The Best Films of 2007

The Best Films of 2007

Film essay by: Witney Seibold

david_fincher_zodiac4.jpg

            More than any other year, I have had trouble narrowing this list down. 2007, it has been said by countless critics, was a banner year for American filmmaking. To add to my chellenge, for the first time, I’ve tried ranking the films. Don’t be thrown by the order too much, though; each of the films mentioned is a great film in its own right.

            In 2007, so many new creative souls emerged. Established pros with previous missteps finally nailed it. Old-guard filmmakers gave us further classics. Chances are if you saw any film after September, you caught one of the 20 best films of the year. However, if you were paying attention in March, you would have caught the vastly underrated best film of the year:

1)      Zodiac.”  David Fincher made a meticulous crime drama about the inability of the police, private investigators, and the world at large, to catch the infamous Zodiac killer in San Francisco back in the 1970s. Working as a police procedural, a study of slow breakdown and frustration, and as a thriller, “Zodiac” is a top-notch film.

2)      No Country for Old Men.”  An adult slasher flick, a tale of youth and treachery overcoming old age and wisdom, and a taut chase film if ever there was one, The Coen Bros. return to form with their harrowing story of crime, a human monster (Javier Bardem), a resourceful desperate workin’ man (Josh Brolin), and the tired old cop who can’t fathom them (Tommy Lee Jones) in 1980 Texas.

3)      Once.” Oh, such a sweet and beautiful film. A passionate street musician (Glen Hansard) and a plucky Romanian immigrant (Markéta Irglová) make such sweet music together. An honest and realistic musical featuring the two leads longing to love one another, but realizing they cannot be together. That won’t stop them from (and I mean this old cliché:) singing their hearts out.

4)      Into the Wild.” Christopher McCandless was an honest rustic, a hypocritical child of yuppies, a Christ-like messiah, and an insensitive, destructive family member. All of his gorgeous contradictions and peaceful self discoveries are presented gloriously in Sean Penn’s contemplative film starring Emile Hirsch.

5)      Away from Her.” A gentle, dreamy, horrifying journey for a couple slowly and painfully torn apart by the onset of Alzheimer’s. The two leads, Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent are both excellent, and director Sarah Polley infuses an otherwise dreary story with a theatrical pitch of emotions.

6)      No End in Sight.” Finally, a full, in-depth analysis of the current war in Iraq. The film is not polemical, but still manages to point ut that, at every turn, the U.S. government not only made mad decisions, but probably made the worst possible decisions. Why are we over there? Director Charles Ferguson comes closest to answering.

7)      Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” One brother (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a wicked, manipulative, drug-addicted dirtbag. The other (Ethan Hawke) is a callow, sniveling little whiner. They attempt to rob their own parents. Sidney Lumet’s Shakespearean tragedy reaches that pit of your stomach that only a master can delve into.

8,)      Rescue Dawn.” Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) was held captive in a Cambodian jungle for months where he nearly starved to death, but still managed to escape into the unforgiving jungle, where he was, miraculously, rescued. Werner Herzog, remaking his own documentary, brings the kooky optimism of Dengler to a glorious new height, and manages to show the true unforgiving angle of the jungle.

9)      Grindhouse.” Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez cannily recreate a 1970s double feature, complete with scratches, missing reels, over-the-top performances. The two features included, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof,” have been released separately, which goes against what “Grindhouse” largely achieved: the glory of seeing a cheesy B-movie in a theater with a rowdy crowd.

10)  Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” I say this about most of Tim Burton’s movies, but this seems to be his best one to date. Burton’s pop-Goth artistry and Sondheim’s pitch-black musical mesh perfectly into a gorgeously expressionistic film. Plus, Johnny Depp proves to be a fine actor, even when singing.

11)  Gone, Baby, Gone.” An unexpectedly dirty film from Ben Affleck about a missing girl, and the swirl of iniquity and crime that surrounds her disappearance. It’s one of the few crime films that bothers to mention morals directly, and still elicit a full world of underworld scumbags. Casey Affleck also proves to be a fine actor.

12)  Shoot ‘Em Up.” And intentionally stupid and shallow piece of over-wrought action fluff, “Shoot ‘Em Up” reaches a delirious level of camp parody that few people appreciated. I squealed in delight through most of “Shoot ‘Em Up.”

13)  There Will Be Blood.” Too long, and often morally vexing, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film about an ambitious, exploitative oilman (Daniel Day Lewis) deserves a spot on this list merely for its hypnotic power, creepy score to match, and its strange terminal velocity toward it’s bloody, surprising, yet perfect ending.

  

There were so many good films this year, though, that I could easily add any of these honorable mentions as well, and not feel qualms:

“Juno,”

“American Gangster,”

“Waitress,”

“Knocked Up,”

“Paris J’Taime,”

“Persepolis,”

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” 

Worthwhile films on the fringe:

“Smiley Face,”

“Blood Tea and Red String,”

“Paprika,”

“Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón,”

“Brand Upon the Brain!”

“D.O.A.: Dead or Alive.” (I have my reasons for that last one.) 

The worst of 2007:

“I Know Who Killed Me,”

“Shooter,”

“Dead Silence,”

“Lucky You,”

“Resident Evil: Extinction,”

“War,”

“Black Book,”

“Southland Tales.”

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Published in: on January 23, 2008 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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