The Best and Worst of 2007

Looking back over the couple of hundred reviews I filed this year, I was struck by how many fine films I saw in 2007. On top of that, there were a couple of really good ones, films that slipped comfortably into the mantle of greatness.

I have listed them here in no particular order, but if I had to pick one above all the others, it would be The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which is still playing in Irish cinemas – but only six of them. Andrew Dominik’s revisionist horse opera found a new and exciting way to tell an old story, a legend essentially. I saw four other movies that week, but there was only one still playing in my head.

The Coen Brother’s No Country For Old Men and PT Anderson’s There Will Be Blood are released here in January and February respectively. From the jumping arrows on my anticipation meter, either film would otherwise have vied for top spot.

American Gangster – Ridley Scott’s sprawling, funk-era narco-epic might be as shallow as a paddling pool, but it’s great fun to watch.

Inland Empire – David Lynch’s digital nightmare frightened the daylights out of me when I saw it, a sense of disintegration and collapse that lingered.

Eastern Promises – For the most galvanising scene of the year; Mortensen fighting off the Turks in the bathhouse. Outrageous.

Knocked Up / Superbad – A double-bill of instant comedy classics. Superbad just shades it, but there’s only a hair – dark and curly, obviously– between them.

The Lives Of Others – This coruscating history of the East Germany and the Stasi is a gripping spy thriller and a profound celebration of the human spirit.

The Bourne Ultimatum – Greengrass and Damon turn the dials all the way up for this balls-out trilogy-ender. Seriously smart and thrillingly stupid.

Zodiac – David Fincher returns to form for this open-ended dissection of San Francisco’s Zodiac killer. The best ensemble cast of the year, and a close second in the ‘best scene’ stakes. When Gyllenhaal went down to the basement with the creepy collector, the few hairs remaining on the back of my neck stood on end.

Into The Wild – Emile Hirsch and Sean Penn made the saddest and the most uplifting film of the year with this autobiographical road movie, with Hirsch establishing himself as one of the finest young actors working today through little more than empathy and understanding, two difficult emotions to communicate sincerely.

Atonement – Joe Wright’s lush adaptation of Ian McEwan’s doorstopper looked gorgeous, felt real and offered complete narrative satisfaction.

Days of Glory – A French war movie with heart and guts and deeper things to say about colonialism, patriotism and sacrifice.

This Is England – Shane Meadow’s brilliant Thatcher-era semi-autobiography had a captivating central performance from ten year old Thomas Turgoose and a cracking soundtrack of ska and reggae classics.

Ratatouille – Brad Bird’s visual feast was a delight varnished with genius.

Mr. Brooks – A serial killer movie that was as dumb as a bag of hammers, but Costner and Hurt were a great double act.

Michael Clayton –Clooney doing sullen in a fragmented story about a legal fixer. Bleak and smart, it was filled with ideas and talking points.

Notes On A Scandal – Dench and Blanchett teamed up for this blistering revenge story, a portrait of a demented bitch that never flinched from honest depiction.

Apocalypto – Say what you like about Mel Gibson, he can make action movies. Non stop thrills and a vivid sense of blood.

Away From Her – Sarah Polley’s Alzheimer’s drama was one of the saddest and most crisply drawn stories of the year.

Control – just for the horrible sense of fate that filled the shadows of Corbijn’s black and white screen.

The Last King Of Scotland – Forrest Whittaker and James McAvoy battle it out in Uganda for this scorching biopic of Idi Amin.

The Illusionist The Prestige is probably the better story, but I liked Edward Norton’s lush, dreamy film.

300 – Aaaaargh!

Yella – Kann Mann ‘David Lynch’ sagt? Still, this was a trippy, downbeat story of German capitalism.

Babel – Three sad stories, stretched to the point of agony.

Black Book – Verhoeven’s madcap Dutch Resistance adventure was a hoot.

The Science of Sleep –Gondry’s semi-autobiographical story had the most imagination of any film this year.

Once – Because success deserves applause as much as songs do.

Black Snake Moan – Soundtrack, soundtrack, soundtrack. And Ricci in her smalls.

The Family Friend – a scorching, sickly humorous story about a small-time Italian loan shark.

Ten Canoes – otherworldly.

Transformers – really, really loud and surprisingly funny.

The Simpsons Movie – just because.

Hallam Foe – More so for Sophia Myles than Billy Elliot, but I liked this Scottish drama’s sense of perversion.

Kings – for the lonliness.

The Darjeeling Limited – The bright, sweet road movie was cut with an acid sourness.

Worst of the Year

Or indeed, the worst of any year since the invention of the motion picture camera. If I had to pick one above all others, it'd be, oh sweet Jesus, don't make me pick...

The Dark Is Rising

Speed Dating

Are We Done Yet?

The Number 23

Southland Tales

I Want Candy

Goal! 2

Mr Bean's Holiday

Employee of the Month

Norbit

The Last Legion

Perfect Stranger

Good Luck Chuck

Daddy Day Camp

Wild Hogs

Ghost Rider

Material Girls

For the best book about movies I read this year, it’s a toss up between Simon Callow’s brilliant Orson Welles biographies Road To Xanadu and Hello, Americans or Christopher Sandford's Polanski.

My song of the year would be Radiq’s 'Rude Boy Anthem' from the album Graffiti & Rude Boy 67', although I got a huge kick out of hearing Sam Cooke’s 'A Change Is Gonna Come' when it popped up, in its entirety, in the movie Talk To Me.

6 comments:

Jim Dubh said...

Interesting list. Did not expect to see "Kings" and "Days Of Glory" floating around on many lists, although I liked both. Here is my year (so far!) anyway...

1) This Is England
2) Control
3) Pan's Labyrinth
4) Night of the Sunflowers
5) Lives of Others
6) Letters from Iwo Jima
7) Days of Glory
8) 300
9) Tell No One
10) The Future is Unwritten
11) Into the Wild
12) Little Children
13) Curse of the Golden Flower
14) Zodiac
15) True North
16) Babel
17) Kings
18) Atonement
19) Last King of Scotland
20) Casino Royale

I avoid slapstick turkeys as a rule, but I was disappointed by two of the heavyweights in "American Gangster" and "The Bourne Ultimatum". However, I am in the minority on both.

Anyway, fully agree with your opening remark. Best year in a long time and I still have to go see "...Jesse James..." and "I'm Not There" over Christmas.

Sinéad said...

Great list John. Don't have time to do one myself so am pointing people this way.

John said...

Hey Jimdubh,

A well-considered list indicative of a healthy cinematic appetite. Glad to see Meadow's mini-masterpiece topping it, a shame the release was so botched that very few people got to see it on the big screen.

I had Pan's Labyrinth and Little Children on my list for last year, 2006.

You could make a case against American Gangster, and I'd hear you out, but Bourne Ultimatum is to my mind an impeccable action movie.

Jim Dubh said...

Thanks for the compliment!

Will try and keep it short for today. I can see myself back here for the odd tussle soon enough and I am argumentative!!

American Gangster - Felt I had seen it all before in movies such as Scarface, Heat, Training Day, and Copland (don't ask...). One argument might be that it was "based on a true story", but so was Goodfellas... More importantly, it never made me say "wow" and that's a killer for a blockbuster.

Bourne Ultimatum - Ironically suffered for me from having seen Casino Royale earlier in the year in terms of the action scenes (the irony being obvious I hope). Also, the ending felt like some of those season finales for an American TV show involving government conspiracies, etc.

Not quite as bad as The Matrix trilogy, but each installment of the Bourne movies has been progressively less enjoyable and I hope they give it a rest now (as if...)!

Happy Christmas!

CW said...

You've included Ten Canoes, which I've heard good things about, but regrettably haven't seen. You haven't however, included the other great Australian film of the year Jinadabine which I feel tackles a wide range of themes and combines social comment with psychological horror and supernatural elements, a classic theme in Australian cinema harking back to the days of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Worth a mention.

TenaciousT said...

Great list! Forgot some of the films actually came out this year...still have to catch up with some of them. Definitely a great year- hope 2008 proves to be as good!