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The Projectionist’s Top 12 Films of the Year

Looking back on my Top 12 from last year, I noticed how I had to include movies that I normally wouldn’t have to fill the list.  This year, the question was what was going to be left out.  It’s because of this that I’ll be doing my first honorable mention on this site, because I had a great time with many movies in 2007.

I think 2007 is one of the closest to re-enacting the glory days of seventies since the decade ended.  Many dark films populate this year’s lists.  Mine is no exception.

12. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Sidney Lumet’s outstanding return to his 70’s form plays with time and perspective in what could have been a straightforward, lazy, heist-gone-wrong flick.  It’s reminiscent in some way of Reservoir Dogs, and Philip Seymour Hoffman should get nominated for one of his three acclaimed performances this year (alas, I haven’t seen The Savages as of this writing, but he was equally good in Charlie Wilson’s War).

11. Zodiac

Zodiac has been making some year-end lists, and I’m surprised because it came out in March and I feared most people would have forgotten about it.  David Fincher’s look at the Zodiac Killer was one of the most tense films of the year, with obsessive attention to detail, which makes movies about being obsessed draw you in to the madness.  Also, the movie doesn’t cop out on who it thinks the killer is.

10. Knocked Up

Judd Apatow’s pregnancy comedy got tremendous laughs from the rants of star Seth Rogen.  But we shouldn’t forget another show-stealer in Leslie Mann, who pulled off some funny stuff of her own.  And, small turns from Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and an astounding cameo from The Office’s Craig Robinson filled this film with moment after moment.

9. Gone Baby Gone

Ben Affleck did make a comeback, but as a director.  The jury is still out as to whether he’ll ever be accepted as an actor again, but if he keeps making films like this, it’ll be fine by me if he never shows his face again.  His brother Casey Affleck broke out this year, and he turns in a performance that I didn’t know he had in him, as he had always played supporting (usually comic) characters.  Another breakout is Amy Ryan, the foul-mouthed mother who has lost her child and plays one of the most complex characters of the year.  Gone Baby Gone has one of the best endings this year too.  It will make you debate and struggle within yourself as to what the right answer is.

8. Superbad

When it arrived in August, it immediately went to war with Knocked Up over “funniest movie of the year.”  Being that it was another production from Judd Apatow, with many familiar players: Rogen, Hill, Bill Hader, it was a win-win situation for the Apatow camp.  If Knocked Up was revved by the Seth Rogen rant, Superbad was revved by the Jonah Hill rant.  And while a great many of the jokes are penis-related, they’re very funny.  Plus, you’ve got Michael Cera, whose career after this and Juno should shoot him into the cosmos.  Superbad won out for me because it has more memorable comic pieces overall than Knocked Up.

7. Into the Wild

No movie this year has more heart-wrenching performances from the overall cast.  Hal Holbrook probably will make you cry, as may Kristen Stewart, as people who have to say goodbye to Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), the man who would not say no to his dream of spending time in the wilderness of Alaska.  Also, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, and a small role by Jena Malone are very touching.  The adventure McCandless takes is daunting, and well-filmed, filled with all the picturesque scenery you’d expect.  Sean Penn has been making cultish critical hits for awhile, and this one is only slightly more high profile, but what a devastating journey this is.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum

Paul Greengrass can either seem like a genius (which I and many other people support), or he’s just another mindless herky-jerky MTV-style director who covers up his inability to film an action scene with all the distraction. 

Opinion is opinion, of course.  I can’t understand why in many movies that the quick-cut, shaky-cam style gets on my nerves but when Paul Greengrass does it, I love it.  Maybe it’s because Greengrass takes the time to set up an action scene.  We know our principal players, we know where they are, and yes, when it comes time for some close-quartered action, Greengrass shakes that camera like crazy.  But it adds to the intensity, and I think my above reasoning is why I can not only take it, I relish it. 

5. Ratatouille

Brad Bird continues to show how animation and storytelling go together.  It seems like whenever he’s involved, Pixar rises to even bigger challenges.  His The Incredibles was one of the best films of 2004, and this story of Remy, the rat who can cook, was destined to be one of the best this year after I saw the trailer and the twelve-minute sneak-peek.  Filled with how-did-they-do-that? animation and outstanding color and detail (check out that scene with Remy and Linguini when Linguini is supposed to throw him into the river), and the usual Pixar touch in handling humor and plot, it’s a no-brainer that this should be on my list.

4. Persepolis

This genuinely surprised me.  When I heard of the plotline, concerning an Iranian girl during the Islamic Revolution who is sent to Vienna, and I saw the black-and-white animated trailer, I was interested enough to watch but wary enough to think this might be one of those critical hits that I just didn’t find entertaining whatsoever.  Man, was I glad that it didn’t have to be that way.  This, along with Juno, made me realize that Hollywood has good stories to tell with females in the lead.  It’s about time.

3. Juno

Diablo Cody wrote a magnificent script, and director Jason Reitman compelled great performances from not only upcoming star Ellen Page, but the usually-misused Jennifer Garner, and usual supporting magnificence from Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, and our favorite Arrested Development stars, Michael Cera and Jason Bateman.  Juno is funny and sweet, and this is no knock at Knocked Up or Superbad (although, guaranteed, someone is going to take it that way), it finds humor without resorting to filthy language, just well-aimed observations.

2. There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson’s look at turn-of-the-century oil man Daniel Plainview is downright stunning in almost every way.  Cinematography, the Kubrickian horror soundtrack supplied by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and the usual brilliance from Daniel Day-Lewis, who utters some of the most brutal dialogue you will hear this year and embodies one of the most unlikable (in the good way) characters you’ll ever see.  He is a complex man, and the reasons for his deterioration as a human being are clear.  And this would be nothing if it didn’t have a good story along with it, which it does.

1. No Country for Old Men

No movie this year had more action/suspense (and can you believe, it’s funny too?), and that is saying something considering The Bourne Ultimatum and even a not-appearing-on-this-list-anytime-soon We Own the Night were big challengers in this arena.  I didn’t think of one movie more than this one after I watched it the first time, and I was basically forced to watch it again.  There are so many well-constructed scenes, and two worthy adversaries in Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem.  It’s theme of old age is carried more literally by the great Tommy Lee Jones, who has the perfect story to end the movie.  And about that climax: I’m still, to this day, a little unnerved by the way the Coen Brothers decided to dispatch one of the characters offscreen.  But I’ve gotten more and more used to it as my love for the movie grows.  It’s a classic in a great year.

So that’s my list.  I’m sticking to it.  Time will tell if I feel any different.  I’m likely to watch There Will Be Blood and Juno again.  But as the year closes, this is how I rank them now.  I think I can live with it.

Movies not making this list that were considered (honorable mention):

Atonement, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, The Lookout, The Hoax, 28 Weeks Later, Grindhouse, Rescue Dawn, Lars and the Real Girl, Waitress, Sweeney Todd, and Away From Her.

Dr. Sam Loomis’ 10 Best Films of the Year

Dr. Sam Loomis’ 10 Worst 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

Comments

Comment from Brandon
Time: January 1, 2008, 2:26 pm

Nice list. I imagine we’ll have many similarities again. I refuse to make mine without seeing There Will Be Blood - it might be two or three weeks before it rolls through here.

Comment from Keith Demko
Time: January 7, 2008, 8:22 pm

I see we have a lot in common as far as the top 10 goes, Chris .. The only one I would quibble with on your list is “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which just left me with a headache from all of Greengrass’ camera hijinks

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: January 7, 2008, 9:18 pm

Yeah, it’s amazing because I usually hate the wild camera stuff. But here, it seemed to work. And I can’t explain it other than it felt right to me.

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