Written by: Ron Bricker
The problem with top 10 lists is that they assume you've seen every movie that's been through the multiplexes that year. Now, while critics have the time to see everything from Atonement to Saw IV, and seeing as how I'm not a critic and that I have to deal with the usual mix of bills, work and weddings, I couldn't see everything I wanted to this year.
So in no particular order, here are the top 10 movies selected from the elite bunch of movies I managed to see this year.
Okay, Knocked Up got all the summer movie love, but here we have a more scaled-down and personal story about male friendship and the ultimately bittersweet task of growing up and leaving it behind. The biggest problem with the Apatow brand of comedies is the extremely heavy male-douchebag quotient, and this is here as well. What makes it forgivable is that these are still teenagers who feel the pull of impending adulthood acting out as opposed to adult males refusing to grow up. Superbad takes Michael Cera's stop/start delivery and uses it as the nervous core of a movie that promises to be better than your average light fare.
It's disconcerting to see a Tim Burton movie without the token Danny Elfman soundtrack replaced by Sondheim, but in this case Burton walks out of his Goth-y echo chamber and manages to rise above his own limitations. Many songs are truncated, and the omission of the choral narrative may infuriate many purists, but Burton remains faithful to the core of the musical and surrounds it with his trademark dusty Edward Gorey lens-flare to create a sumptuous visual tapestry. The singing is hardly theater-quality, but Burton's always been more concerned about aesthetics than effectiveness. This film is a refreshing reminder of what Burton can do after a series of singularly unimpressive films.
No Country For Old men
Yeah, this will be on everyone's list – but dammit there's a reason. The Coen Brothers deliver a potent meditation on violence and the slow grind toward death that takes us all under. Javier Bardem provides a stunning turn as a killer that plods forward with biblical inevitability, more a force of nature than man. The sparseness of dialogue and long desert shots provide an arid backdrop for a world that is slowly dying out, as are we all. A remarkably patient film that provides no easy answers, this film stays with you for some time afterward – making the world seem much brighter when you leave the theater simply by comparison.
There are a lot of problems with Wes Anderson. The never-ending parade of twee makes you feel like you're stuck at a resale shop before heading out to a Death Cab For Cutie concert. Anderson's particularly myopic vision of, coincidentally, a trio of myopic and self-absorbed brothers using an entire culture as the backdrop for their over-privileged white male entitlement is as meticulous and colorful as all of Anderson's work. In fact, it almost seems to be a maturation, as the bright lunch-pail colors give way to mustard yellows and the standard fable-tone of Anderson's other work is somewhat grounded. There could even seem to be an (albeit brief) indictment of our character's tunnel vision. Potentially sketchy racial politics aside (and I'm still not entirely convinced that it certainly may have been the point of the film), this film still stands above many of the year.
The best film no one ever saw in 2007. A simple film detailing a chance meeting of two musicians in London that watches their relationship … never quite gel. At times, the movie feels like a large music video for the Frames- but that can be forgiven given that the overwrought emotion of the music compensates for the simmering never-stated tension throughout the film. Can someone classify a film as a "romance" if the romance never gets off the ground? The whole time someone watches the movie we are trained by movie conventions to expect certain things, and when they never happen and unfold in a much more truthful and realistic fashion, we are more enchanted than by any Hollywood Bridget Jones fantasy.
The token geek flick, but by GOD was it ever satisfying. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg turn their satirical eye on action films and manage to create a faithful action movie while at the same time laughing at it the entire way. This is why Wright's movies work, as opposed to the eye-gouging evils of Epic Movie and the like. Wright and Pegg have legitimate love and affection for the genres they are satirizing, and that makes their fare infinitely more entertaining. Repeated viewings only help the film, as so much information and gags are packed in they sail over the heads of most upon first viewing. All of this and it's an extremely British film, with the standard big-city versus pastoral fare that Britain often sees- but even that is turned on its ear in a biting bit of social commentary.
Sunshine/ Persopolis/ Eastern Promises/ Paprika
These are movies that probably would have made it on my list if I ever saw them. I wasn't kidding about my lack of time listed above. Thank God for Netflix.
A pleasant counterpoint to the lad-centric humor of Apatow/Rogen and company. The opening twenty minutes seems like trendy dialogue trying too hard, but after it settles it becomes a reasonable and- for Hollywood- an ethically nuanced comedy which doesn't provide easy answers or feel-good cop-outs at the end. Plus, I think I have a crush on Ellen Page now.
I may be laughed at, but this movie strikes me as one of the best of 2007. Disregarding the impressive animation, it provides a complicated message about art and people's ability to achieve it while also providing a cogent criticism on the actual ART of criticism itself. The Proustian moment experienced by the food critic is perhaps one of the most perfect thirty second explanation of the need and truth of criticism and necessity for art I have ever seen.
Right. It's not a movie. I don't care. I'm not going to cop-out and put "Knocked Up" or "Spider-Man 2" or "Southland Tales" here because I don't think they deserve to be on a top 10 list. But Pushing Daisies perhaps made me as happy as a pretentious wannabe film critic can be. A television version of the French New Wave! Fable-like quality and manages to balance the macabre with pastoral? Random knitting and They Might Be Giants references? COME ON! This show alone is the only reason to hope for a speedy resolution to the writer's strike.