No Country for Old Man
I went through this movie a few weeks back in comparison to the mess that was Hitman but I'll repeat myself. Javier Bardem and Coen Brothers have been cleaning up at the film critic's awards for a reason. No Country for Old Men is enthralling, tense, and full of rich characters, none more memorable than Bardem's ruthless killer with a ridiculous haircut. It's just like the Coen Brothers to do something like that, add a small touch of a weird haircut to challenge the actor to raise his intensity beyond the haircut.
There Will Be Blood
A very close second. Daniel Day Lewis shows he is one of the best living actors and that any project that he becomes part becomes a possibility for an instant classic. Matched with the directing talents and skilled visual style of the auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, this story of a turmoil of a turn of the 20th century oil man is gritty, brutal and completely arresting. Before this week, I thought there was no better performance than Bardem's but Daniel Day Lewis eclipses him. It's a good thing Bardem seems to be getting the support for the supporting actor, although I never truly understood how that can be decided. Yet while Bardem does take control of No Country, There Will Be Blood completely rests on Lewis and there is not another actor I know of that could have surpassed him. A full review is in my previous post.
David Cronenberg's latest masterwork following up last year's A History of Violence has not just one of the most innovative fight scenes in a long time but Viggo Mortensen proves he's one of the best actors working in now. His performance as a Russian mafia man in London ruthlessly working his way up the ladder is one of the strongest of the year and gives his own take on the intense, multifaceted criminal character.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
If you haven't noticed a theme here, a great film starts with a great actor, an excellent director and don't forget the brilliant script. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead has Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the equivalent of a douchebag businessman in the middle of a fucked up caper that is told from multiple angles that perfectly melds into a fantastic film under the direction of Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon). Excellent supporting performances are in abundance with Ethan Hawke, Marissa Tomei, and Albert Finney all making strong impressions.
A very postmodern tale of the average of high school aged Minnesotan whipper snapper named Juno (Ellen Page) who gets impregnated by the dweeby but lovable track star (Michael Cera of Arrested Development and Superbad). Unlike the average movie wwhich would spend most of it's time on the decision to keep the baby, Juno follows this sharp witted hipster through her trials and tribulations in keeping the baby and giving it away as a gift to someone in need. That couple in need is excellently depicted by Jennifer Garner and especially Jason Bateman as a former wannabe rock star now commercial Jingle composer. The comparison you'll most often hear is to Napoleon Dynamite with more of a plot as well as the dark humor sensibilities of last year's inide darling Little Miss Sunshine. Both comparisons are apt and Juno is worth the praise if not for the strength of Ellen Page's performance. The one performance that will likely be overlooked is the humorous turn of acting chameleon, JK Simmons who can go from Law & Order to Spiderman to a major role in one of the more overlooked film's of the year First Snow starring Guy Pearce. His voice of reason, intelligence and fatherly advice takes Juno to another level.
The Lives of Others
An interesting tale of the invasive Socialist era in the vein of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. A dedicated socialist is given the task of spying on popular writer who is believed to have ties to the underground. An interesting tale of a man's fascination that develops with someone who never actually meets and the relationship that is unknowingly formed while also telling a story of a time that hasn't had mush light shone upon it.
I remember when seeing this in March that this is the reason that filmmakers that want award notice and accolades wait until the fall but I appreciated David Fincher giving his audience this sprawling 2 ½ hour plus tale of multiple men's intricate levels of obsession with finding the Zodiac killer. Joining the strong performances of Jake Gylenhaal and Mark Ruffalo to this task and keeping the story gripping was a task on its own. Although the film does meander at times, Zodiac was the first truly great film of 2007 and I kept my promise to myself to not forget it and reward it at the end of the year with my very valuable recommendation.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I heard the hype. I loved the driving forces behind the film with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp but I never really thought I would get into a musical about a demonic barber who takes revenge on the politician that took his perfect life. But they pulled it off, they relaly pulled it off.
The second Phillip Seymour Hoffman film to show up on the big countdown stars the man and Laura Linney as middle aged siblings who are called on to take over the care of their estranged father who is beginning to go senile. One of truly smaller independent films of the year that rely heavily on the performances of the leads. The Savages is a semi autobiographical tale from Tamara Jenkins, who also made the chronically underappreciated Slums of Beverly Hills. The Savages is a very personal tale full of dark humor, real characters living real ives and tackling genuine problems. A film that is emotional draining, full of the dark side of life especially in respect to the aspirations and difficulties of its main duo make The Savages a real gem from 2007 that will stick with you long after you leave the theater.Hot Fuzz / Superbad
Here are two films that will stick with you long after you leave but for a very different reason than The Savages and that's because they are both fucking hysterical. Superbad is basically a Judd Apatow produced version of American Pie. In more descriptive wording, it's an intelligent comedy that mixes much slapstick with heart and two bumbling high school droks who just want to have fun before they ship out to college. Most people who would see this movie had and love Mclovin like myself so I'll waste my breath on Hot Fuzz instead.
Hot Fuzz comes from the team who made Shaun of the Dead, the popular British horror film satire which I personally did not enjoy much but Hot Fuzz is right down my alley. This time they take on the ridiculousness of Hollywood cop films especially Bad Boys and the Keanu Reeves/ Patrick Swayze greatness of Point Break. Basically, a big city cop is reassigned for arresting too many criminals and making the rest of the force look bad so they send him to a small village that has no crime. The old fish out of water tale mixed with the hysterical parody scenes makes Hot Fuzz a must see for those who are a fan of the British style of humor.
Noteworthy:Charlie Wilson's War - Phillip Seymour Hoffman gets into crazy man haired character to make a third appearance on the list in this comedic telling of a Congressman and his quest to "shoot down some helicopters."
The Lookout – Slow, brooding, moody and somewhat predictable. Joseph Gordon Levitt returns with another standout performance after last year's amazing Brick
American Gangster – Denzel and Russel Crowe go to toe toe in this year's Departed. Ridley Scott makes up for some recent faux pas with this tenacious tale of Frank
Russell Crowe also shares top billing with Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma. Yuma is a remake of 1957 western that rides the intensity, vigor, and viciousness of two actors that are their best are pretty much unmatched in those categories, Crowe and Christian Bale. Bale as the flawed man about to lose his land and Crowe as the ruthless criminal that Bale is hired to transport as a prisoner. I also like Hollywood's recent trend to giving us a little more western action.
Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley tell the story of the struggle for Ireland's freedom from British occupation in the early 20th Century. It's a gut wrenching and strong handed, politically motivated tale starring Cillian Murphy as man with a bright future pulled into the struggle.
Richard Gere stars in The Hoax, a true story of a man who fakes the writing of a Howard Hughes biography in the humorous and interesting film. I never thought I'd say this but Ben Affleck deserves some respect for bringing the gritty Mystic River junior (a book from the same author) in Gone Baby Gone. His brother Casey stars and isn't half bad and Morgan Freeman also shows some adept skill as missing child expert for the police force.
Paul Vorheoven, a man best whose career has varied wildly between made the good (Robocop, Total Recall), the bad/tacky (Starship Troopers, Hollow Man) and the ugly (Showgirls) released his two and half hour plus drama about a woman's story of survival in Holland during the holocaust entitled Black Book. The film flows from engaging to sexy to with his best effort possibly in his career. It's nice to watch a film about the Holocaust that isn't preoccupied with concentration.
Paris Je T'aime brings together a tour of Paris through about 12 plus vignettes about different sects of the population in the celebration of the city by multiple popular independent directors starring a large collection of actors from all realms. The Coen Brothers, Alexander Payne direct a plethora of actors including Steve Buscemi, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Rufus Sewell and Gerard Depardieu.
The summer action films usually a case of dull, boring dogshit has quite a few glimmers of hope in the-more-often-than-not-atrocious direction of Michael Bay made Transformers energetic, fun and entertaining. And when those robots come on screen, it was kind of like the moment you first saw the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. You know they weren't there but you get swept away. Then there were the action sequels from two of the better series around, Live Free or Die Hard and Bourne Ultimatum, which both
Best Documentary - An Unreasonable Man
If you were unacquainted with the history of Ralph Nader's political rise and background, An Unreasonable Man should do the trick. It's interesting, informative, and showcases how Nader became Nader.
Some more lists worth checking out: