Last year my goal was to watch 200 movies I had never seen before. I don't know if that sounds like a lot, but it was a lot for me. Sure, it averages to less than 17 movies a year...but you go try it, ok? Anyway, I achieved my goal, wrapping everything up in a pretty little bow by seeing my 200th movie on New Year's Eve. Now I'm attempting to make my top ten list for 2007. It's a little different this year. In previous years I would peruse the list of all the films released in a year, note how many I'd seen, then pick out my favorites from that list. This year, I already have a list of all the movies I saw, and they are rated on a 0 to 4 star scale, so it's fairly simple to pick out my 4 and 3 1/2-star movies. The only difficult part has been deciding which 3-star movies belong on the list, so I will follow the list with a few "honorable mention" films. I was interested today to discover that the movies on this list fit into three categories: comedies, really bleak and depressing movies, and documentaries.
Here we go, in descending order:
1. Superbad - This was my most highly anticipated movie of the year and, for once, I was not disappointed. I have already written a lot about this film, and there's not much more I feel I can say...I'm sad it wasn't recognized in the Best Original Screenplay category in this year's Academy Awards because I think it was an amazingly well crafted movie. And I think it is kind of hilarious that Seth Rogen has no picture on his IMDB page . If you want to read my review/rant click here.
2. Hot Fuzz - This movie was hilarious, not quite as exquisite as Superbad, but geez it was good. There has been some contention among the people I know as to whether Hot Fuzz or the earlier movie from the same team, Shaun of the Dead, is better. I can't make a definite yay or nay on either side; it's been far too long since I've seen Shaun of the Dead, but I believe that, overall, Hot Fuzz was a far worse received movie. It was, in fact, this movie and Superbad that resulting in my ceasing to read reviews by Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, in part because she didn't like Hot Fuzz because, according to her, it was too "British" to be funny to Americans. Unfortunately for Ms. Schwarzbaum, she is retarded, because, even if Americans don't realize that Pegg and Co. are gently poking fun at them, they will still find much to laugh at in a movie that so cleverly references American classics like Point Break and Bad Boys II. I think you may have trouble with this movie if you've never seen an action film, but I'd still give it a try, if only for the very exciting supporting and cameo cast.
3. The Host - Horrifying, uplifting, touching and heartbreaking. All with some of the most awesome special effects I've seen in some time. Please see this movie.
4. Juno - This is the movie that caused a friend of mine to comment, "I realized, Michael Cera has no range!" and I would have to respectfully disagree. If you're of the same mind as my friend, I would check out Clark and Michael at clarkandmichael.com. Anyway, I may be too enamored of Michael Cera, but I don't think it clouded my judgement of this movie. It is, at times, overly precious and stilted, but I felt that everything came together and it was, in the end, extremely sweet without being treacly. I was really surprised by Jennifer Garner in this movie, I usually find her stomache-ache inducing, but she was believable and relatable.
5. Protagonist - I don't know if many people were able to see this movie, I think it may have played only at Sundance theaters, but it is available through Netflix, so put it on your queue right now! It tells the seemingly disparate life stories of four men, weaving them together using the plays of Euripides and puppetry. It's directed by Jessica Yu, who is the auteur behind another of the most inventive documentaries of the past few years, In The Realms of the Unreal. I think this movie was especially interesting to me because of my interest in the Greek Tragedies, but even if you don't know Clytemnestra from Medea you will find the tales the four men have to tell fascinating.
6. No Country For Old Men - I think I could say Javier Bardem and that would be enough. But then I would be neglecting to say Tommy Lee Jones. And Kelly Macdonald. And I'll throw Josh Brolin out there, heck why not? Also, I think I get more excited about bleak Western expanses than most. But...Javier Bardem. That's really all you need to know.
7. Margot at the Wedding - Margot is another movie that got very little love. I am actually trying to understand why I liked it so much, because it is a very nasty and mean little film. At first I thought maybe you had to be from a supremely fucked up family to relate, but now I think maybe it has to do more with sisters specifically. Nicole Kidman is more alive in this movie than she has been in...probably forever. Noah Baumbach is really good at finding great young actors, but his interest in childhood sexuality is still creepy.
8. Knocked Up - I am a Judd Apatow fan from way back, I was a little too young for the Ben Stiller Show (besides, wasn't it on HBO? You think I was some kind of rich kid?), but I watched Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared when they first aired and I'm really glad that they are getting some of the attention they deserve on DVD. The 40 Year Old Virgin was my number one movie of 2005. I was a little disappointed in Knocked Up, I have to say, and more than a little disappointed in the "anti-abortion genre" discussion it incited, but it was solid; it was funny and sweet. And I'm glad it made Seth Rogen a star. Paul Rudd is the highlight of the movie for me, but when is he not? Paul Rudd is a genius character actor, and I hope one day he gets the recognition he deserves.
9. Stephanie Daley - Another movie I think no one saw, but that I absolutely can't get out of my head. I was musing just yesterday why it wasn't brought up in the whole anti-abortion genre discussion, but I guess it was too small to be noticed and it is all the better that it didn't have it's name sullied by any association with that nonsense. This movie is a little crazy, and I'm not sure why it had such an affect on me; I saw this movie probably in June of last year on a whim, not knowing anything about it. It drew me in totally unexpectedly. I think it is so fascinating because it is so outlandish and rather shocking and at the same time very real. Amber Tamblyn is perfect, mostly innocent and bland with just a hint of something really sinister lurking underneath.
10. Deep Water - Wow. This movie is a total wow. It's one of those documentaries that make you wonder "why have I not heard this story before?" It tells the story of a contest sponsored by the Times of London to see who would be the first person to circumnavigate the globe, nonspot, completely alone. It focuses on the most unlikely competitor, Donald Crowhurst. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give anything away, I'll just say that this movie will make you think, and that will probably make you more than a little uncomfortable.
*Zodiac - I was totally geeking on this movie because a lot of it was filmed in San Francisco (in fact, around the same time The Pursuit of Happyness was being filmed here as well) and it was exciting to walk past film sets on my way to work in the FiDi. I was also excited because, hello! Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo (who, the year before this filmed, had been giving me and my roommate palpitations by filming Just Like Heaven in our Chinatown/North Beach neighborhood) and Robert Downey, Jr.! When I actually saw the movie, I was surprised to find more of my favorite actors, like Adam Goldberg and John Ennis had roles as well. There was nary an actor who wasn't somebody. Anyway, Zodiac was good, even though it turned a little movie of the week at parts. Robert Downey, Jr. was pretty amazing in it.
*Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains - Before I saw this movie I didn't know much about Jimmy Carter except that when I wore my Jimmy Carter button around the neighborhood, the Palestinian shop keepers really liked it. "He's a great man," they would say. I mean, I also knew about the energy crisis and the Iranian hostage situation and Habitat for Humanity and the Nobel Peace prize. And that he is universally hated by Republicans. But that's just history class. Through this documentary, which tells his story as it follows him through his book tour for "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," you get to see an incredibly compassionate, forward thinking man who is unlike any politician you've ever known. See it even if you're not into politics, it may restore your faith in humanity.
So, that's it. My 2007 in a nutshell. Sorry it's so long and rambling, but that's kind of who I am. Sue me.