Monday, January 07, 2008

My favorite movies of 2007

As I thought about this list over the weekend (and yes, I am enough of a geek that I put a lot of thought into it), I found several movies that I really adored in 2007 had sunk enough to just miss the cut, most noticeably "American Gangster" and, yes, "Juno."

Now, that doesn't mean I love them any less, just that they've lost a little sheen with the passage of time and that stronger movies that came after them simply took their spots. There's still room here for one truly juvenile (but smart) teen comedy and, surprisingly, one movie about a lost soul that I admit I just didn't get until it had had a while to sink in.

So now, without any further qualification, here are my 10 favorite movies of 2007, in only alphabetical order (but if you have to know, my single favorite movie of last year remains "Ratatouille," with "No Country for Old Men" a close second.)

"Breach"
I went into this one expecting some high Washington intrigue but instead got a very intensely claustrophobic and psychological cat-and-mouse game between Chris Cooper as turncoat spy Robert Hanssen and Ryan Philippe as the agent who pursued him (with just enough Laura Linney thrown in for good measure.) It's a real shame that Billy Ray has only directed two movies, with no more on the horizon, because with this and "Shattered Glass," about the wayward journalist Stephen Glass, he's crafted two nearly perfect flicks.

"Into the Wild"
I offer this as an apology to Sean Penn, because my distance from the character of Christopher McCandless made me unable to appreciate this film fully at first. I still find little to identify with in his tale of searching, but this movie is packed full of great performances from Emile Hirsch, Catherine Keener, Hal Holbrook and others, and it's a deeply effecting flick.

"No Country for Old Men"
I would never even come close to writing off the Coen brothers, but I have to admit their output between the great "O Brother Where Art Thou" and this gem had me a little worried. By making Cormac McCarthy's meditation on violence all their own and mixing it with the most uneasy kind of humor, they managed to craft a movie that really only could have come from the Coen brothers. As far as I can tell, "Burn After Reading" should be next on their busy schedule, and I just can't wait.

"Once"
As with "Breach," I was a little off-base going into this one. I was expecting a full-scale musical, but instead got a perfect moment in time with two non-actors, Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard (from "The Commitments"), delivering captivating performances. But there are, of course, a lot of songs, and they all just fit right into this story that's as much about the creative process as it is about the power of love (cheesy, I concede, but it really does work.)

"Persepolis"
It's possible, I guess, that this just snuck in here because I saw it on the last weekend of the year, but I don't really think that's the case (Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," which I admit I'm still digesting, for example, didn't make it even though it was viewed then too.) Using mostly a stark black and white palate, graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud nonetheless fill the screen with memorable images in this spirited autobiographical tale of Satrapi's life growing up in Iran and Europe. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

"Ratatouille"
I rewatched this again a few weeks ago and loved it just as much as I did the first time. That sequence which starts with Remy and Auguste looking down on Gustave's and finishes with Remy's first scamper through the kitchen remains my favorite of the year, and the movie is just full of enough magical moments to take my 2007 crown.

"The Savages"
Another one from the last weekend of the year, but if you've seen Tamara Jenkins' tender and often very funny family tale starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, I seriously doubt you'll argue it doesn't deserve this lofty spot. Watching the return of "The Wire" (thank God!) last night, it finally hit me that the nursing home attendant Jimmy was played by Gbenga Akinnagbe, who also plays hitman extraordinaire Chris on "The Wire," which judging from last night's season five premiere is definitely set to go out on top.

"Superbad"
Yes, that's right, "Superbad." After laughing through just about every minute of this one with my brother in Minneapolis this summer, I watched it again a few weeks ago and was struck by how much I enjoyed the B storyline about Bill Hader and screenwriter Seth Rogen as those two cops who just refuse to grow up. I probably identified with them much more than any healthy middle-aged person should!

"Waitress"
I was cheering for this one out of the gate simply because it was written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered in 2006 for the simple offense of complaining about a neighbor's playing the radio too loud. Even without this depressing context, however, her romantic tale starring Keri Russell, Captain Mal and Andy Griffith was just the perfect counterweight to the summer blockbuster slate, and one that has lingered with me all year.

"Zodiac"
Although I misjudge these things all the time, I'm feeling a genuine surge for David Fincher's true-crime epic as a dark horse contender for a Best Picture nomination, and it's definitely got my support. There wasn't a better crime movie in 2007, or a better one about the power of obsession. I can't wait to see what Fincher does this year with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," F. Scott Fitzgerald's tale of a man who is born at age 80 and ages in reverse through the 20th century.

And there you have it. I've included a honorable mention that features just about every movie I liked in 2007, so maybe you'll get some rental ideas of any movies you might have just missed. Peace out.

Honorable mention: Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls, Starter for 10, 300, The Namesake, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, The Lookout, Grindhouse, The Hoax, Hot Fuzz, 28 Weeks Later, Knocked Up, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Simpsons Movie, Rocket Science, Shoot Em Up, Eastern Promises, The Kingdom, Michael Clayton, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, Gone Baby Gone, American Gangster, Margot at the Wedding, The Mist, Charlie Wilson's War, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Juno, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, There Will Be Blood

73 comments:

Dwight P. said...

I'm delighted that "Once" made your list!

I think that "charm" (with its hints of other-worldly intervention and feet-off-the-ground good feelings) is a quality too little appreciated in movies: Heaven knows, it doesn't figure into many. But I'm blamed if I can find a better way to describe the allure of "Once," which was the most delicious surprise for me at the movies in a couple of years. I think the premise is charming, I think the instant rapport that develops between "Guy" and "Girl" is entirely charm, I think the denouement of their relationship is charm incarnate. "Girl" was so innocent and vulnerable that I almost cried for her. This movie swept me away.

Reel Fanatic said...

I agree with you one-hundred percent there, Dwight ... And I try not to throw around the word "charm" too lightly, but I'd say the two movies that had the most of it in 2007 were "Once" and "Waitress"

Vasta said...

Lots of crossover between our lists here Keith.

Like Dwight, I'm really glad Once made your list. I was beginning to think I was the only person I knew that loved the movie. =)

Reel Fanatic said...

A lot of crossover indeed, Vasta ... The only flick I could quibble with on your best of list would be "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," which just didn't do much for me at all

Mercurie said...

I don't know if Zodiac will get a Best Picture nod, but it certainly deserves to. I think it probably one of the most overlooked movies this past year, probably it was released fairly early for a film that should be an Oscar contender.

Fletch said...

Everyone keeps saying that the early release is hurting Zodiac, but I think it's more likely that most people (like me) just didn't like it enough. I LOVE Fincher, but was pretty let down by it. It had about 7 false endings and went about 40 minutes too long. I appreciate what he was going for, but at some point, even with a story that has no ending, you have to end your movie! I liked it, but didn't love it at all.

Of all the ones of your list that I've seen, the only one I disagree with is Waitress. That was a Lifetime Original that somehow got released. That's not to say it was terrible - it had its moments, but I was cuted out by the end.

Reel Fanatic said...

I do agree with you that "Waitress" had it's way-too-cute moments, Fletch, but the overall tone still just worked for me ... and the many possible endings of "Zodiac" didn't bother me as much as it did many critics because I felt like it fit in with the "Zodiac" story itself, and I was never bored with it despite the length of the flick

LEV said...

great picks, i agree with most and will be running out to buy or watch the ones i missed... great blog

Chris said...

Boy...Breach over Juno? This one I'm not swallowing too well. I recently saw Breach for the first time and while I love Chris Cooper, it's ultimately Ryan Phillippe's vehicle, which is never a good thing. And I thought the film was ultimately anticlimactic. But, to each his own, as the saying goes.

My top list is here.

Reel Fanatic said...

I saw it as more Cooper's movie, Chris, but I though Philippe put in pretty good work too ... If this list had stretched to 15 or so, Juno definitely would have been on it, but I just really like Billy Ray's style of moviemaking, when he gets the chance to make one

Chris said...

I'm just saying that if Cooper had been the main character, we would have gotten to see his dirty dealings. We knew he was guilty, so I didn't understand why the movie tried so hard to make it seem like he might not be. Then, they could have introduced Phillippe, and they could have made it a surprise that he was undercover the whole time. It may not have been much of a surprise, but it would have been better than, "Hey, I guess Cooper really was guilty!"

We would have been able to dig deeper into Cooper's paranoia, the way he ticks, all the behind-the-scenes intrigue that we never get to see because the film is all from Phillippe's perspective. I don't want to make this sound like I'm attacking your selection here (I have a friend in TN who loves this flick, too, and it was over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, so you're clearly not in the minority). I just thought Breach missed the opportunity to be an even better spy thriller.

Marina said...

Excellent list! The only one I still have to catch up with is "Zodiac" (hopefully this weekend) but I have to say, I don't share your love for "The Savages". For whatever reason, that film didn't really work for me. Aside from the fantastic opening sequence, I found it a bit forced and boring. I can appreciate what the film maker was trying to do but I don't think she succeeds.

jeremy said...

"Waitress" was screwball enough for me to dismiss the over cute-ness and it should be on my best list for the year.
"Once" would be on the list if the music wasn't so stinkin' bad!
Plus, I think Eastern Promises is a little slice of perfection. Like History of Violence, the wind-up is bigger than the payoff, but on subsequent viewing, the subtleties of the piece give every scene a nice depth.
As for Superbad making your list and Hot Fuzz making Honorable Mention--just can't give 'em to ya. Both were overall pretty boring and relied too heavily on formula (even if that formula was part of the joke for Hot Fuzz).
As for Fletch's comments about Fincher--I don't think he's directed any good movies up until Zodiac. I mean, he's and expert stylist, but there's always been an easy distance from his characters (maybe becuase they've always been fiction up until this point)--they feel more like set dressing than actual people.
Then along comes Zodiac where we get actual people, and all of a sudden, he has a propulsive story, that, even though it meanders in thr final two reels, makes more of a statement than any of his other films. I think Jim Emerson hits it on the nail with his newest post about euphoria.

Invisible Lizard said...

I love it that Ratatouille tops your list. I'm hard pressed to think of a better movie this year. Couple on your list I haven't seen. Waitress, for one. The wife keeps bugging me to rent it. Maybe I will. I haven't been disappointed by any of your suggestions so far.

How did you score a viewing of Persepolis? I'm quite jealous. I picked up the graphic novels recently and my first pass on them was nearly a life-altering event.

Fletch said...

I don't think he's directed any good movies up until Zodiac.

Blasphemy!

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to agree with Fletch, there, Jeremy ... Fincher is easily one of my favorite directors, so I guess will just have to disagree on that ... And I stand by my love for "Superbad," because sometime just laughing uncontrollably is good enough for me

I managed to see "Persepolis" over the post-Christmas weekend in New York City, Mr. Lizard ... It's one of the ways that I'm spoiled that my family goes there every Christmas or right after, and I always see as many movies as possible.

And I can see where you're coming from with "The Savages," Marina, but I thought the writing was just right, and you certainly can't ask for a better cast than that one

RC said...

fun list, thanks for posting...there's still a few of these (the savages, persopolis) that i still haven't (but want to) see.

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