The fall releases saved 2007 from being another crap year at the movies (insert 2006 here). We were inundated with brilliant films late in the year. Most notably was the Coen Brothers No Country For Old Men. This film kick-started a slew of great films that pretty much culminated with the release of There Will Be Blood on December 26th. I see 2007 as the year of the established directors. Filmmakers who had done great work previously surpassed themselves with their latest releases, especially Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood). Despite its many shortcomings, mainstream Hollywood does recognize talent and continues to give the gifted directors chances to make the films they want to make. There will be a bunch of deserving contenders come Oscar time. Here are my faves:
Top 10 Films of 2007
Julian Schnabel's adaptation of paralyzed fashion editor Jean-Dominique Bauby's last days is creative filmmaking at its best. Schnabel's artistic direction and Ronnie Harwood's heartfelt script adds up to a powerful combination of visual and dramatic genius.
#2: Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen has his career best performance as a Russian gangster at odds with his ruthless boss over the fate of a child. David Cronenberg's second effort (A History of Violence was the first collaboration) with Mortensen is astonishing, the darkest and most thrilling crime drama of the year.
Daniel Day-Lewis and Director Paul Thomas Anderson make a 'Citizen Kane' for the oil industry. Filled with treachery and deceit, Day-Lewis' performance as the misanthropic 'Daniel Plainview' is a brutal allegory for human nature.
The latest from indie-gods Ethan and Joel Coen is the movie to beat come awards time. Lead by Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem in Oscar worthy performances, No Country for Old Men is an austere and philosophical tale about a stolen bag of loot. I had major issues with the third act, but the film is absolutely riveting to that point.
#5: Black Book
Carice Van Houten is mesmerizing as a Jewish woman spying on the Nazis for the Dutch resistance during World War II. Director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Basic Instinct) makes his best film in his native tongue. Van Houten would have surely nabbed the Best Actress Oscar if this film had been released in the fall.
#6: Gone Baby Gone
Ben Affleck's directorial debut is a searing portrayal of lower income Boston. Casey Affleck, Ben's younger brother, plays a rough-and-tumble detective searching for a kidnapped girl. It is a star-making performance for the younger Affleck.
#7: Rescue Dawn
Werner Herzog's true story of Dieter Dengler's escape from a Cambodian prison camp. Christian Bale withers away in another extreme and physical performance. Steve Zhan and Jeremy Davies are also excellent as fellow POW's.
#8: Knocked Up
Judd Apatow hits the comedy jackpot with his follow-up to the smash Forty Year Old Virgin. Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogan are superbly cast as a young couple dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.
#9: 3:10 To Yuma
I love westerns. And this is a damn good one. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale kick major ass in James Mangold's remake of the classic 1957 western.
#10: A Mighty Heart
Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Marianne Pearl is powerfully dramatic. The film follows the events directly after Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and eventual beheading.
The Most Overrated Film of 2007
Atonement - An exceptional first act is wasted by a sappy and contrived ending. This film is a leading contender for all major awards and a critical hit, but is totally overrated in my humble opinion. Not bad for a date movie though...
1. Julian Schnabel / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
2. David Cronenberg / Eastern Promises
3. Paul Thomas Anderson / There Will Be Blood
1. Viggo Mortensen / Eastern Promises
2. Josh Brolin / No Country for Old Men
3. Daniel Day Lewis / There Will Be Blood
1. Carice Van Houten / Black Book
2. Tang Wei / Lust, Caution
3. Angelina Jolie / A Mighty Heart
1. Casey Affleck / The Assassination of Jesse James
2. Javier Bardem / No Country for Old Men
3. Paul Dano / There Will Be Blood
1. Amy Ryan / Gone Baby Gone
2. Helena Bonham Carter / Sweeney Todd
3. Marcia Gay Harden / Stephen King's The Mist
1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly / Ronnie Harwood
2. Gone Baby Gone / Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard
3. There Will Be Blood / Paul Thomas Anderson
1. Sweeney Todd / Darius Wolski
2. There Will Be Blood / Robert Elswit
3. Lust, Caution / Rodrigo Pietro
1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly / Juliette Wellfling
2. The Bourne Ultimatum / Christopher Rouse
3. The Kingdom / Colby Parker Jr. & Kevin Stitt
1. Sweeney Todd / Stephen Sondheim
2. Dedication / Ed Shearmur
3. Hairspray / Marc Shaiman
1. Beowulf / Robert Zemeckis (director)
2. I Am Legend / Francis Lawrence (director)
3. Sweeney Todd / Dante Ferreti (production designer)
1. Darfur Now / Ted Braun
2. SiCKO / Michael Moore
3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters / Seth Gordon
1. Beowulf / Robert Zemeckis
2. Ratatouille / Brad Bird & Jan Pinkava
3. The Simpsons Movie / David Silverman