Ken's Best and Personal Favorites of 2007
by Ken Evans
January 6, 2008
It's that time again! The time when we film critics put together our lists to try and sum up our opinions of the movies from the previous year. This is one of my favorite things to do, especially going into the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Now is the time when each film begins to really boil down and make its mark in my mind. They are no longer being judged for just their quality as an individual film, but they are also being compared to every film from 2007. I'll admit I haven't seen every movie from last year, so if one of the movies you loved is missing it's possible that I never saw it. However, of the films I did see (which was more this year than ever before in my life) these are the ones that deserve to be mentioned.
I broke up this article into two sections. First, what I thought were the best films of the year. Second, the movies that I really enjoyed but aren't of the same quality as the best of the year.
14 BEST OF 2007:
1. No Country for Old Men
To be perfectly honest, picking No Country for Old Men as my favorite of the year was an easy choice. It was not only the most enjoyable film I saw this last year but everything from movie quality to acting performances was perfect. It is such a complex film with each part fitting together so well. I know that there are a lot of people who were upset about the ending of this film, as well as the death of Josh Brolin's character. This must be addressed as those moments should be highlights of the movie. I thought it was absolute genius and a credit to the Coen's Brothers for sticking to the book and not trying to please the audience. Those two moments should be looked at as markers pointing everyone (like they did me) to the understanding that the plight of the two characters, played by Brolin and Bardem, are not the main plot of the story. Instead, they serve to explain by illustration the struggle that Tommy Lee Jones' character is dealing with and talking himself through for the entire film. It was an incredibly deep film that excited me and made the inner film nerd inside me act as giddy as a school girl. This is not only the Coen Brothers at the top of their game, but it is filmmaking at its absolute finest.
2. There Will Be Blood
I know that these are the top two on just about everyone's 2007 lists. There is a reason for that. They truly are the best two films of the year. It wasn't as close of a race between these movies as I thought it might be. I think it came down to enjoyment and the love I have for the Coen Brothers style that made me choose No Country over There Will Be Blood. Now don't think I didn't enjoy There Will Be Blood or that I didn't like PTA's style, because I absolutely did! What made this film for me was Daniel Day-Lewis. Typically I wouldn't look at one actor's performance and base most of my opinion of the movie on it. However, when that actor makes up the entire film and the story is him and how he deals with each problem and situation, it doesn't leave me with much of a choice. Between PTA's direction and Daniel Day-Lewis' perfect performance, this is easily one of the best films I have ever seen.
3. Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd is a musical about revenge, injustice, murder, cannibalism, romance, and shaving. You can't say that you have seen a film like that very often! That is partly the reason I loved it so much. Sometimes you need something outrageous to save you from the same old regurgitated stories that come out in the theater every year. The great thing about Sweeney Todd is it is all done so well. Usually the films dealing with the strange and unusual end up being some second rate horror film that should have gone straight to DVD. That is why I look forward to every movie that Tim Burton puts out. I know I'm in for something different and exciting, while at the same time can expect amazing quality. Let's also not forget the soundtrack sung by the actual actors. I'm not a music critic and never will be, but I love Depp and Bonham's singing in this film. The soundtrack is as amazing as the film and I find myself humming or singing it all the time. It is A masterpiece wrapped in death and covered in blood.
4. Michael Clayton
I applaud director Tony Gilroy for this his first attempt at directing. In fact it blows my mind that a first time director can ever put out something this extraordinary. However, not only did he direct it, but he wrote it as well. Currently he is working on another film, Duplicity, which I can't wait to see. Michael Clayton is such an amazing example of someone shattering that famous saying, "You can't change who you are." These are my favorite films, the ones showing someone overcoming who they are and making a change for the positive. George Clooney gives one of the best performances of the year and proves again that he is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood. If you didn't get a chance to see Michael Clayton you should make it a top priority.
5. Gone Baby Gone
Ben Affleck should stick to directing and never act again if this is the kind of film he will continue to produce. I absolutely loved this film! The performances were wonderful; the on-site locations were beautiful and added perfectly to the atmosphere of the film. Casey Affleck blew me away for the second time this year. When did he become a serious lead actor? What hit me most though was the story. I credit Ben Affleck's directing for the sense of connection I had with each character. This, combined with the moral situations he puts each character into, had me discussing it with friends for weeks. It was such a challenging movie that I had to see it twice in the theater, and I plan on watching multiple times on DVD.
David Fincher is one of my all-time favorite directors and he doesn't make enough films. He already has made a name for himself with films to his credit like Fight Club, The Game, Panic Room, and Se7en. Thankfully he already has two movies set to come out in the next two years. Zodiac was great because I felt like I was investigating the Zodiac killer myself. It takes a great director to make a 158 minute film that not only keeps you interested but draws you into it as much as it did me. Besides the incredible performances and multiple viewpoints he took during the course of the movie, I love his eye for shooting a scene. The angles and shots he decides to go with always come out looking so perfect and are something I look forward to in each of his films.
7. The Assassination of Jesse James
I haven't seen Andrew Dominik's first directing attempt, Chopper. Though, from what I have heard, this was a huge leap for Dominik. I was very excited going to see this film knowing only that Brad Pitt was in it (I'm a big Pitt fan). As much as I loved watching Pitt play Jesse James he is not what I walked away thinking about. I remember walking away thinking about Casey Affleck and Andrew Dominik. This was before I saw Gone Baby Gone, and though I loved Affleck in that, he was absolutely outstanding in The Assassination of Jesse James. I don't know if he has always had it in him or if just this last year he decided to flip a switch and become an incredible dramatic actor. Whatever it was I pray that he keeps it up.
8. Black Snake Moan
I might be in the minority here but I thought this was one incredible film. It dealt with many taboo subjects, but I never felt offended. Everyone in the film was broken and was in the need of some major help. The great thing about it, which kept it so real for me, was that no one was ever completely fixed. They all got turned in the right direction, but the problems they face can't be fixed overnight. Just like in real life it is going to take some time and hard work. Samuel L. Jackson is the epitome of cool like he is in just about every movie he is in. Christina Ricci was perfectly cast as the troubled girl, and I really liked her in it. Even Justin Timberlake (I can't believe I'm saying this) wasn't half bad. I thought this was well put together, and I enjoyed the crap out of it. Definitely one of my favorites from earlier this year, which I think has gotten seriously overlooked.
I have to split this one up, although I thought it really worked as a double feature.
Planet Terror: Robert Rodriguez confuses me. I love Planet Terror, El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, Sin City, and From Dusk Till Dawn. How can he then decide to direct Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2, Spy Kids 3-D, and Sharkboy and Lava Girl 3-D? Can someone please answer that for me? Anyway, Planet Terror is definitely one of my favorite zombie films of all time, right next to 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. It was so over the top, just how I want a film like that to be. When you're dealing with a world that has zombies, just throw all rules of reality right out the window. This was one of the best times I had in the theater all year.
Death Proof: Quentin Tarantino is a genius of a filmmaker although he seemed to really emphasize his ability to create great dialogue in this movie. Emphasizing it a bit too much if you ask me. Putting the lengthy discussion the girls had aside, everything else worked perfectly. Creating a mysterious character with no understanding of his past or reasons for hunting these girls down builds incredible suspense. Taking that, along with excellent cinematography and one of the best car-chase sequences ever, and you have an extraordinarily great film.
Easily one of the best movies I have ever seen. I saw this with Alex a few weeks after it came out and right before a midnight showing of Shaun of the Dead. I couldn't even focus on the midnight showing because I still had Once stuck in my head. In fact, I never got it out of my head. A few weeks later I took my wife and friends to see it. Then, I found out that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irgolva were coming to Denver to do a concert. Needless to say my wife and I went, and it was one of the best concerts we have ever been to. We now own the DVD and enhanced soundtrack and can't get enough of them. It was the most uplifting and best romance I have seen in a long time. It was not a musical where they sing dialogue but a musical none the less. Even though Once isn't at the top of my list, it would be the one film I would recommend to anyone no matter their taste in film. I guarantee if you see this movie you will fall in love with it.
11. The Bourne Ultimatum
Definitely my favorite of the Bourne series, and from the rumors, it is not the last. This is where Matt Damon convinced me that he can be an action star, and not just any but a great action star. All of the awkward slowness from the first Bourne was gone. He really showed us what he can do. Even though I said in my review that I didn't see how they could make another film, selfishly I would love to see Bourne again. I just hope it doesn't disappoint fans in the same way Rocky V and Alien Resurrection did.
Ratatouille is my favorite Pixar film in a different way than The Incredibles was. With The Incredibles I just sat back, was entertained and enjoyed the heck out of it. With Ratatouille, I laughed and cried and actually took something away from it. I felt like a better person walking out of the theater. The animation was seamless and the characters had so much depth to them. My favorite scene, which still brings tears to my eyes after multiple viewings, is when Anton Ego eats Remy's Ratatouille for the first time. My second favorite scene is when Ego reads his review of Gusteau's restaurant. Definitely a movie for young and old alike, it is a film that everyone should see.
My opinion of this film probably places me in the minority. I really enjoyed this it, even enough to put it in the top films of the year, but I think it is being pushed a bit too much. I don't remember a film being pushed as hard as this one. Ellen Page is amazing and should be considered the breakthrough actress of the year. She was incredible and I loved every moment she was on screen. I liked seeing Jason Bateman not being typecast as the comic relief; I even enjoyed his role in The Ex. Michael Cera was great and hilariously awkward as usual. J.K. Simmons was phenomenal in the few scenes he was in. I can't get over his dry delivery of humor, it always makes me laugh. However, Juno is not just about the performances it's about the story, written by new comer Diablo Cody. She has presented a clean, fresh, quirky script with great struggles. Her characters make this film truly shine. I can't wait to see if she can produce the same quality story again in her future endeavors.
When the year began, this was on my most-anticipated-films-of-2007 list. Unfortunately, it didn't meet my high expectations, although I still really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great film, well put together with exceptional performances. Visually it was amazing! I loved the fight scenes as well as the comradery it portrayed between the Spartans. The willingness not to back down no matter the odds or temptations presented. Plus, I always respect a work more when it sticks to the source material instead of deviating. Besides adding a bit more to the story of Queen Gorgo, I thought it was very accurate to the graphic novel upon which it is based.
23 PERSONAL FAVORITES OF 2007:
1. Ocean's Thirteen
Just as great as Ocean's Eleven and 100 times better then Ocean's Twelve.
The Best 3-D experience I have ever had. An extremely enjoyable film and a must see on 3-D.
3. The Brave One
A comic-book hero movie disguised as a revenge flick. One of my favorites.
4. Hot Rod
This is a guilty pleasure of mine. I found it to be extremely funny. I have watched it over and over, though for some people it might be one of those films where it depends on who you see it with.
5. Reign Over Me
Very sad, but also very endearing. Don Cheadle is one of my favorite actors, plus I love to see Adam Sandler in these types of roles. He is one of the few comedians who can pull off both funny and serious.
6. Shoot 'Em Up
A fun over-the-top action film. Don't expect it to be realistic, because it tries very hard not to be.
7. Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix
I've read all the books and am a huge fan of Harry Potter. As far as films go, I still like the The Prisoner of Azkaban better, but this is my second favorite. Much better I thought than Goblet of Fire.
FirstShowing.net actually threw a special showing of this film here in Colorado. Even the director flew out and did a Q&A. Probably the best film this year that no one saw. Go pick it up on DVD.
9. Knocked Up
I'm not a big fan of the raunchy humor that Judd Apatow likes to put in his films. This one however didn't seem so bad and it had such a heartfelt story. I really liked it and have picked it up on DVD.
10. I Am Legend
Will Smith turned me from a small fan into a huge fan of his after watching The Pursuit of Happiness. He delivered another solid performance in this, which I can only describe as the sort of movie that makes you tense with anticipation. A great film.
11. Death at a Funeral
One of the funniest films of the year and one that not many people heard of. I highly recommend it and hope you find it as funny as I did.
This film will sneak into your heart without you even knowing. This is definitely one of my wife's favorite films, but also one that I really like as well. A very cute and fun romantic film.
An extremely well done movie that kept me involved. It has a breathtaking continuous shot that I really want to see again. Everything was captivating, but it started to trail off and made me not care toward the end.
14. Hot Fuzz
Not as good as Shaun of the Dead, but great all the same. I just love watching Simon Pegg and Nick Frost interact. The last 45 minutes of the film are hysterical and make it worthwhile.
15. Paris Je T'aime
Not many people know of this film. It is a bunch of short films about love directed by different directors (Wes Craven, The Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuaron Gerard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, etc). Although I didn't enjoy all of the shorts, I did like the majority and can't wait to get the DVD to watch it again.
16. Live Free or Die Hard
It's Die Hard 4. Bruce Willis is at it again. Do I need to say more?
Sunshine was visually stunning, with a great suspenseful story. Sci-fi fans will probably enjoy this more then the average movie watcher. Very much worth a viewing.
18. The Darjeeling Limited
I'm a big Wes Anderson fan but this one is my least favorite of his films. Although I thought it was extremely well done, I just didn't care about the characters like in his previous works. It was still intriguing and up to the same quality as his pervious works. Check it out if you're an Anderson fan or if you like quirky stories about people getting lost and finding themselves.
This film made me appreciate Shia LaBeouf as an actor. I also liked David Morse and think he plays that kind of role perfectly, kind of like the role he played in House: Season 2. This is a nice filler between watching the great movies of the year. If you have time watch Hitchcock's Rear Window first and compare the two.
I can appreciate Michael Bay for what he does, which is big, blockbuster movies with lots of special effects. I enjoyed it for those exact reasons.
21. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
A well done film, although it's hard to get used to the scene transitions and jumps between different points along the stories timeline. Once I understood what was going on, I started to enjoy it. Though I wish it would have been that way from the beginning.
22. The Host
A cool monster movie which should hold me over until Cloverfield comes out. I loved any scene with the monster, but thought the story was a bit boring and the acting a bit over the top.
23. Music and Lyrics
If you like the 80's then you will love this film. It's funny and romantic with a bit of seriousness. It is all about the music video at the beginning though, hysterical!
Well, those are my two "Best of the Year" lists for 2007. My "Worst of 2007" list will be arriving in the next few days. I hope this helps you put into perspective my view of how 2007 went. Overall, I think it was a great year for movies. Especially since a few on my "Best of" are making it into my all-time favorites. However, I still have some movies left to see from 2007. Currently on my list to see are: Amazing Grace; The Namesake; Behind the Mask; Air Guitar Nation; The King of Kong; Black Book; Away From Her; Eagle vs. Shark; A Mighty Heart; Talk to Me; Death Sentence; The Nines; King of California; Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Lars and the Real Girl; Dan in Real Life; August Rush; The Mist; I'm Not There; and The Savages.
Happy New Year! And let's hope for another great year in 2008!