From the Bad Guy Hide Out: Best Movies of 2007

2007 has been one of the strongest years in recent memory for film. Even though there were significant snubs by our friendos at the Academy, it seems like they did a great job for once at selecting the Best Picture nominees. As you can see in our year in review, all five make in an appearance in our top ten.

(Note to the Academy: It was bogus to leave Brad Renfro out of the In Memoriam tribute montage. “It was really an editing decision because we can’t fit everyone in” doesn’t cut it when you have random agents popping up who no one has ever heard of.)

To compose our Best Of, we shared our top twenty movies with one another, and combined them into a collective list based on our individual rankings. This felt like the fairest way to do this, even though some were bumped forward, back and even out of our individual lists.

So get out the milkshakes, strum those Irish guitars, and read on through our expert opinions–do we look like we’re NEGOTIATING??

1. No Country for Old Men. I sat front row at The Grove on opening weekend in L.A. and can say I submitted to the undeniable power of No Country for Old Men. This film truly is a masterpiece in the way it grips you from the get-go and doesn’t relent; the tension it creates in so many ways; the unconventional yet awesome ending; and horror personified in Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem. His Oscar for Supporting Actor is rightfully deserved. Mr. Bardem plays a man menacing on par with Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter, and he will go down in history for this role of sheer, calculating evil. “What business is it of yours where I’m from, friendo?” and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The ensemble cast (Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, and Woody Harrelson) was spot-on. 2007 belonged to No Country for Old Men, and in this regard, it belonged to the Coen brothers, rightfully claiming the creative “trifecta” with Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay Oscars. (AV)

2. There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis have created the ultimate dichotomy: a film that both Brooklyn hipsters and Texas tycoons will love. (Anyone else find it ironic that Plainview’s son was named H.W.?) What There Will Be Blood lacks in Hollywood glamor, it makes up for in unrelenting ambition. DD-L gives one of the best performances this century as Daniel Plainview, an oil man full of greed, hate, and competition, an haunting portrait of the rise to power in America. From the opening sequence without a word spoken for nearly eighteen minutes, to the culminating finale, it is an epic masterpiece. Frequent PTA collaborater Robert Elswit’s photography is cinematic beauty, and Jonny Greenwood’s eerie and looming score perfectly captures the madness unfolding. With this film, Mr. Anderson emerges as a true auteur and cements himself as one of the best directors of his generation, following a career including Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love. I can’t wait to see what he does next. (AV)

3. Once. In a year of Anton Chigurhs and Daniel Plainviews and rejuvenated John McClaines (awesome!) along comes Once, a small indie musical out of Dublin. Simply put, Once is the sweetest movie I have ever seen. Penned and directed by newcomer John Carney, Once follows a street musician played by Glen Hansard of Irish band the Frames as he is coerced into giving the music thing a real shot by beautiful girl-next-door Marketa Iraglova. Their relationship starts by her approaching him on the street, and, deducing that he is a vacuum repairman, brings her broken unit to him the following morning. After walking the vacuum around like a disobedient collie, they make a stop in a local music instrument store–and the movie magic officially begins. Hansard starts strumming the guitar and humming, Iraglova sits at the piano, and they write “Falling Slowly”–piece by aching piece, harmony for harmony, a seamless puzzle. Gradually throughout the movie, Iraglova lets him into her life; her child from a separated marriage, her mother, her Czech buddies that come over to watch TV. But she’s guarded, and he’s screwed up from the woman who left him and moved to London (the hilarious song “Broken-Hearted Hoover Vacuum Sucker Fixer Guy” tells this story). As they write and record together, he gets confidence–but is it enough to make him leave for London to chase his career and his ex? This movie speaks the “Once” rhetoric to all of us–the “I’ll do this once I have more time, once I get done with this stage of my life,” mentality. Inspirational, simple, and a perfect length in the era of bloated movies–Once will make you want to drop everything and take that chance. (BM)

4. Juno. Ah, the indie movie that could… I’ve heard people criticize the hipster-speak of the script as if it is the new Ebonics, but get over it. Much of Juno‘s charm is the off-beat and quirky dialogue, most of which spews from the mouth of Ellen Page, a star in the making. Following her dark turn in Hard Candy, she delivers Juno MacGuff with warmth and insecurity. Juno is full of career highlights: Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the adopting parents; J.K. Simmons as Juno’s father; Jason Reitman, 30, getting a Best Director nod, fresh off of his last picture, Thank You for Smoking; and Diablo Cody’s wonderful script, as she now reluctantly accepts her place as the ‘It Girl’. Enough has been said about her background, so get over that too. This film is touching, funny, instantly likeable, and the finale is magical. Honest to blog. (AV)

5. Eastern Promises. So, a guy walks into a sauna…If Snatch, The Sopranos and Rocky IV have taught us anything, it’s to never f with the Russians. Eastern Promises drives this point home as it takes us into an unfamiliar world of Russian organized crime in London. Viggo Mortensen’s Nikolai is a henchman for an extremely powerful and dangerous sect of the Russian mafia; he takes direct orders from drunk, hotheaded, son of the boss Kirill, played exceptionally well by Vincent Cassell. All is well in little Moscow until Naomi Watts, a midwife, wanders in with questions about a young teenage girl who dies during birth–and just so happens to have card from the restaurant that Nikolai’s boss owns. Nikolai does his damndest to stay out of it until he learns the truth about the situation and investigates further, leading to tensions between he and Kirill. As his desire to help the lovely Ms. Watts grows, his duties in the vory v zakove (‘thieves in law’) become increasingly more dangerous and violent. Director David Cronenberg has never been one to avoid full-on blood, and this movie is no exception, with lingering kills and of course, the now infamous bath house scene. It’s well-acted, well-structured and full of bloody surprises. (BM)

6. Gone Baby Gone. Those who have talked with me intimately about the novel/screenplay I have been working on will know that, even in the early development stages, I pictured Casey Affleck in the role of my lead detective. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out he would play a P.I. in his older brother’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River) gritty crime thriller. Ben and Casey have been our resident working-class Boston experts before, so it was no surprise that they nailed all of its nuances from the lingo to the accent to the dress code. Casey Affleck stars as Patrick Kenzie, who, with partner/girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), take on the case of a missing neighborhood girl. The girl’s degenerate, aloof, coke-snorting mother has helped turn it into a citywide deal through public cries for help and dramatics (played by supporting actress shoo-in Amy Ryan, so convincing as a Boston local she was not let on set at one point). Their search takes them deep into the darkest parts of the city, where bar fights are an hourly occurrence and even the police (The Departed, anyone?), headed up by a fantastic Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman, have questionable motives. Looking for the missing girl takes its toll on Kenzie and Gennaro as they make tough choices and deal with crises of conscience throughout leads, red herrings, twists, and a shockingly poignant ending. Congratulations, Casey–you nailed the audition. (BM)

7. Michael Clayton. Damn you Michael Clayton–you’re so COMPELLING! Clooney’s Clayton is dubbed a “fixer”, a “janitor” and a “miracle worker” for a high powered NYC firm, basically a man who puts out fires quickly and privately. When Arthur Eden, played by the always-skillful Tom Wilkinson, gets buck naked in a Milwaukee deposition and runs through a parking lot, it’s Clayton’s job to bail him out and talk enough sense in him to bring him home. Since this, of course does not go according to the plan, Clooney’s distinguished gentleman goes commando on all our asses. He starts doing things his own way and in the process, uncovers some buried information on the company Arthur Edens is prosecuting lawsuits for. Tilda Swinton plays the company president, bent on suppressing as much from getting out as possible. It’s a fantastic intellectual thriller and first directing effort for Tony Gilroy, writer of the Bourne trilogy screenplays. All the Clooney cynics who argue that he’s played the same character since Danny Ocean may have a little validity here, but his range of emotion and overall bad-assedness has never been stronger. (BM)

8. Knocked Up. The pee-your-pants funny movie of 2007. The wit of Knocked Up is so sharp that I missed jokes upon first viewing, because I was laughing so hard at previous jokes. The script digs into real-life shit (knocking-up a one-night stand, becoming a father, marriage) and makes you laugh even as you realize the emotional weight behind it. The ensemble of this cast is rather large, but many minor characters steal scenes, including Ryan Seacrest, Kristin Wiig, and the Apatow daughters. Mr. Apatow’s comedic troupe, some dating back to Freaks and Geeks–Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Martin Starr–are hysterical, and Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are both brilliant. By delivering Knocked Up and producing Superbad this year, Judd Apatow has positioned himself as a powerhouse in comedy. It’s about time. (AV)

9. The Darjeeling Ltd. Wes Anderson has become the very definition of a modern-day auteur. His broken family dramedies–with their shot symmetry, bright colors, Owen Wilson/Bill Murray/Angelica Huston use, ballad music and quirky dialogue–are instantly recognizable. This was the very reason I wasn’t quick to see it, that it was just another Wes Anderson film. Coming into the theater with those expectations, I left with a shit-eating grin. The Darjeeling Ltd. follows three separated brothers played convincingly by Wilson, Jason Schwartzmann, and Adrian Brody, as they travel in a train across India. Wilson’s character has a hidden agenda-to track down their estranged mother, played by Huston. Along the way, they fight, argue, remember their deceased father, take lots of cough syrup, negotiate countless pacts, deceive one another, screw attractive train attendants (Schwartzmann) talk women, and and smoke (a hilarious, vintage Anderson set-up shows a male train attendant enter their cabin and point to a “no smoking” sign as the camera pans to reveal all three lighting up). As Owen Wilson plans their itinerary with help of a laminator and a paid assistant, he works his way into Brody and Schwartzmann’s good graces after being out of their lives for the past year. They become brothers again, culminating in a strange reunion and moving scene in which they recount a past incident that left them all devastated and helped to shape them. (BM)

10. Atonement. This film is an epic tale of how different points-of-view of certain actions can spin out of control and change the course of many lives, including two lovers. Briony Tallis, a13 year-old aspiring writer, sees her older sister Cecelia (Keira Knightley) and her lover Robbie (James McAvoy) intimately and lies, accusing him of a crime he did not commit. Her lie snowballs, and the story follows her at ages 13, 18 (working as a nurse during the war) and in her late seventies, as the consequences of her lie unfold. There is a stunning five-and-a-half minute continuous shot of Robbie walking through Dunkirk as British troops await evacuation from France, helping give Seamus McGarvey an Oscar nod for Best Cinematography. (AV)



GrindHustle’s Top 20:
1. Eastern Promises
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Gone Baby Gone
4. Black Snake Moan
5. The Darjeeling Ltd.
6. Superbad
7. There Will Be Blood
8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
9. Once
10. Juno
11. Into the Wild
12. Knocked Up
13. Breach
14. King of California
15. Persepolis
16. I Am Legend
17. Ratatouille
18. Hot Fuzz
19. The Wind That Shakes The Barley
20. The Namesake

Extra Props To: Atonement, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, I’m Not There, In The Valley of Elah, The King of Kong, Michael Clayton, Sweeney Todd

Thumbs Down For: Lars and The Real Girl, Waitress, Shoot ‘Em Up, 3:10 To Yuma

Heezwax’s Top 20:

1. Once
2. No Country for Old Men
3. There Will Be Blood
4. Gone Baby Gone
Into the Wild. Christopher McCandless, a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, embarks on a cross-country trip with no money, his only intention being to eventually make it to Alaska to survive in the wilderness. The movie jumps between his life in an abandoned Alaskan van and vignettes from his journeys and encounters that brought him there. Emile Hirsch’s McCandless is a little too hopeful about his chances, but this is what gives him most of his charm. Stops along the way include working on a farm with the incomparable Vince Vaughn, crashing at a hippie commune with Catherine Keener and boyfriend Brian Dierker, and living under the roof of the kind-hearted Hal Holbrook, who despite his small role, turns out a great enough performance to warrant a nod. The screenplay is based on the book that Jon Krakauer compiled through McCandless’s correspondence and interviews with the real-life versions of our story’s characters, and it is does an outstanding job of capturing McCandless for what he was: A true-to-life, albeit a bit naive, free American spirit.
6. Michael Clayton
7. Juno
8. Eastern Promises
9. Knocked Up / Superbad
10. American Gangster
11. The Darjeeling Ltd.
12. Atonement
13. Breach
14. Grindhouse
15. The King of Kong
16. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
17. Paris, Je’Taime
18. The Namesake
19. Reign Over Me
20. The Lookout

Honorable Mentions: Talk to Me, Zodiac, Driving Lessons

Peter McVeeder’s Top 20:

1. No Country for Old Men
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Once
4. In The Valley of Elah.
In a year that brought out a lot of unrest about Iraq, it seems interesting that almost every film released in 2007 about the subject bombed at the box office. To its credit, In the Valley of Elah is one of the most underrated movies of the year. Tommy Lee Jones gives perhaps the best performance of his career as a former military policeman and father on a quest to find out who killed his son, recently back from a tour in Iraq. In Paul Haggis’ first film since Crash, he delivers a subtly powerful anti-war film that hooks you in and gets under your skin.
5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
A visual, emotional journey based on the true story of French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffered a massive stroke, paralyzing his entire body except for his left eye. The realization that he is trapped inside his body is daunting and overwhelming, but with the help of therapists who devise a way to communicate through blinking and the love from his family, he learns to overcome the tragedy to appreciate his life — “I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed: my imagination and my memory.” The photography is this film is striking with many of Jean-Do’s POVs incorporated, beautifully capturing his frozen state and dream-like memories. You won’t stop thinking about it.
6. Juno
7. Eastern Promises
8. Michael Clayton
9. Knocked Up
10. The Darjeeling Ltd.
11. Atonement
12. Gone Baby Gone
13. Superbad
14. The Bourne Ultimatum. The best of the three, in a trilogy that only got better. It is not only a bad-ass action flick, it’s a great movie, to boot.
15. Zodiac
16. No End in Sight / Sicko
17. Breach
18. Across the Universe
19. Sunshine
20. The TV Set. A dry and funny satire about writer Mike Klein (David Duchovny) fighting for his vision of a TV pilot, while the network tries to undermine him on casting, production, and everything else. Sigourny Weaver is great as the network president, as is Judy Greer playing Klein’s manager.

Honorable Mentions: 28 Weeks Later, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, I Am Legend, King of California, Live Free or Die Hard, Starting Out in the Evening

Would Love To/Have Yet To See: Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Charlie Wilson’s War, Control, I’m Not There, Into the Wild, La Vie en Rose, Persepolis, The Southland Tales, Sweeney Todd

ThatJacy’s Top 10:

1. There Will Be Blood. From the creepy ass opening shot to the last scene (one of the best scenes in the history of films, I’d say) I couldn’t take my eyes off this movie, mostly due to Daniel Day Lewis’ phenomenal acting. A breath of fresh air after watching a years worth of no-talent Hollywood hacktors. (See: casts of Epic Movie, Norbit, Fred Claus, Josh Hartnett…)
2. No Country for Old Men. Prediction: Top Halloween costume of 2008 will be Anton Chigurh.
3. A Mighty Heart. Most underrated movie of the year. I challenge you to watch Juno and A Mighty Heart back to back and tell me that Angelina did not get robbed of a best actress nomination. Do it. Now.
4. The Darjeeling Ltd. I’m white. Wes Anderson movies never get old.
5. Zodiac. The most entertaining thriller since what’s his name was trying to find out who murdered his wife.
6. Juno. If I would have gotten up to get popcorn, been stuck in traffic, in the bathroom and missed the first 20 minutes of the movie, it would probably be bumped up a couple of notches. But alas, I had to sit through the opening scenes of overwritten, forced dialogue and so it’s six. It’s also six because despite our first impression, it was an original-ish, heartfelt, well-written, well-cast film. And snaps for Diablo Cody for both becoming a name as a writer and for creating strong female characters. Hollywood needs more of them. (Yes, that was my wah to overlooked writers, girl power, feminist plug right there. Suck it.)
7. Eastern Promises. Naked man-fighting? Sold.
8. 3:10 to Yuma. So, okay. Maybe it wasn’t the best film ever, but Christian Bale’s performance was outstanding. Far be it for me to say anything more about this movie when I haven’t even seen the original.
9. Ratatatoullie. Cooking rats? Yes, please. It was funny, charming, and beat out that other shitty culinary movie of 2007…
10. Gone Baby Gone. The only thing I like more than Casey Affleck’s voice is people trying to do an impression of Casey Affleck’s voice. And the only thing I would have liked more about Gone Baby Gone is if I truly didn’t think the movie was over after 25 minutes, gotten up, screamed about how “this is a terrible movie!” and realized that I still had an hour and a half to go. It was embarrassing. Lucky for me I stuck around to get some obligatory words of wisdom from Morgan Freeman, noticed that even if you’re in a movie for <20 minutes you can still get a best supporting actress nomination, and saw a brilliant ending that lead to heated discourse about morality.

Honorable Mentions:
The American Pie of 2007 if American Pie was actually funny, heartfelt, funny, well-written, well-cast, funny, unpredictable, funny…
DeathProof. See aforementioned ‘girl power rant’ and membership card.

2 responses to “From the Bad Guy Hide Out: Best Movies of 2007

  1. watched American Gangster recently… pretty clever how Ridley Scott makes us love the bad guy and dislike the good guy only to subtly flip that around by the end of the movie.

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