My Best Films of 2007…Finally!

The days keep going by and I keep delaying this piece, simply because there are too many things to do and not enough hours in the day. I don’t think I can even begin to be as comprehensive as Mike Tully has been and why should I try? Tully is Tully, as the saying goes! In addition to being a wide ranging look at cinema 2007, it’s basically a reference tool for those of us who have occasional holes in our memories and can’t remember all the films we’ve seen. Maybe I should keep a notebook…..
All in all, 2007 was one of the best years I can remember for films and there are still several that have been widly deemed noteworthy that I haven’t seen. So without further babbling, I will now pontificate some, wax rhapsodic some and spew the occasional invective, to wit:
The best film of 2007:
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, written and directed by Andrew Dominik
This is an extraordinary work of art, full stop. A true American classic (albeit one directed by a Kiwi) and one that, once I get some distance from it, will likely take its place on my all-time top 10 list. (Said list doesn’t really exist of course and would likely be 20-30 strong if it did.) I recently saw the film for a second time and I am begging Manohla Dargis and Kenneth Turan to go and see the film again. I’ve given up on Anthony Lane, Kirk Honeycutt and Lou Lumenick…hopeless, the lot. I mean, Honeycutt liked The Walker, for god’s sake!
I know quite a few devotees of this film and it might take some work to convince them that it actually gets even better on second viewing but it does. It’s an even more layered and nuanced portrayal of celebrity and the desperate urge it stirs in fans. The script is more lyrical and the characters more poetic and tragic.
This is the perfect film to relate to Tom Hall’s post about film length in The Back Row Manifesto. Yes, this film is 160 minutes long and no, I didn’t feel it a bit. This is coming from someone who tends to doze off repeatedly during the day, but this film held my interest, even in Toronto at 9am and hungover. The second viewing was simply just perfect.
In September I made a pledge to eat my hat if it doesn’t get 10 Oscar nominations and I guess I am going to have to break said vow. No way am I eating one of my hats. Who do you think I am, Werner Herzog? As it is, Casey Affleck picked up a nomination for best supporting actor (notwithstanding the fact that his performance is a leading one) and Roger Deakins got one for his stunning cinematography. Both have a chance of winning but of course that would require the Academy voters to actually see the damn film.
Much more after the jump!

There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
This is a close second to Jesse James.
It’s an extraordinary achievement in all aspects of movie making and it is my firm conclusion that anyone who doesn’t realize that this is a masterpiece simply just doesn’t GET IT. No, the third act isn’t ridiculous, yes it IS funny. See, even Paul Thomas Anderson says so! Daniel Day Lewis’ performance is quite simply the stuff of legends. There’s so much more to say about this epic, but I really need to see it again.
No Country For Old Men, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Another exceptional film from what is proving to be an excellent year. Yeah, maybe it’s a period piece insomuch that it takes place in 1980 but the themes that run through it resonate just as much now as they ever did. I think it’s as Bob Dylan wrote: the times they are a changin’. I’m not sure Dylan meant that thought to extend beyond what was happening in the 60’s but the fact is, the times are always a changin’ and there are some things that Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) remarks upon that are perfectly suited to today. One line on the subject of the loss of manners in society that stuck with me was “Once you stop hearing ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am,’ the rest is sure to follow.” Well ain’t that just the truth…
The rest of my best, alphabetically:
Billy The Kid, directed by Jennifer Venditti
The Bourne Ultimatum, directed by Paul Greengrass, written by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi
Control, directed by Anton Corbijn, written by Matt Greenhalgh from an autobiography by Deborah Curtis
The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson, written by Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman
Great World of Sound, directed by Craig Zobel, written by George Smith and Craig Zobel
The Host, directed by Bong Joon-ho, written by Baek Chul-hyun, Bong Joon-ho and Ha Won-jun
In the Shadow of the Moon, directed by David Sington
Into Great Silence, written and directed by Philip Gröning
Jimmy Carter Man From Plains, written and directed by Jonathan Demme
Juno, directed by Jason Reitman, written by Diablo Cody
Kurt Cobain: About a Son, directed by AJ Schnack
The Lives of Others, written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Offside, directed by Jafar Panahi, written by Panahi and Shadmehr Rastin
Quiet City, directed by Aaron Katz, written by Erin Fisher, Aaron Katz and Cris Lankenau
Rescue Dawn, written and directed by Werner Herzog
A few words about a few of the docs on my list and an apologia to those that I missed in 2007 (they are legion). these four films (Billy the Kid, Into Great Silence, In the Shadow of the Moon and Kurt Cobain: About a Son) have done yeoman’s work in expanding the idea of what the documentary form can be and their exclusion from the Academy shortlist just serves to show how out of touch that institution is. In different ways, all four of these films have given us new ideas as to what a documentary can be and for that we should all be grateful.
Some noteworthy 2008 releases that I saw at festivals (A possible preview of next year’s list):
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, written and directed by Cristian Mungiu
The Counterfeiters, written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky from a book by Adolf Burger
Flight of the Red Balloon, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, written by Hou and François Margolin
The Killing of John Lennon, written and directed by Andrew Piddington
Notable films (according to what others have said or written) but that I missed/have not seen yet: Frownland, Zodiac, No End in Sight, Charlie Wilson’s War, Michael Clayton, Syndromes and a Century, The Bourne Ultimatum, Killer of Sheep, Once, Sweeny Todd, Ratatouille, Persepolis, Into the Wild, 12:08 to Bucharest, Manda Bala, Lake of Fire.
Photo credits:
Brad Pitt as Jesse James in Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford photo by Kimberley French, © Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc
Daniel Day-Lewis as “Daniel” and Dillion Freasier as “H.W.” star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Copyright: © 2007 by PARAMOUNT VANTAGE, a Division of PARAMOUNT PICTURES and MIRAMAX FILM CORP. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon
Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss in No Country For Old Men. Photo by Richard Foreman/Courtesy of Miramax Films.
Billy, from Jennifer Vendetti’s Billy the Kid. Photo © 2006 Shane Sigler, Courtesy Eight Films/Isotope Films
The Grande Chartreuse monastery from Philip Gröening’s Into Great Silence. © Philip Gröening / VG Bild Kunst / Zeitgeist Films Ltd.
Karl Markovics in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters, photo by Jat Jurgen Olczyk © Beta Film GmbH, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

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