Ah, 2007. Here’s a strong candidate for my favorite film year of the 00s. A ridiculously large amount of great films arrived this year, leading to a really wonderful selection on this list. The #10 on this list could beat the crap out of most other #10s of the decade.
I normally don’t do honorable mentions, but I really do need to give a shout-out to Persepolis, a lovely animated autobiographical film about a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It was originally on this list, and I had its entry written up and everything. But just last week, I discovered the film that ended up on #9 here, and thus Persepolis got bumped off. Very sad. If you haven’t seen it, you really ought to.
As usual, this is 2007 strictly as listed by IMDB. Also, this is a list of my favorite films of the year, and nothing more.
10 – NOTHING IS PRIVATE (TOWELHEAD, Alan Ball)
“See, the mark of intelligence, Gail, is having the capacity of holding two conflicting ideas in your head at one time.”
This is a film I found great, yet I have little desire to revisit it anytime soon. It’s a rough watch likely to make you squirm, about a young teenage girl who has lived her whole life with her American mother in New York but is now sent to Texas to stay with her Lebanese dad. The culture clash mixes with her sexual awakening to create an uncomfortable (in a good way) story, and director Alan Ball (who wrote American Beauty) wisely sprinkles it with some black humor to make it go down easier. Summer Bishil is effective in the lead, but it’s the supporting turns by Aaron Eckhart, Peter Macdissi and Toni Collette that leave real lasting impressions.
9 – TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (Alex Gibney)
“If you weren’t a terrorist when you came here, you sure would be when you leave.”
A horrifying documentary on the torture and interrogation techniques used by the US during the War on Terror. But it goes beyond mere shock effects and investigates what made people carry them out and why and how they were put in place. Not a pleasant watch, but an important film. Michael Moore wishes he could make me dislike the Bush administration as much as this movie did.
8 – GONE BABY GONE (Ben Affleck)
“I couldn’t stop running it over and over and over in my mind. The vague and distant suspicion that we never understood what happened that night. What our role was.”
Why can’t more crime dramas be like this one? A smart and entertaining yarn in which two Boston detectives (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) try to track down a missing child, Gone Baby Gone offers twists and turns a-plenty leading up to tricky situations where the viewer is forced to determine whether doing the right thing is always the right thing to do or not. Wonderfully cast from top to bottom, and Ben Affleck brings a memorable view of the city to the screen in his directorial debut.
7 – SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (Tim Burton)
“And I will get him back even as he gloats; In the meantime I’ll practice on less honorable throats.”
Tim Burton has never been one to hold back on the visual aspects of his films, but Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street might be his most extravagant movie yet. Along with his art and set directors, he paints up a picture of mid-19th century London bathing in dark gothic shadows. The result is quite gorgeous and fits in well with the grim (yet funny) tale of a barber’s hunt for bloody revenge. A violent musical with plenty of nice songs, and Helena Bonham Carter steals the show as pie baker Mrs. Lovett.
6 – EAGLE VS SHARK (Taika Waititi)
“It’s time to pay the piper. He’s gonna reap what he sowed, and it sure ain’t corn. Or wheat.”
Quirky New Zealand comedy that draws obvious inspiration from Napoleon Dynamite. This one’s much warmer, funnier and better, though. As minsanthrope Jarrod and mousy Lily (Jemaine Clement and Loren Horsley) navigate their new relationship amidst Samoan bullies of the past, dysfunctional family gatherings and incompetent hacker friends, we’re treated to lots of smiles and laughs.
5 – BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (Gabor Csupo)
“Just close your eyes, but keep your mind wide open.”
This is the kind of children’s movie I’d have very fond memories of had it arrived some 15 years earlier. But it’s not just a film for the youngsters. Its frank look at a variety of childhood subjects (problems with fitting in, bullying, crushes on teachers, family issues) and its refusal to dumb things down for its audience makes this one carry weight for anyone who remembers their childhood years. It also packs a real emotional punch. AnnaSophia Robb is radiant. Also has one of the most misleading trailers in recent history.
4 – SUPERBAD (Greg Mottola)
“You know when you hear girls say ‘Ah man, I was so shit-faced last night, I shouldn’t have fucked that guy?’ We could be that mistake!”
I don’t recall any movie ever making me laugh as hard as this one did when I first saw it. Maybe too juvenile and crude for some, but it hit just the right note for me. What’s impressive is how slyly the film makes me care for its lead characters (even Jonah Hill‘s asshole Seth) amidst all the jokes, to the point where the thoughtful ending feels well-earned rather than shoe-horned in. More than most Judd Apatow productions, this one I can easily see stand the test of time.
3 – THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (LE SCAPHANDRE ET LE PAPILLON, Julian Schnabel)
“Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed: my imagination and my memory.”
Of many good decisions made by director Julian Schnabel for this reality-based film, perhaps the wisest is to show the first half entirely from the point-of-view of its paralyzed protagonist. Mathieu Amalric plays Elle editior Jean-Dominique Bauby who after a stroke finds himself stuck with locked-in syndrome, fully concious but unable to move anything but one eyelid. Since we see what he sees, we share his claustrophic and frustrating experience. And when we eventually move outside his body, the effect of actually seeing him is all the more striking. A wonderfully realized film.
2 – JUNO (Jason Reitman)
“You better pay for that pee-stick when you’re done with it. Don’t think it’s yours just because you marked it with your urine!”
Smart, funny, joyful and with an endless capacity for causing detractors to spew bile on it. What more could one want in a film? I love every second of Juno, and a lot of it has to do with the flawless ensemble: Ellen Page, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Michael Cera, Olivia Thirlby, Jason Bateman and (especially) Jennifer Garner. Everyone is spot-on here, and Jason Reitman further cements his talent for bringing forth the best in his actors.
1 – LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (Craig Gillespie)
“What we call mental illness isn’t always just an illness. It can be a communication; it can be a way to work something out.”
Because sometimes it’s just so damn nice to see a film free from cynicism, that instead focuses on the goodness that people are capable of. Ryan Gosling is spellbinding as Lars, a kind but painfully introverted man who falls in love with a sex doll and believes it to be a real person. At the behest of his psychologist (the great Patricia Clarkson), the townspeople play along with his delusion. Despite the risky premise, there are no cheap laughs to be had here. Only heart, sincerity and warmth.