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Phoebe Raven’s Top 10 Movies and Albums of 2007

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

CC2K's Phoebe Raven honors a lot of obscure movies and music in her dual top 10 lists for 2007.

To most, this will be an eclectic little list that's missing many movies and albums you would expect to see on a top list for 2007. That's not because I have amazingly bad taste (although that's up for debate), but simply because here in Europe it is far more difficult to view American movies at the same time the American audiences get to see them – the same goes for albums.

ImageHowever, by mentioning these restrictions I intend in no way to say that any of the following movies do not deserve to be on a Top 10 list in their own right. I stand behind my choices even if I may not have seen some of the big contenders for best movie of 2007. When in doubt I like to go with the small movies anyway.

10. Lions for Lambs

Many accuse this movie of being all talk, but that is precisely what I like about it. It is smart without being incomprehensible and puts the focus on a conflict almost forgotten over all the debates circling Iraq. Tom Cruise is perfect in his role as a slimy senator (did he even have to act?) and Meryl Streep is gripping without saying a word on that cab ride at the end. If nothing else, this movie serves as a big question brought before a generation of young people who have the choice to either step up to the plate or enjoy their meaningless glitz and glamour. If Lions for Lambs does nothing more than spark a debate after you leave the cinema, it has served its purpose and I shall forgive the somewhat cheesy storyline of two friends dying standing up straight for what they believe in. 

9. 3:10 to Yuma

I hate Russell Crowe. I love Christian Bale. Can you see the predicament I was in when watching this? Well, granted, my task was made a bit easier by the fact you are not really supposed to be liking Crowe’s character anyway. But amidst the psychological struggle that was within the movie, I also faced my own internal struggle to not cringe at every shot of Crowe. I managed and actually found myself enjoying this old Western tale, especially after just having spent a year at university dissecting Westerns and Italo Westerns. The way Crowe’s character switches from prisoner to enemy to ally is smart and comprehensible within the movie. I wouldn’t go ahead and call this the resurrection of the Western (but then again the Western has never really been dead anyway), but Crowe made me chuckle and that is worth a spot on my Top 10 list. Plus the Baleness factor of course. 

8. The Bourne Ultimatum

As hesitant as I was to include a big old blockbuster on my list, this one certainly deserves it. I have never liked James Bond movies or spy thrillers much, but the Bourne series simply does it for me. It is dark, dirty and confusing, just as it should be. And the third installment certainly lived up to the promises made before. Equipped with a resilient stomach in order to avoid getting nauseous when watching this, the camera work and cinematography are engaging and immediate and the only next movie I can see rivaling this would be Cloverfield. You don’t expect the smartest or best stories from blockbusters, you want action and entertainment. BU manages to have a story not totally oblivious to the world and entertain the pants off you. Hence I, a woman who doesn’t really like action or spy movies, puts this action spy movie on the list, because it is everything a movie of this kind should be. 

7. Atonement

The ending left me strangely unsatisfied until I realized that my longing for more scenes with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy together was exactly the point. Their characters wished for more time as well, but didn’t get it. For the long running time that it has, this movie strangely enough isn’t really about much, but it unfolds a kind of magic supported greatly by Keira Knightley’s aristocratic face and James McAvoy’s melancholic eyes. The time manipulation in the first third of the movie was probably my favorite part and while I don’t see this love story surpassing love stories of the past, it was still worth it to see one of the finer novels I have read recently transformed into an equally fine movie. 

6. The Edge of Heaven

Simple stories turn intricate in this movie and the intertwining timelines keep you invested to the very end. This movie is proof that storytelling can be cinematically effective without feeling stale. The silences in this speak volumes and the acting is superb. The “if only’s” and “what if’s” don’t leave you, the viewer, alone, but only because you know more than the characters in the movie, who can only act on what is revealed to them. Though largely melancholic The Edge of Heaven still gives you hope that human connections are possible in a world always filled with ironic twists of fate and hope that people outside of Hollywood can actually save cinema. 

5. Rescue Dawn

This movie wasn’t all it could have been, but it was a lot. Werner Herzog and Christian Bale teaming up is about as perfect as a match-up can get, both are completely committed to their projects and bring a certain amount of craziness to the table. (Case in point: Bale lost 55 pounds for his role, Steve Zahn 40 pounds, Jeremy Davies 33 pounds and in support of his actors director Herzog also lost 30 pounds.) It is exactly this prerequisite that leaves me doubtful of Rescue Dawn’s intentions though. At times Christian Bale seems to be overacting, but since Bale is utterly incapable of overacting I have to assume he did what he did on purpose or on direction from Herzog. If you really wanted to, you could read this movie as a parody of the old heroic war movie. But then again Herzog really admired his subject, Dieter Dengler, he even did a short film on him before shooting Rescue Dawn. So it just may be that Dengler really was as eccentric as Bale plays him. Even the somewhat sappy ending is forgivable in this film, because it is cut short before giving us the ominous scenes we would expect. We can just watch those scenes in our heads.

The supporting performances are stellar, the suspense had me writhing in my seat and the story is told with conviction and the required Herzog gross-out factor. Not all it could be, but all it should be. 

4. Broken English

Parker Posey, the Queen of the Indies, once again proves why she is film royalty and I cannot wait for her TV vehicle show The Return of Jezebel James to arrive. Watching Posey as the neurotic, uptight and unnerved New York woman she plays in Broken English is heartbreaking and comforting at the same time. Loneliness more and more becomes a universal topic among people between twenty and thirty-five. Single households are skyrocketing and no one seems to be able to figure out why it is so hard for us to connect to anyone anymore. Some may accuse this movie of being about nothing, but that’s simply not true. It’s about that nagging feeling inside, the fear that sometimes overtakes you and the desperation you feel trying to face it. Posey is deliciously awkward in her character and the somewhat open end does this movie justice. Sometimes it’s not about answers, it’s about trying at all. 

3. Waitress

Charming, endearing and funny. This movie was one of the few uplifting ones this year. terrifically acted by Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion it made you long for pie and peace within yourself. There was nothing overly complicated about this movie, which made it so refreshing. There was simply a woman you had to fall for and feel for. Zest for life was exuding from the screen. With a pinch of tragedy sprinkled on top because of Adrienne Shelley’s fate. In between all the profound stories brought to us this season, Waitress was that piece of chocolate you need once in a while. It was delicious and made you smile, which is just as desirable a reaction as tears. I can wholeheartedly recommend this for repeated viewings. 

2. The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Technically this movies was released in 2006 in Europe and the UK, but it only got a 2007 US release date, so I shall include it here with due right. It is as gruesome and heartbreaking as the Irish struggle it portrays. A political movie with relevance for us today, simply because the word “freedom” is still used so overtly and abundantly as it was in Ireland in the 1920s. TWTSTB asks questions that grind on you: How far are you willing to go for freedom? If the worst comes to worse, where do your allegiances lie? And how do you live with the choices you have made?

The acting is superb and immediate, Cillian Murphy proves to be a solid rock to build a team around and Ireland’s landscape magnifies the scope of the story beyond the village it is set in.

Add the gross out factor of seeing nails pulled out with rusty pliers and you have a movie that shakes not only the barley but your very core. 

1. Control

This pick for the number one spot comes out of left field for many, I am sure. I was as surprised as anyone that this movie stuck with me for as long as it did and captured me so completely it demanded to be my number one. If you know nothing about Joy Division (like me, I only knew some of their music), this movie will be even better for you. If you don’t have to worry about how accurate this biopic is, you can simply watch it as the tragic tale it tells of a young man so full of promise and so shaken by life. The black and white cinematography surpasses being merely a gimmick to reproduce an era and instead becomes the personification of what goes on in lead singer Ian’s head. Control is touchingly quiet and slowly creeps into the corners of your soul you had forgotten about long ago.

In a supporting role one of Germany’s finest young actresses, Alexandra Maria Lara, lends herself beautifully to catalyze the movie’s melancholy and the whole experience leaves you with knots in your stomach, tears in your eyes and an immediate need to listen to Joy Division again. Pure, raw and intense. 
Movies I would suspect to make my list if I had a chance to see them: 

Eastern Promises

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward John Ford