March 6, 2008

The (Belated) Top Ten Movies of 2007

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A list of the top ten anythings of 2007 probably should be provided right at the end of the actual year, not well into March 2008. However, I waited this long to provide my list so I could make some DVD suggestions for the upcoming Spring Break, if you’re not going to be at the beach the whole time, that is. (And by that I really mean I needed some extra months to fully catch up on the best that 2007’s films had to offer.)

10. 3:10 to Yuma
Very simply, this western can be described as such: extremely badass for the first 90 percent, followed by one of the most ludicrous endings in recent cinema. Most of the movie is Christian Bale and Russell Crowe trying to outsmart, outshoot, and out squint each other while wearing sweet cowboy hats.
Then the ending was so preposterous that it actually made me like the movie even more. Ludicrous endings sometimes can work, if the film itself takes the ending seriously and plays it straight enough.

9. Juno
Probably the most divisive film of the year; if it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination, the controversy probably would have subsided by now.
I’m firmly in the camp that thought it was a refreshing and different comedy, especially given the main character. I personally believe Ellen Page to be the real deal.

8. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarter
Wow. This movie was a documentary? Not a mockumentary? This was a documentary about two arcade-game experts trying to set the high score on classic Donkey Kong.
Think it sounds lame? See the movie. You will be shocked at how riveted you are by the actual events and how involved you get with the bizarre personalities behind competitive video gaming. So sure was I that I would love this movie, I rented it only a few days ago because I KNEW it would make my top ten list. (NOTE: I am a dork.)

7. The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne movies are the rare (if not only) example of sequels continuing to improve on their predecessors. This one gets major bonus points because most of this summer’s blockbusters were so awful.

6. Breach
I saw this one expecting to simply kill time in Cambridge before the Cornell-Harvard hockey game in Feb. ’07. Taking me very much by surprise, it turned out to be great.
While the acting battle between Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe was a heavy mismatch, the story was too fascinating, and Cooper too good as the devout traitor, for Phillippe to bring it down. Despite the film’s taking place mostly in office buildings, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

5. American Gangster
I tend to like movies about gangsters in America, so this one was already off to a good start by the title screen. The bad guy role was tailor made for Denzel Washington to do his “Denzel being Denzel” routine. Russell Crowe actually played against type by taking the boring cop role in the movie, and was his usual great self. The only thing keeping this movie from a higher spot on the list is that in three gritty New York City hours of guns and drugs, Denzel and Crowe had only one (!) scene together.

4. (tie) Knocked Up / Superbad
Both of these were equally good, and I can’t pick between them. The humor in Knocked Up was a little smarter and it had a better ensemble cast, while Superbad probably had more laugh-out-loud moments. These two movies will certainly launch years of imitators, but unless they have that magical connection to Judd Apatow, none are likely to be as funny.

3. Grindhouse
This was without a doubt the best theater-going experience of the year. I convinced two of my unwitting and skeptical friends to see this double feature with me on a late Saturday afternoon, even agreeing to sneak in chips and soda to sweeten the deal. After three hours of zombies, explosions, car chases and absurd fake trailers, my friends gave me a big thanks for convincing them to waste their afternoon. Weinstein Company executives did a big disservice by splitting the two movies up on DVD release; I insist that everyone reading rent them and watch them together.

2. There Will Be Blood
Many have said that they didn’t “get” this movie. Well, neither did I, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for 158 minutes, either because of the bizarre images and music or because Daniel Day-Lewis was acting like a crazy person.
While it might be pretentious of me to say that I think this movie is a landmark cinematic achievement while also claiming not to understand it, I’ve yet to hear anyone disagree. Best of all, you get to hear Day-Lewis screaming about drainage and milkshakes.

1. No Country for Old Men
It was patently obvious as I was watching this film that it was the best of the year, and easily one of the best made films I’ve ever seen, in terms of editing, storytelling and creation of suspense.
The only questions remaining are: Does the ending work? Depends. Does the movie rank up there with the greatest movies ever? Maybe. Will we still be talking about the villain years from now? Probably. Have I written too much about this movie in my columns? Definitely.