* That I saw...
1. Once -- I'd expected that one of the Fall's heavy hitters would take this plucky Irish musical out of the top spot, but it persevered, and takes the crown as my best movie of 2007. I missed quite a few of the challengers--particularly There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, and Atonement--but I still feel comfortable with this pick.
2. The Wind that Shakes the Barley -- A savage tale of the Irish fighting for independence against the British, and once the British are gone, against each other. Cillian Murphy, starring here as a med student who decides to join his brother in the IRA, might actually be too good-looking to be a star in Hollywood, but he's definitely got the acting chops to go with the face. This film featured the single most heartbreaking scene I saw all year, although that might say more about me than about the movie.
3. No Country for Old Men -- This was the one that I expected to knock Once off its perch, and from that standpoint, I'm disappointed. Mind you, it was beautiful. Javier Bardem was mesmerizing as the villanous Anton Chigurh, Josh Brolin actually managed to make me forget his dad's married to Barbra Streisand, and Tommy Lee Jones gives a gut-punch of a performance as a Texas sheriff left to process the carnage in Chigurh's wake. But I guess I wasn't as blown away as everyone else was by the scene with the dog in the river, or by the plot, which doesn't go much farther than a simple (and not incredibly satisfying) chase film.
4. Ratatouille -- Brad Bird is the man. Who isn't leery about the idea of an animated movie about a French rat who hallucinates conversations with a great chef, and who lives his cullinary dreams by acting as a puppeteer to an unskilled kitchen apprentice? Just trust Brad Bird, the guy behind The Incredibles. More imaginatively directed than any other movie on the list.
5. The Lives of Others -- The first time I'd heard of this film, it'd just beaten Pan's Labyrinth for best foreign film, and I was indignant. I still don't think it's better than Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece, but it's another lively take on the death-throes of the Soviet Bloc, and the perils of a surveillance culture.
6. Breach -- We discussed this one when it first came out. I still don't think I've seen a lead performance as good as Chris Cooper's Robert Hanssen, except maybe Bardem's turn in No Country. Strange that Cooper's work here--much like Forrest Whitaker's in the Last King of Scotland and Denzel Washington's in Training Day--is considered a lead performance even though he's a villain and not the main character, but Bardem's being pushed as a supporting actor.
7. Hot Fuzz -- All told, the funniest movie I saw all year, although it took a while to pick up speed, spending much of its running time setting up jokes that pay off only in the last 15 or so minutes. A better film than Shaun of the Dead, but less accessible--unless you're well-versed in '80s and '90s American action films, much of what's on the screen won't register.
8. Helvetica -- A documentary about a typeface? That's right. The filmmakers managed to tap into a genius discovery: graphic designers, whose work straddles the line between art and the written word, often combine the eloquence of writers with the insane passion and conviction of artists (those of us who know Jay Jaffe already had an inkling of this). What that gives you is some very intelligent and off-beat discussions about how a font can affect your world. Don't think I've seen a documentary this good since Capturing the Friedmans or Fog of War.
9. The Bourne Ultimatum -- Another one discussed previously. Gets downgraded because of the veritable drinking game you can play by taking a shot whenever someone incredulously asks Matt Damon's Jason Bourne "You really don't remember, do you?" Still, it had to make the top 10--otherwise, I'd run afoul of "The Asset."
10. Waitress -- We start with a chick flick, we end with a chick flick...what's happened to this blog? It seems like 2007 was a pretty slim year for female performances--Keri Russell has the best female performance I saw last year, and I can't think of enough good lead performances to populate a decent top five.
Others from 2007: Darjeeling Limited didn't quite make the list--I enjoyed it, but didn't fall in love--and I'm not even sure I liked it more than its companion short film, Hotel Chevalier, which has many of Darjeeling's virtues, a 100% reduction in Luke Wilson playing his stock Wes Anderson character, and a nice helping of Natalie Portman in various states of undress. The Host just missed inclusion by much less than Darjeeling; it was my favorite horror film of the year, but the only competition was the annoying 28 Weeks Later.
Any thoughts? Suggestions about other films I should watch? Put 'em in the comments.
Now that the Holidays are over, and most of my big writing assignments are done, I should be able to get on more of a regular posting schedule. Back when I started this blog, four years ago today, I never imagined that I'd have to interrupt writing it to work on the Baseball Prospectus annual, or any of the other stuff that's been going on in my life. One of my resolutions for 2008 is to figure out if I can do my minimum of three posts per week here, or else consider shutting down shop...but that's talk for another time. In the meanwhile, Happy Birthday to the WTDB!