that has some heart. What set Superbad aside from other Apotow films this year (Knocked Up, Walk Hard) was it's characters. Face paced, foul mouthed smart asses that are lovable in their nerdiness and pathetic teenage existence lead us through your classic 80's style "into the night" plot line. It's a re-used story, but thanks to the break-out star making performances of Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, we achieve greatness. The supporting cast also boasted side splitting glory. "McLovin" is the year's new favorite character and no one can forget his gallivanting around with two pitiful cops who are just as lame and pathetic as the kids. It's not the kind of pathetic that you don't root for, it's the kind of pathetic that is hilarious and easy to relate to. Oh, and there were just a few dick jokes.

9. Waitress - One of the saddest moments any film fan can go through is hearing one of it's best is murdered in cold blood. Adrienne Shelley, an indie starlet of the 90's and a decent director was murdered in new York before her movie, Waitress, was to be released. Early 2007 it was finally released and a warm and beautiful story of truly American proportions was told, and not in the in-your-face propaganda way. A story of a small town girl getting pregnant by her dead beat husband and taking her anger and indifference out on the situation on pies. It delightful story with a quirky cast and a heart-felt story of triumphing over a situation that you have no control over. Keri Russell stands out more than ever in a very whimsical role as our leading lady and a surprise visit from Andy Griffith adds another touching part to the story. Looking past the sadness that overwhelms the tragedy of Adrienne Shelley's death comes a shining light and a really great film that stood out like a beacon among other movies of muck and mire that liter the film landscape of 2007.

8. Rescue Dawn - I already posted about Werner Herzog's tale of Deiter Dengler and his escape from a Vietnam torture prison. A harrowing journey through the jungles and through the human psyche, herzog gives us another amazing look into the human spirit. Although his documentary Grizzly Man was straight up document, he uses his skills to give a realistic feel to a truly great story. Much the theme of this year's finest films is the fact that the performances drove the story to greatness. As usual, Christian Bale turns in a brilliant performance as Dengler and as usual goes through a physical journey to show the war torn human spirit. Steve Zahn surprises with my pick for best supporting actor of the year. His mental breakdown and outstanding dramatic turn is impressive and one that should be hailed by many. Again, this film will suffer from the "released too early" syndrome that will ultimately make Rescue Dawn a forgotten classic.

7. I'm Not There - As pretentious as it may seem, I'm Not There is a triumphant film going experience. Maybe a little too insider, it's not the tale of Bob Dylan or the story of his life as much as it is the embodiment of his lyrics. This can be seen in the laundry list of impressive artists playing tribute to his songs on the soundtrack. But what makes I'm Not There so good is the fact that director Todd Haynes does justice to the schizophrenic career of the troubadour through a very frantic film style. Different actors playing caricatures of Dylan ranging from the impressive Marcus Carl Franklin as the ramblin' "Woody Guthrie" and the very hilarious pop icon role played by Cate Blanchett. My personal favorite side was portrayed through Heath Ledger and his relationship with Charlotte Gainsbourg showing the most humanistic side of Dylan. The hopeless romantic story between the two is touching and engaging. The early montage love affair set to "I Want You" and the heartbreaking send off with Dylan's Basement Tape version of the titular song are some of the most worthwhile scenes in a film of jaunting beauty. Definitely not for everyone and not really all that great if your looking for your usual story, but that's Dylan for you. "The sky ain't yellow, it's chicken."

6. Grindhouse - Schlock-o-philes Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez diced up one of cinemas most daring experiences this year. A double feature double dip 0f exploitation goodness saturated with hilarious gags, badass action and purposely bad films. was the more standard of the two. A great zombie flick with amazing one-liners and gore galore, the purposely grainy footage and "missing reels" leads to the most laughs. Planet Terror was followed by some fake trailers from Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright that are some of the funniest moments of the year. Death Proof starts and you either loved it or hated it. Regardless, it's almost nihilistic story of some attractive females cruising around leads into carnage by car. The "Ship's Mast" final car chase is by far one of the most intense stunt's I've seen in years. In the age of CGI, it's nice to see some Mad Max/Vanishing Point style stunts again. Why does this get such a high slot on my list? It was the years most enjoyable time sitting in the theater this year. Side Note: Death Proof wins best Soundtrack for 2007. So Good.

5. Hot Fuzz - The year's best comedy comes in parody form. Mocking Point Break and Bad Boys II sounds like an interesting idea, but adding in the British humor of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and the directing tact of Edgar Wright, a truly amazing slice of comedy was served to moviegoers. Parody films are so terrible this day and age, Hot Fuzz comes as a breath of fresh air. Hilarious sight gags, in your face self-mockery and a plot that you actually enjoy following, it's not just a parody of buddy cop films, but a kick ass buddy cop film in itself. Just like it's predecessor Shaun of the Dead, we get a genre reinvention and an enjoyable one at that. Pegg and Frost are the best on-screen comedic duo since, I don't know, maybe Wilder and Pryor? Maybe way better then they were. Regardless, another amazing moviegoing experience, the kind that reminded me that the best films aren't always the most thought provoking, but are sometimes the most enjoyable. The year's best comedy by far and a total delight. I can't wait for the next Pegg/Frost/Wright mock up, if it is a continuing trend.

4. Zodiac - When I heard a movie about the Zodiac serial killer was coming out from director David Fincher, I immediately thought it would be a rehash of Se7en and be pretty standard. Ye of little faith in the auetuer. Instead of being about the Zodiac killer, it was about three separate lives sucked into the mystery of the murderer and their desperate need to find out who it was. A law man, a newspaper columnist and a newspaper cartoonist search through the shrouds of mystery and through the clues to find out who was killing what seemed to be the most random people. No real patterns and years and years of painstaking work that led all to nothig for a few decades. Three great actors, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal all bring their A+ game and even with it's long drawn-out narrative, we are right there next to them hoping and praying they find out before they all lose their minds. Brilliant direction, writing and acting make this an easy candidate for the years best. Again, this one will slip by come Oscar time due to it's early January 07 release, but it's an instant classic in the Fincher catalog and possibly his most divergent film to date.

3. No Country for Old Men - The Coens have totally redeemed themselves. In a turn back to their gothic tales of deep, dark America, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men is a daunting tale of greed. A scorched Texas is the backdrop to the intertwining lives of three men. One lawman, one man in the wrong place at the right time and one sociopath bent on destruction of any living creature he meets. It's a brutal tale, but one that drips with some realism and some monstrous acts. Javier Bardem turns in the most chilling performance as the socipath Chigurh hunting down poor Josh Brolin as Moss. Barely any soundtracking leads to a non stop suspense fest that will leave you chilled to the bone. Such a nihilistic movie is bound to get crap for it's ending, but that's because people might not get the point of what the film is about. The Coen's return to form not only brought them back into the graces of their fans, it also generated easily yet another masterpiece for them. Can someone have more than one masterpiece? Yes.
2. Michael Clayton - Three amazing performances in one film is not something you see all the time yet this year was chock full of them. Although the performances of Clooney, Wilkinson and Swinton were outstanding, the real thrill was seeing writer Tony Gilroy get behind the lens and direct a debut like no other. The tale of a "cleaner" who helps out a corporate law firm turn over when something goes wrong is one of lies, deceit, greed and despair. Besides the story of cover ups and turning over stones to find treachery and other evil deeds, we get into the minds of the characters and see their tortured lives trying to deal with every day life. The plot never wears thin, the characters stay intriguing and the mystery is revealed slowly to us just the way it is to Michael Clayton. This is my pick for the years best original screenplay and I look forward to more from Gilroy behind the lens.

1. There Will Be Blood - P.T. Anderson out does himself with a little help from Daniel Day Lewis in the ears finest film, There Will Be Blood. It's sometimes hard to watch as Daniel Plainview gets more powerful and becomes more greed hungry, his descent into madness is harrowing and visceral. From digging the California soil for oil to wheeling and dealing the locals to "drink up" their oil, Plainview's journey is the years most interesting character. Eli Sunday played by Paul Dano is yet another groundbreaing, career making performance. His preacher is beguiling and scary. The preacher has as much greed in his heart as Plainview and their on screen encounters are the most intense. Music care of Johnny Greenwood should earn the Radiohead vet an oscar nom for Best Score and it should be a dead lock for Lewis and Anderson in their respective categories to take home the gold. Even though the tragic rise to power is hard to watch sometimes, it's not literally hard to watch thanks to the great performances, the intense direction, gorgeous cinematography and bone chilling music, there is no doubt that There Will Be Blood is an instant classic and the best film of 2007.


jmcleoson said...

No fay?

Paul Tsikitas said...

Fay Grim was great and all, but I don't think it would make the cut. I cut that, American Gangster and a few others.