Saturday, January 05, 2008

BEST OF 2007

****** Best of 2007 ******

This is the third year for my “Best Of” year-end review. It’s been a pretty good year for films – a good crop this year. Counting them up, I saw a total of 180 films in 2007. There’s usually more – I must be slacking off. A lot of people ask me where I get the time to watch so many movies. It’s easy, really. All you need to do is replace watching crap on TV with movies. There’s lots of good stuff on DVD and ON-DEMAND and even on VHS if you’re still living in the 80’s.

Like I said, it was a good year for movies and it was difficult to choose between the best – but I’ll make a stab at it. If I wait until a week from now and think about it some more, my list might be a little different. So here goes.

FISRT: the disclaimers.

  • These are not necessarily movies that came out in 2007; they are just movies that I saw in 2007.
  • I am not saying that these are the absolute best movies; they are just ones that I liked the best.
  • If you see a movie here that I didn’t feature on my site, it’s probably in my “waiting to be recommended” list.
  • I haven’t seen every movie - so if I don’t mention your favorite movie in this list, it probably just means that I haven’t seen it yet……………………………. or that I hated it!.
  • I realize that every other critic does a TOP-10 list, but really, 5 is hard enough, so I quit at 5. Plus some special prizes - just like in Cannes (I’ve never actually been to Cannes, but I’d like to. People, please send money so that I can afford to go to Cannes this year.).
  • For the most part, I’m avoiding the wide release movies. Everybody already knows about these. So, if you loved Pirates of the Caribbean, and wonder why it’s not on my list – that’s why.
  • The order of the films is not very significant. The “goodness” level of all these movies is very close. The movies below were ranked by awarding “Frank Points” to each one. After the rating process, The Frank Points were tallied up and the films placed in the proper order. The criteria for which Frank Points are awarded, is confidential and is only known to Frank - sorry.
  • That’s it!

SECOND: the movies.

  1. CHILDREN OF MEN: (English) The world is slowly dying from despair when women everywhere can no longer bear children. Hope arrives in the form of a young woman who is about to give birth to the first child in more than 18 years. Fast paced and suspenseful storytelling will keep you on the edge of your seat. This film has a lot to say about the nature of the human psyche, while at the same time, entertaining you.
  2. ONCE: (English) Totally emotionally satisfying love story about the magic of making music. It’s sweet, has a great soundtrack and was the audience favorite at the Sundance Film Festival last year. It didn’t get the promotion it deserved and didn’t play in the multiplexes, but now out on video, is enjoying a word of mouth campaign.
  3. THE LIVES OF OTHERS: (German) Tense, gripping Cold War drama about an East German surveillance expert who slowly realizes he’s spying on a loyal popular writer for all the wrong reasons. Both men are called to question their ideals. Won the Oscar for best foreign language film.
  4. PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER: (English) Gorgeously filmed story of a man born (Paris: 17-18 century) with a highly acute sense of smell , but with no scent of his own creates the greatest perfumes in France. The story takes a dark turn as he searches for the ultimate scent.
  5. PAN’S LABYRINTH: (Spanish) During WWII, a young girl escapes the brutality of fascist Spain by escaping into an eerie fantasy world. The contrasts and parallels between that world and real one form the basis of the film. Very violent but also beautiful and fascinating. Won the Oscar for art direction.

THIRD: The extras.

TIED FOR 6th PLACE: (no particular order)
LA BELLE NOISEUSE: (French) Enthralling story about what it takes to capture the soul of a person on canvas.

PARIS JE T’AIME: (French & English) A collection of 5-10 minute short films, about the city of Paris and love. Each film is by a different film-maker, and with different actors, and takes place in a different neighborhood of the city. Fun to watch.

BLACK BOOK: (Dutch & German) There were several WWII movies this year, but none were as much fun nor as exciting as this guilty pleasure. As a plus: it’s a true story.

LITTLE CHILDREN: (English) Well written and acted drama about married couples whose lives intersect on the playgrounds and streets of their small town in unexpected ways.

HALF NELSON: (English) Acting tour-de-force about a good young teacher in an inner city school who is addicted to drugs.

VOLVER: (Spanish) After her death, a woman returns to her home town to resolve the difficulties with her daughters she couldn’t during life. Great performance by Penelope Cruz.

BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN: Offensive and funny. Often you can’t watch but again, you can’t look away.

Runner up: HOT FUZZ: The guys that brought you Shaun of the Dead are at it again. They are cops in a small town trying to uncover a cover up.

RATATOUILLE: It seems these days that Pixar can do no wrong. Yet, even among their hits, this one’s a home run. A rat in Paris, dreams of becoming a chef.

Runner up: HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE: A young girl, cursed by a witch and turned into an old crone, finds refuge in Howl’s castle, which, by the way, walks around on four legs. Another masterpiece from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.

TIDELAND: Holy crap! This movie is so dark (and I’m not referring to the lighting) that you often actually fear for the young actress playing the lead role. It’s a great movie, but definitely not for everyone.

Runner up: CRASH (1996): Not the 2004 Oscar winner! This is the 1996 David Cronenberg film about a group of people who seek sensual fulfillment through crashing their automobiles. I did say this was the “dark” category.

THE HOST: (Korean) A good old-fashioned monster movie like you thought they didn’t make any more. The slickest, coolest, funnest creature feature in many a year.

Runner up: 28 DAYS LATER I know practically everybody has seen this film, but I didn’t get around to it until this past year. This somewhat different take on the zombie genre has spawn many a copycat, including I Am Legend (now in theaters).

INLAND EMPIRE: Strange in the conventional sense, but business as usual in the David Lynch sense. An actress (Laura Dern) takes a wrong turn and is drawn into a nightmarish Dystopian world.

Runner up: WEEK END: (French) A couple take a weekend drive into the countryside and into the twilight zone of endless traffic jams and pile-ups in this off-beat surreal comedy.

PLANET TERROR: This movie is just jam-packed chock full of goofy insane action. There isn’t a single frame not filled with something outrageous to look at.

Runner up: ATTACK THE GAS STATION: (Korean) Slick action comedy about a group of bored street youths who rob a gas station. The next night, because they’re bored and can’t think of anything else to do, they decide to rob it again. This one’s a classic.

THE UP DOCUMENTARIES: Perhaps the greatest social experiment ever captured on film. A group of 7 year old schoolchildren are interviewed about a wide range of personal and social issues. Every 7 years the same group is re-interviewed. The progression of views and of the stages of life are spotlighted.

Runner up: INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS: Is it a mockumentary? It’s not clear even after viewing. This film chronicles film-maker and documentarian, Werner Herzog, who travels to Scotland to film a documentary about the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Tongue-in-cheek humor abounds.

THE NUMBER 23: I really really wanted to like this movie. It wasn’t the worst film of the year, I just expected much more. Silly me.

GRAY MATTERS: You’ve probably never heard of this movie. That’s okay! I saw it and it looked like just the sort fun romantic comedy I was looking for. It was truly wretched. Too bad – I really like Heather Graham.


At 6:09 PM, Anonymous patrick said...

saw Perfume recently, it was well done in general, good character building, original cinematography... it says a lot about human nature as well.


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