Jaq's Top Films of 2007
by Jaq Greenspon
January 14, 2008
What a year it's been…
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
of cabbages - and kings."
This past year has been a year of such a variety and differentiation amongst the crop of both Hollywood and independent cinema that there really is no way to actually encompass it all. As my first year back on the reviewing circuit, it was a bit overwhelming to catch the diversity the viewing public is being presented with. Granted, like Theodore Sturgeon said, "90% of everything is crud" and the film industry is no exception. So when something rises to the top, it's only fair to note it, to praise it and hope that the people responsible will take notice and endeavor to repeat it.
2007 it seems, at least for me, was the year of the fairy tale. A number of the films on my top nine list are unabashed romanticized escapist fantasy - they just happen to be quite well done escapist fantasy. Additionally, as I wrote out this list, I realized that performances were a key factor in my 2007 film enjoyment. Which all begs the question, what is a top film and how do I pick one? For me, it's a matter of mixing my enjoyment of the movie with the quality of the production and if it succeeds in accomplishing what it sets out to do. So this list may be slightly controversial (and I hope to hear from you if you agree or disagree) and certainly not going to match many others. And now, without further ado and in no particular order, my top films of 2007:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
An absolutely stunning film. While it takes a while to get moving (the pacing is a bit slow for most American audiences) the wait is very much worthwhile. Performances by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are both award caliber (and certainly stand out amongst excellent performances by both of these men this year). The settings are gorgeous and the music is haunting.
This is a wonderful little film, marked by realistic reactions to drastic situations. Ellen Page is a find, a rare actress who is able to capture the confusion of a teen hopelessly over her head and yet struggling successfully to stay afloat. The supporting cast, from Michael Cera, Jason Bateman to Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons are all spot on. Diablo Cody's script, while suffering from a bit of first-timer syndrome, is still well-crafted and shows promise for a huge talent to come.
Easily one of my favorite films of the year, Waitress shows courage and patience in every aspect of its production. Keri Russell, who is fast becoming one of my faces to watch, nails her performance to the wall, playing Jenna with such easy precision it's impossible to see any seams. The script is tight and the direction, by the late Adrienne Shelley, is confident and secure. This is one you should own because it bears repeated viewings.
You Kill Me
What can I say? I'm a sucker for against-the-grain films. While this one didn't work completely, I loved the fact that Ben Kingsley's hitman is entirely unapologetic about his career choices. Add into this mix Téa Leoni and Luke Wilson and you have a recipe for fun. The story works and the ending is delightfully ironic.
The Hunting Party
One of the best dark political comedies of the last few years, The Hunting Party shows why Richard Gere is a great actor as well as a movie star (The Hoax, earlier in 2007 also delivered a tour de force performance by Gere). The film is funny, clever, well shot and makes you think about the world situation in ways films like Charlie Wilson's War and The Kingdom cannot even hope to emulate.
Based on a book by World Fantasy Award Winner Neil Gaiman, Stardust makes no bones about the fact that it's a fairy tale. The filmmakers create a perfect fantasy world, complete with witches and ghosts and unfulfilled promises and broken quests. Like Enchanted, Stardust deconstructs the genre and creates a loving and respectful pastiche which works on its own as well as within the confines of that same genre.
A perfect send-up of Disney princess movies, updating and modernizing without ever losing the charm and innocence of the source material. Amy Adams is brilliant as Giselle, the country girl turned princess, and James Marsden is fearless in his portrayal of her Prince Charming. This is one you can watch, and enjoy on the same level, with the kids. You just have to check your cynicism at the door.
Pixar is one of the most consistent film studios producing today. Everything they send out is at least a base hit. But when they swing for the fences, they can connect and send it well over the wall. Such is the case with Ratatouille. The animation is top notch, naturally, but the story works on several levels, providing enjoyment for everyone in the family in any age group. And Peter O'Toole's voice work, as the food critic Anton Ego, is worthy of a nomination.
Probably the most controversial film on my list, August Rush wears its heart on its sleeve and is proud of it. At no point does it ever claim to be a realistic film and revels in its pie-eyed optimism. Freddie Highmore as the title character is indescribably earnest while Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as his parents are believable - not easy in a film like this, but they make it work.
In addition to those listed above, The Hoax, Gone Baby Gone and The Mist are all well worth seeing. They are all entertaining, thought provoking and well crafted films which deserve your time and attention.
Reader Feedback - 16 Comments
You certainly do look through different eyes when it comes to film. This almosts upsets me as much as the There Will Be Blood review. All the movies on your retarded list are comedies aka the shittiest genre in film. The only one that isnt is The Assassination of Jesse James, which seems to be just a late add in to make your list seem legitimate, which it most certainly is not. You like to feel good when you see movies, thats fine. I like to watch mindnumbing studio cuncoctued feel good bullshit to get a warm feeling sometimes too, but really, who is going to remember August Rush or Ratatouille or Stardust in 5 years. No one. They are absolutely the most forgettable films of 2007. You get nothing out of them. You are like a child who has no bearing on film critiquing. You obviously dont like to think when you see movies. Your list reflects that exactly.
Vega Bro on Jan 14, 2008
We agree on 2 films... My Top Ten Film of 2007 1. No Country for Old Men 2. There Will Be Blood 3. Zodiac 4. I'm Not There 5. GrindHouse 6. Juno 7. Southland Tales 8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 9. Hot Fuzz 10. Eastern Promises
OttoMaddox84 on Jan 14, 2008
Seeing as how Ive only seen one film on this list (Ratatouille) I am not qualified to comment. Although Im not sure I would have included Ratatouille on mine, so maybe thats an indicator.
Keith on Jan 15, 2008
Yeah, I've seen 3 animated movies this year and Ratatouille only gets the Bronze by default. The other two were Benders Big Score (#1) and Simpsons Movie (#2). Not a big fan of the genre. Last year I didnt see any.
Vega Bro on Jan 15, 2008
Actually, Vega Bro, I am willing to bet that most people in the film industry would tell you that it is much more challenging to make a good comedy, than it is anything else. Comedy is much more subjective.
Zach D. on Jan 15, 2008
Alright, I am completely against most of your reviews but the list is pretty decent. I can live with 'Stardust', but 'AUGUST RUSH'?!?!?! Seriously, not even my 8-year-old cousin liked it. And honorable mentions: THE MIST?! Are these the only 12 films that you have saw this year?!?!?!
Ryan on Jan 15, 2008
Zach D., I never said anything about it being more challenging to make a comedy, in fact, I agree with you. The movies on this list prove it.
Vega Bro on Jan 15, 2008
I completely agree with Vega on the "memorability factor" (who cares if that's really a word)-these were all predictably feel-good,heartwarming movies which were enjoyable for the most part but come two weeks and a next blockbuster enters-it doesn't stay in your mind too long.I don't know if you're doing it for indie cred,but Waitress and Hunting Party-especially the latter,were seriously given way too much praise.The way you describe Gere,it's nothing like the film-sure he's a fine actor,but he's not nearly as FANTASTIC as you describe.Cool it down with the hyperboles,man. And THE MIST?What a bloody crappy list.
twispious on Jan 15, 2008
Your reviews and posts are ruining a perfectly good website. You should know that your reviews are the laughing stock of and a source of comedy over at NYU, USC, and UCSC/SB. While the films you listed are "good", they are CERTAINLY, BY FAR, NO WAY NEAR...the top films of 2007. FirstShowing, please find a critic with better taste.
Chris on Jan 15, 2008
August Rush was definately one of my favorite films of the year too! I'm glad SOMEBODY finally mentioned it.
Micah on Jan 15, 2008
This looks like 2007's Pre-Teen Top Movies... Way to try and be different but damn, this is total garbage with the exception of the first film you list. (no doubt for credibility) My little sister loved these movies though. I agree with the above post. Who's going to remember these films? Stardust? Enchanted? I'm in awe that someone with an adams apple above the age of 11 even watched these! Man... I've been seeing some horrible lists on the site lately. Please don't continue to let us down.
C-Young on Jan 15, 2008
Yes Alex... everyone is entitled to their own opinions and views. There are however, instances where it is unbelievable how far off some are. I'm more of an advocate than anyone for going against the grain or popular demand. But there's a difference between being unique and just being wrong. I love the site and maybe some are indeed being too harsh on Jaq. When individuals form a high standard of quality reviews, as I'm sure most of us usuals do, then it's hard to just sit back and accept what is written here because it's Jaq's "unique view". I mean (and this is drastic, I understand) Hitler had a unique view... but I'm sure no one (intelligent at least) agrees it was a good one. That said... Jaq does not lose credibility here. It's just a bad list in my own unique view and opinion. I think a few others may agree...
C-Young on Jan 15, 2008
A bit drastic indeed. Hitler? Really? Wow... Whereas I don't think Jaq's list would match my list either, I applaud FirstShowing.net for having differing points of view when it comes to their reviewers, and it's one of the reason I come here. If I wanted to see a bunch of people with the exact same taste in everything, I could just go to one of the other thousands of movie centric websites out there.
Daniel on Jan 16, 2008
What a crap list, how you can pick the assassination of Jesse James over 3:10 to Yuma i will never know. Jaq is the worst reviewer on this site and this is proof by the above picks. It's like he picks crap to make a statement or because he thinks its funny but it just makes him look like a dope.
John on Jan 17, 2008
If you don't agree with Jaq's choices...then don't agree with them. Don't freak out. Seriously.
Josh on Jan 18, 2008
Sorry, new comments are no longer allowed.