I saw 111 films whose date of wide release in the US occured in 2007. My rankings merge domestic, foreign and documentary films into one list. So this brings separate award categories together and includes foreign films that might have been Oscar nominees in the previous year [but weren't really available for viewing until '07]. I have been keeping film reviews, scoring movies, and sharing my "top ten" for over twenty-five years. Of course the ideas and methods came from watching Siskel and Ebert on PBS back in the '70s.
Previous Lists: [2006] [2005]
1. Away From Her
[4 stars/10 out of 10]
Sarah Polley -- the Canadian actress and now director -- turned Alice Munro's short story into the very best film I saw last year. Sarah has an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Julie Christie delivers the best female leading performance of the year in this film about love and Alzheimer's disease [Oscar nominated; Golden Globe winner, etc. for JC].
This is a great love story. It details the lives love has touched and then details its loss without a false note. Indeed every chord is so so real, you will want to pause and look away. That's why I'm glad I saw this in a theater, where movies like this one are meant to be seen. If you rent it, and I recommend you do, pledge now keep watching no matter what. You'll love it.
2. After the Wedding
This film was a best foreign film nominee from last year and I think it is better than the winner -- The Lives of Others [3/8.5].
Like Away From Her, the intimacy of the relationships is almost too personal to be watching. The movie experience is book-like in the way it engages you and provides such detail. On film this is not done with so many words but with actors, direction, close-ups, carefully choosen dialogue and cimematic pauses for the filmgoer to think and immerse.
There are emotional twists and turns here, devastating moments and a happy ending [as the Dutch would see it]. You would not recognize the Hollywood remake.
3. Hot Fuzz
Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright & Co have followed up Shawn of the Dead [2004] with an aisle-roller that incorporates every cliche that the cops and robbers genre has to offer. And they just cut-cut-cut. Smart dialogue abounds too!
It simply takes Shaun to the next level with no hesitations or efforts wasted, like often found in someone's first film. It is #3 ahead of those that follow for a good reason. This is a fun time at the movies for people who go to the movies.
Shoot 'em Up [0 stars] is said to be so awful because it's really a parody of the shoot 'em up genre. I thought it was just awful and then some. But this is the film that every "send up" should be... Hot Fuzz is easy comparable to Shrek and Austin Powers when it comes to the sheer brillance of its creation.
4. The Bourne Ultimatum
This is third and best Bourne installment. It is also the best film of the year in the 2007 genre: "How did we get ourselves in so deep by thinking we were in charge of the world."
Others in this category are fine films -- No End in Sight [3/8.5], A Mighty Heart [# 13 below], and Charlie Wilson's War [3/9] but this pretty much explains it all: covering rendition, experimental interrogation utilizing water, including CIA reps who talk about winning and base patriotism on unquestioned authority. This is an important movie for all Americans to see... and enjoy.
Each Bourne movie has included a car chase that surpasses anything from any other film ever made and this one seemingly takes you on a thirty block path of destruction across the heart of Manhattan. Which, of course, isn't actually possible and that makes the Bonds and the Die Hards look so tired.
5. Across the Universe
Far and away for me, this was the best of this year's several movie musicals: I'm Not There [3/9], Once [3/8], Sweeney Todd [3/7].
The actors did their own singing and along with the dance sequences and the production values, the story flow is nothing short of all perfection. This is also the first time in my life I've watch a movie musical twice! I would enjoy seeing it again.
I know, I know Once is everyone's fair haired boy and girl but while I liked it well enough, the ending was strictly amateur hour.
Across the Universe use of Beatles' music is breathtaking, inventive, and proves it to be timeless.
6. Atonement
Wow, I didn't think I would like yet another WWII epic-drama-classic. But with two of our best young "A list" movie stars on board, I gave it a try and I was "swept away."
Here's the thing, not only are Keira and James terrific together, but they command the screen alone when living apart.
Will they? Do they? It's everything you got for your quarter at the movies way back when. I thought the ending was disappointing, but everything else here carried the day.
Playing the double feature game, pair this with the other great period piece -- Lust, Caution [3/9.0] -- curl up and stay in for the evening.
7. First Snow
A gritty mythic tale of what to do if you find your are in the middle of nowhere with a short lifeline. Mark Fergus get's his first directing gig [after penning Oscar nominated "Children of Men" last year]. This film was a February, arthouse release and therefore nobody saw it. I saw the preview and got to see in a theater.
Guy Pearce, William Fichtner, Piper Perabo, J.K. Simmons and a hit parade of "B+ list" actors, all are great in this small dark place. If you know your small time actors who always turn up as the odds and ends of the world, you'll want to see this one [it actually made it to DVD recently]. It also plays well on a smaller screen but you'll want to pay attention.
8. Gone Baby Gone
The cop-family-city-crime genre comes every summer as a big picture that headlines actors, a big-time director, and has a title like We Own the Night or American Gangster... saw the preview, avoided seeing the movie.
First-big-time film director* "Ben Affleck hits this one out of the pock [Fenway Pock... great Bostonspeak throughout, mostly delivered by native speakers]. Brother Casey and Michelle Monaghan, along with Oscar nominee Amy Ryan are all note perfect. All right, like a film set in Chicago for Roger Ebert, I'm a sucker for, but also a connoisseur of, all things Beantown and this is a great and complex time at the movies.
*Ben is credited with directing another film in the early '90s... the title is too long to print here! It's also too funny.
9. Lars and the Real Girl
Alright -- this is a movie that co-stars an inflatable life-sized doll, a "working doll" if you will. S
o let the one-liners begin. But, no, that's not where this story goes.
Here it's the small town people acting in a fairy tale that make this one so sweet. Yes, "so sweet" is the story and the ensemble of living breathing actors take this -- really -- unbelievable storyline and have you hoping and believing. You'll be so happy that it takes its time getting back to reality.
This is that town where Patricia Clarkson plays your family doctor... only in the movies.
10. Bella
If Knocked Up was played out in the Big City where Romance and Love and Life were Born, well, this is that Film [NYC is also a marquee town with big ideas, hence all the caps]. Set your film in the suburbs and you might just as well be in a mall and you get what you get: white bread love and that mall vernacular of a title.
Bella might have Christ-like overtones and, like the aforementioned mall movie, takes a run at a pro-life stance, but I loved it for the close-up lives of these immigrant-Americans... and it's okay to have a choice and then make either one. In America, of course, was a great film on this subject but portraits of our "other" Americans don't come along every year. Another twin bill [the latter two titles].
This next tier of films all received the same rating: 3.5/9.0.
11. Black Snake Moan; 12. There Will Be Blood; 13. A Mighty Heart; 14. Paris, Je T'aime; 15. The Namesake
The Rest of the Best: 3.0/9.0 [alpha order]
The Assassination of Jesse James...; Charles Wilson's War; Enchanted; I'm Not There; Juno; Lady Chatterley; Lust, Caution
"I hate, hate, hated" these films [famous Roger Ebert quote; zero stars for these...] I want my two hours back:
Before the Devil Knows You're Gone; Catch and Release; Hannibal Rising; Ocean's Thirteen; Offside; Rescue Dawn; Shoot 'em Up