Friday, January 25, 2008

The Best Films of 2007

Joe Wright's second feature is a tour de force of directing, and storytelling. The film is divided into three sections, each featuring a different actor playing the central character, Briony. The first section is set at an idyllic English country home in the early 1940s. Wright manages to make this so idyllic and so incredibly beautiful (with the help of his brilliant cinematographer Seamus McGarvey), that when the turn in the first act comes, its shattering and heartbreaking. Once we're jolted out of this paradise, we find ourselves near the end of WWII, and there's a flashback sequence between the other two lead characters, Celia and Robbie, that rivals "Breif Encounter" as heartbreaking romantic melodrama. The third turn slams us into present day. Not much has been said of the film, and its greatness, but along this brilliantly executed story, based on Ian McEwan's novel, there's a 6 minute tracking shot, and some of the best filmmaking I've seen in years. Pride and Prejudice tipped Wright as soemone to watch, but with Atonement, he shoots to one of the best working today. This film is a masterpiece, and the best of the year.

Paul Thomas Anderson has previously speicalized in comic dramas that feature large ensemble casts and cross cutting between multiple stories. With There Will be Blood, he's made the most unique American film of the year, and perhaps one of the most unique of all time. It's a focused character study, mainly of two people, Daniel Plainview, a self-made oil tycoon and Eli Sunday, a self-made preacher. Its uniqueness has put some others off, specifically its ending, but its the right ending, and it's what makes the picture. With this film, Anderson steps up his already impecable game and creates a wholy unique work of art, a focused meditation on greed, religion, and commerce.
Jason Reitman's film so completely captures the world and the feeling of suburban teenagers in his coming of age comedy, with a script by Diablo Cody. Ellen Page and Michael Cera inhabit their roles so deftly that it'd be easy to say they aren't acting, but in Juno, Ellen Page has created one of the great film teenagers. She's a knowing, sarcastic character, and her performance, coupled with Cody's writing and Reitman's direction turn her into a funny, scared young woman coming to terms with her first brushes of adulthood. The pregnancy in the movie is just a location, and Reitman fills his film with equally rich portayals, notably with J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, who both bring weight and complexity to their roles as Juno's loving parents. Though it might not add anything to new to film language, Reitman's film is the most heart-warming and optomistic comedy of the year.
Like Blood, David Fincher's "Zodiac" is an instensley focused American film. Recreating the period setting not just in the art direction, but also the film style, Zodiac is one of the most tightly crafted films in recent decades. Remniscent of classic investigation movies of the 1970s, its a film that'll be obsessed over for years, and marks a bold new direction for high-definition digital filmmaking. A myriad number of actors take on the different personas of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' film that is just as much about movies and American culture as it is Dylan. Haynes uses Dylan as an entry point into Fellini, Godard, Altman, Billy the Kid, Woody Guthrie, and the very fiber of American history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Though its subjects are diverse, Dylan is very much there in his music, and in the various landmark events of his career and life that Haynes inteprets into various film styles and periods. Never for a moment is it dull, or confusing. It plays very much like listening to a Dylan song, you can try to sort it all out, and get no where, or you can go for the ride, and let it all mean what it means.
1. Atonement
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Juno
4. Zodiac
5. I'm Not There
6. Persepolis
7. Ratatouille
8. Dans Paris
9. Knocked Up
10. Once
The Other 10
The Darjeeling Limited, Across the Universe, Superbad, Eastern Promises, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Namesake, In the Valley of Elah, Starting Out in the Evening, Michael Clayton, Cassandra's Dream, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Death Proof (Grindhouse cut).

Other Reccomendations: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Margot at the Wedding, Away From Her, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Romance & Cigarettes, Taxi to the Darkside, The Orphanage, American Gangster, Rendition, Hot Fuzz, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Sicko, No End In Sight, La Vie en Rose, Into the Wild, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, Lars and the Real Girl, Lust, Caution, 12:08 East of Bucharest, Gone Baby Gone, The Savages, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The Golden Compass, The Kite Runner, The Lookout, Interview, Delirious, 3:10 To Yuma, Control, The Hunting Party, Black Book, The Simpsons Movie, Bug, The Bourne Ultimatum, Paris, je t'aime, A Mighty Heart, This is England, 2 Days in Paris, Shoot 'Em Up, The Brave One, Hot Rod.

Best Revivals: Killer of Sheep, Blade Runner: The Final Cut.
Biggest Dissapointments: Youth Without Youth , Oceans 13, Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Best Documentaries: Taxi to the Darkside, Sicko, and No End in Sight.
Worst: Hannah Takes the Stairs, and Youth Without Youth.