Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Top 5 Movies of 2007

Having now seen all but a few movies that I want to see, I felt authorized to concoct my all-too-uninformed list.

Tim's Top 5:
1. Into the Wild - Certainly, there could have been more of this movie, and it would have been welcome, but it's still a well-orchestrated masterpiece of a story with some fantastic ensemble performances, evocative photography and a wonderful score. Above all, it captures the tragedy of Christopher McCandless without forgetting the other people that his life touched, both for the positive and the negative. A masterful adaptation of a fantastic book.

2. There Will Be Blood - I knew literally nothing going in, but I could have known it all and it'd have mattered none. It's a slow movie, taking 15 minutes to get to a line of dialogue (though it doesn't seem like that was the case), developing its story for nearly an hour before reaching much of a conflict, but the frenzied energy that Daniel Day-Lewis lets loose through the latter hour and a half of the film make it well worth the wait. Not what you'd expect from Paul Thomas Anderson, by any means, but it's an extraordinary experience nonetheless.

3. Michael Clayton - If you made The Firm into a believable movie, this is probably what you'd have come up with, but George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson do the job. Sydney Pollack is too low-key in his role (perhaps bitter that he directed The Firm and not this movie), but for the most part, everyone fits their parts and does a good job with an interesting script. It's rare to come across a movie for which you've already seen its climax, but it worked here. The ending is a bit trite, perhaps, but it gives you both ends of what you expect into a solid Hegelian dialectic of an ending that's as Janusian as the practice of law.

4. Zodiac - Making a murder mystery where there isn't necessarily an answer is a difficult task. Making a murder mystery with no answer and making the protagonist a cartoonist? Nigh on impossible. But David Fincher does a great job of capturing the story and the feeling of 1960s-70s San Francisco, or at least conveying what it seems like it should feel like. An underrated gem that was mistakenly released in the spring, where it was guaranteed to be ignored by critics and moviegoers.

5. American Gangster - Not a fantastic movie, but a well-acted movie that would be even more enjoyable if it weren't pure fiction (having read that even more of it was false than I expected does take away from it), but in a very down year for movies, it should have generated more buzz than it did. A great score and a good script, combined with two dynamic lead performances, makes for an enjoyable, if flawed film.

Honorable mention: Knocked Up, Superbad, and Transformers were all well beyond expectations. Ratatouille was less than expected, but that speaks volumes about the expectations I have for Pixar. (I've not seen Cars nor Meet the Robinsons, I don't intend to change either, so they've yet to miss with me.)

Dan's Top 5:

1. There Will Be Blood - Everyone loves a good tycoon story - the American Dream at it's most successful and its most heartless. Daniel Day-Lewis makes this one to remember and brings to life a genius character who always waits to hide his cards until the very moment he can use them to their full effect - even if it's years later.

2. Ratatouille - My favorite Pixar movie yet, and that's saying something. I may be giving the movie an edge because it's a Pixar film, or because my favorite stand-up comedian voices the lead role, or because I think it got cheated out of the Best Picture category at the Oscars. Anyway, it strikes me as very real and human, probably a testament to the direction of Brad Bird. Great, now I'm going to have to see The Iron Giant.

3. Juno - I normally like indie films, which I consider to be a guilty pleasure by now. What I like about this movie is that the sense of humor seems sincere and doesn't often force the dramatic emotions that come along with the comedy. I liked it better than Little Miss Sunshine, if only for the fact that there's a subject to dwell on apart from family dysfunction.

4. No Country For Old Men - I was so astounded by how much I liked this movie that I'm surprised I didn't put it higher. For me, it took on a new level when I realized that Bardem's character, Anton Chigurh, represents the sum total of sin in the world - murder, greed, etc. - to the point that he could even be Satan. And his emotionless belief in order and fate only further the comparison. Loses points because the film is mostly a character study, and the plot isn't polished.

5. 3:10 to Yuma - A film I don't think any of my fellow Top 5 authors saw. I've never been a fan of Westerns, apart from the later Spaghetti Westerns, and I especially hate John Wayne films. This movie, however, is another fine character piece with good acting from Bale and Crowe. The plot is much more forgiving than No Country for Old Men, because Westerns tend to have the simplest plots ever. Based on an Elmore Leonard short story, if that's any incentive.

Honorable mentions:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - My favorite musical yet. However, the progression of the plot suffers from being interrupted by song too often. In other words, things take too long to happen. Great film, though, and I'd recommend it unless you're allergic to musicals.

Hot Fuzz - Loses points only because it wasn't a "quality" movie that would be considered for awards. It revels in absurdity, and that's what makes it so damn good.

The Darjeeling Limited - I could very easily bump out #5 and place high on the list, but Ryan will surely include it, thus giving me a chance to talk about a more-overlooked movie in 3:10 to Yuma.

Ryan's Top Five

I always forget to put the heading. Whoops. In the spirit of disagreement, I'll go with five new movies. (I also have not seen There Will Be Blood.)

1. Once - I am forcing myself not to pick The Darjeeling Limited in this spot. If you haven't seen Once yet, do yourself a favor and buy it. It's really a great little movie, a simple plot with simple dialogue and excellent songs. Glen Hansard penned a good number of the songs before the movie was even an idea, so they don't feel like songs written for a specific movie.

2. Hot Fuzz - Damn it, it deserves mention. There was a debate about whether or not to consider "40-Year-Old Virgin" for serious awards, as people think comedy deserves more play. If this is true, then Hot Fuzz was the best comedy I saw last year, bar none (and better than 40-Y-O-V). (I've accepted that Shaun of the Dead is a better/funnier movie, but still...the last thirty minutes of Hot Fuzz are sheer joy.) Edgar Wright basically does the same thing Quentin Tarentino does, albeit less arrogantly; he knows how to master a genre, and, having done so, subvert it. The result is brilliance.

3. The Darjeeling Limited - Wes Anderson doesn't garner critical support anymore, but who cares. I wouldn't have liked this movie as much without the flashback scene, and the timing of the flashback scene was spot on. Wes Anderson's soundtrack is, again, amazing.

4. The Bourne Ultimatum - In my book, this is about as close to perfect as a pure action/spy thriller movie can get. There apparently was dialogue, but there really didn't have to be. The fight scenes hook you--they don't bore you, like most fight scenes do (for me, anyway). Paul Greengrass really knows how to shoot chase scenes, as well. The plot has some holes in it, but you really couldn't care less. You don't have time to stop and think anyway, lest you miss any Jason-Bourne-ass-kickery. (Note to self: draft Michael Bourn, rename team.)

5. Superbad - I can safely say this was a lot better than I thought it would be. The first time I saw the preview, I wasn't very interested, as it looked like a teen movie and I have a natural aversion to them after The She's All That Incident of 98 (read: I saw She's All That in a theater in 1998). Superbad, however, is legitimately hilarious. If I tried to explain how, it wouldn't be funny, so I'll not try.

Honorables: No Country For Old Men (I gotta rep the haircut...I have a tough time ranking things that aren't comedies, though), Knocked Up (upon further viewing, not as good as Superbad), Dan in Real Life (good in an In Good Company kind of way), Juno (I don't think I liked it as much as everyone else did, but it was good).

1 comment:

Dan said...

Meet The Robinsons was a product of Disney Animation Studios, not Pixar (therefore I don't even consider wanting to see it). Cars was decent and likable, but it's no big deal if you miss out on it.