This past year was, by anyone's reckoning, a very good one for movie lovers. While there was plenty to choose from throughout the year, the autumn and winter brought even more bounty as studios released their end-of-year Oscar hopefuls. While year-end "best of" lists are inevitable, it's not always an easy task to rank one's favorites, especially in a year when there's so much to pick from, and especially since it's unlikely that every writer has seen every single release.
With that in mind, we'd like to share our picks for best film of 2007 — these are the best of the movies we found to be worth watching, and if you haven't seen any of them yet, they come highly recommended.
Amy Steele: Broken English
Broken English is the story of Nora (a formidable Parker Posey), a 35-year-old single urbanite who seems stuck in a rut, both personally and professionally. She’s the quintessential over-educated, under-utilized 30-something woman. She is beginning to delve into the Bell Jar after years of seeming to know what she wanted and finding herself at the age where she feels she should already be there. This character is so relatable. If you haven’t experienced some of these things, surely you know someone who has. Date after date leads to further frustration until she meets Julien (Melvil Poupaud). Is it a merely a charming facade or is he being honest with Nora? When she loses his number, she travels to France with married best friend Audrey (a solid performance by Drea de Matteo) who is both understanding and concerned about her friend.
Written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes, Broken English is raw, real, and honest. Cassavetes' spot on, direct, honest script captures this woman's fears, disappointments, and frustrations. Posey turns out a tour de force performance. Darkly reminiscent of Looking for Mr. Goodbar and steps above Sex and the City-type single girl stories, Broken English does not look through rose-colored glasses but tackles Nora's issues head-on. The film does not gloss over anything from Nora's morning-after bed head hair to her depressive, insecure moments.
Broken English is one of the most resonant films of the year.
Brandon Valentine: No Country For Old Men
Among a year of few masterful endeavors, No Country for Old Men is easily the finest.
Executed to perfection, No Country for Old Men is a classic take on the good vs. evil tale. While the film may appear to be focused on the paper that makes the world go round, it’s entirely centered on the contrasting personalities of its main characters. Between a small-town sheriff, a “lucky” hunter who believes in finder’s keepers, and an outright madman, there is purpose, providence, and chance, respectively.
Despite its sudden Sopranos-esque ending, No Country for Old Men unearths a whirlwind of cinematic sensations from intensity to reflectivity. One minute you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat and the next you’ll be pondering the poeticism. What’s more, it features some of the year’s best acting and puts a legendary directing duo on display at the top of their game.
In lesser hands, No Country for Old Men would be an average endeavor. But placed in the palms of the Coens, this variation on Cormac McCarthy's novel is a full-fledged work of art. Forget mentioning No Country for Old Men among the ranks of Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, or even Fargo. Place this Texas tale of drugs, murder, and vengefulness above the aforementioned and among the best of the decade.
No need to wait until February 24th; hand Bardem “Best Supporting Actor,” the Coens “Best Director,” and the film “Best Motion Picture” honors in that order.
Chris Beaumont: Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
This year provided a number of films that threatened to be number one, but there was never that one killer flick that ran away from the rest. For a moment, I thought that that No Country for Old Men was going to be the one, but that was before Juno and Sweeney Todd entered the fray. Ultimately, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street stepped up and took the crown, narrowly edging out the other contenders.
I am sure you are wondering just what it was that put the Tim Burton-directed musical over the top? Well, it is easily one of Tim Burton's finest accomplishments. He has put his stamp on a tragic love story for the ages. It is steeped in darkness, spiced with humor, and told through glorious song. It is a film that is at once personal, intimate, and grandiose, a wonderful example of the Grand Guignol aesthetic.
Johnny Depp delivers a strong, subtle performance in the lead role. The inner turmoil of lost love and vengeful desires play out across Depp's pained face; he barely contains the rage boiling inside over what the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) has done to his family. Equally strong is Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, a woman in love with the wrong man, aiding and abetting his bloody barbering.
There is something to the artistic arterial spray, the purely cinematic translation of the theatrical experience that won me over. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, a sense of darkly comic dread reaching into the shadows. Sweeney Todd masterfully plays with your emotions, drawing you to itself, ever closer to its ultimate climax, and all the while you hope for the best while expecting the worst. It plays out the only way it can and it is brilliant.
El Bicho Cheats on the Assignment
2007 was a very good year for movies; so good in fact I am unable to decide on just one, so I am going to cheat.
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, the sword-and-sandals epic 300 is a glorious ballet of violence with the ramifications made clear. Best action film of the year.
Pixar and Brad Bird make another gem with Ratatouille, a very good film that offers an engaging story for both children and adults about creativity.
Matthew Vaughn and his team succeed in bringing Stardust, Neil Gaiman’s fantastic fairy tale, to life.
Westerns were the backdrop of many American legends and the genre is marvelously revisited in James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma, a story about choices made in life, brilliantly personified by Christian Bale and Russell Crowe.
Who knew Juno, a black comedy about teenage pregnancy, could be so sweet and inspiring? Screenwriter Diablo Cody created a brilliant female character, brought to life by Ellen Page, as witty as any male.
There Will Be Blood is a great drama about the oil boom at the turn of the twentieth century. Epic cinematography combined with Daniel Day-Lewis’ captivating performance will keep your eyes glued to screen.
Lisa McKay: No Country For Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen have created one of the best films of their careers to date in No Country for Old Men. A bleak tale about the stupidity of greed and the inevitability of evil, the film brings to life one of the most memorable screen killers since Hannibal Lecter in the person of Anton Chigurh, portrayed to perfection by Javier Bardem. His pursuit of a down on his luck welder named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who’s in possession of a satchel of money that doesn’t belong to him, and the efforts of jaded sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) to track them both, are the frame upon which this neo-noir western hangs.
While the tale, on its surface at least, seems familiar and predictable, the Coens turn narrative convention on its head midway through the action, which has been a source of some complaint among audiences, but which I thought worked wonderfully here. Beautifully shot by frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins, sparsely scored, and superbly acted all the way around, this film is an object lesson in how to use the language of cinema to tell a tale originally conceived in book form (the source material is the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy). Definitely not a feel-good movie, this is, ultimately, a film lover’s film, as admirable for its cinematic craftsmanship as it is for the creepy story it tells.
moviejohn: Lars And The Real Girl
To make a movie this sweet, innocent, and touching about a man who believes he is having a real relationship with a life-sized love doll is some kind of a miracle. Another terrific performance by Ryan Gosling, making a U-turn from last year’s brilliant one in Half Nelson, anchors this story of a man whose deep loneliness is nursed with bottomless generosity by the entire town that loves him.
Lars And The Real Girl is the kind of movie that gives me hope that life need not be lived as jaded as most people think and gets me to embrace once again the positive side of humanity we can all aspire to. Other great films have treated their everyday world with admirable austerity but this movie dares me to believe in a level beyond it.
Sombrero Grande: Ratatouille
Ratatouille ranks among Pixar's best films, and with a catalog like Pixar's that's really saying something. In Ratatouille, Pixar served up a fresh and new multi-layered story, chock full of engrossing performances (both vocal and animated) and coated with a lustrous eye-catching glaze that actually managed to achieve tasty-looking CGI food!
The climactic moment of the film comes down to a very tiny thing — the mere tasting of an item — yet the result is so simply, brilliantly and elegantly executed that it actually brought a tear to my eye and proved to be the single most memorable cinematic moment of the year for me. While it may not ensnare the attention of small kids as easily as Finding Nemo or Cars, like Ratatouille's writer/director Brad Bird's other Pixar film, The Incredibles, this story skews older and is targeted more to the adult kids-at-heart in the audience than the little rugrats. This is one to savor with or without kids around.
Here's hoping that 2008 yields another bumper crop of good movies.
Many thanks to the writers who contributed to this article, and many thanks to the writers (and readers) who keep BC Film hopping all year long — a happy new year to all!