Best Films of 2007
by dan heaton
While looking back at 2007 to compile my list, I realized that this was a very strong year for movies. Most of my honorable mention picks could have made my list in past years, and were on par with my choices at the bottom of the top ten. Sadly, 2007 saw horrible-looking clunkers like Norbit and Wild Hogs gross huge sums of money, which does not reflect well on the general public’s tastes. There also were a large group of third installments in popular franchises (Shrek, Rush Hour, etc.) that were mostly forgettable.
Before starting with my annual top ten list, I would like to mention several excellent movies that just missed this coveted group. Juno provided great entertainment and a strong lead performance from young Ellen Page. It was a bit over-hyped, but I still enjoyed seeing the fine cast, particularly Michael Cera, J.K. Simmons and Jennifer Garner. One of the year’s best documentaries was No End in Sight, which offered an even-handed, yet devastating portrait of the gross mismanagement following the Iraq invasion. David Fincher’s Zodiac worked as both a complex procedural and a realistic depiction of San Francisco in the 1970s. Its early scenes also induced serious chills while recreating the murder scenes. American Gangster delivered on the promise of the star power of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, who both give award-worthy performances. Finally, Knocked Up brought some of the year’s biggest laughs from Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and that group’s many familiar faces.
Without any more unnecessary discussion, here is my list of the best films of 2007 in reverse order:
John Sayles’ compassionate ode to the blues and the origins of rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘50s captures the dilemma of an old-school musician (Danny Glover) who doesn’t want to change with the times. This film appeared in November at the St. Louis International Film Festival and will arrive theatrically in 2008. I highly recommend that you give it a chance and make it a sleeper hit.
Much has been said about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s love for old grindhouse films and hopes to reignite the genre. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror fits this mold and is entertaining, but it pales in comparison to Tarantino’s Death Proof. Taking its time and introducing its characters during the first half, the film concludes with a stunning chase sequence that spotlights amazing stunt work from Zoe Bell.
8. Michael Clayton
Reminiscent of classic thrillers from the 1970s, this subtle tale of corruption includes great work from George Clooney but never feels like a star vehicle. Writer Tony Gilroy goes behind the camera for the first time and delivers a finely crafted, consistent picture.
I wasn’t excited by the trailers for the latest Pixar feature, which made its remarkable story even more surprising. The tale of a young rat that charms patrons of a Parisian restaurant doesn’t play for cheap laughs and may work better for foodie adults than children.
Keri Russell shines in this appealing story of a pregnant waitress who couldn’t be less excited about having a baby. Directed warmly by the late Adrienne Shelly, this film also owes its success to supporting players like Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Andy Griffith and many others.
5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s beautiful story might keep viewers away due to its difficult subject matter, but the picture is surprisingly accessible. It also avoids shifting into melodrama and doesn’t beat you over the head. Watching Jean-Dominique Bauby struggle to cope with being almost completely paralyzed is tough, but the method designed for him to communicate (and write a book) is truly amazing.
4. In the Shadow of the Moon
I’m an Apollo junkie, which makes me the perfect audience for David Sington’s intriguing documentary about the program. Composed primarily of interviews with all the living Apollo crew members (except Neil Armstong), this picture makes me wonder why space exploration doesn’t hold the same allure among people in today’s world.
3. No Country for Old Men
Adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel has inspired the Coen Brothers to deliver one of their best films. Javier Bardem deserves the Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of relentless killer Anton Chigurh. It’s a grim film that may frustrate general audiences, but it also greatly rewards thoughtful filmgoers.
2. The Bourne Ultimatum
Opening with a spell-binding sequence at London’s Waterloo Station, Paul Greengrass’ non-stop chase rarely takes a breath and delivers one of the decade’s best action films. As Jason Bourne, Matt Damon exudes little emotion but captures our attention through his relentless pursuit of the truth. This was the one sequel that actually improved on the success of its predecessors.
Believe the hype. John Carney’s modern-day Irish musical spotlights the stunning musical combo of the Frames’ Glen Hansard and Czech musician Marketa Irglova. The riveting music serves as the perfect background to the charming romance between the non-actors, who underplay their scenes and still deliver surprising emotions.