My Picks For The Best Films of 2007
Here they are, finally, My Picks For The Best Films of 2007. I may be a few days late with this, but, hey, cut me some slack. I mean, you've gotta understand that it's taken me this long to recuperate from all those holiday parties, especially since they've continued right into the New Year.
Of course this isn't really a complete "Best of 2007" list as I've yet to see all the great films just released at the end of the year, films such as "There Will Be Blood", "No Country For Old Men", "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly", "I'm Not There", "Sweeney Todd", "Atonement" and "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead", to name just a few. And, furthermore, some of these films on my list are actually 2006 theatrical releases, which I didn't get to see on DVD until well into 2007. So, regardless of what it should be called, this is a list of the best new films I've seen over the past year.
Oh, and one other thing, you may notice a lack of comedies on this list, but that's not due to any sort of disdain for comedies on my part. No, in fact some of my favorite films of all time are comedies: "Dr. Strangelove", "Monty Python and The Holy Grail", "Annie Hall", "This Is Spinal Tap", "The Big Lebowski", "Best In Show", "Borat" and, best of all, "Life of Brian". It's just that I didn't see anything of that caliber this year, with the exception of "The Darjeeling Limited", which did make my list. I also enjoyed "Knocked Up" quite a bit, but I wouldn't call it one of the best films of the year. These, however, I would:
TOP 5 BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR:
THE LIVES OF OTHERS
It's still extremely hard for me to believe that this absolutely perfect, completely mesmerizing and thoroughly thought-provoking film is German writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's first film... ever. Captivating, thrilling, brilliantly acted and directed, it's a film that stays with you for days afterwards. It seems more like the work of a master filmmaker who, after having spent a couple of decades perfecting his/her craft, is now unleashing this career masterpiece on the world. It does NOT feel like someone's first attempt at filmmaking! Not since Tarantino blew the film world's collective mind with "Reservoir Dogs" has there been such an incredible first feature. Set in East Germany in, not coincidently, 1984, it's a story about Stasi surveillance, but really it's about much much more than that. In the end, really, it's a tale about human nature, both good and bad... and downright ugly.
A brilliant, wholly original work by Mexico's Guillermo del Toro. A story of the trauma and tragedy of war, in particular the Spanish Civil War, as experienced by a little girl. This film is not simply good, it's a masterpiece. One that I originally raved about in my Truly Fantastic Four Rant 'n' Rave (Surviving The Summer of Sequels) piece back in early-July.
Yet another wonderful film from Pedro Almodovar, Spain's greatest filmmaker. All of his recent films ("All About My Mother", "Talk To Her", "Bad Education", etc.) have been fantastic and this, like the others, is a magical, beautiful, funny, dramatic, romantic, sad, moving, artistic, brilliant film. Enough said.
A stunningly good film by David Cronenberg. Perhaps not quite as good as his last feature, "A History of Violence" (see my rave here) , but mesmerizing and pretty-damn-close-to-perfect just the same. Not a film for the squeamish, that's for sure, but definitely a must-see for all real fans of great cinema.
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
Wes Anderson, the incredibly talented writer-director behind "Bottle Rocket", "Rushmore", "The Royal Tennenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou", does it again. He's created yet another fantastic film. And he's certainly not about repeating himself. This is unlike any of his previous films, at least in setting and story. His unique and quirky sense of humor remains as great as ever, however. Funny and serious, surreal and realistic - often all at once - I simply love this guy's films! It's a great film by any standard (though, actually, come to think of it, not by the "Hey, dude, wasn't 'Transformers' a wicked film?" standard), but it's particularly great for anyone, like myself, who has ever spent time traveling around India. The main characters - played perfectly by Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman - may be quite self-absorbed and not all that interested in the Indian people all around them - which makes them the complete opposite of my experience over there - but, still, the film really did transport me back to India and my year traveling around the country by train (for a particularly special train trip in Southern India, read this).
A SECOND TOP 5:
AWAY FROM HER
Like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck with "The Lives of Others", Sarah Polley is simply astonishing and mind-blowingly great in her directorial debut. Only 27 years old when she filmed this in 2006, she already seems like a veteran filmmaker, which might have something to do with her being a veteran actress of such great films as "The Sweet Hereafter", "Last Night", and "The Claim" and having worked with such great directors as Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Michael Winterbottom. But, still, it's hard to believe she was able to make such an incredible film on her very first try. And she even wrote the script herself, based on a short story by Canadian short story icon, Alice Munroe. Beautifully shot in snow-covered Ontario, wonderfully paced (unless, again, you're into "Transformers" and other such shit, in which case you'd most certainly call it "boring"), and brilliantly acted by Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis and, especially, Julie Christie. Christie, playing a victim of Alzheimer's, and Pinsent, her heartbroken husband, give masterly, powerful, yet extremely subtle, performances - we're talking the antithesis of Pacino in "Scent of A Woman" here. A stunning and heartbreaking film!
I'm not a big fan of musicals, "Chicago", for instance, just didn't do it for me (though "Moulin Rouge!", on the other hand, did), but this is a musical even haters of musicals could enjoy. Great songs, terrific performances and a story actually worth following, one based on Motown Records and its biggest act, the Supremes. It usually just seems silly when people break into song mid-conversation, but it's obviously much less jarring and unreal when actual singers/actors playing singers in a story about singers start singing. Now a film about a family who break into song every few minutes while plotting to escape the Nazis through the Austrian Alps, well that's a whole other story.
Another musical, but this one is unlike any you've ever seen before. None of the dialogue is sung, it's spoken like in any regular film, but the songs - those of star, and real-life rocker, Glen Hansard - are the heart and soul of the film. And what songs they are! While "Dreamgirls" may be an old-style musical, this is a completely modern tale, and film. A simple, yet wonderful, story of two artists - played by Hansard and Marketa Irglova - whose paths cross in modern day Dublin. Anyone who knows anything about music knows the Irish make beautiful sounds. And anyone who really loves music, particularly acoustic music, simply must see this small independent Irish film from writer/director John Carney. Trust me, if you love personal, individualist, unique filmmaking, you're going to love this movie. For a little taste of what I'm talking about, watch this great clip for the song "Say It To Me Now", which also doubles as a promo for the film.
A beautiful film, both in style and story, by Indian-born American director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding", "Mississippi Masala", etc.). A moving, sometimes funny, story about identity, assimilation, cultural clashes and, more simply, love and family. A tale about a) an Indian newlywed couple who travel across the world to make their new life together in Manhattan and b) their American children's struggle with identity, etc. Fantastic acting, masterful cinematography and direction. This is simply a must-see film.
Michael Moore's best film yet. Check out my full rave here.
A THIRD 5:
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
And now that you've read this, it's time to check out My Picks For The Best 15 Albums and 40 Songs of 2007.
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Sunday, January 6th, 2008
Now check out my 2008 film picks: My Picks For The Best 25 Films of 2008
Or for another piece on film try this The "Eternal Sunshine of Charlie Kaufman's Mind" Rave (Featuring My List of The Top 5 Comedies of All Time)
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Or, if you happen to be a Bob Dylan fan, check this out: The 25 Greatest Dylan Songs of The Past 20 Years