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2008-01-07 9:22 AM
Top and Bottom Five Movies of 2007
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All the critics list their Top 10 movies for the previous year. I'm going to list my Top 5 favorite, along with the Bottom 5, partly to be a little different, and also because I'm a picky bastard and it was difficult for me to come up with 10 films I'd recommend. Part of that is living in a city without an independent movie theater, and part of it is a sheer inability to see everything in the theaters, even if I'd like to (more on that later). Anyway, shall we begin?
TOP FIVE MOVIES OF 2007
I just saw this the past weekend, based on high critical reviews. My expectations were a little high, which is usually bad going in, but it still met them reasonably well. The plot (revolving around a 16 year-old girl getting pregnant) is really secondary. Character and dialogue are the reasons to see this film. Lots of good lines and lots of great acting.
Based on the true story of the worst American double agent in history, Robert Hanssen, this one was a fascinating character study of a devout, dedicated man who sells out what he earnestly seems to believe in the most. The story follows a junior agent who has been tasked with finding evidence against him. Not your usual cat-and-mouse stuff. Very well done.
I thought this thriller starring Ryan Gosling as an overconfident lawyer and Anthony Hopkins as a genius engineer who kills his wife was great. The plotting was above average for a thriller, but the interplay between the two leads is what really makes it.
An incredibly faithful rendering of Frank Miller's graphic novel, this movie could have descended into cheese. Instead, it looked great, sounded great, and was paced perfectly. The acting was a little hammy, but it was just right for the tone of the film. Sure it looked like a video game/music video, but somehow it worked. And contrary to some of its critics, it wasn't just a glorification of violence for its own sake...it was actually about something. It was about fighting against the odds for hard-won freedom, rather than acquiescing to comfortable subservience. Charges of racism or warmongering were silly and missed the point.
1) Eastern Promises
Director David Cronenberg gave us A History of Violence the previous year, and followed up with this collision between an English doctor and the Russian mafia, with a pregnant prostitute in between. It was stark, violent, disturbing, but ultimately, somehow hopeful. I think it was the best film of the year.
And now that we've sampled the best, it's time for the Hall of Shame.
BOTTOM FIVE MOVIES OF 2007
5) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
I almost put I Am Legend as the 5th worst film of the year, for its horrible CGI, but worse, its distortion of Matheson's original tale into a tired science-as-villain, bitter atheist converts at the last minute bit of silliness. But when I compared them on the basis of whether or not I'd want to sit through them again, Pirates won. Hands down. This movie was boring and incomprehensible, and just downright painful to sit through.
Man, this was a stinkfest. Not because it wasn't faithful to the source material. I don't really give a crap about that. I just want to be told a good story. And Beowulf was not one. It was loud and stupid and mangled, and motion capture is increasingly impressive, but I'd rather not watch experiments in movie technology. I want to watch good movies, and live actors, especially of this caliber, would have been much better than the Botox zombies we saw instead.
One could imagine an alternate world in which a brilliant documentarian critically examined the health care system of the richest country on the planet and with deft and intelligence articulated its flaws while recognizing the things it does well, and offering insights for change from other health care systems around the world. Instead, in this world, we get stuck with the idiotic, infantile propaganda of Michael Moore. Lucky us. The message: The US health care system is uniformly bad. Our corporations laugh gleefully as they roll in piles of cash as they deny claims to sew people's fingers back on or give them basic care to save their lives. Meanwhile, Canada and France are health care utopias, where patient, doctors, and the socialized health care system all work with synchronized, operatic efficiency to provide the best health care in the world in which everyone gets taken care of and everyone is happy. A chimp with a head injury could see through Moore's bullshit, but for some reason, most film critics don't.
2) No Country for Old Men
Actually, I could have put "The first 75% of NCFOM" as one of the best films of the year, and "The last 25% of NCFOM" as one of the worst, but you kind of have to take the movie as a whole. This one made a lot of top ten lists, and will likely garner some Oscar nominations, but I'm calling it out as pretentious crap and lousy storytelling. It was disastrously painful watching this movie unravel into incoherence in its final act. I'd list it as the most disappointing film of the year, given the talent involved, but it's not the worst. Oh no, my friends, the worst film of the year deserves a category all to itself...
1) The Number 23
Woe be to the poor soul who actually bought a ticket, sat down in a theater seat, and toiled away what seemed like an eternity subjected to The Number 23. This movie wasn't just bad, it was freakishly bad. You know how they talk about movies that are so bad they're good? Well this movie was so bad that while in its thrall you forget that good movies even exist. It fries your synapses. It makes your eyes bleed. It turns your bowels to ice. It is the anti-movie. See it at your own peril, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Honorable Mention: I Am Legend, which I've already mentioned, and Ghost Rider. I probably should have listed it, but I didn't actually watch the whole thing (thankfully).
Here are the rest of the films I can remember seeing in 2007. I reasonably enjoyed most of these.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Golden Compass
Live Free or Die Hard
The Bourne Ultimatum
3:10 to Yuma
Black Snake Moan
And here are some movies that came out in 2007 that I would still like to see, but haven't had a chance:
There Will Be Blood
The Great Debaters
The Kite Runner
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
The Simpsons Movie
Into the Wild
Gone Baby Gone
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Here are some I want to see out of morbid curiosity:
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Lions for Lambs
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Charlie Wilson's War
In the Valley of Elah
Lars and the Real Girl
The Brave One
Oh, and the special "What the Fuck?" award for 2007 has to go to Wild Hogs, which somehow made it into the list of Top 10 Grossing Films for 2007. What the fuck?
That's it, boys and girls. Most critics seem to be saying that 2007 was a banner year for movies, and that 2008 will be not nearly as good. Part of that may be due to the writers' strike. At least there's a decent backlog of stuff to watch on video. Maybe I'll just do a Bottom 10 list next year...
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