DARKNESS ON
THE EDGE OF TOWN

Year-end film lists for 2007
from our regular contributors:

Chris Knipp
Shari L. Rosenblum
Howard Schumann
Chris Dashiell

and other friends

CineScene's Top Ten
Movies of 2007

1. Zodiac (David Fincher).
2. No Country For Old Men
(Joel and Ethan Coen).
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
(Andrew Dominik).
4. There Will Be Blood
(Paul Thomas Anderson).
5. The Lives of Others
(Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck).
6. Into the Wild
(Sean Penn).
7. Superbad
(Greg Mottola).
8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
(Julian Schnabel).
9. (tie) Once
(John Carney).
10. (tie) Ratatouille
(Brad Bird).



Zodiac wasn't anyone's first choice, but it was enough people's second, third, or fourth to push it to the top of CineScene's year-end poll.
Darkness ruled, as the top four were all brooding male dramas of the American nightmare.

And thanks to everyone who participated! -- The Editor.

Chris Knipp
2007: THE YEAR’S BEST

I don’t want to take up too much space repeating my opinions about the films on my list, which can be found elsewhere. I just hope people will trust me, as one who sees many, that they’re worth watching and deciding about for yourselves. Here are just a few thoughts.

2007 gave us above all two great stunning westerns about American moral depravity: There Will Be Blood, a milestone in the career of the extravagantly talented P.T. Anderson, and No Country for Old Men by the Coen brothers. These are both going to stand as classics. David Fincher’s Zodiac is another 2007 film people will want to go on watching for a good while to come, I think.

This was a year for powerful movies about extremes and extremists. Zodiac is the police procedural carried to the extreme of endless obsession. Into the Wild, by far Sean Penn’s best work to date, is about idealism and adventure pushed to tragic excess; Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There is a wildly experimental depiction of the extremes of Bob Dylan’s personality. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly depicts an extreme experience and is a tribute to the enormous courage of a paralyzed man—and also to the daring of the Brooklyn-born, Texas-raised painter Julian Schnabel, ready to make a movie all in French. If genius is 99% perspiration, directing is often 99% chutzpah. I think those six films are going to be remembered; and they’re all from American directors, so that’s pretty good. (The rest are also fine, but fall under various and different headings.)

Likewise to be long remembered, it’s my bet, are some of the foreign ones. Once, from Ireland, is a simple, minimal, and perfect little film. Philippe Garrel’s Regular Lovers is a sublime long mournful poem about 1968 in Paris and its aftermath. Pascale Ferran’s Lady Chatterley is bold, beautiful, and strange. Dumont’s Flanders is harsh and yet sweet. Marion Cotillard’s over-the-top Edith Piaf impersonation in La Vie en Rose is the performance of a lifetime. I don’t know if all the others I have listed will be long remembered but they are wonderfully made, and moved me.

There continue to be more and more important new documentaries. We surely remember, from last year, An Inconvenient Truth, which helped get Al Gore a Nobel Prize. Personal favorites from this year are Nanking, Billy the Kid, and Kurt Cobain About a Son. Many more seem obligatory, if sometimes rough viewing.

I’ve indicated where DVDs are already available and also where the original releases were earlier; all others were 2007. Some additional titles and categories are listed on my website.

Early 2008 has brought the tragic loss of Heath Ledger—an event that has made even Daniel Day-Lewis weep. The young Ledger was only just beginning to become clearly an important actor. His unforgettable and deeply moving performance in Brokeback Mountain will be his lasting monument.

BEST U.S.

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
No Country for Old Men
(Joel and Ethan Coen) [DVD 3/12/2008]
Zodiac (David Fincher) [DVD]
Into the Wild (Sean Penn) [DVD]
I'm Not There (Todd Haynes)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
(Julian Schnabel) [DVD 4/1/2008]
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy) [DVD]
The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson) [DVD]
The Namesake (Mira Nair) [DVD]
The Savages (Tamara Jenkins)
Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie)
The Lookout (Scott Frank) [DVD]

BEST FOREIGN

Once (John Carney, 2006) [DVD]
Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, 2005) [DVD]
Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran, 2006) [DVD]
The Lives of Others
(Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) [DVD]
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2006) [DVD]
Flanders (Bruno Dumont, 2005) [DVD]
Offside (Jafar Panahi) [DVD]
Control (Anton Corbijn)
Dans Paris (Christophe Honoré, 2006) [DVD]
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006) [DVD]
La Vie en Rose (Olivier Dahan) [DVD]

BEST DOCUMENTARIES

Sicko (Michael Moore) [DVD]
No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson) [DVD]
Nanking (Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman) {DVD 4/29/2008]
Into Great Silence (Philip Gröning, 2005) [DVD]
An Unreasonable Man (Henriette Mante and Steve Skrovan, 2006) [DVD]
Billy the Kid (Jennifer Venditti)
Kurt Cobain About a Son (AJ Schnack, 2006) [DVD]
Murch (Edie and David Ichioka)



No Country for Old Men


Michael Clayton


Regular Lovers


Dans Paris



Sicko


Shari L. Rosenblum
Top Ten Films of 2007

Knocked Up
and Superbad have their place (though it isn’t on my shelf), and I’ll always have a soft spot for the moving on/all’s well that ends well optimism of such as Catch and Release and P.S. I Love You (even if it takes me no further than booking the next flight to Ireland or the Pacific Coast), but the films that top my list this year seem to speak with a certain maturity, and brim with an honest intelligence that never condescends. They moved me, they scared me, they made me think.

1. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck).

The build up is slow; but the film surprises. The acting is sublime, the writing provocative, the direction dead on. The year is 1984, and from the lost and unlamented Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the heartland of Kennedy’s betrayed Berliners and the prison guards within their Wall—the Stasi, or East German secret police—an Orwellian dystopia unfolds upon the screen. Paranoia takes center stage from the opening reel, in which a non-descript little man—movements static, balding pate closely cropped, and expression dour— stands at the base of a stark lecture hall beside an antiquated reel-to-reel tape recorder and demonstrates for his students from the flickering images the art of interrogation. Airiness on the suspect’s part is taken for arrogance, a lack of awkwardness an antagonism to the state, and lightly tousled hair a sign of certain sedition. Power is exercised in surveillance and tested in performance. The symbiosis of audience and actor is mined for all that it can bear. Dramas of fact and fiction overlay one another—romance, jealousy, betrayal, collusion—and the interplay of the theatrical and political stuns in its starkness. The film is quietly observant, incisive, and insistent. The rewards are unforeseen and unforgettable.

2. Zodiac (David Fincher).

Exacting and exhilarating, David Fincher’s second stab at the serial killer genre subverts the bloodlust with forensic fascination and arrives at something twice as chilling—morally and viscerally. From the film’s earliest movements, where the camera aligns the viewer with a murderer’s letter en route to a newspaper desk, it teases the balance between the intensive detail of the police procedural—where even minutiae can prove substantial, and the fomenting anxiety of the information age—where control is uncertain and enough is never enough. The acting—by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo—is superb, and the director is in top form with a film that moves swiftly at well over 2 hours, shifting its focus from the hunted to the hunting ground and then ultimately to the hunter obsessed with his game. A frenzy of meticulousness that even in its most deliberate moments leaves you breathless.

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel).

A soft warmth and strong spirit imbue this film about a dashing, successful 43-year-old man at the top of his game felled by a massive stroke, paralyzed from head to toe, and yet somehow undaunted. While the world heaved and sighed around him, and time lost and choices made taunted from within, he found a way to put things in perspective and to give them universal heft. With just the flutter of an eyelid—the only movement left to him, a sexy wit, a remarkable sense of humor, and a patient assistant repeatedly reciting the alphabet in order of frequency, Jean-Dominique Dauby (Jean-Do, as he was called) managed to translate his unfathomable experience into heartbreaking words and exhilarating images. Julian Schnabel’s film puts us in his head, adapting the man’s spirit as well as his text and never giving us to gawk or to pity, and Mathieu Amalric’s performance never hits a false note. Though underpinned with the ultimate in human horror: to be fully conscious, aware, and emotionally raw but unable to move or to speak, the film, like its protagonist, lifts itself up with an almost ironically grounded will to soar. And take flight, it does.

4. The Savages (Tamara Jenkins).

Gutwrenching, heartbreaking, terrifying, Tamara Jenkins’ tale of adult children coming to terms with their father’s aging and mortality—with the things we choose in life and the things in which we have no choice—is laced with mordant wit and brutal insights, and it veritably bristles with sensitivity. Philip Bosco, in the role of the father, retains a certain dignity even in the least dignified acts of dementia. Though the humor in the film is raw, it is all at the expense of his unprepared offspring. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney have never been better than they are here as the sparring but sympathetic siblings, competitive and complementary, stunted in their emotional growth, but learning to lean on each other and to move forward on their own. Their performances at once particular and universal. The screenplay itself, for all its basest notions, is truly literate, with allusions to Brecht and Shepard and alienation and the referentiality of theater. The punch it packs hits at multiple levels, and it leaves its marks.

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik).

The western landscape is photographed with an almost mystical edge—the vastness of the spaces, the uncertainties of the terrain, the fogs and snows and enveloping darkness of the night. The piece itself is brooding and contemplative, deconstructing the myth even as it makes it stronger, taking heroism, but not greatness, out of the equation. Less concerned with right and wrong and evil deeds, it stands as a cautionary tale of fame and its misfortunes, of the risks of illustrious invulnerability, and of the public’s mercurial attachments. Brad Pitt, shedding his celebrity to play the celebrated gunslinger, gives him an air of weariness the penny novels never dreamed of, but history almost demands, and Casey Affleck’s infamous assassin embodies angst and envy and incomprehension as natural and inevitable afflictions. Not a moment of the film feels forced, despite the familiar faces in the cast, and not a moment feels wasted, despite the deliberate pace. After nearly three hours, it still left me wanting more.

6. The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona).

Atmospheric and truly haunting, The Orphanage sneaks up on you, a ghost story that breaks your heart and makes it jump in a single seating (there were jolts in this that had me clutching my chest and trying to catch my breath) . . . Intending it as a refuge for disabled children, like their own, a couple purchases the abandoned building that once housed the orphanage where the wife was raised. What it holds in store for them is something more than that, and something more than we can usually expect from a filmic house of horrors. It isn’t blood and gore, but imagination and regret that cause the timbers to shiver in this . . . a child alone in a burlap headwrap, a seaside cliff, a game of hide-and-seek. It is a dance between the psychological and the supernatural that swirls us up in its rhythms and lets us choose to believe what we need to believe in its unfolding. I’m wavering still.

7. Dan in Real Life (Peter Hedges) / Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie).
Perhaps the one is a bit too formulaic, despite its surprises, and the other a bit too quirky, despite its solid center, but there is something of a true romanticism in both that tops the attempts at depth in so many of this year’s more prestigious selections. Each is served through a comic lens with equal portions of sense and sensibility, and entirely sans syrup, and neither takes itself too seriously. From Dan in Real Life, with its unlikely but ingenious pairing of Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche, we get a grown-up love that’s sweet and tender and imperfect and utterly disarming. From Lars and the Real Girl, and the impeccable performance of Ryan Gosling, we get a fairytale about learning how to love . . . and how to be loved. From both we get an unerring faith in possibility and just getting over ourselves. What could be more real than that?

8. Paris je t’aime
A woman faints beside a car with an angry driver, a tourist stares at a couple across the subway tracks, a doctor treats an immigrant wounded in the street, a husband and wife prepare for divorce, a student of French takes in the sites . . . Paris je t’aime treats its single theme with such variety that it literally shatters the cliché of love in the City of Lights – into 18 independent vignettes. Eighteen almost sketches (featuring Gena Rowlands, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Buscemi, Juliette Binoche, Bob Hoskins, Fanny Ardant, Nick Nolte, and Natalie Portman in their turns) unfolding in five minutes or less, each belonging to a writer, director, and cinematographer all its own, traverse the landscape of the city, neighborhood by neighborhood, looking at love from all the right places. Possibility and loss, fleeting hopes and enduring bonds, mystery and self-discovery all find their footing here, making their way across age and sex, disability and death, language, race, religion and even species without ever getting treacly. Some critics have called it a delicious tasting menu without a main course, but I thought it a true feast (if you are lucky enough to have loved in Paris, one might paraphrase from Hemingway), and it has stayed with me.
**not to be confused with Dans Paris (a depressing, self-indulgent trifle about depressing, self-indulgent people, despite the pretense of an upbeat late in the film, unsalvageable even by Romain Duris and Louis Garrel) or 2 Days in Paris (a cranky little self-impressed, sex-obsessed ditty that makes both the French and Americans seem utterly unappealing and shows the flipside of Julie Delpy’s charm).

9. Into the Wild (Sean Penn).
The only film on the list that I fell in love with for something other, I think, than what it wanted to show. I had no patience for the spoiled, ungrateful, and apparently ignorant child/man at the story’s center, whose voyage away from societal strictures and into the wilderness seemed nothing more than adolescent petulance and disrespect for the people who loved and provided for him. I saw no bravery in his bravado, and was not saddened by his undoing. But I was profoundly moved by the people he met along the way, and the film’s capture of the open arms and welcoming hearts of strangers that the lucky traveler meets along the way. The parents and sister left at home (who were, in fact, strangers to him), the would-be big brother (Vince Vaughn), hippie mother (Catherine Keener), and last-chance grandfather (Hal Holbrook) whose stories were more interesting than his, and whose loves and losses were more compelling than any that he suffered. Rather than as ode to the idealist adventurer, I saw the film as love letter to the American road, companion piece in its way to The Straight Story.

10. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu).
Director Cristian Mungiu has denied it, but this carefully styled meticulously paced thriller tracking one woman’s quest to get her friend an illegal abortion in the last days of Ceausescu’s reign in Romania, seems to make of the one a metaphor for the other, with backroom deals and back alley risks, casual extortions and offhanded rapes—the crush of oppression against the body both human and political, and the hero’s dark battle against it. The filmmaker’s visceral ambivalence to the act of abortion and the woman who aborts, which is as formidable in the film as his camera work and social realism, does not compromise the film’s commitment to recognizing the right in question. In a year where films like Juno and Knocked Up edit the pressures out of unwanted pregnancy and leave the question of abortion on the cutting room floor, the sophistication of Mungiu’s approach, if not ideal, is certainly welcome.

Almosts:
11. Once (John Carney).
12. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Ken Loach).
13. Offside (Jafar Panahi).
14. Molière (Laurent Tirard).
15. 3:10 to Yuma (James Mangold).
16. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen).


Howard Schumann

20 Favorites of 2007
1. Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz).








Rocket Science
, the second feature by Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound), who overcame his own stuttering disability, is a teen comedy about a 15-year old stutterer that poignantly captures the painful loneliness of adolescence. While Rocket Science sounds like other coming of age films, it offers a unique and very special look at the pitfalls of growing up without having to rely on grossness, stereotypes, or implausible situations. Brilliantly played by Vancouver actor Reece Thompson, Hal’s sweetness and innocence as a would-be debater is totally captivating and we identify with his pain and root for him to succeed. While there are some predictably oddball characters, Rocket Science is wise, honest, funny, touching, and painfully sad, and loaded with Oscar-caliber performances.
2. Into the Wild (Sean Penn).

Based on Jon Krakauer’s book about the life of Chris McCandless, Into the Wild is a celebration of youth with its idealism, desire for adventure, and also its arrogance and short-sightedness. Director Sean Penn, who seems deeply connected to his subject, consulted with Chris’ parents after waiting ten years for their approval to undertake the project. The result is a sweet, thoughtful, and deeply moving film about a young man who traveled to Alaska to seek a life unfettered by commercialism and greed. It is not a message film but a voyage of discovery, a search for authenticity in a world that has forgotten what truth looks and feels like.

3. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck).

The Lives of Others is a haunting look at the paranoia of the East German security apparatus in the year 1984, a paranoia that ended only with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Director von Donnersmarck shows the intimidation and disorientation the Stasi used as tools in operating a ruthless system of control and surveillance directed at artists and intellectuals. As the surveillance proceeds, the gradual exposure of Stasi Captain Gerd Weisler (Ulrich Mühe) to a playwright with a different lifestyle that includes music, literature, and freedom of expression leads him to begin to look at his life in a different way. It is the catalyst for a plot that ends up as a powerful depiction of what it means to be human.

4. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen).

No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers’ brilliant adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s bloody lament for a vanished America, is a powerful and uncompromising film, an elegy for what America has lost and an outcry against what it has become, a society inured to violence where murder and rape is a coin toss and war is an event that is woven into the fabric of our life. In a film in which all the performances are universally excellent, Javier Bardem stands out as the screen’s most implacable villain in many years, conveying an unrelenting sense of menace, and Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as the discouraged Sheriff Bell, struggling against what he calls “the dismal tide”. Relentless in its heartbreaking sadness, No Country is a dark and brutal saga that is without any sympathetic characters, just the hunter and the hunted, each, however, with a kind of integrity that hints at redemption beyond the apocalypse.

5. Across the Universe (Julie Taymor).

Across the Universe offers a new generation an experience of the vitality and sheer exuberance of the Beatles musical portfolio. Julie Taymor’s ambitious salute to Beatlemania is a celebration of thirty-three of the Beatles' most famous songs and how they reflected the idealism of the 1960s. Utilizing her background in puppetry, folklore, mythology, and mime, Taymor brings imagination and creativity to the table with mostly wonderful results. The film not only integrates the Beatles songs into a heartfelt love story, it also provides a mirror into the political and social turmoil of the decade. For fans of The Beatles and for a new generation that is eager to learn about the nature of their appeal, Across the Universe is a joyous and at times transcendent ride.

6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel).

Julian Schnabel’s masterful The Diving Bell and the Butterfly dramatizes the debilitating trauma faced by 43-year old French fashion magazine editor, Jean-Dominque Bauby. Bauby suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to speak or to move his head and whose only means of communication was to blink one eye – one blink for yes, two blinks for no. With the help of a speech therapist (Marie-Josée Croze), and a very patient transcriber, a code is developed that allowed Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), called Jean-Do by his friends and family, to compose a book based on his experience which was published shortly after his death. Full of humor, irony, and a great deal of eloquence and imagination, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a film of enormous power that shakes us and enables us to get in touch with the miracle of each moment.

7. Control (Anton Corbijn).

Based on a 1996 memoir by the widow of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, Control follows Curtis’ life from his teenage years to his tragic death at age twenty-three. Unlike conventional bio-pics, it delivers a three-dimensional portrait of a real human being and how his troubles affected the people closest to him. Sam Riley eerily recreates Curtis in appearance and voice, performing all of the band’s iconic songs using Curtis’ robotic hand motions on stage to great effect. Riley plays him simply as a very innocent, down to earth young man whose talent was much greater than his ability to handle it. An extremely moving experience whether or not you have foreknowledge of the events of Curtis’ life, Control is a film that has the power to touch and leave memories that are indelible.

8. Sicko (Michael Moore).

In his latest documentary, Sicko, controversial director Michael Moore is up to his old tricks: use of rapier comic thrusts to make a point, anecdotal support rather than statistical, feigned innocence, and good old fashioned showmanship to point out the deficiencies of the American health care system. The main premise of Sicko, however, is dead-on accurate – the system and the profit mentality it reflects are flawed, tragically flawed, and in need, not only of stop-gap repairs but of major overhaul. Moore’s films are not always balanced but they are passionate muckraking for worthwhile causes, in this case a simple one – a society based on compassion.

9. This is England (Shane Meadows).

Loosely based on Meadows’ teenage experiences, This is England dramatizes the unrest in Britain after the Falklands War. Though the U.K. was victorious, the war unleashed underlying feelings of alienation and racism among some elements of British working class youth and gave rise to the Skinheads, a group that became involved in the public mind with the neo-Nazis. The film is shown from the perspective of 12-year old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a diminutive working class youngster whose father was killed in the war. The film depicts Shaun’s decline from joyous camaraderie with new found friends to support of an intolerant and emotionally disturbed role model. Meadows brilliantly shows how damaged lives and mutual needs can bring people together to take out their frustrations against those below them on the socio-economic scale.

10. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu).

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is about the bond between two young Romanian students who are there for each in moments of crisis - in this case an illegal abortion, carried out in secret in an atmosphere where danger is an insidious presence at all times. Reminiscent of the style of the Dardenne brothers with its close-ups and hand-held camera, the film is mostly understated and key events happen off camera, yet it is a very demanding film, powerfully acted and totally convincing, as uncompromising as any film I have seen in recent memory. It is not a polemic against Communism or illegal abortions, but more about the dignity of two women, friends who are willing to sacrifice for each other without expectation of reward or even thanks.

11. Linda Linda Linda (Nobuhiro Yamashita).

If you are ready to be uplifted, the perfect vehicle is Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Linda Linda Linda. It is not only a feel-good movie, it is a feel-great movie that had the audience I saw it with dancing in the aisles (figuratively if not literally). Yamashita has managed to put together not only one of the best rock films but also one of the most truly honest films I have seen about teenagers. It also has a very infectious song, "Linda Linda Linda," that will roll around forever inside your brain. The songs are not lip-synched but actually performed by the talented actress musicians. The ending of the film is so perfect that I dare not give it away except to say that the feeling it leaves you with is one of pure and simple joy.

12. The First Saturday in May (John and Brad Hennegan).

For two years, brothers John and Brad Hennegan followed the daily activities of those horses that they thought had a chance to make it to the 2006 Kentucky Derby. The result is The First Saturday in May, a buoyant and energizing film experience that may just be the best documentary of the year. First Saturday is primarily a film about horses, but is also about the trainers and their families, and especially their children who provide some of the film’s most entertaining moments. The most emotionally compelling parts of the film are those showing the rise and fall of the horse Barbaro from his astonishing 6 ½-length win in the 2006 Kentucky Derby to his breakdown in Pimlico and his subsequent fight for survival.

13. In Search of Mozart (Phil Grabsky).

Phil Grabsky’s In Search of Mozart traces Mozart’s life from his childhood in Salzburg to his death in Vienna in 1791 at the age of thirty-five from rheumatic fever and kidney failure. The film has gorgeous color, valuable commentary, visits to ten European capitals, and Mozart’s glorious and inspired music. Narrated by British actress Juliet Stevenson, the film includes interviews with musicologists and artists, the revelation of Mozart’s personal letters, and performances of eighty of his works, played with rare passion by some of the world’s greatest orchestras and singers. The first major feature-length documentary on Mozart’s life, it is a stunning celebration filled with the unyielding mystery of genius. Picking up the pieces from the wreck left by Amadeus, In Search of Mozart does justice to the man and his music.
14. Molière (Laurent Tirard).

When the facts are not readily available, Moliére uses guesswork, imagination, and creativity to fill in the blanks of the French playwright’s life. Director Laurent Tirard allows us to imagine characters and situations that might have led to such great works as Tartuffe, Le Bourgeois Gentlhomme and 28 other plays which roast the upper classes as affected hypocrites and worse. With the title role soulfully and convincingly performed by Romain Duris, Moliére may not fully capture the true essence of the French author, but it does suggest a writer of depth, wit, and inspiration. The film is speculation, not biography, but it is art and the payoff is a romantic and richly entertaining tribute to one of the greatest playwrights in history.
Most disappointing films of 2007:

Bridge to Terabithia
Once
The Missing Star
One Hundred Nails

15. No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson).
16. God Grew Tired of Us
(Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker)
17. Red Road
(Andrea Arnold).
18. Flight of the Red Balloon

(Hou Hsiao-Hsien).
19. Zodiac
(David Fincher).
20. Amazing Grace
(Michael Apted).
kc mcauley
My best of '07

I watch a lot of movies - many, many more than once. And every year, I keep track of the new (to me) movies that I see. This past year I watched 114 new movies. That's an average of 2 per week. So when I went to compile my list of the best movies of 2007, I was a little surprised to find that I couldn't come up with 10 "best" movies. I have 5 that I think will stand the test of time. And a few that I thought worth noting. I must preface this by saying that I have not seen what many consider to be the best film of the year - No Country for Old Men. Nor have I seen Juno - which is getting praise from many different circles of friends. So without further ado, here is my list of the best movies of 2007:

5. Zodiac (David Fincher) Based on Robert Graysmith's books about the Zodiac killer, this is a fine thriller. Fine performances all around, especially from Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. The film is well paced, taut, tense, and everything a thriller should be.

4. Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton). I loved this film version of the finest Stephen Sondheim musical. There were elements from the stage that I missed, but overall, a fine job from beginning to end.

3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik). I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is a beautiful movie from start to finish. Loved the look, the sound, the feel, the maturity of this movie. Don't miss it.

2. Ratatouille (Brad Bird). Pixar just gets better and better. And this is IMHO one of the best. The story is great, the rats are wonderful and the Proustian moment when Anton Ego tastes the simple Rattatoille meal - classic.

1. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck). Technically, this film is from 2006, but I saw it in Feb '07, just before the Oscars. It was the best film I saw all year and the only one I think will truly stand the test of time. Ulrich Mühe's performance is among the great film performances of all time. So sad that we in the West discovered him only to lose him too soon.

Honorable mentions - for first time efforts and swan songs.

Once (John Carney). The musical that took the movie world by storm. It's still playing around Portland in small houses. When it opened, it was only on one screen in the whole city.

Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck). Affleck's directorial debut shows his strengths and weaknesses. I look forward to more from him.

Into the Wild (Sean Penn). Penn obviously loved his subject and his scenery, but I just couldn't get behind the young man at the center of the story.

Waitress (Adrienne Shelly). Shelly's sweet love story was everything you want a good pie to be. Sweet but not too sweet. Light and fluffy - not too filling. With a perfect crust to hold it all together.


Alex Ellerman

What I Thought About What I Saw 2007
Since I rarely see movies in the theater, I haven't had a chance to catch up on the year-end Oscar bait. That said, here are my top ten for 2007. 
1. Ratatouille (Brad Bird).

In a year as good for movies as any I can remember, Ratatouille shines as a lovely, multilayered story, a compelling argument for criticism, and a remarkable technical achievement. I thought this film was doomed from the first promo reel – who cares about a rat that cooks? Boy, was I wrong. Ratatouille does everything right, and it's a film with genuine, earnest appeal for every member of its audience. In short, it's a masterpiece.

2. Superbad (Greg Mottola).
I started laughing about thirty seconds into Superbad, and I didn't stop until the end credits rolled. Then I went out and discussed the film with friends, and I laughed for another two hours. Superbad's comedy does not derive from silly costumes or outrageous gags. Rather, it derives from its characters; people who, while comic, still feel authentic. I enjoyed the hell out of my ride with them, and I look forward to taking it again.

3. 1408 (Mikael Håfström).
In a genre filled with slashers who are no more terrifying than anything else we might read about on the front page of the Washington Post, what a pleasure to find a well-executed ghost story. Not only did 1408 genuinely scare me, but it delivered delicious residual scares on my next hotel stay. I went into this movie with zero expectations. What a pleasant surprise.

4. Black Book (Paul Verhoeven).
Say what you will about the moral codes of its characters, Black Book excels at first creating tension, then ratcheting and ratcheting until our hearts are in our throats. Black Book works as a thriller, as a study of people under duress, and as an astonishing performance from Dutch star Carice van Houten. I'd gladly see it again.

5. Surf's Up (Ash Brannon and Chris Buck).
I expected Surf's Up to be a moderately entertaining kids' movie about talking penguins. I was surprised and delighted to find that it's a genuinely funny and creative kids' movie that had three generations of my family laughing out loud. Surf's Up is smart, fun, and funny. Combine those qualities with beautiful CGI, and you've got yourself a first-class film.

6. Zodiac (David Fincher).
I've had it with serial killer movies and police procedurals. I'm not into the fetishization of murder, and there's no glamour in police work that I can see. It would seem that David Fincher, director of Zodiac, feels the same. He takes a film that could be a serial killer movie, or a simple procedural, and turns it into an examination of obsession, influence, and the thin, thin margin between historic success and devastating personal failure. Zodiac captures its time and its people and, though long, races by and never lets go of our imaginations. This is a film that's well worth seeing.

7. Seraphim Falls (David Von Ancken).
Seraphim Falls is a western that takes westerns seriously. It nails the small details of the Mountain West, and its unique take on pursuit and revenge engages the mind and heart. I believed in Pierce Brosnan's and Liam Neeson's characters, I believed in their world, and I couldn't believe my eyes or ears when John Huston's daughter showed up and actually said, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." This film did not deserve to vanish.

8. Black Snake Moan (Craig Brewer).
Here's another film that disappeared unjustly. I think the whole "Samuel L. Jackson keeps that girl from The Addams Family chained up in his house" angle didn't attract the dating crowd, and that was a real shame. Black Snake Moan, from the director of Hustle & Flow, represents an authentic voice from the American South telling a story about his people and his world. This film made me reevaluate Christina Ricci and supporting actor Justin Timberlake, and it confirmed Samuel L. Jackson's status as one of the best American actors (in films where he's actually paying attention).

9. 300 (Zack Snyder).
300 takes "over the top" and goes over its top, giddily piling visual on top of visual as it tells the story of Sparta's defense of the Hot Gates, a strategic chokepoint, from assault by the vast armies of Persia. 300 loves the movies: it loves lighting, and music, and digital manipulation of image and sound to mine the most effect from every moment of its screen time. Further, it's educational: before watching this movie, I had no idea that Spartan warriors took regular injections of vitamin B-12.

10. Vitus (Fredi M. Murer).
Vitus tells the story of a boy so brilliant, not even the film is certain how brilliant he is. With the help of his grandfather (Bruno Ganz) Vitus must find his place in a world not designed for those as remarkable as he. While this movie started like a Swiss rehash of Searching for Bobby Fischer, it went in a different direction that both surprised and delighted me. Of all the film I've seen this year, I've made people sit down for only two of them: Vitus and Ratatouille. That ain't bad company.


Mark Netter

My Top 10 plus Best Revival

1. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson).
2. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen).
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by
the Coward Robert Ford
(Andrew Dominik).
4. Zodiac (David Fincher).
5. Black Book (Paul Verhoeven),
6. Superbad (Greg Mottola).
7. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg).
8. Hairspray (Adam Shankman).
9. Into the Wild (Sean Penn).
10. Control (Anton Corbijn).

Revival: Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982).





There Will Be Blood


Superbad

Scott McGee

There Will Be Blood
(Paul Thomas Anderson).
3:10 to Yuma (James Mangold).
The Assassination of Jesse James
by the Coward Robert Ford

(Andrew Dominik).
No Country For Old Men
(Joel and Ethan Coen).
The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass).
Juno (Jason Reitman).
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow).
No End In Sight (Charles Ferguson).
Superbad (Greg Mottola).
Zodiac (David Fincher).
Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett).
Once (John Carney).
The King of Kong (Seth Gordon).



3:10 to Yuma



Juno



Before the Devil
Knows You're Dead


Disturbia

Random others:

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet).
Lumet as a director can be wildly hit-or-miss. I’m still trying to forget Family Business. But this is stellar filmmaking, with all actors at the top of their game. Ethan Hawke continues to prove his acting chops in a showy supporting role. Greek tragedy in the suburbs.
Transformers (Michael Bay).
Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Robots were kick-ass cool,
Disturbia (D.J. Caruso).
A pleasant surprise. Carrie-Anne Moss was wasted though.
Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton).
I absolutely love the resurgence of the musical form this year, but I didn’t really care for Todd. Then again, I’m also not much for Sondheim.
300 (Zack Snyder).
A cheesy, silly history lesson.
Ratatouille (Brad Bird).
Pixar, is there nothing you can’t do?


©2008 CineScene