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Drink It Up! The Best and Worst Films of 2007

by David Cornelius

Anyone saying 2007 was a terrific year for movies is full of it.

This is not meant as an insult to the year in film; after all, 2007 wasn’t a bad year for movies. But it certainly wasn’t some breakthrough era, twelve months of moviegoing glory, and I’m baffled by those saying it was.

No, it was, simply, a perfectly average year: a handful of truly great movies, a handful of truly awful movies, and whole lot in the middle. As usual, some undeserving movies have received far too much attention, while other terrific pictures have become underappreciated. But if 2007 was such a great year, why was everyone complaining that the summer was the worst movie summer ever? Heck, can you even have a great movie year when two of the biggest hits were “300” and “Wild Hogs”?

What is notable about 2007 is the quality of the very best of these films - in my original review, I hailed my pick for the year’s best film as also being one of the best films made in my lifetime, which, hyperbole be damned, is just how utterly stunned I was by its brilliance. The best-of list is full of such hyperbole; the movies listed here were truly exceptional experiences.

Note: I chose not to include any direct-to-video titles in this year’s list, having previously given those films their own separate recap.

So here they are, my picks for the year’s very best and very worst.

The Best Films of 2007

1. “There Will Be Blood.”
Yes, “There Will Be Blood” is one of the all-time greats, a masterwork of character drama powered by a keen eye for cinematic storytelling at its very best. Brought to life with tremendous power by Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Plainview is a dangerous, quiet, dominant figure who’s boiling with rage and contempt toward his fellow man, and his showdowns with Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday are nothing short of electrifying. Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction is as confident as it is complex, while his multilayered script allows for surprises to be revealed on repeat viewings. This is a work worth every superlative tossed its way, a big screen wonder in a league all its own.

2. “Once.” Far from the operatic sprawl of “Blood” is “Once,” a modest little musical about two lost souls finding each other, if only for a little while, on the streets of Dublin. Real-life musicans Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová deliver soft-spoken, hard-hitting emotional performances, while writer/director John Carney lends the film a much-needed delicate touch. Many films claim to be heartwarming; this one’s the real deal, a great big cozy hug on celluloid.

3. “Meet the Robinsons.” It begins as a typical Disney story, what with the orphanage and the cute kids and such. Then the Bowler Hat Guy, one of the greatest (and funniest) of all cartoon villains, appears, and suddenly we’re whisked away into a land of glorious imagination. Sweet and clever and spot-on hilarious, this is Disney’s best animated work in a long, long time. It was a visual marvel in Disney’s “Real D” 3-D process, but of course its humor and heart hold up just as well in two dimensions.

4. “Gone Baby Gone.” Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, is a ripping good mystery that’s smothered in all the right genre ingredients: seedy characters, labyrinthine plot, somber tone. The film then adds on a layer of moral ambiguity, questioning the very meaning of right and wrong.

5. “No Country For Old Men.” Everything you’ve heard about the Coen Brothers’ latest work is true: “No Country” is an overwhelming experience. At once creepy and mesmerizing, thrilling and meditative, this is the siblings’ finest work since “Miller’s Crossing.”

6. “Grindhouse.” On their own, Robert Rodriguez’ “Planet Terror” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” would both make this list. Slapped together on the kookiest double bill imaginable (dig those fake trailers!), these two tributes to schlock turned out to be one hell of a multiplex experience.

7. “Stardust.” To call “Stardust” magical is to risk making a horrible pun, but it’s true: this over-the-top fairy tale is a magical work, bursting with excitement over its own grand spectacle.

8. “Ratatouille.” Never content to rest on its laurels, Pixar delivered its most ambitious project yet, and the result was another of their trademark pieces of perfection. Even stone-hearted critic Anton Ego would agree.

9. “Chalk.” Finally, a “Spinal Tap” for the public education set! This teeny mockumentary, made by real-life teachers and a cast with a knack for brilliant improvisation, follows the year in the life of a public high school. It’s not just funny, not just touching: it’s dead-on authentic.

10. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” Before we get to the big-scale battle-in-a-maelstrom finale, we must first get through some wonderful weirdness, and that weirdness is what makes “At World’s End” such over-the-top entertainment. This trilogy has been gloriously excessive, gloriously strange, and gloriously fun, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Savvy?

Honorable mention: “The Key to Reserva.” One of the year finest pictures never played on multiplex screens, was never released on DVD. “The Key to Reserva” is little more than a wine commercial-by-way-of-viral video, but with Martin Scorsese using the clip to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock, the whole thing turned into nine minutes of movie geek heaven.

Runners-up: “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon,” “Colma: The Musical,” “Hairspray,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The Lookout,” “Offside,” “28 Weeks Later,” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”

The Worst Films of 2007

1. “300.”
Lemme get this straight: a king who rules with fascist glee, an army that slaughters for fun, and a tribe that kills any member who’s not genetically pure - and these are the good guys? And yet the ethical questionability of “300” is the least of its worries. The movie is one long fight scene, and never does it realize that two hours of the same goddamn thing can get pretty boring pretty quickly, and that’s not even factoring in the snoozy repetitiveness of the shots. (Seriously, enough with the slo-mo, okay?) The dialogue - the few bits that aren’t generic military hoo-rah sloganeering, that is - is atrocious, made doubly worse by acting so hammy Miss Piggy should get residuals. Those who enjoy delicious irony have enjoyed calling out the film’s blatant homophobia and how it’s conveniently delivered by preening, hunky man-meat who’re constantly making with the googly eyes already. (Seriously, get a room, fellas.) “300” is one overlong chunk of dumb, and it’s super, thanks for asking.

2. “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.” Whatever homophobia wasn’t handled in “300” shows up in the contemptible “Chuck & Larry,” in which Adam Sandler goes through the catalogue of slurs, then yells at everyone else for doing the same. This is the sort of movie you’d like to punch in the kidney.

3. “Epic Movie.” Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are the laziest, stupidest, downright worst people working in Hollywood today, and “Epic Movie” is just another of their pointless, soulless “parodies” that confuse dumbass reference for comedy.

4. “Norbit.” Eddie Murphy does more of his tiresome fat suit schtick, and it cost him an Oscar. And why not? His caricatures are embarrassing, crude, and lame, and whatever goodwill “Dreamgirls” brought his way vanished before this one’s first reel finished unspooling.

5. “Who’s Your Caddy?” Black people are loud and fun; white people are nerdy and stuffy. This is groundbreaking stuff. Late in the film, Jeffrey Jones falls face-first into a pile of horse dung, acting as a metaphor for both his career and this movie.

6. “Next.” Nicolas Cage overacts his way through this side-splittingly brainless wad of sci-fi about a Vegas magician who can see the future and the FBI agent who wants him to find a stolen Russian nuke. It is, somehow, even worse than it sounds.

7. “Juno.” Listen up, homeskillet: the year’s most annoyingly overpraised screenplay is a one-note wonder, juggling idiotic one-liners and passing them off as wit. The hipper-than-thou dialogue is murder on the ears, and watching this emotionally vacant dramedy unfold is like being locked in a coffeehouse with a group of poseurs who can only communicate via pop culture references. Shut up, movie. Just shut the fuck up.

8. “Bratz.” Based on a line of skanky dolls, “Bratz” (dear lordy, that spelling!) is a celebration of girl power for the tweener set - assuming that “girl power” means “going shopping” and “going to parties.” Bonus: Of all the lousy performances Jon Voight gave this year, this movie features the Jon Voightiest.

9. “Wild Hogs.” Et tu, William H. Macy?

10. “The Bridge to Terabithia.” On one hand, it’s a lousy coming-of-age drama riddled with limp dialogue and moronic cliché. On the other hand, it’s a dopey fantasy yarn riddled with limp dialogue and moronic cliché.

Runners-up: “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters,” “The Condemned,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Funny Money,” “Happily N’Ever After,” “The Hitcher,” “The Last Mimzy,” “Pathfinder,” “Perfect Stranger,” and “The Ultimate Gift.”

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originally posted: 01/15/08 14:19:40
last updated: 01/15/08 14:34:43
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