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Saturday, February 23, 2008

2007 Top Ten List

Here is the moment everyone has been waiting for. My 2007 Top Ten list! Yes, it's February, but everyone knows that the movie year does not end until the Oscars. So, here we are, a day before the Oscars. And, what a year 2007 was. It's the best I've ever experienced in my lifetime. Some films that will really stand the test of time and I feel honored that I was able to experience it.

I saw 44 films this past year. Yeah, 44. Before I get to the actual Top Ten, I listed all the films I viewed to give you an idea of what was in contention. Then, I did a couple "fun" categories. Then, you'll see my top ten from number ten to number one. What will be number one? Read on and find out...

*=Saw on the "big" screen

3:10 to Yuma
*Across the Universe
American Gangster
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Away from Her
Blades of Glory
Broken English
Chapter 27 (Premiered in 2007, to be Released in March 2008)
*The Darjeeling Limited
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Eastern Promises
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
*Everybody Wants to Be Italian (2007 Boston Film Festival)
Gone Baby Gone
*Grace is Gone (2007 Boston Film Festival)
*Greetings from the Shore (2007 Boston Film Festival)
*I'm Not There
*In the Land of Merry Misfits (2007 Boston Film Festival)
Into the Wild
The Killing of John Lennon (Premiered in 2007, Released in January 2008)
*Knocked Up
La Vie en Rose
Michael Clayton
*No Country for Old Men
*Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Rocket Science
*Spider-Man 3
*Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber on Fleet Street
The Ten
*There Will Be Blood
Year of the Dog

Best Film Viewed at Boston Film Festival:
Grace is Gone
John Cusack gives a strong performance that was forgotten around Oscar time. He takes his two girls on a road trip after the sudden death of their Mother, who was fighting in Iraq.

Best Indie Film You Probably Haven't Seen, but Should:
Rocket Science and Waitress (tie)
I couldn't pick just one. Both these films were from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and nominated for the Indie Spirit Awards. They're also both out on DVD and I highly suggest you rent them both especially if you like boys who stutter trying to debate or hot, juicy pies.

Rising Female Star of 2007:
Ellen Page
First, Hard Candy. Now, Juno. Ellen Page has a bright future ahead of her (I think). Her next film will be highly anticipated.

Rising Male Star of 2007:
Casey Affleck
He's been around for ten years, but 2007 was Casey's breakout with two challenging roles that he excelled in. He's beginning to step out of his brother's shadow and he deserves it.

Best All Around Year for a Male Star:
Josh Brolin
It was a busy year for Josh. Four films and three were nominated for Oscars (No Country, American Gangster, and In the Valley of Elah). His other film was Grindhouse. He proved he is one of the most under-appreciated actors working today.

Best All Around Year for a Female Star:
Cate Blanchett
Two Oscar nominations (Supporting Actress for I'm Not There and Actress for Elizabeth: The Golden Age). Maybe, she'll even win for one. Cate is one of the best actresses this decade and she showed no signs of slowing down.

Most Surprising Film I Disliked:
I'm Not There and Michael Clayton (tie)
To be fair, I want to give both these films another chance, but they both left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Most Surprising Film I Enjoyed:
Never thought I'd like a movie with John Travolta dressed like a woman, but I did. A solid remake with a strong ensemble cast.

Favorite Female Character of 2007:
Ginny Ryerson from Rocket Science
She talks a mile a minute. She "likes" to make-out in janitor's closets. She's manipulative. Sounds like my next girlfriend. What? I'm with love with her. I'll admit it.

Favorite Male Character of 2007:
Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood
He's like the role model of the 21st century even though he lived during the early 20th century. He's Greedy, angry, envious, violent, and merciless. He also likes milkshakes and bowling. I also like milkshakes and bowling. Sounds like my next best friend.

Favorite Scene of 2007:
"Bowling Alley Scene" from There Will Be Blood
Not the best acting scene in the film, but what a scene! It ending of this film makes sure you won't ever forget about it. You'll also never look at milkshakes and bowling the same way again.

2007 Top Ten
10. Ratatouille
An animation! I not a huge fan of animations, but it's hard not to like this film. It's so well done and the best work Pixar has done since Toy Story. Remy and Linguini are very likable characters who create a great dynamic together. Some really fun supporting characters from Gusteau and Anton Ego (what a great name). It's also a technically sound film. A solid soundtrack from the score to the actual mix. The score itself is one of the best of 2007. Ratatouille is just a well told story and that starts with the genius of Brad Bird. He does a great job of combining tender moments with moments of laughter with a solid screenplay. I've said this once and I'll say this again, this film is not just a great animated film. It's a great film.

9. Knocked Up
A Judd Apatow film actually made this list. I know, I know. This is actually a really good film. It's not as over the top as some of Apatow's other work (ex. Superbad). Seth Rogen is a rising star. Katherine Heigl proved she could act in films not just television. The premise for this movie may be "stupid", but Apatow makes it work. Judd is one of the best writers in Hollywood today and I personally thought it deserved a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Ben Stone starts out the movie as a lovable loser and progresses to someone who actually has some direction in his life. The film is a journey of his character and it's a fun journey. Full of many laughs that were not forced. And, that's a great quality to have in a comedy.

8. Gone Baby Gone
Now, I have a Ben Affleck film. Please, don't stop reading this entry. Seriously, did you see this film? Most people didn't and it's a shame. Affleck comes through with a very respectable directorial debut. Dennis Lehane's novel is a film that keeps you guessing and that's what I love about it. The story seems to be resolved until the audience is thrown another curveball. I love movies that do that. I also thought the cast in this film was very solid. Starting from the top, Casey Affleck really anchors this film. Then, add supporting performances from Amy Ryan, Ed Harris, and Morgan Freeman. This film twists and turns you until the very end. It's wicked pissah!

7. Juno
Ellen Page is quickly establishing herself as the current "It" actress in Hollywood. Diablo Cody is quickly establishing herself as the current "It" writer in Hollywood. Jason Reitman is quickly establishing himself as the current "It" director in Hollywood. Why? Because everyone loves Juno. It's the feel good movie of the year. It's the little indie that could. This is a film filled with heartwarming and dramatic moments. It has the ability to make you laugh and cry before the credits roll. That starts with Page, who did such a good job at not making Diablo Cody's dialogue too quirky. She found a good balance and made it sound natural when most people would probably fail. And let's not forget the supporting cast of Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, and J.K. Simmons. It's even loaded with a good soundtrack (Mott the Hoople!). Considering that many of the great films this year have a dark tone, Juno gives a refreshing change of pace and is a very good alternative.

6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
A film that no one really saw. Still trying to find someone who watched it, so I can talk to them about it. This film is one of the most technically sound films of 2007. It starts with phenomenal cinematography. Arguably the best of the year. Roger Deakins just has some amazing shots in there and you have to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of them. Then, you have an amazing performance from Casey Affleck (Robert Ford). His chemistry with Brad Pitt (Jesse James) made this film work exceptionally well. He idolizes him and assassinates him. Affleck's eyes are mesmerizing. The amount of fear he holds in is unparalleled. This film is long, but is worth the viewing.

5. No Country for Old Men
No Country is only number five? Oh no! It's going to be okay, I promise. As I've written in my blog previously, I'm just not a fan of the Coens. Respect them? Yes. Like their movies? No. This film I did enjoy, I just liked four better. They did create a film for the ages. Very meticulous and full of tension that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Javier Bardem created a great villain that scared the hell out of you. That scene at the gas station with the coin is easily one of the best scenes of not just 2007, but the decade. The amount of fear in the old man's eyes is great and the expressionless look of Anton Chigurh is even greater. The ending was questionable, but I'm over it. My bigger issue with this film was I didn't give a damn about anyone. I had no feelings (good or bad) for Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) or his wife. I know the Coens like to make movies about stupid people making stupid decisions, but it's not for me. With that said, it's a great film and I expect it to be named Best Picture at the Oscars.

4. Into the Wild
I've been reading that some people didn't like this film because of Chris McCandless's character (Emile Hirsch). I found Alexander Supertramp to be very likable. This film has a lot of heart and you can tell Sean Penn was determined to make the best movie possible. It's a great film about relationships with people and discovering yourself. The guy leaves everything (and I mean everything) behind to go to Alaska. It takes him two years and it feels like you are on the journey with him. Emile Hirsch finally proves he can carry a film. Add onto that strong support from Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Hal Holbrook. And speaking of Holbrook, his performance is very passionate, especially the scene when he tells Hirsh that he wants to adopt him. Very powerful stuff.

3. Atonement
A lot of people thought this film was a waste of time. I completely disagree. Joe Wright created a film that was one of my favorites of the year. I loved the usage of time and always making the audience think. This film is just well made. It has a memorable, epic score. It's beautifully shot. How can you not respect that tracking shot on the beach? Arguably the best of the year. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy really anchor this film. From the scene in the library to their desire to be together throughout the rest of the film. Then, you have Saoirse Ronan giving an Oscar worthy performance at the age of 13. Some people think they were lied to at the end of this film. I looked at it with anger and disappointment. Realizing that you have to live with your choices and you have to make a decision as to how you move on. Whatever path you choose, is the one you live with. And, that's why I thought this film was powerful.

2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Every so often there is a film that makes you appreciate life more than you already did. Gives you the definition of your very own fragile existence and that was this film for me. A simply stunning film that sent a couple shivers down my spine. Julian Schnabel directed the hell out of this film. He had such a clear vision and his collaboration with Janusz Kaminski was top notch. I loved the cinematography in this film and I thought the mise-en-scene of Schnabel was amazing. I kept wanting to ask myself why this film looked so beautiful? Really, you have to give credit to Ronald Harwood for adapting the book and writing one of the finest screenplays of the year. That had to have been a tough job and arguably the toughest adaptation of the year. Also, don't forget a great performance by Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique Bauby. Yes, he was paralyzed in his whole body besides his eye, but it was so real (plus there are flashbacks). There was just something about it that was so emotional. That scene with his father (Max von Sydow) was the most emotional scene this year that I saw. It was a phone conversation and they were not even in the same room, but there was this electricity. Unmatched and that's amazing directing. All I have to say is get over the subtitles and watch this extraordinary film. It's full of imagination and memories that will move you like no other film this year. Easily one of the best French films since The 400 Blows.

1. There Will Be Blood
Did you really think Paul Thomas Anderson was not going to be number one? Yeah me neither. What's to write that I haven't already written. Ambitious. Epic. Masterpiece. I honestly believe that every time Paul sets out to make a movie, he wants to be the best. And at the age of 38, he's beginning to enter the stage in his life when he fulfills that promise. Yeah, you could pick apart this film and find flaws, but what film doesn't have them? Name me another filmmaker who could make this film? Anderson is on the top of his game and one of the best auteurs alive today. There's a performance from Daniel Day-Lewis that's the best of the decade. He doesn't play Plainview, he is Plainview. He takes acting to another level. The baptism scene ("I've abandoned my boy!") is simply breathtaking. There's a supporting cast of Paul Dano and a bunch of relative unknowns that do a hell of a job including Kevin J. O'Connor, Ciaran Hinds, and Dillon Freasier. The cinematography is phenonamal and proves Robert Elswit is one of the best working today. How does he make the desert look so fucking good? Well, he can thank Jack Fisk, who created a world from scratch and made it look so beautiful. Jonny Greenwood composed a score that is haunting and complements the film so well. Some of those string arrangements are great. Even Dylan Tichenor establishes a smooth pace for the film and makes it feel like the film never wastes a second. The film may lose Best Picture tomorrow, but let's be honest. It's what people remember and people will remember this film long after I'm dead and buried. And, that's why it's number one.

This list is subjective. There is no right or wrong ranking. Still, you are free to disagree. I'd love to hear your top ten for 2007. It was an amazing year for filmmaking.

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