Best Films of 2007
I seem to find myself saying this every year, but after a dismal start last spring, the films that came out in the fall (and early winter) were magnificent. I don't know of a year when there were so many wonderful, even great films, and what more can a critic wish for? Let me say that for one reason or another, I have made this list without seeing "There Will Be Blood" or "Persepolis," one or both of which might be on my list. They will be addressed next week. In the meantime, we had plenty of elegant and eloquent work to choose from. Here are my selections for this year:
1. "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Before you say it's too bloody for words or for your own stomach, I want you to get hold of a collection of Jacobean plays (the era just following the Elizabethan time of Shakespeare and Marlowe). Read the revenge tragedies "The White Devil" and "The Duchess of Malfi" and then tell me that "Sweeney Todd" is needlessly bloody. It simply follows in a line of great theatre. And of course it has the performance of the year by Johnny Depp, who sings his way through this classic revenge tragedy.
2. "La Vie En Rose"
What a brilliant biography of 'the little sparrow,' Edith Piaf, from a childhood ugly beyond belief to a time when she was the most popular icon in the world, to a dismal end at 46. The film spares no one, including Piaf, and has one of the great performances of the year by Marion Cotillard as Piaf.
If there were any justice in this world, Michael Moore would be our Secretary of Health and Human Services, putting in place a single-payer government sponsored health system that covers everyone - at half the cost of our present system and with infinitely better results. Why do we not have it now? Because we're stupid, that's why. So unfortunately, all we have is his film work, which just might - down the road a century or so - lead to a better life for us all.
>4. "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead">
An odd title for this brilliant crime noir by the great Sidney Lumet. Two brothers, needing money, conceive a robbery that will hurt no one and make them rich. Only life isn't quite like that. Wonderful performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and his weak brother Ethan Hawke, and brilliant direction that fragments everything without losing any momentum. You will be on the edge of your seat throughout.
5. "Eastern Promises"
David Cronenberg has made an almost perfect film about the Russian Mafia in London, starring Viggo Mortensen as the mob's chauffeur and enforcer. A young nurse finds herself involved, and things just get worse and worse. The film is marred by changing focus in its last five minutes, but the rest of it is brilliant.
>6. "Gone Baby Gone">
Ben Affleck has directed this Dennis Lehane novel about a slutty, slatternly woman whose child disappears; his younger brother Casey plays a neighborhood private eye who's hired to help the police find her. The film has a couple of plot twists that will jerk you upright, and two great performances: one from Casey Affleck and the other from Amy Ryan as the mother. Both of them are fearless and deserve any and all awards.
This beautiful adaptation from Ian McEwan's novel gives us the story of how three people's lives are changed when one of them, the 13-year-old sister of Cecilia (the beautiful Keira Knightley) misunderstands what she sees when she comes upon her sister and her loverand compounds it with a story that she has made up in her imagination, and then lives to try and undo it. Wonderfully directed by Joe Wright, with James McAvoy as the lover.
8. "No Country for Old Men"
Another brilliant adaptation from Cormac McCarthy by Joel and Ethan Coen, a film that takes no prisoners, about a man who finds $2 million from a drug deal that's gone bad, and a man - really a force of nature - who pursues him to the end, two brilliant performances from Josh Brolin, the man who finds the money and then finds himself beyond his depth; and Javier Bardem, as his implacable pursuer. A violent film, but always true to McCarthy's book.
9. "The Simpsons Movie"
Just a barrel of laughs, and when did you ever see a film that was exactly that? With everything from Bart's doodle to Homer and his pet pig on the ceiling. Just see it and be glad that it was made.
10. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
A fascinating study of a man at the end of his rope (Brad Pitt as Jesse) and the young man who worships him (Casey Affleck as Robert Ford). You should just let this film come to you at its own pace; it will stay with you afterward.
As I said above, the list of films worthy of your attention is enormous this year. Here, in no particular order, at the films that normally would have been on my 10-best list but didn't quite make it:
"Juno," "Across the Universe," "The Bourne Ultimatum," "Charlie Wilson's War," "Death at a Funeral," "The Italian," "In the Valley of Elah," "The Kingdom," Letters from Iwo Jima," "The Lookout," "Lust, Caution," "Mr. Brooks," "A Mighty Heart," and "You Kill Me."
Do see them all if you can; you won't be disappointed.