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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Best Films of 2007

My corneas are in danger of peeling right off my eyeballs. I've been in movie-watching overdrive for the last two weeks trying to take in all the 2007 Oscar contenders. Finally, I'm prepared to offer up the Stave It Off Official List of 2007's Best Films.

I was a little surprised at which films sank and which ones swam in this recent test. I was disappointed in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Waitress, The Host, Talk to Me and Once. And I was surprisingly impressed with Stardust, Sunshine and I'm Not There. Apologies, but I couldn't actually force myself to watch Michael Clayton, so I wasn't able to include that heavyweight in my calculations.

When I first started making the list, I wasn't sure I could come up with 10 films I even liked in 2007, but with a little research, and my last minute cinematographic marathon, I actually found 14 winners. After significant soul-searching, I've winnowed it down to ten. One thing that stands out to me is that I loved the soundtracks on 9 of the 10 picks. I guess I'm a sucker for a great score.

Without further ado, here's my first attempt at a final list:

10. Juno - Heartwarming in a sly hipster way... almost sank beneath its own pains to be cool, but redeemed with a solid second half, a great soundtrack, and charismatic performances by its two young leads. (See the Stave It Off Review Here)

9. The Savages - Tastefully subtle and human... great showcase for Stave It Off's favorite actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who has been one busy dude lately.) Mandatory viewing for social workers, especially those who work with the elderly.

8. Sunshine - Danny Boyle's take on space drama, taking hints from 2001 and Event Horizon. The "monster" feels unnecessarily inserted, but the primary conceit of the Sun as God figure, and just what happens to us as we get closer to God is marvelous.

7. Lars and the Real Girl - Offbeat feelgood movies are some of my favorites, and this one delivers. The real star of this film is a supportive community that asks (and correctly answers) the question, "What would Jesus do?" Almost enough to make me stop ranting about Christians.

6. Superbad - I can see how people would prefer Knocked Up, since it came first and introduced audiences to this comedy team's brand of foul-mouthed humor. But I saw Superbad first, and felt like the Michael Cera contrast worked better than the Seth Rogan maturation.

5. I'm Not There - The most impressionistic biography I've ever seen, and one of the films I've continued to think about since I first saw it. The film rests on an incredibly deep pastiche of homages and allusions. The soundtrack and art direction are great.

4. There Will Be Blood - More nihilistic than Soapy. Daniel Day Lewis should win best actor.

3. The Darjeeling Limited - Adrien Brody joins the Wes Anderson rat pack with surprising fluidity. Same brilliant dysfunctional family storytelling, great dialogue, brilliantly obscure soundtrack as Anderson's other films: The Life Aquatic, Royal Tennenbaums and Rushmore.

2. Margot at the Wedding - Actually succeeds at being just as dark as There Will Be Blood and our number one film. More convincing, and less cutesy, than Running with Scissors... this is a brilliant portrayal of borderline personality disorder. Nicole Kidman ought to edge out Cate Blanchett for Best Actress.

1. No Country for Old Men - I talked about this film for weeks, debating its finer points (and even its central meaning) with everyone I could find that had seen it. Coen Brothers should pick up Best Director and Best Picture honors. (See the Stave It Off Review Here)

There were lots of close calls and four films in particular that I wish could have made the list, but in the words of the Highlander, There Can Be Only 10! The others were Stardust, a Neil Gaiman penned screenplay that carries off his signature darkly romantic sensibility; Ratatouille, which everyone else liked just a little more than me; Sicko, which wasn't quite as compellingly told as the last two Michael Moore films; and The Golden Compass, which didn't do anything wrong, but just didn't excite me the way the book did.

Oh, and by the way... the Worst Film of the Year goes (easily) to Shoot Em Up.

Labels:

27 Comments:

At 1/28/2008 04:32:00 AM, Blogger lowcoolant said...

"There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone."

--There Will Be Blood

 
At 1/29/2008 02:19:00 AM, Blogger Scotty Walsh said...

"Ah, but that is no match for wishful thinking."

--Ratatouille

No mention of the Jesse James flick. Did anyone see that?

 
At 1/29/2008 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Yeah. It was fine. Casey Affleck was amazing in it. Pitt was good, but kind of ignored some Jesse James arcana (James was a "blinker," Pitt stares) Some beautiful cinematography, but it was a bit dramatically inert--there was some post-completion re-editing that made a mess of the director's intent, but it was genuinely a fine film.

Worst film--"Planet Terror." The other "Grindhouse" movie isn't out on DVD yet (Tarentino fussing with it ad nauseum, no doubt), but this thing made me want to burn every HD camera in the world.

 
At 1/29/2008 10:44:00 AM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

No "Atonement" or "Michael Clayton?" You're not done yet.

Not by a long shot.

 
At 1/29/2008 07:07:00 PM, Blogger Diane said...

Nobody mentioned "The Bourne Ultimatum" or "Control". Those films rocked, I loved both, they stayed with me for many days after viewing, and I will want to see them again on DVD. Put them on my Best 10 list along with "No Country for Old Men" (a perfectly realized film) and "Margo at the Wedding".
Haven't seen (but am looking forward to) "There Will Be Blood". I am ambivalent about seeing "Atonement", thinking it to be another "The English Patient" which totally sucked. "Juno" and "The Golden Compass" were not ultimately satifsying, the former just too slick (failed where "Little Miss Sunshine" succeeded), the later just plain boring, with the exception of the polar bear fight scenes. They escaped my consciousness before the credits ended (although the soundtrack for "Juno" was truly wonderful).
"Michael Clayton" on the other hand, despite being predictable, provided dialogue that sculpted fascinating characters who were realized far beyond the plot that enmeshed them. "Lars and the Real Girl" was a surprise: I resisted seeing it thinking the premise was stupid, but the result was warmly satisfying. I saw "Eastern Promises" just for Viggo Mortenson and that was a worthwhile visit: the film was sadly too violent for my taste, but his performance was truly magnificant.
And thank you John for taking me to see "The City of Lost Children" for my birthday. It can't be considered on a best list for 2007, but it will stay with me as an all time favorite.

Diane

 
At 1/29/2008 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Pam said...

Thank you Diane, for your comment about The English Patient. I thought I was the only person in the whole world who hated that picture. Robert Redford was soooo wasted. lol ~Pam

 
At 1/30/2008 09:22:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Am I the only one going to say that Rober Redford wasn't IN "The English Patient?"

Just like the Coen Brothers really DID write and direct "Irreconcilable Differences?"

Diane, I can honestly say that you and I have nothing in common as far as movies are concerned.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" was no better (or worse) than "The Bourne Supremacy" (which was very good).

"Atonement" is not "The English Patient" (Keeee-RIST!! Ovallthe...).

I thought "Juno" was a far...FAR...better film than "Little Miss Sunshine."

I LIKE picking fights on Johnbai's blog...

 
At 1/30/2008 09:35:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Oh! And just so Steve has a sense of closure.."You are all Nazis!"

(where are my pills?)

 
At 1/30/2008 10:32:00 PM, Blogger John said...

I assume by "Irreconcilable Differences" you mean "Intolerable Cruelty".

Jimbo, obviously this is a topic you feel passionate about. I don't mind you picking fights over here. After all, you have the cajones to sign your posts! ;)

Also, you aren't maintaining your blog anymore, so I guess you need an outlet for all that pent up movie fandom. I like having you come stir stuff up over here though... you're always welcome to post rants.

BTW, I agree that Borne Supremacy was nothing new, and maybe a bit worse than the prequels. But Juno was NOT a far better film than Little Miss Sunshine.

 
At 1/30/2008 10:34:00 PM, Blogger John said...

And Diane, you've almost got me convinced that I should see Michael Clayton. But honestly, I was more concerned about seeing Molly Shannon in Year of the Dog than Atonement in order to finalize my list.

 
At 1/31/2008 01:44:00 AM, Blogger Diane said...

Jim, now I get why you and I haven't seen a film together in years! PS I miss your blog.

John, maybe TILDA SWINTON can convince you to see Michael Clayton! PS I like your blog when folks 'pick fights'.

Diane

 
At 1/31/2008 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Then, I will continue to poke and prod...

"Irreconcilable Differences" was the dog with Ryan O'Neal, whosits from Cheers and Drew Barrymore (and Sharon Stone--funny!), that was inspired by the Peter Bogdanovich-"Last Picture Show" marriage break-up.

Odd, that I switched it from "Intolerable Cruelty" to "Irreconcilable Differences"-- Freudian slip?

Not only was "Juno" a better film than "Little Miss Sunshine" it was a better film than "Lars and the Real Girl!" (although all three had such chasms of disbelief that it was hard to suspend them). Not that any of them are bad films, mind you. "Juno" is just better. They've been paired on the Movie Blog that will be blah, blah, blah excuses excuses...shuffle shuffle.

TILDA SWINTON and some of the most quotable dialog this year coming from the mouth of Tom Wilkinson should be your motivation to see "Michael Clayton."

Even if I was maintaining my blog (which I am, actually...two blogs, in fact...just not publishing for reasons of my own), I'd still come over here to set you people straight.

(I do it as a public service).

"Atonement" is about responsibility, and OWNING what you do and what you write. Plus, the trio of women playing the lead (NOT Keira Knightly) are pretty damned wondrous. Joe Wright, after only a couple of films, is showing himself to be a subtle master of the form, now that he's starting to settle down. "Atonement" was going to be a bitch-kitty to adapt, and the film-makers seemed to do it so effortlessly.

 
At 1/31/2008 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang it, you are right, it was ...uhhh... Ralph Fiennes in English Patient?, and Robert Redford in Out of Africa, which is another film I apparently stand alone in hating. I do not understand the adulation for those two films, although the photography was beautiful and all that. Oh yeah, I hate The Lion King too, because Simba or whatever the female little lion was called, did all the work holding the kingdom together for profligate male to return to. She should have been the King. ~Pam

 
At 1/31/2008 07:10:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Face it, Pam, you hate Africa. It's sandy deserts and it's lush veldts. It's human and animal-kind. You, Pam, are a bigot.

Or you just don't like movies about Africa.

Me:
1) I love "Out of Africa" despite the fact that Robert Redford looks no more like Dennis Finch-Hatton than Peter O'Toole looked like T.E. Lawrence. In fact, I like it better than the book.

2) I'm "meh" on "The English Patient" although Walter Murch worked on it, and I love the sound design. Liked the Sikh, too.

3) Loathe "The Lion King" maybe 'cuz Elton John can't "do" Africa, but also all the goose-stepping animals at the beginning gave me the willies. They out-number us, you know.

 
At 1/31/2008 09:14:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Pam, I hated Out of Aaaaafrica, and the English Patient and The Lion King but then I also hated Little Miss Sunshine which will probably get me carted of to some camp for the terminally curmudgeonly especially as I hated Ratatouille too (and it is NOT pronounced rat at too ee for chrissakes). I think I kind of agree with Jim that the Bourne movies are all much of a muchness - highly enjoyable tosh but not great. So nice to have somewhere to vent, isn't it?

 
At 2/01/2008 01:22:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Hey now Jimbo... good fun is good fun, but you can't call Pam a bigot (even in jest) until you meet her and know what a wonderful sweet woman she is. Then you can call her a bigot all you want, and she'll crack up.

 
At 2/01/2008 09:12:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

...as well she should!

As if one could label someone a bigot by their taste in movies.

Seriously, John...

 
At 2/02/2008 10:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I really like Romancing The Stone, so I don't have a general vendetta against all things African. Little Miss Sunshine has the look of being cloying, at first glance, but sometimes sweetness is cleansing instead. LMS and Juno, neither will change the world but they are enjoyable.

Jon, I am so delighted to find a 'soul brother.'

Yojimbo, don't worry. I take a lot of what you say with a grain...

John, thank you. ~Pam

 
At 2/02/2008 02:05:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Take it with a boulder, Pam. That way, if you get offended, you can always throw it at me.

"Romancing the Stone" counts, I guess. I'd forgotten that it takes place in Africa--I thought it was South America!

For me, "Little Miss Sunshine" sent mixed messages--Do you need dreams, and are they a millstone?
Be true to yourself, or subvert for others? Ultimately what I took away was--Oh, what the hell--It doesn't matter anyway. I did find it enjoyable, especially Arkin, Carell and Dano.

"Lars" was a sweet, sweet story that nobody would have liked if Bianca wasn't a virgin. I think that's a little "safe" and hypocritical. I also didn't buy that there wasn't one mean-spirited person in the entire town. In a country where people stab inflatable Christmas decorations, Bianca had it really easy. Although, again, I liked it--found it clever and heart-warming, and Gosling was terrific--especially if you've seen him in other things--and the brother was note-perfect.

"Juno," presented something that was so common--so everyday--and made it not only entertaining, but enervating. Everybody was good in it. My one objection? Everybody is so clever and articulate--it's like one of those Bette Davis movies where everyone says exactly the right thing all the time--obviously, they have better writers than we do--like everybody plays Scrabble, and surfs Addictionary.com, that I had a slight case of disconnect, even while I was laughing the whole time.

Which is "Juno"--by taking a common occurence and making it winning, beats out the constructs of LMS and LATRG.

Though they are all enjoyable.

Jeez, John if this keeps up you may never have to blog again!

 
At 2/02/2008 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Jim, your point about Juno made me want to see it (though I think you may want to reconsider your use of the word 'enervating' which means to weaken or debilitate). I guess my preference for LATRG over LMS was that the former seemed outward looking and as about people making connections and the latter was inward looking about a bunch of self obsessed people I found it hard to care about.

PS I didn't realize you knew about the Christmas decoration thing - I'm getting sloppy.

 
At 2/02/2008 04:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol OK OK. sheesh Romancing was in some South American jungle I guess, but the sequel...? Those sand dunes had to be in Africa.

Now how about some of the locations for the Indiana Jones series?

(Are you enjoying all this John?)

~Pam

 
At 2/03/2008 12:22:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Am I being unduly paranoid to notice a trend in recent movies such as Waitress, Knocked Up and Juno toward 'I'm Keeping My Baby' ?

 
At 2/03/2008 01:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well.... Juno didn't keep hers. Are you saying there should be equal time for giving it up? smile

~P

 
At 2/03/2008 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Well, maybe not "I'm Keeping My Baby," as "Juno" (SPOILER) opts to go through delivery, and the rest of the story.

I don't think it's a BAD thing that the movies are portraying an alternative to abortion. I don't PREFER abortion as a contraceptive device, in fact I disapprove of it (which is why I won't have one)...I heard on NPR that abortions are far and away the medical procedure most performed in the U.S.--a statistic that blew me and the reporter away. I'm not PRO-abortion, but I think it's criminal that an organization controlled largely by elderly white men with a historical tendency towards sexual impropriety should tell a woman what she can or can't do with her body, in any way, shape or form. I believe that's some form of sexual slavery and should be forever banished from our collective mind-set.

But that's just me.

So, I think you're being unduly paranoid...about the movies and the Christmas thing.

Pam: I think Africa WAS the sequel, in fact, now that I've looked up the name as "The Jewel of the Nile" I'm almost sure of it!;D

Indiana Jones locations were
South America (filmed in Hawaii)
Virginia
somewhere in the Himalayas
Egypt
that Nazi Island (filmed in Tunisia)
Washington, D.C.

Shanghai
India

what appeared to be Nevada
Virginia
Venice, Italy
Germany
Berlin
wherever the Hell the Grail was--it was middle Eastern, I believe--this is all from my swiss cheese memory-bank.

The next IJ movie comes out this summer. Filming finished last month.

"ener-GIZING." "GIZE," not "vate."

"Make me want to see it" is the best compliment anyone who writes about movies can recieve. Because it means someone would actually want to commit some of their time, which is precious.

Oh, and you're comment on "Ratatouille" reminded me of that Henry Higgins line from "My Fair Lady"--"The French don't care what they Do, actually, as long as they PRONOUNCE it properly."

 
At 2/03/2008 03:21:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

This is probably not the forum for an abortion debate but let me make two quick points. I don't think anyone is PRO-abortion - I think that those who think like you (and I) do, Jim, that it is a question that should be left to each individual for themselves, are pro-CHOICE. And, it just seems a sign of the times that there are not other movies around that do present the other side of reality - especially as your statistics would seem to suggest that it is something that is unfortunately common to many people's lives?

As for the excreable Rataouille, I don't think I would have mentioned it, had it not been for the advertising campaign that accompanied the movie that seemed to want to educate us in the right way to say the title. Oh, and because I am a pedant too, LOL!

 
At 2/03/2008 06:35:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

On the other hand, "Six Feet Under" on HBO, did deal very realistically with the subject of abortion--and it wasn't fun. Ultimately, we can turn this into a forum that resembles "Citizen Ruth."

"Ratatouille," the title, had to be fought for by the film-makers, as it was thought no one would "get" it, hence the m'arm-ish" approach to the campaign. (The Bond producers changed "Licence Revoked" to "Licence To Kill" after a marketting poll showed that most Americans didn't know what "revoked" meant (!), which makes me certain that they will be an equal emphasis on education when the new one "Quantum of Solace" comes out in November.)

For the record (if anybody's keeping one) I thought "Ratatouille" was one of the best films of the year, and certainly a high-water mark for the process of CGI animation as far as fluidity and photo-realistic presentations. I also thought the "Anton Ego" character was well done, and I subscribed whole-heartedly to his "Critic critique"--it's a major touchstone of the movie-blog-in-progress.

 
At 2/05/2008 02:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superbad for me is on of the worst films I have ever seen, it's right down there with Dude where's my car. Far too bad for words, maybe it was the Spanish dubbing but seriously? Top 10 material?

Sorry you don't know me, I'm a freaky blogger stalker from Madrid x

 

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