Friday, April 18, 2008

Favorite Films of 2007

Yes, I know it’s April now. But I don’t think anyone other than movie critics have the chance to see most of the major releases of any given year within the calendar year. And it’s kind of silly to make a list if it’s just based on luck as far as what you happened to have seen. I still haven’t seen every film from 2007 I want to, but I’ve seen the vast majority. So here are my favorites. The key movies I haven’t seen that might crack the list are Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I’m Not There, Persepolis and The Savages. If there’s another major movie that’s not on my list, it’s probably because I didn’t like it all that much. My favorite 10 films of the year in alphabetical order:

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: This may have been my favorite film of the year. It’s a really well put together heist-gone-wrong drama. The narrative going back and forth works well, and the performances are very strong. It’s a great movie.

Beowulf: I’m a huge fan of Robert Zemeckis. I love his films. But when he tried Polar Express, it didn’t work for me at all. When I heard about Beowulf, I wondered why he was trying his weird form of CGI again. Well, it was worth it. The kind of creepy characters worked better for this film than a children’s movie. It’s scary, sexy and a lot of fun.

Bourne Ultimatum: The Bourne films are quite remarkable in terms of Hollywood sequels, in that I think each has improved on the last. This is the standard for a quality, summer action film. Matt Damon is great, and the frenetic pace works well.

Enchanted: Don’t turn your nose up at it because it has music and it’s done by Disney. It’s an enjoyable comedy with characters you care about, catchy songs, and some tremendous send-ups of classic characters and story devices.

I Am Legend: This was another film that I think some people dismissed as just an empty CGI-infested mess. I strongly disagree. You get a great performance by Will Smith, a scarily empty alternate New York, and some real jolts.

Knocked Up: This hilarious film worked better than Superbad because it had a sweeter center underneath the jokes. The screenwriters played a tricky balancing act, by making a really raunchy that was at its heart really a chick flick.

The Lookout: The Lookout got shafted as far as recognition goes simply because it was released earlier in the year. I’ll take this film against most of the year-end Oscar films. It has great acting, great direction, and an atmosphere that draws you in.

Michael Clayton: I love a great legal thriller, and this is a great legal thriller. There is a morally ambiguous center, lots of twists and turns, and a really well crafted screenplay. It’s a shame this genre doesn’t produce many movies.

Ratatouille: Pixar delivers again. This is a fun, briskly paced film with likeable characters that appeal to kids and adults. I hope they keep making films like this perpetually.

Simpsons Movie: I was so glad that this movie worked. As a long time fan of the series, I was skeptical when I heard about this because I think the series has been on a pretty precipitous decline for a while. But it absolutely worked. It captured the spirit of the series very well while delivering solid laughs throughout.

Honorable mentions:

4 Months, 3 Days and 2 Weeks barely missed the list. It was possibly the most powerful film I saw this year, albeit not a fun experience. Juno reminded me of a feminine version of a Quentin Tarantino film – the dialogue was snappy and witty, even if a little too confident in its own brilliance. 2 Days in Paris was a funny, caustic little film that I definitely recommend. King of Kong and In the Shadow of the Moon were great documentaries. I don’t get why there have been so many fictional movies about space exploration when documentaries on the subject work so much better. I thought the narrative of There Will Be Blood was unsatisfying, but the performance by Daniel Day Lewis was really powerful. Disturbia and 1408 were fun genre films that did a great job building suspense. Walk Hard got a lot more jokes out of its premise than I figured it could going in. I don’t care what anyone says – Spider-Man 3 was a fine entry in the series. I think people were turned off by all the characters, which has been a calling card of bad superhero movies, but I thought the narrative worked just as well as in the previous two. Another unrecognized film that I liked was Meet the Robinsons, a funny computer animated film. American Gangster was a good gangster film that didn’t quite reach great. Gone Baby Gone was a fine complement to Mystic River and a great directorial debut for Ben Affleck. Bridge to Terabithia was a touching and sweet children’s film. And Once was a unique little gem of a film I’m planning to see again.

6 Comments:

Anonymous dan said...

You didn't like No Country for Old Men???

8:57 PM  
Blogger HVM said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Houston Mitchell said...

I thought "Enchanted" was the best movie I saw last year, and that Amy Adams deserved at least a nomination for an Oscar.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous steve khan said...

I haven't seen most of these movies, so I'll only comment on the ones I have seen that you mentioned.

I'm with you on I Am Legend, Knocked Up, The Simpsons Movie and The King of Kong.

Everyone seemed to like Ratatouille, but I don't get what the big deal was. Yeah, the animation was great, but the movie itself didn't grab me at all.

Juno was alright.

Spiderman 3 was a let down. The number of villains didn't bother me, but the way they were used sure did. And even though Peter's dark side was extremely amusing, it probably shouldn't have been. Like X-Men 3, if I'm judging as a casual movie goer, the movie was fine. But as a fan, I was let down by both. It's a shame because Spidey 2 and X2 were tremendous.

I really enjoyed 3:10 to Yuma and No Country for Old Men. The turn in the ending of Yuma bother me a little, though. I also liked Sicko and Transformers.

I did not like Shrek 3, and Rush Hour 3 was dreadful.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I thought that No Country was an extremely well made film. The cinematography was great, the acting strong, and the directors successful in what they wanted to do.

But ultimately, I thought the film had no soul and was purposefully unfulfilling. The closest thing to a protagonist is just abruptly offed halfway through the film. Just about everyone is killed. I didn't find myself rooting for anyone or anything. Ultimately, to me in any fictional work, whether it's a book, movie or story, you need to be invested in something. That doesn't mean that you can't have flawed characters, or that there needs to be a happy ending. But if you're not invested in anything, there's no reason to see it through. And I thought the Coens purposefully made a film with nothing to invest in, which left me displeased and even annoyed.

I thought Amy Adams deserved a best actress nod too. Can't complain about Page, Christie or the French lady and I love Laura Linney in everything, so I guess that means Cate Blanchett should have gone.

The X-Men series is a weird one for me. Usually with movie series, there are three types: 1) those where I like every film (LOTR, Spider-Man) 2) Those where I like the first and hate the rest (Matrix, Pirates) 3) those where none of the films do anything for me (Harry Potter). But X-Men had such a weird trajectory in that I thought the first and third were okay, and I really liked the second.

I liked Sicko and Transformers. They missed the list but I'd recommend them. 3:10 to Yuma was okay but I'm not a big fan of westerns.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous dan said...

Well put.

I think I'm more interested in hearing your take on future movies than reading about whatever is going on on RAW.

8:26 PM  

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