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Dr. Sam Loomis’ Ten Best Films of the Year

Man, what a year indeed! 2007 was just freaking awesome when I look back and think about all of the great films I saw, and great experiences I had watching them. The past couple of years have been lacking to say the least. It’s not that we haven’t had great films come out of those years, it’s just there’s rarely been more than ten. So, the lists were a lot easier to make.

To think of the films I left off this year seems almost criminal. And to be fair, I missed a few that the Projectionist got to see in his big city that never sleeps, but since I’m freaking OCD and don’t want to put this out at the end of February, I’m going with what I got. So, as for what I’ve already seen critically adored, I was not able to witness the possible greatness of films like Juno, There Will Be Blood, Persepolis, Atonement, and a few other small ones. I still managed to see well over 100 films, so I think this will be a good representation of the year as a whole.

Please feel free in the comments section to tell me what I should have put on there, left off, or why I’m a dumbshit. I love all opinions, but just understand that I’m stating facts. Enjoy!

10. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

Finally, a great Harry Potter film has come forth, and oddly enough it’s adapted from the least interesting of the novels. Maybe that’s why it worked so well. In this case the stuff left on the cutting room floor worked just fine for me; I was glad to not have to sit through the Quidditch scenes which seemed to be in the book for nostalgia more than anything else.

I was also glad to not have to sit through as much of the brooding Harry Potter that we have to mull over in the book for a few hundred pages. They hit all the high notes perfectly in this one, and the performances are the best yet.

All of the young actors, especially Radcliffe, have really come around in these roles, and have made them their own. I also enjoyed the hell out of Imelda Staunton as the annoyingly villainous Dolores Umbridge, and Helena Bonham Carter was just downright gothic and sexy as Bellatrix Lestrange. Director David Yates has also given the Potter films its best look to date, and has the best paced adaptation (It has after all the shortest running time of the bunch.). It’s what I’ve been looking for from the Potter films since the first one; I’m glad I finally got to see exactly what I wanted.

9. BLACK SNAKE MOAN

Craig Brewer follows up his near perfect first film, Hustle and Flow, with an almost equally satisfying sophomore effort. Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci play perfectly off one another in one of the most unique visions of the South I’ve ever seen captured on film.

This film also represented something that I think 2007 brought back gloriously to film, and that is the way to use music in a movie almost as a character unto itself. Lazarus’s (Jackson) love of the blues bleeds through in every cell of this film, and makes what could have been a laughable setup (Ricci chained to a radiator in her underwear for the majority of the film while Jackson rattles on his biblical speeches) into a deeply moving piece of deep southern fried cinema. This is one of those films that will either work or it won’t for you; it worked for the Doc perfectly.

8. INTERVIEW

Steve Buscemi has directed two previous films (Trees Lounge and Animal Factory) with mostly disastrous results. Finally, he finds a piece of work to dig his crazy teeth (Seriously, you have millions of dollars, fix those bad boys!) into.

Buscemi plays a Stephen Glass-esque journalist who has been taken off the political beat due to his innate ability to embellish the facts. He has been resorted to doing a fluff piece on a “Paris Hilton” type actress (Sienna Miller) who is known more for her mysteriously changing breast sizes and who she’s sleeping with than her knock-off roles in cheap slasher films and a t.v. show that sounds like a Hillz rip-off.

What could have been a silly satire on stupid celebrities ends up being a deeply disturbing piece of tabloid naughtiness. This film pulls no punches with both characters and give Buscemi and Miller a lot of good scenery and dialogue to chew on. And by the end of the film, you’ll be wondering who’s actually interviewing who. This was quite possibly the darkest film to come out all year in a lot of ways, and definitely one of the best films that nobody saw.

7. HOT FUZZ

Edgar Wright followed up his instant cult comedy/horror classic, Shaun of the Dead, with a great double-bill feature in the instant cult action/comedy classic, Hot Fuzz. The reason Wright’s spoofs work so much better than any parodies with the word Movie in the title is because Wright knows the fronts and backs of what he’s paying homage to.

It also doesn’t hurt to have people like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as your leading funny men. Wright also avoids the problem that a lot of these types of films face when they get to the third act; most of these films end up becoming what they are spoofing and in a sense self-implode. Wright instead stages some pretty kick-ass and ridiculous action sequences around an updated version of The Wicker Man, and comes off a lot better than Neil Labute did last year in his tepid remake.

6. SUPERBAD

In the contest between Apatow’s trio of 2007 comedies (Knocked Up and Walk Hard would be the other two.), Superbad won hands down. I never believed that a truly great high school comedy would ever be made again, and we would be relegated to American Pie and its slew of DTV sequels, but alas Aaptow and Seth Rogen (one of the writers) proved me wrong.

The three main characters played expertly by Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin) felt like honest to god high school students (Mintz-Plasse of course actually is one). And if you believe what Rogen tells you on the DVD commentary this was based on events that actually happened to him and fellow writer, Evan Goldberg, when they attended high school, and yes, that includes the “Period Blood” incident.

Greg Mottola, the director (Apatow produced.) should also get a lot of credit for staging all of these situations so well and pulling off some of the best comic timing we saw on film all year. Easily, my favorite comedy of 2007.

5. SWEENEY TODD

Tim Burton has never been one of my favorite directors. With the exception of Ed Wood, and I admit to nostalgic feelings toward Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, he’s mostly been all show and no payoff. He always has films like Batman and Sleepy Hollow that are so visually appealing I get annoyed at how empty they are in the story department. Who would have thought a musical is what he needed to make his best film since Ed Wood? I sure as hell wouldn’t have guessed that after watching the musical misfire, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a couple of years ago.

And as good as Johnny Depp is in the villainous lead, Helena Bonham Carter (Burton’s personal Muse) steals every scene she’s in, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar nom, then as usual, the awards have no merit whatsoever. I even enjoyed Sacha Baron Cohen, an actor who has only annoyed the piss out of me up to this point; I admit to not understanding the comic appeal of Borat. I liked him here, along with everything else about this wonderful musical nightmare.

4. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD

Everyone has been raving about 37-year-old Brett Favre having the best year of his career; well, what about 83-year-old Lumet directing arguably one of his best films? It’s nothing to say that Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant (isn’t he always?), but to get this kind of performance out of Ethan Hawke, who I gave up on a long time ago, should go to Lumet’s credit as well.

The film is such a simple story of a crime gone wrong, but to watch this film unfold is as entertaining and thought provoking as anything I watched all year. To say anything about it, would ruin the experience; watch this film as soon as you can.

3. MR. BROOKS

Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan, and Todd Haynes have all been talked about recently for turning the generic biopic up on its head and making two fresh and exciting films. It’s a shame that no one is giving the same credit to director Bruce A. Evans and star Kevin Costner for doing the same with the tired-as-hell serial killer genre.

This is an exciting and creative endeavor that I know I am on the minority side of, but I enjoyed every blood dripping frame of this tale of a serial killer (Costner) and a young protégé (Dane Cook) scouring the streets looking for their next victim. We even get William Hurt in an awesome underrated performance as Costner’s “little voice” in his head urging him along the whole way.

There’s also a lot of nice twists along the way that keep you guessing till the end, and Demi Moore actually acting again as the cop on Costner’s tail. Sometimes, a difficult pedigree like Costner’s can catch up to you; it was as if people just wanted this movie to suck so bad, they decided it did. Such a shame; the fact that this film went so unnoticed is truly a crime.

2. ZODIAC

Here we have yet another serial killer film that worked, based on the real life slayings of the Zodiac Killer. David Fincher, with I have to say his best film yet, paints such a dark and dreary portrait of the famous killer that it is impossible not to look away.

Taking the All the President’s Men approach by focusing on the journalists’ angle, he paints a great insight into what really went down that scary summer. Robert Downey Jr., who I am panting in anticipation to see in next Summer’s Iron Man, is so good in this film it doesn’t even look like he’s acting. Jake Gyllenhaal should also be commended for capturing the almost drug-like addictive spell Robert Graysmith must have felt like he was under while pursuing the truth behind the infamous killer. I was torn between this and one other film for my favorite picture of the year, and it was barely eked out by…

1. THE LOOKOUT

When I first saw The Lookout, I wasn’t really sure how much I liked it. But as the days wore on after I saw it, and had seen quite a few other films, I kept thinking back to it. After seeing it a couple of more times, I became very sure at how great of a film it is. Scott Frank, on his first shot behind the camera, nails this tightly plotted crime thriller so well, he makes it look like he’s been directing films as long as Sidney Lumet.

And what can be said about Joseph Gordon-Levitt that hasn’t already been said? All I know is the guy has made three films in a row (2006’s Brick and Mysterious Skin are the other two) that give him an acting pedigree that even Ryan Gosling must be a little jealous of. Unlike most thrillers that rely on so many twists and suprises to miraculously unfold, everything in The Lookout plays out in such a realistic way that at times you forget you’re watching a movie.

I was more involved and in tune with The Lookout than any other film I watched this year, so in the end, I didn’t see how it couldn’t be at the top of the heap.

HONORABLE MENTIONS – 300, TALK TO ME, RATATOUILLE, PAPRIKA, A MIGHTY HEART, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, AMERICAN GANGSTER, ONCE, GONE BABY GONE

AND HELL, HERE’S 20 MORE 2007 TITLES I WILL BE WATCHING MANY MORE TIMES IN THE FUTURE: WAITRESS, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE MIST, BEHIND THE MASK:THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, HATCHET, MEET THE ROBINSONS, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, FRACTURE, SEVERANCE, PARIS JE TE’AIME, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, WALK HARD, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, RENDITION, MICHAEL CLAYTON, EASTERN PROMISES, THE KINGDOM, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, SHOOT EM’ UP, 3:10 TO YUMA

LIKE I SAID: HELL OF A YEAR!!!

Dr. Sam Loomis’ 10 Worst Films of the Year

The Projectionist’s Top 12 Films of the Year

The Projectionist’s Bottom 12 Films of the Year

The Projectionist’s Other Observations of 2007

2006: The Year in Film

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