Top 20 Favorite Films of 2007

Okay, so everybody likes lists. Here’s my Top 20 Favorite Films of 2007, with commentary on the top 10:

20) Eastern Promises 

19) Charlie Wilson’s War 

18) Juno 

17) Ratatouille 

16) Hot Fuzz 

15) King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters 

14) Knocked Up 

13) Once 

12) Gone Baby Gone

11) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 

10) Zodiac This intense triptych of character studies is David Fincher’s most restrained and accomplished film to date, as well as a sobering balance to the endless serial killer films that seem to glorify their villains more than condemn them, of which Fincher’s own Seven is a sterling example. Although Jake Gyllenhaal’s baby face is incapable of feigning the extra years his Robert Graysmith needed to really look beat down by life in the films later sequences, it’s not just an engaging story, it’s also an incredible acting showcase for three of the best male actors working today. (Robert Downey, Jr., and Mark Ruffalo co-starred.)

9) Michael Clayton — Another film where a host of acting powerhouses elevated a smart, solid script to greatness, Clayton is a taut, realistic thriller for people who don’t need chase scenes and explosions every other minute…

8) Bourne Ultimatum — … not that there’s anything wrong with taut, realistic thrillers for people who doneed chase scenes and explosions every other minute, as Michael Clayton screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s thirdBourne film exemplifies. Paul Greengrass managed to tame his shakey-cam a little bit, and he didn’t forget to keep up the strong characterization and tight (if thin) plotting that sets the Bourne franchise apart from all the other actioners out there today.

7) Lars and the Real Girl — The best film of the year by a director responsible for one of the worst films of the year. It’s hard to believe that the Mr. Woodcock helmer could be responsible for Lars, as well. With its bizarro premise, it’s all the more impressive that Craig Gillespie could nail the tone of the film so well. I was sure this film would be annoying when I was walking into the theater, but it won me over within minutes and kept me right where it needed me the rest of the show. Ryan Gosling does an admirable job selling a guy so fucked up from loneliness that getting a sex doll for non-sexual reasons is almost believable, but for my money, Kelli Garner’s intoxicatingly sweet turn as Lars’s flesh-and-blood romantic interest was the real stand-out performance in a film stuffed with them.

6) Rocket Science — Jeffrey Blitz’s 2002 documentary Spellbound was one of my favorite films of its year, and I’m happy to say that his debut feature, Rocket Science, is as well. Perhaps I’m partial to quirky indie comedies about nerdy high school kids, though. Although Rocket Science certainly follows in the footsteps of Rushmore, it has its own distinctly awkward flavor. Structured deceptively like a typical high school romance/sports flick, Rocket Science upends almost every one of its genre’s clichés. Thanks in large part to its terrific cast (headed by stars-in-the-making Reece Thompson and Anna Kendrick), Rocket Science may not be the funniest comedy of the year (that would be Knocked Up), but it’s the smartest, most human, and most surprising comedy of the year.

5) Death Proof — Audiences seem really mixed about Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof based on its unveiling (in truncated form) as the second half of Grindhouse. After the splatter-happy ridiculousness ofPlanet Terror, Death Proof’s two-act structure and languorous clip outside of the two major car sequences was probably too weird of a shift for mainstream audiences, but taken on its own, DP‘s hot cars, hot music, and hot girls make for one hell of a ride.

4) Diving Bell and the Butterfly — I was afraid I was going to be walking into The Sea Inside, Part Two, with this film, but instead I was met with one of the most beautiful, viscerally engaging films I’ve seen in ages. Aside from the obvious paralysis parallels, the only other similarity between the films is that it will be seen as future Bond villain Mathieu Almaric’s breakout role, as with Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside. Diving Bell is a less stoic, more passionate film, and these passions permeate every frame and every note of its pop song-filled soundtrack.

Now, my top three was giving me trouble. Truth is, I would rather watch all three of these films again before I really broke them down into rankings, because they are all three masterpieces, each with a remarkably different tone. But, without the time to see them all again, I just decided to go with my initial thoughts after seeing There Will Be Blood on Saturday:

3) There Will Be Blood — If There Will Be Blood has any flaws at all, it’s that it can be so easily described in terms of other great films: it’s Citizen Kane meets The Treasure of Sierra Madre, with a dash of Giant. Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic character study of Day-Lewis as a complete prick may not have the freshest themes, but the expert storytelling behind it all manages to keep Blood a gripping, shocking film at every turn.

2) No Country for Old Men — The Coen Brothers step back into Blood Simple mode and turn Cormac McCarthy’s pulpy novel into one of the finest crime thrillers ever filmed. The script is a perfect balance of story and character, performed by an absolutely fantastic cast, with an innovative use of music to add to the sense of imminent doom that permeates much of the film. Ultimately, No Country may not really have much of substance to say about the human condition — it’s not deep as some of its fans make it out to be — but what it still is, is breath-takingly awesome.

1) The Lives of Others — Last year’s Best Foreign Language Film is the best film released in the US in 2007. If the virtuosic central performance by Kevin Spacey’s evil twin, Ulrich Mühe, were the only great thing about The Lives of Others, it would still be a great film. It it weren’t set in a richly detailed and complex portrait of Communist East Germany in the mid ’80s and of the stifled art world within it… if it weren’t accompanied by a Gabriel Yared & Stéphane Moucha’s gorgeous score… if the pacing of the story were not so mathematically perfect, The Lives of Others would still be a fantastic film. It’s the combination of all these elements and the film’s potent, still-relevant warning against allowing a regime to hold or gain power at the expense of the peoples’ right to speak the truth that make this one of the finest films I’ve ever seen.

And just because I’m a big nerd about movie scores:

Best Soundtrack of the Year: Atonement by Dario Marianelli — I’ve been listening to the scores forThe Assassination of Jesse James (by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) and Atonement lately, and have to say it’s a tough call between them. While Assassination‘s is achingly beautiful, almost otherworldly (if nothing else, check out the tracks "Rather Lovely Thing" and "Song for Jesse" at iTunes), Dario Marianelli’s score for Atonement is more varied, more sweeping, and more moving than the film itself, and never moreso than in the film’s 5 1/2 minute tracking shot, set to "Elegy for Dunkirk" from the soundtrack album. (The title track is the other must-buy from Atonement‘s soundtrack album.) I can’t claim to be a fan of the movie as a whole — it suffers from the Bad Shit Happening Syndrome that so many romantic tragedies do: there is no real story, just a series of bad shit happening to good people — but this film’s score is superb.

Posted on January 7, 2008 at 12:00 by Gordon@MovieMakeout · Permalink
In: Movies, Opinions/Editorials · Tagged with: ,

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  1. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-22 at 00:34

    Now that I’ve mulled things over a bit more, I would probably shuffle around 20–11 significantly if I were to make this list now, especially if I had the chance to re-watch a few of these.

    I’m positive that This Is England would make the list, probably in the low teens somewhere, and Rocket Science (which I’ve bought on DVD) would probably rank a little bit lower.

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