Friday, December 28, 2007

The Top Ten Films of 2007!

This was a tough one to construct. I had hoped to make a top ten list of trashy flicks but, to be honest, I haven't seen that many that were actually released this year. So, I'm doing this thing straight up. Yeah, the top ten films of the year. Things that might actually be up for awards. I know, I know. I'm sorry. If I had done this any other way this would be an incredibly short list. Also, keep in mind that I'm not a paid critic. Therefore, several films still remain unseen by me. For instance, I still haven't seen The Assasination of Jesse James, The Simpsons Movie, Breach, The Condemned, or The Hitcher. If you feel any of these films deserves a place on this list, let me know in the comments. So, without further ado...the best films of 2007.

10. Rescue Dawn
Anyone who thinks Bale's performance as Dieter Dengler in Werner Herzog's mini-masterpiece Rescue Dawn is awful (and I admit, I thought that for a second) should take a look at Herzog's documentary on the same subject called Little Dieter Needs To Fly. This is a fantastic performance given superb support by Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies. I believe Bale's character is too quirky to be given serious consideration for a Best actor Oscar, but Zahn has to be a sure thing for a supporting actor nom. Typical of Herzog, we are presented with lushly oppressive jungle photography. The ending seems supremely corny, but take a look at the documentary. It happened EXACTLY the same way. I was moved by Dieter's unshaken optimism, even after the Viet Cong enlisted the aid of the Manticore at the end. Just kidding, that didn't happen.

9. Zodiac
What's this? Another film on my list that doesn't feature Creatures from the abyss, radioactive mutants, or Mons-turds (trust me, it's coming)? This is a slow burn of a film that may leave some viewers cold and unsatisfied. It's a shame because this just might be David Fincher's best film. Robert Downey jr is terrific as are Jake Gyllenhaal (for once), Mark Ruffalo (as the inspiration for Dirty Harry in a role that is very un-Dirty Harry), Anthony Edwards, and John Carroll Lynch as the lead suspect. The movie doesn't really answer many questions but does seem to take a firm stand on the placement of guilt. This is a 70s movie all the way down to the look, feel, and film stock. Needs to be seen more than once.

8. Sunshine
Finally, a return to smart, serious science fiction that also manages to entertain (sorry Solaris). In the not too distant future, the sun is burning out and, in a last ditch effort, Earth sends a group of scientists into space aboard the ill-named Icarus II in the hopes of reigniting it. What happened to Icarus I? Watch and find out. The plot sounds Armageddon-stupid, but this film is more about what happens during the journey. The cast is first rate with Hiroyuki Sandada, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy leading the way. Several set pieces stand out including one where we find out what really happens to man if he's trapped in space without a suit (hint; he doesn't turn inside out). Alex Garland and Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) provide us with one mis-step, involving Freddy Kreuger, but I forgive them.

7. Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg team up, again, to provide us with a perfect counterpoint to History of Violence. In that film, Viggo was essentially a bad guy pretending to be good. Here, he's a good guy pretending to be bad. In both cases, he is entirely convincing. Cronenberg has moved light years beyond the sterile, vaginal horrors of his early days. Here is a film that is not only moving, but beautiful to look at as well. Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassell are terrific, but it's Armin Mueller-Stahl who blows us away as the seemingly benevolent head of the Russian mob, residing in London. Still, the film belongs to Viggo and Cronenberg, who would be well on his way to winning an Oscar, except that he still insists on shocking the viewer (thankfully). In this picture, we are shown the most brutal throat slashing in mainstream film history, as well as a naked Viggo brawling for his life in a shower.

6. Black Book
Speaking of directors that will likely never win an Academy Award due to their tendency towards the shocking, Paul Verhoeven has crafted a stunningly good Dutch language film set during World War II about a Jewish girl (Carice Van Houten) who pretends to be a Nazi to help the resistance. Of course, this being Verhoeven, we are treated to a scene of Van Houten dying her pubic hair AND later having a large bucket of shit dumped on her. These are two things the Academy voters are not too fond of, in my opinion. Van Houten is the real find here. It's a beautiful performance. Sebastian Koch is terrific as well as the slightly sympathetic, stamp collecting Nazi that she pretends to love, but then sorta falls in love with for real. This is likely the only time a subtitled film will ever appear in this blog, so I suggest you revel in it.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum
I'm just going to come right out and say it. The Bourne films blow the Bond films away. It's that simple. Bond is just kinda silly in comparison. Take a look at Casino Royale for proof. They tried to Bourne Bond up in that one and while it was the best Bond film in recent memory, it still doesn't hold a candle to Bourne. Matt Damon was born to play Bourne. Sorry for that. These films are exceedingly smart. Jason Bourne never does something that isn't absolutely necessary. The films get a little too shaky-cam happy at times, but that simply serves to place the viewer in the midst of the action. The director of the best two films in the series (Supremacy and this one) is Paul Greengrass and he's done more than a bang up job. It's very rare that the ending of an action movie gives me chills. This one did.

4. Superbad
And you guys thought I didn't like comedies! The award for the funniest film of the year goes to Superbad. Michael Cera (Arrested Development) has teenage awkwardness down to a science. Jonah Hill as his best friend Seth isn't funny just because he's large. The funniest character is probably Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the "25 year old organ donor McLovin". Something tells me the actor will fade into obscurity as his lack of any range whatsoever is discovered. If only that had happened to Jon Heder. Basically, it's a night in the life of two High School students trying to get boozed up and laid. Seth Rogan and Bill Hader are hilarious as two cops that have yet to grow up. I won't say it's as good as Dazed & Confused, but I definitely laughed more.

3. 300
Perhaps the greatest crowd-pleaser I saw this year, 300 is a terrifically entertaining underdog story. Much better than recent Underdog stories such as Underdog or Dodgeball: An Underdog Story. Gerard Butler gladiators up as King Leonidas. Let's face it though. We didn't come here for the acting. The visuals are spectacular. 90% of what we see was generated inside of a computer. All of the landscapes, most of the beasts, and I think the majority of those androgynous Persians as well. The battle scenes are incredible, the deaths are brutal, and the testosterone is pumped to ridiculous levels. They tried to offset it a little by including a side plot involving Leonidas's wife, Queen Gorgo, but the ladies weren't buying it. Zach Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) continues to make his name as a visual stylist beyond compare. I can't wait to see what he does next.

2. The Mist
And the award for the film with the most fucked up, nihilistic ending that I loved this year goes to Frank Darabont's The Mist. Based on the Stephen King story of the same name, The Mist is the story of what happens after the military accidentaly opens a gateway to another dimension. It's an interesting, and not particularly original premise. In fact, the idea owes a lot to H.P. Lovecraft. Where the picture excels, however, is depicting the terrors that occur amongst a group of survivors holed up inside a super market. Marcia Gay Harden is terrifying as the sinister religious zealot Mrs. Carmody, while Thomas Jane and Toby Jones (a fantastic performance) believe that this is something other than the "end of times". The gore is abundant and the creatures will have your skin crawling. It's been weeks since I've seen it and I still can't shake that ending.

1. No Country For Old Men
I hesitated before proclaiming this #1 because I knew everyone else would. Then I thought to myself that if it looks like shit, feels like shit, and smells like shit than it must be shit. That's the case here only if we replace "shit" with best picture of the year. Enough has already been said about Bardem's Chigurh, the scariest badman of the last ten years or so. Only Chigurh wouldn't consider himself bad at all. Josh Brolin channels a younger Nick Nolte (was Nolte ever really young?) in his portrayal of Llewelyn Moss, the unfortunate soul that picks up the satchel of money from a drug deal gone horrificaly wrong. My favorite character moment was when Moss, feeling a pang of guilt, decides to bring a jug of water back to the scene of the crime, where a dying mexican was begging for "agua" hours before. The picture is excuciatingly suspenseful at times. At others, darkly funny. Roger Deakins provides beautiful, desolate photography. Tommy Lee Jones, as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, plays a guy he's made a career out of playing, only this time he's even sadder (if that's possible). Carter Burwell's non-score suits the picture perfectly. Every character is note perfect, from Kelly Macdonald as Carla Jean Moss to Garrett Dillahunt as Deputy Wendell. Perhaps my favorite was the great Barry Corbin as Sheriff Bell's mentor, Ellis, who delivers one of the film's stirring monologues; "This country is hard on people...You can't stop what's coming. Ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity." The ending is considered by most as unsatisfying, but I thought it was perfect AND incredibly moving. The stuff of myths. Oh yeah, and I think it was made by the Coen brothers in case that means anything to you.

Minor complaints: No nudity. No aliens.

Coming shortly, my bottom five.


brian said...

Honorable mentions go to:
Bridge to Terabitha
Black Snake Moan
Grindhouse (especially the non-talky parts in Death Proof)
28 Weeks Later
and Beowulf (as a pure theatrical experience, it's definitely in my top ten. Unfortunately, I hate that kind of animation and don't think it will play nearly as well on DVD. We shall see.)

brian said...

Also, I really don't enjoy writing about "good" movies. It's not nearly as fun.

brian said...

Oh, and 3:10 to Yuma was pretty good too.

elmo said...

Southland Tales was my favorite.

brian said...

Southland Tales can be lumped into the group of films I have yet to see. While this list might not be definitive, it is, nevertheless, a list.

Gianni said...

You need to see the Simpsons Movie, it might've made your top 10. Eastern Promises, though? No doubt Viggo Mortensen was frickin' awesome, and you're right and Mueller-Stahl was good, even if it was kind of a copy of Brando's Godfather. But the storytelling doesn't work too well, and the ending was pretty sudden and mediocre.

Beepy said...

I've only seen "300" and I have no complaints with it being included in your list.

I'd like to nominate "The Simpson's Movie" for Funniest Nude Skateboarding scene and Best Song of the Year (I'm still singing "Spider Pig."). Also Gael Garcia Bernal as the Sexiest Actor Ever.

brian said...

I highly doubt 'The Simpsons' movie would make my list based on the last 7 or 8 seasons. To label 'Eastern Promises' as merely a copy of Brando's Godfather is extremely weak. Might as well label 'Goodfellas' or 'Millers Crossing' as a 'Godfather' clone as well. There really isn't any comparison beyond the mafia angle. Also, the ending worked for me.

brian said...

Oh I get it now. STAHL was a copy of Brando's Godfather. I guess they kinda look similar, but I don't see that either. And Stahl didn't talk with cotton balls in his mouth.

brian said...

Oh no! I completely forgot about the best kids movie of the year, Fido!

Sam said...

awesome list, Brian--and I completely agree about Bourne's supremacy over Bond. 'Casino Royale' WAS the best Bond movie in a hell of a long time, and it was still a disaster (and featured a card game that lasted like 45 frickin minutes). The last two Bourne movies have been sensational.

(The Simpsons Movie would definitely not have made your top ten--it's the equivalent of three mediocre episodes; which still makes it pretty good.)

You're good at writing about good movies!

Sam said...

Oh, and I liked Rescue Dawn, too, which surprised me since Werner herzog movies usually set my teeth on edge. (How anyone could think highly of 'Grizzly Man' astounds me.) But 'Rescue Dawn' was clutchingly suspenseful for nearly its entire two hours.

Gianni said...

Maybe I haven't watched much of the Simpsons for the last few seasons, but the movie is FAR better than any episode I've seen in a LONG time. You should still see it, even if you don't put it among your top movies. I think it compares favorably with Superbad, which IS on the list.

brian said...

While I don't think too highly of 'Grizzly Man' as a film, I do find it fascninating in a rubbernecking sort of way. Treadwell is pretty much a complete moron and deserves what he go, although I do feel sorry for his girlfriend. Still, because he was such an idiot, he was able to get some amazing close up shots of the Grizzlies.

sam said...

It's not that Treadwell isn't deserving of a documentary, or didn't get some good footage of bears (although, as you point out, he was an idiot and probably ISN'T deserving of a documentary, and his footage is far poorer than that gathered by any professional National Geographic movie)--it's the endless scenes of canned 'testimony' from Treadwell's 'friends,' urged on by Herzog himself that make the film so utterly unbearable.

brian said...

Yeah, that's just Herzog being Herzog I guess. His docs are often more a reflection on himself than his subjects. Still, I watch them when in need of some visual and aural stimulation.

Did you see his documentary on burning oil fields in 'Iraq'?

Anonymous said...

You cried in ENCHANTED. You don't want to mention that? Scum.

And I witnessed three grown men weeping in I AM LEGEND and also getting annoyed by a loud Irakki phone talker during the dog killing scene. How quickly your mind forgets...

brian said...

I'm not sure what you're talking about. I've never cried during any film. EVER.

Sam said...

Hmm, I just saw 'No Country for Old Men' and I'm having trouble seeing it as a movie of the year....
I do agree that it's suspenseful, although largely in a grueling, exhausting way (someone gets a hole shot through his chest in essentially every single scene, so you just sit clenched until it happens, then do it again), not in an especially exhilirating sense.
The cat-and-mouse in the motels in the middle of the film are extremely well done, but the attempts to make the movie larger than a couple guys trying to get a bag of money are all pretty empty in my mind. It seemed to me the movie was about nothing at all, and not in a philosophical way (although, since it's based on a McCarthy book, there's a lot of high-sounding nonsense meant to pass as philosophy).
And, being based on McCarthy, it's racist, too. Struck me as a poor man's 'Fargo'...

brian said...

Wow, I couldn't disagree more. It's very possible that, after another viewing, this might be the best, maturest work the Coens have done, in my opinion. I thought it was interesting how the film got progressively less violent as it went on. If you remember, the last few kills by Chigurh are ALL out of our view. I think people think the film is much more violent than it actually is. The confrontation between Chigurh and Carla Jean was nothing short of amazing, in my opinion. She was pretty much the only character that refused to play by his rules (even the gas station attendant eventually relented).

It IS exhaustingly suspenseful at times (but I would never say that's a bad thing).

I love the scene when Ed Tom Bell goes into the hotel room at the end. Where do you think Chigurh was?

The last conversation with Ellis left me completely moved by Ed Tom's plight. He's pretty much resigned himself to failure at this point. Oh well.

When you say it's racist, are you referring to the depiction of the mexicans? hmmmm....I didn't really think that. Maybe that makes me racist? Also, seems like you had a bias against McCarthy already? I think he's great, so maybe my loving this film was preordained (although I certainly didn't love 'All the Pretty Horses'). Many of his characters are racist, sure, but I'm not sure that makes him racist. He seems to have a great love for the border country and at times that even includes the mexican people. He's used the 'N' word at times, but I guess I always thought that came from character. Maybe I'm wrong. I certainly haven't read everything from him.

Anyway, I think it's great that this film has caused a lot of discussion. I know 6 people who have seen it and 4 have hated it. We'll see what time does to things, but I'm anxious to see it again.

Next on my list, 'There Will Be Blood'.

brian said...

by "next on my list", I mean I'll be seeing "There Will Be Blood". I likely won't be reviewing it.

sam said...

Well, I take your point that the final murders take place out of scene, but I don't think that makes for a less violent film (maybe a slightly less gory film). There's still A LOT of the old Hollywood chestnut scenes of graphic self-surgery, and there's bubbling throat wound death, and so on. A lot of it is damn tense, I agree, and it's successful in that way. (I was disappointed with the last scene with Carla Jean, though--I get that she doesn't play his game, but so what? They didn't draw out the scene in any rewarding way. His game is nothing at all, just a rationale in his head to kill people in his slow-walking Friday-the-13th way. The point seems to be that this guy's "principles" or whatever are now revealed to be cowardly, self-serving nonsense. But we always knew that.)

I didn't understand the scene in the hotel room. I assumed Chigurh was actually in the next room over from the one Ed Tom Bell entered?

And I'm only biased against the things McCarthy does badly, which include his high-falutin portentous streak, where his characters utter pseudo-scriptural nonsense about the 'philosophy of what if' and the 'verification of bones that that are dust and that do not gather' etc ad infinitum. It also includes his continual depiction of Indians and (in this case) Mexicans as primitives, simple and primeival. Only wacky Mexicans would regale a passed-out derelict with Mariachi music! The racism has nothing to do with using the n-word.

brian said...

Wow, I can't believe you just equated Chigurh with Jason Vorhees. I feel like we saw different movies. C'mon! He was a terrific antagonist. The first coin flip was one of the greatest scenes I've viewed in a long time. I loved the way he talked, especially in THAT scene and the one with Harrelson. I don't think his game is as "simple" as you claim. When he has said he's going to do something, nothing is going to stop him from doing it. Why else would he have gone back to visit Carla Jean at the end? Because he told Moss he would. He's decided what he's going to do here, but the coin toss is just a way for 'fate' to possibly intervene. I think that Chigurh himself was sort of a representation of fate as well. Also, even though it wasn't very practical, you have to admit, that air gun was damned cool!

In addition, I love a good self-surgery scene and this one was terrific. I especially loved the way he went about getting the medical supplies.

I didn't think the story was THAT deep. Sheriff Bell is getting older and can't keep up. He's always a step behind. Justice is not always served. Simply put, the movie was exceedingly well done that refused to "reward" the audience with a climactic gun-fight, which I think was a part of the point the movie was making. Did we really need to see what happened when those Mexicans found Moss?

Regarding the "racist" depiction of the Mariachi band. Um, I don't know...I've seen street musicians (of various races) serenading passed out drunks before. Maybe Moss happened to pass out on their corner? Perhaps they really were JUST three wacky mexicans? It's possible. I know it plays to a stereotype, but I didn't think it was really malicious.

Also, I understand what you are saying about McCarthy, I just don't completely agree. Not ALL Mexicans are depicted as "primitives". On the flip side, he depicts just as many whites, maybe even more, in a negative light. It's more of a grey area, I think.

Anyway, I need to see it again because I can't really defend it properly. It's been a couple of months and everything is not so fresh, although certain scenes (Carla Jean, hotel shoot-out, and the last scene with Ellis) have stayed with me for a long time.

brian said...

I'd like to give out one more honorable mention to Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner: The Final Cut'. He's taken a big, beautiful mess and, with some subltle tweaks, turned a big, beautiful mess into a bonafide masterpiece.

steve said...

'Grizzly Man' was 'unbearable'? Hee. That's good stuff.

steve said...

'300' was quite possibly the greatest movie ever made.

brian said...


I thought 'Pumpkinhead' was the greatest movie ever made? What gives? I'm confused.