Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Garney's Top 10 of 2007

I know that Red posted a top 10 list already (in a more timely fashion) so view this as a late second opinion (only four movies appear on both lists). I didn't get a chance to see everything I was hoping to before creating this list, but here are the ten best I saw out of the more than 80 films released in 2007 that I did manage to see.

10. Atonement
I didn't read the Ian McEwan novel on which this film is based, but those who have read it claim it's an incredible adaptation and I believe it. Strongest in the first act, Atonement does an extraordinary job setting up the characters and pulling the audience in with its intriguing storytelling technique with scene playback from the central character's point of view. The long single-take steadicam shot that follows James McAvoy through the carnival grounds was one of the most stunning visual sequences of last year.

9. 300
Speaking of stunning visuals, 300 is nothing but from beginning to end. This may seem like an odd fit on this list, but I was engrossed in the movie from beginning to end and it was everything it should have been. I wasn't looking forward to seeing this film initially but everyone who saw it before me was raving so I went ahead and caught it in IMAX (this was the first movie to have the effects completely redone for IMAX) and felt like I had been through each battle myself by the time it ended.

8. Once
This film appealed to the musician in me, the romantic in me, and the part of me that makes me want to go around speaking in an Irish brogue all the time. This love story is as simple and beautiful as the melodies on the soundtrack (which also made my list of favorite albums of the year), and even Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying "A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year."

7. The Darjeeling Limited
When Red reported on this film last year, she quoted me as saying, "I loved how this film felt more organic than Anderson's other films. The film was more of a shared experience with the characters, and not just an obvious trajectory of plot development. I think a lot of that is because of Roman Coppola's contribution." So here are two firsts: the first time a Wes Anderson film made my top ten, and the first time I've quoted someone else quoting myself.

6. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Just like last year's Little Children, this film is another great movie that would've got a lot more attention if it had been released several years earlier. That doesn't make this any less compelling or relevant a film; it just means that the strong storytelling techniques it employs were once experimental cliches and gimmicks. The difference here is that there's more to it than the technique; there's a strong story with interesting characters exploring themes both timely and timeless. If you don't know what this film is about, do yourself a favor and just rent the DVD (scheduled for release in April) without reading any plot synopsis. Just let the movie unfold.

5. Eastern Promises
Between this film and A History of Violence, David Cronenberg has delivered one of the strongest one-two punches in dramatic violent cinema that recalls the groundbreaking earlier works of Martin Scorsese. Hopefully it won't take the Academy as long to recognize his achievements, who have yet to nominate him for anything in his impressive 30+ year career in film.

4. No Country for Old Men
With perhaps the exception of the movie that holds my number one spot here, this film was easily my most anticipated of the year. Having read and loved the Cormac McCarthy novel over the summer I knew no one could do it justice like the Coen Brothers (except for perhaps David Cronenberg). The Coen Brothers wrote easily the most outstanding adaptation of the year, and the only reason this movie isn't in my top three is because I think they were a little too faithful to the novel and they missed out on some great cinematic opportunities in the storytelling of this complicated twisty tale.

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
In a year full of fantastic works of fiction, it's refreshing to see this extraordinary true story be told in such a fascinating and artistic way by Julian Schnabel. Two-time Academy Award winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski deserves a third Oscar for what he accomplishes here as the audience is able to experience what it may have been like for Jean-Dominique Bauby, the Elle magazine editor who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body.

2. There Will Be Blood
If I can compare David Cronenberg's work to Martin Scorsese, then what Paul Thomas Anderson delivers here is as accomplished as the great works of David Lean and Orson Welles. Daniel Day Lewis deserves all the accolades he's receiving for the amazing character study he presents in the role of Daniel Plainview, but Paul Thomas Anderson deserves just as much credit for what could be a career-defining achievement.

1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
As much as I admire the craftsmanship of each film already listed, this is the one film where I truly loved every single frame. I had the privilege of performing in a college production of the stage musical several years ago in the role of Anthony, and I couldn't wait to see what Tim Burton would do with a cinematic adaptation. As always, he did not disappoint and delivered what was easily the most enjoyable and satisfying work of film for 2007.

For complete lists of the best in film for 2007, be sure to check out my blog (a GitW Approved Time Waster) to see what I rank as the 30 best films of 2007 as well as my own Oscar ballot ranking my top 5 choices in every category.

Also be sure to tune into Blog Talk Radio tonight for the Oscar, Oscar! broadcast where I will be discussing my picks and predictions for this weekend's Academy Awards with a panel of three or four other film enthusiasts, beginning at 9 pm eastern time.

4 comments:

Red said...

Excellent list. As you know, the only thing I disagree with is Sweeney Todd, but that's all Steven Sondheim's fault, not Tim Burton's.

Falwless said...

I haven't seen a lot of these (okay, okay, I haven't seen 9 of these). But, I really loved Once, so since you enjoyed it too I will consider your taste superb. I need to get crackin' on the rest of these.

Liz said...

Just saw Eastern Promises last night and it was really good. One of the more underrated movies of the year I think (I know Viggo is rightly nominated for best actor at the Os, but the rest of the film didn't get much love.

I kind of have to disagree with Darjeeling. It felt flat to me. Tenenbaums will always be Anderson's masterpiece to me.

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