Coming to the end of the decade films got dark. In fact they got really dark. In fact the year’s funniest movie, “Hot Fuzz” is really dark too. It was mostly killers – “Shot Gun Stories” “30 Days of Night” – disturbing docs – “The Bridge,” “Crazy Love,” – and elite malfeasance – “Gone Baby Gone,” “Michael Clayton.” For crying out loud the only one of my top ten not about murder is about a paraplegic. The sun did not set on 2007.
10 BEST FILMS OF 2007
1. 28 WEEKS LATER – DIR: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo This isn’t the Joseph Conrad-esqe meditation on the societal constructs of morality that “28 Days Later” was, this is just a damn good action/horror movie with some political commentary thrown in. It could have easily been dumped into the direct-to-DVD slate as sequels to artsy-fartsy movies usually are (see “S. Darko”), but Fresnadillo elevates this picture with his ability to draw terrifying and brutal performances from his leads, and deals with the ideas of an occupying military force with an almost journalistic objectivity. It is a smartly written, tightly crafted work that helps to expand the horror genre from just blood and guts to something more thought provoking.
2. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD BOB FORD – DIR: Andrew Dominik I thought Dominik’s first picture, “Chopper,” was a bit over rated, but this one definitely is not. The narration is a little similar to that of “Little C_hildren” in style, however the voice over gives this film a sadness and universality which might not have been present otherwise. All performances are above board especially Casey Affleck who, along with his role in “Gone Baby Gone,” shows where the acting talent in the family really resides. Along with the narration and the Dominik’s direction toward aloof performances this film has an interesting distance from the audience that often doesn’t work, but in conjunction they gave the film a deliberate, thoughtful tone, not usually present in Westerns.
5. DEATHPROOF – Quentin Tarantino I couldn’t put “Grindhouse” on this list because Robert Rodriguez’s half of the picture doesn’t live up to Tarantino’s effort. Rodriguez seems to be making fun of a type of film where Tarantino is making a new film in a certain style. Not only does he match the intensity of “Vanishing Point” or “Two Lane Blacktop,” he actually surpasses it using his dialogue scenes as fuses slowly burning down, and sparking the explosions of action that make this movie so exciting. The film’s car chase sequences are so visceral, so jarring, so nail bitting this film should go down in history as a major accomplishment instead of the lark many think it is.
4. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY – DIR: Julian Schnabel This film has a lot of iffy things in it. Most times upon hearing of films about the handicapped I am weary thinking it will be a banal tear jerker, but this picture manages to jerk some tears while exciting the mind and heart. The first person photography that most of the film is shot in usually gets too gimmicky, but here Schnabel makes it organic to the story, a necessity for understanding the lead character. All and all a beautiful, inspiring film, an addition to Schnabel’s ever growing brilliant filmography.
5. EASTERN PROMISES – DIR: David Cronenberg Viggo Mortensen is scary. Not just in this movie, but a lot of movies, and David Cronenberg manages to make even more scary than usual. This chilling picture is one of the best mafia movies of the decade, and kind of reminds me of “The Long Good Friday” in it’s brutality. If for no other reason to see this movie the fight sequence in the steam room could be the most amazing, disturbing, frightening, grotesque fights since “They Live.”
6. THE MIST – DIR: Frank Darabont Who saw this one coming? Along with “The Dreamcatchers” this could be my favorite Steven King adaptations, and it is definitely my favorite Frank Darabont movie. It plays like an updated 1950’s monster movie with today’s sensibilities without ever falling into parody. If you get the chance watch it in the Black and White version that Darabont wanted to release theatrically, but the studio wouldn’t let him; the Mist and the creatures take on a much more eerie feel than in full color. This movie eats John Carpenter’s “The Fog” for lunch.
7. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – DIR: The Coen Brothers These guys can hit some real home runs. _This film feels like an extension of “Blood Simple,” as though they had written the book or Cormac McCarthy had written their debut feature. In the novel the character of Anton Chigurh is scary, but Javier Bardem, from the lady’s hair to the stunted walk, is just damned scary. There has never been a more perfect pairing of novelist and film maker than McCarthy and the Coens. One would have hoped they could have wrestled John Hillcoat for “The Road,” and done it some justice.
8. SOUTHLAND TALES – DIR: Richard Kelly No one liked this movie. Neither did I… I loved it. It was so out there, such a mess, such a train wreck of ideas and visuals it seemed like Richard Kelly threw up his mind onto celluloid – none of those are criticisms. I loved the looseness, the absolute craziness of the script and tone. Though it would have worked much better as a TV show there is little chance anyone would have let him do it so this was really the only venue to get this ridiculous, ludicrous gem off his chest. If more films could be made like this, such a freedom of ideas and structure, then movies might get back to a state where they aren’t just barren cash machines yeilding meager dollars to the plutocracy of Hollywood.
9. THERE WILL BE BLOOD – DIR: Paul Thomas Anderson Daniel Day Lewis could read me the ingredients of a candy bar and odds are I’d be blown away. He is the only glue that holds the shards of “Gangs of New York” together, and that movie is terrible. So just image what he can do with a really good movie. He is on screen for almost the whole film, the whole long film, and kills every scene, except maybe walking the line of caricature during the finale. PT Anderson’s script is a magnum opus to wrap your mind around, and his talent as a director keeps up the pace.
10. ZODIAC – DIR: David Fincher This is the first movie to really scare me since I saw “The Shining.” The scene where Jake Gyllenhall goes into Roger Rabbit’s basement looking for clues could be one of the most tense things since Kubric’s masterpiece and it really got to me. That’s an accomplishment it and of itself.
10 WORST FILMS OF 2007
1. ELIZEBETH: THE GOLDEN AGE – DIR: Shekar Kepur I was actively angry at the film makers while watching this movie. I hated everyone from the director to the greens person. It wasn’t just boring, it was a stupid waste of time. This is more revisionist history than the soap opera that is “The Tudors” And it is the movie where I realized Clive Owen doesn’t blink. So I was mad at him, and his creepy eyeballs.
2. GHOST RIDER – DIR: Mark Steven Johnson Never since “Daredevil” has a comic book movie been this mishandled. First the character of Ghost Rider shouldn’t be in a live action movie. It is a guy with a flaming skull for a head. There is no way that it doesn’t look cheesy. But then MSJ put on another layer of cheese then through in some corn, and topped it off with a steaming pile of crap. Wes Bentley isn’t scary, and neither are velvet rain coats so neither should be anywhere near a villain in a movie. That’s just my opinion. Velvet isn’t scary.
3. HALLOWEEN – DIR: Rob Zombie If it were up to me Rob Zombie should be banned from making movies after doing this. So should the producers and the executives that let it happen. This isn’t scary or fun like the original, it is just a large man killing people and we’re watching it. It is like watching “Faces of Death,” it is gruesome and sadistic and there is little to no redeeming value to it. Just another example why remakes suck. Sorry to be blunt, but it is all this movie deserves.
4. HANNIBAL RISING – DIR: Peter Webber I loved “Manhunter,” and “Silence of the Lambs,” and I even liked “Hannibal,” but this movie is just reminds me of “Basic Instinct 2.” If you’ve seen either you’ll get my gist. There is no way to side with this character, and with all the wit and charm he had when Anthony Hopkins was playing him stripped away this Hannibal doesn’t even resemble the one that audiences were intrigued by. If “Red Dragon” represented a down turn in the series, this is definitey its nadir.
5. LA VIE EN ROSE – DIR: Olivier Dehan This film could have gone in the “Most Over Rated,” but it is here because it looks like it was cut with a chainsaw and stitched back together with the barb wire of Marion Cotillard’s performance. There is nothing interesting in the whining, annoying, piercing figure of Edith Piaf. Not to say that the woman herself isn’t interesting, but if she was anything like this (most accounts say that she wasn’t) she doesn’t deserve to have a biopic based on her life. Did she actually have a kid that died in the hospital? Or was that just thrown in at the end just because they couldn’t find anywhere else to put it in the movie? That just didn’t make any sense. It made as much sense as the Best Actress Oscar Cotillard received.
6. LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD – DIR: Len Wiseman How dare you Mr. Wiseman! “Die Hard” is the best action movie ever made. Period. This movie does the original no justice. In fact it is such an injustice I think that John McClain should hunt down, and punish Mr. Wiseman. There have been some missteps in the series before: The silly ejector seat, William Sadler’s ass, Jeremy Iron’s hair, but this forth film in the series is one giant misstep.
7. SMILEY FACE – DIR: Greg Araki This is one the list of the Worst Films of All Time. The usually funny and engaging Anna Faris is an unsympathetic loon in this picture. Due to Dylan Haggerty’s painfully stupid script her character does nothing resembling what a human would actually do. Maybe it is just a raging complaint against stoners… are they saying that stoners just aren’t human? Maybe it is that I don’t smoke enough pot to understand the logic of her actions. Maybe this film is a work of art only to be understood by those who are stoned beyond belief. Maybe it is a miserable two hours of my life I wish I could get back. I think we have a winner.
8. THE TEN – DIR: David Wain I loved “The State,” “Wet Hot American Summer,” and “Role Models,” which is why it is such a surprise that I hate this movie. The jokes try for the same absurdity of most of Wain’s work, but none of them really seem to work. Out of the Ten Commandment sequences the only funny one stars Liev Shrieber and a bit about CAT Scan machines, but that is a minor portion of a major disappointment.
9. TRANSFORMERS – DIR: Michael Bay Bang a rake and a shovel together for two hours. That is what this movie sounds like. Punch yourself in the head for two hours. That is what your brain feels like after watching this movie. It exists somewhere in between the kid friendly picture Exec-Producer Spielberg probably wanted to make, and the fascistic action fest Director Bay envisioned. It is kind of like kid friendly fascism.
10. WAITRESS – DIR: Andrienne Shelly This movie should never have been made. Never. It is so dumb, so boring, I don’t even know what to say about it. The song Keri Russell sings about pies makes me see red every time I think about it. I am a huge fan of Nathan Fillion, but this movie made be want to smash all my “Firefly” DVDs into tiny pieces.
THE MOST OVER RATED FILM OF 2007
JUNO – DIR: Jason Reitman Let’s all get on the same page, Diablo Cody is way over rated. I think “Jennifer’s Body” proves my point. This film has some good scenes, particularly with Jennifer Gardener, but the dialogue is grossly contrived. No teenager in the twenty-first century quotes “Thundercats,” most don’t even know what that is unless they watch “Robot Chicken.” Juno herself talks like a thirty-year old in love with irony, and there is little more annoying than that. Fine, one character is just an annoying, anachronistic hipster, but the problem is that every character in this film is too. Not everyone is that witty, in fact I’d be willing to be that no teenager in the world was ever that witty, let alone their parents, friends, and the dude at the corner store.
THE MOST UNDER RATED FILM OF 2007
CASSANDRA’S DREAM – DIR: Woody Allen Most people don’t even know this film came out. It was released between the terrible “Scoop” and the return to form “Vicki, Christina, Barcelona.” To me this film plays like a Bresson film like “L’Argent.” Similar to “Shadows and Fog” this film is very theatrical, but that seems to work with the simple story. Usually down on Colin Farrell here he actually shines as the slow, morally conflicted killer. It definitely is not prime Woody Allen, but it also isn’t “Hollywood Ending.”
This process is almost finished. Just two more and then we can stop living in the past.
By Paul S. Myers