Remembering a Decade…2007

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

This has got to be the finest year for cinema goers over the past ten years. I can remember narrowing down my personal list to about 30 favorites and then having a real tough time weeding it down to 10. Hence coming up with a consensus for a “top” five among seven or eight people proved to be downright impossible (leaving off all of the great “off the wall” cinema was particularly difficult – e.g. Grindhouse, Bug and Black Snake Moan specifically). So we each listed five movies that really captured our hearts that year and I tried to make the best executive decision I could that really showcases some of the best 2007 had to offer while maintaining a general sense of the tastes here at RowThree. Here are five films (and of course some honorable mentions) that represent some of the greatness that 2007 delivered.

Before getting started, five honorable mentions that barely missed the cut, but on any other day could well have worked their way to #1:
I’m Not There, Silent Light, Atonement, There Will Be Blood, Rescue Dawn

5) Zodiac
– For the first time, Fincher handles a true story, and a pretty dark one for that matter. Sure it’s a serial killer thriller, but this story has little time for the actual murderer. Instead we focus on the killer’s relationship with law enforcement and media. Like Se7en, Zodiac is a tale of obsession, of how one man indelibly affected four people who spent most of their lives trying to solve one of the USA’s greatest mysteries. Fincher’s meticulous attention to detail is mandatory as we are offered as complete of a recollection as there can be of the facts; spread over 160 minutes that never feel stretched or boring. The story hooks the viewer right from the get-go and never releases its grip; its content being too unsettling and important to be ignored. Fincher considers his sixth film “the definitive serial killer film”. He has got a point: by giving no real answers or glimpses of optimism he sets Zodiac apart from traditional thrillers, which will all seem like fairy tales in comparison. The real thing is much more complex and painful, but also, in the end, far more compelling than the usual mainstream product. An astonishing achievement, and one of the year’s truly unmissable movies.
– – “I… I Need to know who he is. I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.”

4) No Country for Old Men
– The Coens have immortalized themselves in the cinematic hall of fame as two of the most iconic and greatest storytellers of the last 100 years. With a seemingly neverending string of more than impressive films already dangling from their belt, they capped it off (in 2007) with what could easily be considered their best film to date and more than likely their masterpiece by many in the growing circle of film critics and pundits. Of course on the surface the most memorable aspect of No Country was Javier Bardem bursting into America’s consciousness as probably the most iconic villain since Hannibal Lector or Darth Vader. But there is so much more here than simply the villain. The details of what’s on screen and the way in which the directors refuse to pander to their audience is what makes the genius of The Coens undeniable. We’re forced to notice details and empathize with the characters on our own terms. There’s no spoon feeding going on here. We’re having a terrific “caper gone wrong” story spun for us and it’s up to us if we want to go along for the ride. Some may disagree with where they end up, but that’s the nature of the beast. Oscar for best picture in 2007, the Academy gets it right.
– – “Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.”

3) Once
– The simplest tale of all time (boy meets girl) comes to dazzling life through the joy and mutual respect for good music. While not exactly a musical, Once nevertheless has plenty to offer in that department and not only won Oscars for its musical prowess but was also a gold selling soundtrack for the two leads. This is the little indie no one expected much from before being blown away by as the story unfolds that rings so true it will warm even the coldest of hearts. This is not a movie with a soundtrack but rather a soundtrack with a movie to back it up. A great romance with believable, lived-in characters that do only that which comes most natural and seemingly effortlessly: make music. This is a masterful stroke of a film that will always be mentioned somewhere in any rational person’s discussion of the best in cinema that 2007 had to offer.
– – “I don’t know you… but I want you… all the more, for that.”

2) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
– Huge fan of contemporary westerns here at RowThree. Huge. But we’re also fans of slow burns, arthouse cinema and Terrence Malick. So go figure that Jesse James, which incorporates the essence of all of these elements, was on just about all of our top ten lists in 2007. Casey Affleck blows the camera away and Brad Pitt sheds his super star status for a much more restrained role in which his mere presence commands the screen. The supporting cast (including Sam Rockwell, Sam Sheppared and Jeremy Renner) is superb as well. With Roger Deakins helming the visual duties, every aspect about this film is a feast for the eyes and a cinematic treat on every level. An earnest look at the unhealthy proclivity to hero worship through the eyes and ears of the 19h century. A gorgeous and engaging piece of film making that exemplifies all that is right about cinema.
– – “Can’t figure it out. Do you want to be LIKE me or do you want to BE me?”

1) Inland Empire
– After experiencing Inland Empire (and that is the correct word), one conclusion bubbled up to the surface. The films of David Lynch, darn near all of them, could get by entirely on mood alone. For nearly 3 hours, dread and creeping uneasiness are sustained effortlessly, only punctuated on occasion with moments of absurdity or self-knowing humour. To call Inland Empire the best film of the year is not a stretch in the least. It oozes with primordial cinema matter, comments bitingly on Hollywood and is also a multi-nested loop of films-within-films. It talks to you without talking at you. Even if yesterday is tomorrow and tomorrow is yesterday and characters overlap in and out of the film within the film and the whole thing navel gazes in the way films so often are made about making films. If there is a case for narcissism being a good thing, then David Lynch has made it quite convincingly. For those that obsess on all things Tinseltown, this film is (to borrow a Twin Peaks concept) the Black Lodge version (complete with red curtains). - KURT
– – ” I figured one day I’d just wake up and and find out what the hell yesterday was all about. I’m not too keen on thinkin’ about tommorow. And today’s slipping by.”

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with our picks for 2008.

THE COMPLETE SERIES (so far):
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008

Andrew James
Podcaster. Tech junkie. Movie lover. Student. Also, beer.

39 Comments

  1. I think 99% of everyone else did. Andrew Dominik is even on record saying that he was going for a film stylistically similar to Malick. He even gave Roger Deakins stills from Days of Heaven and told him that is the look he wanted and I remember reading an interview where he said Badlands was his favorite movie (or one of them, at least).

    You are absolutely nuts or just talking jibberish if you don't see it visually.

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  2. Great year for movies. Some of my other favourites: Lars and the Real Girl, King of Kong, Interview, Enchanted, In the Shadow of the Moon, Eastern Promises, Jindabyne, and XXY.

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  3. With all of that said, if I had to pick a favorite film of this past decade, Jesse James would definitely be in contention. What I would do to see Dominik's original 4-hour cut. I also really, really hope Andrew Dominik gets around to adapting Cormac McCarthy's Cities of the Plain like he hopes.

    This was a great year overall though. I just remember going to the theater and being blown away over and over again.

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  4. Great list this time; if it had 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days on it, it would've been perfect. But I'm not really complaining – there were enough fantastic movies in 2007 to have made three or four top five lists.

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  5. 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days should be on the list. No Country For Old Men over There Will Be Blood? ALL HAIL THE MIDDLEGROUND.

    I agree with Rusty that Lars and the Real Girl is a disgusting period piece worthy of no recognition.

    Looking at this list and the honorable mentions, I don't see any reason why this year should be particularly strong.

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  6. Henrik, the No Country over There Will Be Blood is a 'group effect' I think there are several writers who do not care for TWBB.

    Too Bad that DeathProof didn't bubble to the top of the list. And Paprika. There were a lot of interesting and exotic features in 2007. It was a good year at home (My Winnipeg!) and abroad.

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  7. LOL, I know we've had this conversation before. Lars is shamelessly schmaltzy and manipulative, two major qualities in a film that I normally refuse to buy into. But the cast made it work. It's not a movie I've gone back to since I first saw it, and I might like it a lot less if I ever saw it again. But I liked it a lot, and I'd rather have it in my top ten than something like Juno. And I'm done contributing to this conversation.

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  8. @ LOL, I know we’ve had this conversation before. Lars is shamelessly schmaltzy and manipulative

    it's not even that. The movie is just phony balony nonsense for 90 minutes straight. One minute we're supposed to be crying about the stupid doll dying the next we're supposed to think it's adorable when Lars hooks up with the office skank literally over her grave.

    Is the film even a comedy? It seems like it's written by people who know there's something funny about the concept but aren't sure what it is.

    Do people just not notice that Lars is a horrible person?

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  9. I hate Lars and the Real Girl because it takes place in a fairy tale land, where men are babies who can't do anything by themselves, and the women are the loving guardians, just waiting for the men to be ready to be cared for by them.

    When I said period piece, I didn't mean time period.

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  10. I vehemently disliked There Will Be Blood. It's somewhere in the bottom third of my ordered list of 2007 films. No Country for Old Men is at #1. It has subtlety and ambiguity and humor. TWBB had bombast and over-seriousness – the only part I liked was the the first section before there was any dialogue.

    And 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days wasn't released in the US until February or March 2008, so my guess is most of the writers hadn't seen it yet when the end of 2007 lists came out.

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    • And I too had really mixed reactions to TWBB. I think people are starting to finally seethe pointlessness and garishness of the film. Having seen it three times now I think it is deteriorating significantly. I'll take any of PT Anderson's movies over TWBB – in fact, his other three (not including Hard Eight) would make their way into a top 100 whereas I probably wouldn't put TWBB in my top 500 (if I had that list).

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  11. 2007 is the home of the two absolute greatest films of the decade: There Will Be Blood and The Assassination of Jesse James. Both of those films are MASTERPIECES, plain and simple – it's a shame they were both beaten by NCFOM for Best Picture (though it is a worthy contender). I'm just shocked that AOJJBYTRF wasn't even nominated.

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  12. I disagree, I've seen TWBB 3 times at different intervals (advance of release, during release, post-DVD release) and it was pretty darn genius all three times.

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    • What's genius about it? I think it's very pretentious, non-sensical and kind of boring. Technically it's amazing and DDL is (overly?) great in it, but otherwise it's 2 1/2 hours of wankery.

      And Roy don't even get me started on the Jesse James snubs that occurred at the Oscars that year.

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    • Exactly why it should be #1. I don't even have it on my list, but this list IS RowThree consensus (sort of). So it makes perfect sense that it's on the list. I've not much interest in making a list of what the world at large thinks of 2007 cinema.

      Prepare for Blindness in the 2008 list! Haha.

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  13. I think I had INLAND EMPIRE on my list for 2006. Doesn't matter, whatever year it came out, it would be in my top 5.

    Re: TWBB, I don't even like DDL that much. I get that he's good at that style of acting, I'm just not a fan – again, too over the top and bombastic for me.

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  14. Daniel Day-Lewis isn't believable at all in There Will Be Blood. It didn't work for me the first time around, but the second time around I bought into the character as a personification of greed and ambition, and just somebody to have fun with. I mean he makes Charles Foster Kane seem like Santa Claus, how can you not enjoy his theatrics? Rusty likes Jack Sparrow but not Plainview? Come on people, wake up and smell whats cooking, you're all missing a brilliant joke because you are convinced it's meant to be taken seriously.

    Genius is a strong word, I wonder if Kurt has some weird rationalization for liking TWBB that has nothing to do with why I enjoy it. I'm sure he does.

    TWBB, Death Proof, Zodiac, 4,3,2. 4 good-to-great movies, apparently all from this year. And No Country For Old Men isn't that bad, it was fun in the theatre, just more bland and forgetable than the rest.

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    • Death Proof (to me) is not a stand alone film. I originally had Grindhouse as #2 on my year end top ten but it's moved way down for better fare. It was a BLAST in the theater and I loved the whole damn thing. But that's really all it is – great fun. It isn't something to be immortalized.

      Films that overtook Grindhouse in my personal list:

      I'm Not There
      Silent Light (the best directed film of the year) – Rot's review
      Black Book
      Rescue Dawn
      Wind that Shakes the Barley
      Atonement

      etc etc.

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  15. I've been wondering this for awhile now. Does everyone around here make their best-of lists at the end of each year, and then leave it intact? And why is a film disqualified from a list just because *you* didn't see it in the calendar year it was released? I try to leave my list open to change for several months after the end of the year, and I occasionally find myself making retroactive adjustments even years after the fact.

    It seems everyone's annual opinions and discussions would be a lot more consistent if there was an agreed-upon universal release date for all films. I know it's difficult with foreign films, and with films that travel a long festival circuit or have a slow commerical rollout. When in question, I always refer to the year of the IMDb entry, not the year on my movie ticket stub. There Will Be Blood, for example is a 2007 film. Seems that's the consensus around here, but it irked me a little bit when TWBB appeared on a best of 2008 list in the local paper simply because the critic didn't get around to seeing it until February.

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  16. Wind That Shakes the Barley can't be the same year as 4,3,2. Oh, but I guess if you have 4,3,2 in 08, you would have Wind in 07.

    I agree that imdb release dates should be used, to avoid this confusion. I mean is the list best-of-2007 or best-of-whatever-i-watched-in-2007?

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  17. And since I have gone from attacking Lars, to defending TWBB, I will now go back to my natural position of attack:

    Rescue Dawn is fucking boring and pointless. The first 3 minutes are amazing, but the next 90 minutes of Chicken Run-antics with skinny people in the jungle sucked.

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    • Year-end top ten lists are a difficult thing to come to a consensus on. For these lists we've been using both IMDb and Wikipedia as our frame of reference. And even those conflict sometimes so we hash it out amongst ourselves and make a decision.

      Personally. I try really hard to stick to what was released "officially" in the given year. The Cannes winners are a different story though. They roll out so late around here and usually they make my list and I want to mention them so I put them on the list. We've had this discussion around here before, but some people put movies that simply got theatrical releases in their neck of the woods that year (like in Ashley's example of the newspaper guy). Other will only go by what IMDb says. others do a mish-mash. Festivals also make things difficult. I think Kurt puts movies he saw at TIFF on his list even if they don't officially get released for another two years.

      When I do this year's list. I will list only movies that were publicly released (not a festival or private/press screening) in theaters somewhere in the United States during the given year. Sort of the same way the academy does it. But to each his own. I don't think there is a wrong way to go about it.

      As for revisions, yeah I sometimes go back and change them. But I don't go back and re-edit my posts. I just make mental changes and make those changes on the fly if the subject is ever brought up. Like now..

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  18. For clarification, we did all these lists from scratch via many email exchanges; they aren't just reposts of original lists. They've all been revised and updated over the past few months for this series.

    For my personal end-of-year lists, I make one that's "best I saw this year" that includes even older stuff, and one that's "best released this year," going by limited/wide release or original country release for foreign films (not counting festivals, unless the film never gets distribution, in which case I count the first festival screening date). The second list is always ripe for lots of revision for several months. And that way of counting release dates will, I'm sure, not be agreed upon by everyone.

    As far as the date discrepencies on these posts, most of them have occurred because we submitted our initial top five and a few honorable mentions based on our own lists or Wikipedia, sometimes without checking IMDb first. So festival releases, foreign films, have gotten on the planning drafts with date discrepancies from the get-go and we haven't always hashed them out fully. Next decade, we ought to be more careful about this. :) That said, I don't think anything would really have changed in the consensus lists if the few date discrepancies left had been fixed.

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  19. @Henrik: "Genius is a strong word, I wonder if Kurt has some weird rationalization for liking TWBB that has nothing to do with why I enjoy it. I’m sure he does."

    Still grappling with why I love TWBB so much. It is pure unabashed spectacle on one hand. Pure technique in service of eliciting a response while watching. I thought the personification of unfettered capitalism through a pure visual medium to be quite effective. And yes, like the milkshake speech, it is bombastically funny to boot. It is a strange mix of the shrill and the serious (See also: Videodrome)

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  20. I keep running lists of fave movies from each year starting from 1930 (I lump everything before that into one list because my silent era list is woefully short). But each one is a living, breathing entity that gets changed when I see a movie from that year or even if I happen to be looking at the list and think "Why the hell did I rank that higher than this one? Let me change that…".

    I don't get to a lot of theatrical screenings (except for film festivals) during the year, so at the end of a given calendar year, my Top 5 list is heavily slanted to festival stuff. After a few years, I catch up and it gets a bit more solidified (I think I'm about ready with 2004 at this stage…). Having said that, I'm still contributing to these lists (well, just since 2006 anyway). For 2007, my top 2 films (both seen at TIFF) were "You, The Living" and "A Gentle Breeze In The Village". They are criminally not available in R1 unfortunately (I just got a region free player and snagged "You, The Living" for it as the first title). I'm forgetting what else I submitted – I think "Silent Light", "Chacun Son Cinema", "Once", "NCFOM", "Heima", but forget which were top 5 and which were runners up. And though "4 Months…" is an astonishing film, I didn't submit it as Top 5. Should I have? Short of the date debate, I don't know – I tend to lean towards submitting films I want to see over and over. As great as 4 Months was, I don't think I'd want to see it again and again. But is that a valid way of choosing? Well, for favourites, yes.

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  21. Bob, I keep running best-of-year lists for most everything I've seen, too. I actually just moved Michael Clayton around on my 2007 list yesterday (it's not very high up – not sure what all the hype was about). I try to keep to the formula I listed above for release dates, but sometimes I get off. I had The New World in the wrong year for a long time. But even aside from that, I find myself revising them fairly often as films age differently in my head. But I keep posted lists the same as a snapshot of what I thought at the time. I figure it'll be interesting in ten or twenty years and see what's changed.

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  22. "DDL is fine but it’s just a show-offy performance. There’s nothing to the character. He puts his napkin on his head. He likes milk shakes. Whatever."

    Yea. That sure is a great way to describe his performance. Brando isn't good in The Godfather either. He wears a mustache. He sits in a chair. Whatever.

    James Stewart isn't good in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington either. His hair is always sweaty. He has a suit. Whatever.

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