Saturday, September 13, 2014

THE TEN GREATEST MOVIES OF 2007! Sorry for the delay, but this is seven years late already....

Man, looking back, 2007 was an incredible year for film. I was finally wetting my feet into Film for my career, and this is the first of these I've done where I can legitimately see about 50 or so movies making a Top Ten list from the year, so this was a particularly tricky list to make out. In fact, this is one of the few times that over-the-years, I've switched out my number one. Not now, but awhile ago. I've noticed people talk about stuff like that, like on Facebook or something, like it's a huge friggin' announcement. It's not a major announcement. It's like telling everybody you won at computer solitaire, really. Anyway, as you can tell, by my infrequent posts of these lists, I've started to grow more and more tired of them myself, plus, I do have other work outside of my blog that I'd prefer to work on, but I don't like to start something and then not finish, if possible.

If you're wondering what i'm talking about, several months ago, I started doing this regular blog series, where I go through each year of the previous decade, and list the Top Ten films from each year, we started with 2000 and we're at 2007 now, if you missed the previous lists, here's the recap and linkslists underneath:

2. Children of Men
3. United 93
4. The Departed
5. The Lives of Others
6. The Puffy Chair
7. Babel
8. Sherrybaby
9. Hard Candy
10. An Inconvenient Truth

1. Munich
2. Good Night, and Good Luck.
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Mysterious Skin
5. Sin City
6. The Upside of Anger
7. The New World
8. Crash
9. Saraband
10. Capote

1. Sideways
2. The Incredibles
3. Before Sunset
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5. The Aviator
6. Kill Bill: Vol. 2
7. The Five Obstructions
8. A Home at the End of the World
9. Million Dollar Baby
10. Hotel Rwanda

1. Lost in Translation
2. City of God
3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
4. Love, Actually
5. Monster
6. The Fog of War
7. Dirty Pretty Things
8. The Twilight Samurai
9. The Barbarian Invasions
10. The Shape of Things

1. Adaptation.
2. Minority Report
3. 25th Hour
4. Spirited Away
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien
6. Bowling for Columbine
7. Frida
8. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
9. Lovely & Amazing
10. Far From Heaven

1. Mulholland Dr. 
2. Dinner Rush
3. Waking Life
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. Gosford Park
6. Monsters, Inc.
7. Amelie
8. Audition
9. Ghost World
10. Memento

1. Almost Famous
2. Amores Perros
3. Traffic
4. Requiem for a Dream
5. Chocolat
6. Best in Show
7. Wonder Boys
8. High Fidelity
9. 6ixtynin9
10. Cast Away

Well, sorry for taking so long to get another of these, I know they're more popular than they are with me, but let's get to it. The Ten Greatest Movies of 2007!



I played around with the entire bottom of my list here for awhile; I started writing and rewatching "No End in Sight" at one point, and I have 10 or 12 other films basically to five 4 or 5 spots I was arguing against (The top of this list was far easier for me to fill out) but, in the end, I finally chose Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" as my number ten, and has their ever been a more perfect pairing of director with material? Now I'm somewhat known for having not been a particularly big Tim Burton fan but I've always contested that he's better when he's not creating the material himself, 'cause he to sometimes think visual elegance alone tells the story, but when he's got material already there to work with his best film "Ed Wood", he can be amazing. Here, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's gruesome musical, based on the Christopher Bond re-imagining of the original , famously called the bloodiest play to ever hit Broadway, is faithfully adapted, and Burton's fascination with the beauty in gore and death, is used to incredible effect here. As always, great production design, and cinematography, but the real key is that the musical is strong to begin with. Filled with amazing music, and special performances by Johnny Depp, who got an Oscar nomination for the title character, and Helena Bonham Carter as a somewhat dubious pastry shop owner. The key to the musical and why it's far superior to most other versions of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (There's actually two films with that exact title, the other dates back to 1936) is that this was one of the stories that portrays Sweeney Todd as somewhat of a wronged man, who's out firstly for revenge, having first been wrongly accused of a crime, and then the judge, (Alan Rickman) taking his daughter while his wife went crazy. But as great a bloody musical "Sweeney Todd..." is, the real reason I rank it so high is that it's just a bloody fun time of a film. Burton's sensibilities, knowing to keep the material as is, and just let his amazing visuals enhance the movie actually reveals a rare piece of restraint that we don't normally see in his work, and as a film, it's just full of this great pulp fun that the cinema oozes and gushes for. It's a film that loves the macabre and embraces it to it's fullest extent and the fact that it just happens to be a great musical is a bonus. Not, the best musical of the year, but we'll get to that.


He's more of an artist than a filmmaker, Julian Schnabel, and on the latter, he's been somewhat inconsistent over the years when he's chosen to dive into this field, but from a filmmaking perspective, it's tough to argue against his incredible ability after watching "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". The movie's not so much based on the novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Almaric), although it is based on his autobiography, but based on the incredible circumstances under which the former editor of Elle Magazine in France, ended up writing it, and how. Bauby suddenly suffered a massive stroke while driving one day, and was then diagnosed with something called locked-in syndrome, which basically paralyzes your body into the position, and Bauby was left with only the ability to use his left eye. He's conscious the whole time, and we hear his thoughts, and most important and amazingly, we see the world from his point of view, lying on the bed, only able to see from his eye, and then inevitably able to blink his requests, letter by letter, inevitably, publishing his autobiography that way. He wasn't exactly the greatest person, even in his paralytic state, he makes comments about the nurses. A bit of a playboy who left his wife for his mistress, Dauby's life was one of the more superficial it seems, but now in the depths of reality, he manages to regain a sense of purpose, in forcing his novel through. (He passed away days after his book was published. One of the last shots we see of him, is of his being read the reviews from his nurses. Schnabel's occurring theme through his works is usually the struggle of the young artist to get his art created, and we saw that in his other biopics "Basquiat" and "Before Night Falls", but perhaps if was the subject matter that encourages the filmmaker in Schnabel to really take some chances and challenge himself as an artist in the medium, and the result is one of the more impressive directorial efforts in recent years. The film earned five Oscar nominations, including for Schnabel for Best Director, despite the film not even being France's Foreign Language Oscar submission (More on their film pick later), "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" really expands itself from the novel and creates a truly unique filmmaking experience, and a true journey through the human consciousness.


Nominated for Best Animated Feature Oscar, as well as being chosen as France's submission over "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" for the Foreign Language Oscar "Persepolis", Based on Director Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novels, the movie looks and feels like a gorgeous black-and-white graphic novel, and tells her story her personal story of growing up, and inevitably finding a home for herself in Paris, to the story of her home in Iran, as the country continues to decline, first glimpsing us a look at the life in Tehran under the reign of the Shah, 'til the overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the numerous continued losses of democracy that overtook the country over the years. Meanwhile, she's sent to Vienna with relatives, to not get into too much trouble with her rebellious nature, but the freewheeling Europe teenage world makes her a little too uncomfortable, and her inner struggles between these two conflicting universes she experiences. The title refers to the name of the ruins of the old Persian capital found, in Southern Iran, as we see the modern-day Tehran begin it's fall into ruins. But let that fool you, this is a fun, exciting, insouciant film, filled with pop culture references, and the funny-yet-tragic travails involved with growing up becoming a strong-willed independent woman. There's a lot of growing up in this film, and what "Persepolis" really is, is this beautiful mosaic of all these incredible inspirational sources with which Marjane has engulfed over the years, and it's really this amazing little diary, I guess of all these amazing experiences put together, telling an amazing story, in this beautiful black and white animation. It's really amazing to see just how fun this film is. Sometimes, it's really, just somebody having an interesting life, and then allowing us to experience it.

7. 12 

It was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar in '07, but curiously "12", was not released theatrically in America 'til two years later, Not only because it's director, Nikita Mikhalkov is actually a fairly well-known and established name; he had won an Oscar years ago, for his great film "Burnt by the Sun", but more than that, here he's remaking one of the greatest and more classic of American films, Sidney Lumet's "12 Angry Men". That's a film I'm incredibly familiar with, and there's no bad version of "12 Angry Men", whether it's the original "Studio One" teleplay by "The Defendors" creator Reginald Rose (Whose got a screenwriting credit on this remake) or even the recent cable adaptation on Showtime back in the late '90s, was quite good. Here though, Mikhalkov takes the base of the story and then expands it greatly, putting new wrinkles into the story, fit for a country that's still getting used to the Justice system, while also dealing with it's own history of judicial shortcomings, along with the modern-day troubles amongst the Russians themselves. In this case for instance, we see from the defendant's point of view, a young Chechen teenager accused of killing his stepfather, shortly after they arrived in Moscow to escape the Chechen Civil War. This interesting dynamic between the numerous different ethnic groups inside Russia alone is something we haven't seen. We also see each of the jurors, give fascinating monologues explaining their choices and decisions along the way, as the arbitrate in an empty school classroom while the jury slowly turns from what seems like a surefire guilty verdict to a struggling not guilty one. They deal with some of the more famous scenes in the original movie, like the debate over whether or not the old man with a limp could've gotten to the door to see the kid run off in time, but then they also skew from the facts of the case, sometimes ignoring them completely and just voting and going off their own personal experience, and taking other factors into account, like the inner workings of modern-day Moscow, and the way the new democratic Russia controls the town and how the city has responded. Mikhalkov, who also plays the jury foreman, Juror #2 in the film, could've actually made a pretty straight-forward remake and it probably would've worked, but he transported the story and turned a quintessential American film, into a truly Russian one. Forcing a closer look and a keener eye on his own society, not trying to integrate someone else's values into it.  I/We know this story almost by heart in our country, and we thought we knew everything about it, but here is an entirely new perspective, one that we didn't know until now.


I hadn't been overly enthused after Sean Penn's earlier directorial works, but he took great care with "Into the Wild". Not only directing, but writing the script, adapted from Joe Krakauer's investigative book on the late Christopher McCandless, a young man, who became obsessed with the idea of giving away all of the pleasantries of modern technology and foregoing all of civilization to go out and live and thrive in the wilderness of Alaska. McCandless (Emile Hirsch) was a law student at Emory College and had good grades, but- while not disenfranchised with the modern world per se, he felt like his true calling would be the freedoms of nature, so he cashed out his fund, gave most of his possessions and money away to charity, and determined to find himself up to Alaska through his own ways. He see him arrive out to Alaska, where he makes an abandoned bus his home, while he struggles to hunt and feed himself in the rigid climate, inspired by the works of Jack London, and of course, Henry David Thoreau's "Walden", which inspires the most civilized of box people to want to fight it out and seek the peace and tranquility of nature for a minute. On the way, we see McCandless, who renames himself Alexander Supertramp, as he encounters numerous people on his inevitably doomed journey. Despite getting acclaim from most awards, "Into the Wild" only received two Oscar nominations, one for Jay Cassidy's editing, and the other for Hal Holbrook, who at 81 years got his first and only career Oscar nomination for the film. (A fact that seems amazing in hindsight, especially considering how small his role actually is) But the film remains enchanting and even inspiring, even at it's most tragic and misguidedly heartbreaking. The gorgeous score and Golden Globe winning songs by Eddie Vedder, give the film much weight, and provide this idealistic backdrop for this most idealized adventure. We can see the mistakes that McCandless makes, as he's making them, but we can't help but at least appreciate the dreamer of Supertramp that led to them, and that's really an incredible filmmaking feat.


Speaking of crazy and misguided ideas done with an incredible amount of romantic idealism, one of the most fun and enjoyable cinematic experiences I've ever had, was seeing "Grindhouse" in it's original theatrical run. Although the films were released separately outside North America most places, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's double-feature extravaganza, didn't so much try to replicate the original '60-'70s "Grindhouse" experience of seeing an exploitative low-budget double feature at those out-of-the-way dingy and messy old theater houses, than as to be inspired by them and those films in order to create a modern-day homage to those kinds of films and those filmmaking styles and experiences. Rodriguez's film "Planet Terror", is more of a traditional over-the-top zombie infestation film, after some bio-experiment gone wrong, turns a South Texas town into zombies, while a group of survivalists led by a stripper, Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) and a mysterious non-local named Wray (Freddy Rodriguez). It's a bloody, gory, violent parade of zombies, guts, blood, even sex for a second, before the entire reel is skipped as it inevitably missing for some reason. The second film is Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof", about serial killer Stunt Man Mike (Kurt Russell) a former Hollywood stuntman who kidnaps and kills young women using his car that's been altered by Hollywood to be death proof for the driver, but deadly, for most everyone else he meets at a grungy, dirty, sexy watering hole where daisy dukes and smoldering sensuality are still in style, but the tables get turned, when he runs into some stunt and movie girls of their own, months later, he begins to meet his match, in the worst Russ Meyer of ways imaginable. While great pop iconography and genius involved in Rose McGowan having that chainsawed leg, and the gorgeous guitar-grinding score from Rodriguez himself, that's sure to be a favorite at strip clubs and acid-laced orgies for years to come, "Death Proof" alone, would've damn-near made this list; it's one of Tarantino's most underrated masterpieces, and I think it's one of the greatest films ever made, that's about a car chase. (Notice the wording, "about" a car chase) Yet, the whole butt-churning experience that is "Grindhouse", is pure eye candy for the cinema lover, let's not forget, the fake trailers for other movies, including Rodriguez's first introduction of what would become Danny Trejo's iconic "Machete" character, but also Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the SS", Edgar Wright's "Don't" and the best of these, Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving", which alone, the movie is worth watching for the one trampoline shot/sequence alone. (Also, in the Canadian version, a fake trailer for what would become John Eisener's "Hobo with a Shotgun") Altogether, "Grindhouse" at well over three hours of pure cinematic pleasure and overabundance from two of the most enthusiastic of cinephiles, and it's pure pleasure in seeing their work, even in this ungainly and confusing form that's rarely viewed anymore. The parts might be a little greater than the whole, but as an experience, it's a crowning achievement for all who endured it.


I remember it seeming somewhat strange to me that people would be befuddled or confused by the ending of "There Will Be Blood"; it was noted as one of the strangest and most controversial in recent years. I couldn't help but think, "Really, stranger than 'Magnolia'?" Of course, it wasn't, and it in turn wasn't that strange. I think most people will try to figure out a way to put "There Will Be Blood", number one on this list in the future, or even today. I understand that urge, and despite the great quality of films this year, I think this is one of only four films that I think a really strong argument can be made for number one. Paul Thomas Anderson's very loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's "Oil", is overblown expressionistic ambition, from Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview and from it's director who hardly seems right when he's striving for anything less than that. Plainview is a conman, an oilman, and entrepreneur, all the worst aspects of Capitalism rolled into one. His "son" becomes useless to him when he becomes deaf and sends him away, and his excessive grab and control for money is only matched by the actions of his incessant desire to make sure that his enemies have none. His enemy seems to be a preacher, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) who's land in a relatively small but growing community, has oil in it, as Plainview been told by Eli's brother Paul (Dano, again, in an unusual casting choice) and despite some early schemes working together, Plainview works on orchestrating his destruction ways, right in plain sight, of everyone but Eli, as the industrial age starts to sweep through the country and oil becomes the new steel. "There Will Be Blood", isn't so much a movie as it is an exuberant piece of self-expressionistic art, spread over the length of a film. This grandiose film about this grandiose man, who's shocking lack of empathy, sympathy, hell, humanity, just intrigues and fascinates us. Strange for what's essentially a character piece, especially one that's a long Conrad-like journey into a character only to find, not much there, but maybe that's the point. Or that's there simply beauty and elegance in excess and superficiality, and the dirtier the oil, the greener the money becomes. Or the redder the blood.


I've given up determining what the Coen Brothers best film is; just when I feel like the argument for "Fargo" or "The Big Lebowski" is the strongest, then they'll do something like "Inside Llewyn Davis" and screws up my thought process on it again. But their Oscar-winning Best Picture "No Country for Old Men", has to be considered among their very best. I was a little confused after my first viewing, especially since, I remember this clearly, the Netflix package I had, had mislabeled the time length on the film, as having 20 more minutes, and the ending really came as a surprise at the time for me, because of that, but I made sure to watch it a second and third time, knowing that the Coens never do anything so thin that one viewing is enough to catch it all, and I was taken back by the intricacy of the amazing story. Based on a Cormac McCarthy novel (and a very good one I might add, this is a very good adaptation of it) at it's core, it's a chase movie, a thriller, involving $2million dollars in a black suitcase. First, it's in possession of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who found it, after some kind of mess that left several dead, and some injured that he happens to stumble upon. He sorta knows the kind of screwed up situation he's walked into, but soon, it starts approaching, in the form of pure evil, Anton Chigurh (Oscar winner Javier Bardem). He moves patiently-yet-deliberately as things continue to escalate, and Chigurh will clearly not stop 'til he's got the money, no matter how well Llewelyn manages to outsmart him and play his game. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) narrates the film originally (Some chapters in the book seems to just be first-person monologue fascinations with the evil in the world he reads in the paper or hears about elsewhere, just considering it) but takes onto the investigation, always a few steps behind and knowing it, but just unable to completely fill all the missing pieces to the puzzle. In the middle of this chess game-like thriller more and more characters and perspectives come into play, and the film, molds this elegiac quality into the thriller plothole, leaving us with an inevitable conflict between chance and destiny, for everyone to consider. Sometimes it's their lives at stake, other times just a flip of a coin. Some like Ed Tom, just have nothing else to do, but sit at the breakfast table, retired, hearing everything he's ever heard, seeing everything he's ever seen, and just consider. I always thought it was so interesting that the whole movie is essentially about how Sheriff Ed Tom reacts and see everything that happens, and yet, he's the one who's never given all the information, but the Coens do give it to us, and even after piecing it together, wer're still not sure how or what if anything else could've been done. It's a truly beautiful and haunting film, that grows with each viewing, and every nuance, and is more delicate than it appears. One wrong note could've ruined everything; the film is truly an incredible achievement.


If I had made this poll back in '07, I probably would've most likely said "Juno" as my number one. It didn't fall, it's just that over time, I realized one film was even better, but as some of you will remember I had "Juno" on my Top 100 Movies of All-Time List, that I was requested to do a few months back (And if you go back to that blogpost, you should be able to guess what my number one is) and the film remains as smart, witty and charming as ever. It's the one of the very best scripts I've ever seen, especially for someone's first script, and it introduced us not only to Ellen Page being one of the best actresses around, but also to Diablo Cody, one of the most inventive and distinctive voices and writers alive. Page plays Juno MacGuff, a 16-year-old who decided to have sex recently with her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera) and ended up pregnant. After first trying abortion, she decides to have her child adopted by a loving couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), who are more desperate for a child, but Juno likes them and especially Mark for being a musician who stills seems to be trying to rock despite his wife's more Martha Stewart house. She had already started the planning of this, before even telling her parents (JK Simmons and Allison Janney) and in one of the many surprises, they're not stupid or obnoxious, and like most of the characters, including Juno, they're incredibly smart and observant. Better yet, the script is smart and observant to know exactly how to tease us, and know exactly the correct moment and ways to make it seem like we're going down a predictable path, and then, take it in a completely different direction, more honest, more real directions than most movies would ever try to be. To hear a defeated 8-months pregnant Juno reflect that "I've been dealing with stuff way above my maturity level", it's so charming and refreshing, to realize somebody is smart enough to understand that, and know exactly how to back away. The whole movie could've been so many bad cliches, and instead it insists on finding a new insightful way of approaching this material, creating these characters that we haven't seen before. It's just stunning work. It was the second film directed by Jason Reitman, Ivan's son, he had directed a very good movie a few years earlier called "Thank You for Smoking", a sharp satire based on the Christopher Buckley novel, and with this film, and later with "Up in the Air" and the Cody-penned "Young Adult", he's quietly become one of the interesting directors out there, who finds a way of telling surprising human stories of very complex and thoughtful characters that we haven't seen before. He uses interesting tricks like the animated opening sequences, and really smart music choices, but they don't overtake the film with his style, he's more delicate than that, and instead he gets what seems like very simple stories on the surface, but let's them have so much more depth to them, that the more we watch, the more stuff below-the-surface their is, and when it comes from a teen comedy of all things, you really have to stand back in awe of what they accomplished with this one.


As much as I adore and am absolute awe of "Juno", over-the-years one film has simply grown more and more viscerally into my conscious and subconscious. One that continues to impress and inspire in numerous forms and find an ever-growing wider audience all the time. One that transcends it's basic story and turns film, not just into poetry, but into the highest of all arts, music. It's also the only film, where I've posted a Canon of Film post of a film, on two separate occasions, the latest one, is below:

Number one, is "Once". From Writer/Director John Carney, "Once" is the tale of He and She (Oscar winners Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) a Irish guitarist who fixes vacuum cleaners and a struggling Czech pianist with a toddler, and when they come together in a Dublin music shop, something special happens. Shot in 3 weeks, and for about 180,000 pounds, it's a beautiful musical, about the rare brief moments these two musicians have, both with music, and with each other, before life pulls both of them apart. Like great music can transport you into a place and time, the music of "Once" transports us, back to this place and time for these two to remember. It's appropriately one of the biggest sensations since, including breaking almost all the records at the Tonys when it this small little gem was transported to the Broadway stage. It's may be "Once" but it's beautiful and perfect no matter how many times you see it, and it's the movie I've most watched since, from watched since from this year, and it'll be the film I watch most often in the future. It didn't fall slowly, it just rose and rose up my list, "Once", the Best Film of 2007.


Unknown said...

I think I might be the only human being in the world that hated Juno.

Anonymous said...

I hated Juno.It had a contrived plot,lame dialogue,and one of the most annoying soundtrack I've ever heard

David Baruffi said...

I don't think you're the only misguided one, Barbara.

David Baruffi said...

The dialogue was spectacular, I wish I can write like that, the soundtrack was cool, but I understand a disagreement on those parts, but-eh, contrived plot? I don't know what the hell you're talking about there.