Monday, February 7, 2011

Top Films of 2007

Here is my much anticipated list of the best films of 2007

1. Hairspray. This light, fluffy piece of happy entertainment has brought back an era of the movie musical where characters sing unapologetically. This movie has no intention of trying to create realistic and psychological scenarios for the fact people burst into song (unlike Chicago). And unlike more serious fare like Sweeney Todd and Moulin Rouge, this film is so hearteningly sweet and funny that if you leave without a smile in your face, you should not refer to yourself as a human being. The ensemble cast creates a symphony through their individual notes. The return of Michelle Pfeiffer as the nefarious "Queen of the Baltimore Crabs," along with Travolta's cross-dressing song and dance with Christopher Walken make this a great film with some of the best lines of the whole year. (for instance, "I wish every day was Negro Day!")

2. The Kite Runner. Upon reading the book, I was a bit irritated at the pervasive masculine fear of being sodomized that drenched every page in some odd homophobia. The movie, however, helmed by the master of the tearjerker, Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), tells this masculine tale of self-discovery with a mixed cast of amateur Afghani actors and prfoessional actors that brings a ringing note of authenticity to the film that the booka ctually did not have. The young actor who plays the Hamza boy Hassan is so breathtakingly good that after his rescue from the authorities in Afghanistan (who found out he was playign a by raped by another man) will hopefully be given a chance to turn in another great performance.

3. Sweeney Todd. I admit to being a Sondheim aficianado, and also admit that when I heard that Johnny Depp was playing Sweeney, I was most worried. My fear were proven wrong. And can anyone not say that Tim Burton is not the best man to direct this tale of a murderous barber and the woman who bakes his victims into meat pies. Though the part of Mrs. Lovett has often been played for comedic effect (most famously by Angela Lansbury in her pre-J.B. Fletcher days), Helena Bonham Carter plays her as darkly as Depp plays Todd. The desperation and frantic search for meaning and love in these characters becomes far more poignant because of that very fact.

4. There Will be Blood. I often become adverse to films that critics praise to the high heavens (for instance this year: I feel the critics have celebrated Atonement, Into the Wild, Michael Clayton and even No Country for Old Men just a bit too much). P.T. Anderson's new film, however is different. Though the film loses me with the very scene, Day-Lewis' performance of a fictionalized William Doheny is so pitch-perfect and scarily creepy that it will be hard to imagine anyone beating him for Best Actor. The breathtaking cinematography and haunting, dissonant score by a member of Radiohead add to the odd building of the hauntingness of Day-Lewis' character. PT Anderson's oeuvre of Southern California films is expanded judiciously through this historical epic.

5. Juno. What can I say about this movie? Simply this: I cry every time I see the commercial where Ellen Page tells Michael Cera: "You are like the coolest guy ever, without even trying." And he gulps and responds: "I try really hard." Enough said.

6. Lars and the Real Girl
. Ryan Gosling has become known as a talented young actor after his breakthrough in the Notebook. He received acclaim for the Believer (where he played a Jewish white supremacist) and an Oscar nom for his tale of an a drug-addicted high school history teacher. This odd tale about a boy who falls in love with a blow-up doll leads to hilarious confrontations between characters. (Does Lars sleep with her?" "Well, duh, that's what she's made for!"). This should receive OScar noms for Best Actor and Screenplay

7. American Gangster. I have become sick and tired of Ridley Scott, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, but this movie redeemed every single one of them for me. This two-and-a-half-hour movie had such fine pacing and editing that you didnt even notice its length. Though the film has an odd hint of misogyny running through it, the portrayal of the relationship between Washington's suave Harlem criminal to his family and Crowe's honorable police officer to those around him made the film build to the inevitable meeting between the two at the very end, where in the end they realize they aren't all that different.

8. Enchanted
. Yes the preview looked dumb. very dumb. incredibly dumb. But Disney was able to poke fun at themselves and with the brilliant casting of Amy Adams made this one of the most enjoyable Disney films since the hey day of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.

9. Paris, je t'aime. Bringing together acclaimed directors to direct their own odes to the city of lights brought forth a breathtaking, if uneven, cinematic experience.

10. No Country for Old Men. No, it's not in my top five, but it is very good. Bardem is amazing, utterly stupendous as the creepiest hired killer of all time. His craziness is never explained by some weird psychological defect (e.g. oedipal complex or jilted love) but his insanity just merely is so becuase for him the ends always justify the means. And he has to get his work done. I could have done without Tomym Lee Jones' long, rambling speeches, which made no sense. To end the movie on one of those speeches deflated the film's enigmatic power.

11. La Vie en Rose. This biopic of French songstress, Edith Piaf, succeeded because of Marion Cotillard. Though World War II was completely omitted from the film (I'm not sure why: the stories of Piaf's harrowing saving capabilities--however far away from the truth--under the Germans would have worked well in the film), Cotillard transformed herself into the beautiful twenty-something she is into an ugly old lady.

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