Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Ten Movies of 2007


My Top 10 Movies of 2007

I didn't realize "The Lives of Others" was in this year's line-up, or I definitely would have included it, and I think if I had seen "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" it would be one of my favorites. I cry every time I see the preview. Tonight, I hope to see "Margot at the Wedding." (PS: Loved it!)

1) "Once" Low budget and authentic feeling, this unusual Irish musical is an old-fashioned love story that breaks your heart. Glen Hansard, lead singer for the Frames, a popular Irish folk rock group, looks like your typical guy playing the guitar on the streets for change; and you can't take your eyes off Marketa Irglova, a teenage Czech singer-songwriter as the fan who believes in him. If "Ray" and "Walk the Line" are musical odysseys, "Once" is a poem. Magical.
2) "Bourne Ultimatum" A hypnotic existential journey with Matt Damon as directed by Paul Greengrass ("United 93"), the third movie about CIA assassin Jason Bourne, an international hitman who can't remember who he really is. We experience car chases, crashes, explosions, gunfights and fistfights as if they're part of a continuous nightmare from which we and Bourne cannot awaken.
3) "Into the Wild" I was fully prepared to be irritated by Sean Penn's adapt ation of the 1996 bestseller by Jon Krakauer about young Chris McCandless's bid to shed the shackles of society and go it alone in the wilds of outer Alaska. I came out chastising myself for my mindless cynicism. Scenic and heartwrenching with a soaring soundtrack by Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam.
4) "A Mighty Heart" Karachi, Pakistan, where the late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl lost his life, upstages the powerful presence of Angelina Jolie as Pearl's wife Mariane in this gripping political thriller. We know how it ends, but the documentary-style scenes of the streets of Karachi, where Pearl was kidnapped on his way to a supposed interview with an al Qaeda sympathizer, are irresistibly suspenseful.
5) "310 to Yuma" A lean remake of a 1957 movie by the same name, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, starring two actors who never disappoint -- Russell Crowe, as the bad guy and Christian Bale as the good guy. It feels like an ;archetypal morality tale played out against an existential old West.
6) "La Vie en Rose" A haunting biopic about Edith Piaf (1915-1963), one of France's most beloved and iconic singers, thanks to Marion Cotillard's soulful performance. It leaves out significant facts of her life -- that she was helpful to the French Resistance, for instance -- but I felt as though I got to know the essential Piaf, because -- AND, somehow, in spite -- of the movie.
7) "In the Valley of Elah" I do not relish seeing any more movies about the Iraq War in my lifetime. But the power of this one is undeniable, thanks to Tommy Lee Jones' intense performance as a father and a military man whose son has gone missing after returning from Iraq. The scenes of the atrocities committed there as reconstructed from videos from a cell phone camera are chilling.
8) "I'm Not There" Yes, there were times this strange, um -- what to call it? -- biopic about Bob Dylan by the daring director Todd Haynes dragged, but I can't stop thinking about Cate Blanchett's interpretation of the great singer-poet.. It's as if she momentarily captured his elusive genius like a firefly in a bottle.
9) "Lars and the Real Girl" On the surface, this is a sweet, quirky ensemble piece about a community in some frozen outpost somewhere near Lake Wobegon, involving a shy man, his brother and sister-in-law and a blow-up doll. But the more you think about it, you realize it's got an intriguing intellectual premise about how reality is a group projection.
10) "Sicko" I'm not a Michael Moore apologist; he's often annoying. But the guy can make a powerful and entertaining documentary. I laughed -- especially at the part where we see the slovenly Moore walking near the Eiffel Tower, while a breathy French songstress sings the words "Je T'aime." I cried at the tales of outrageous acts perpetrated by insurance companies. Someone do something about our health care system. Please.

2 comments:

  1. I haven't ssen most of these (TODDLER! ARGH!) But I agree with you on Bourne — so much more than a simple spy flick; I've loved the entire series.

    And The Lives of Others was a marvel. I found it incredibly moving. Even more so in retrospect given the facts about the lead actor: The actor who played the East German spy was for years under surveillance/blacklisted himself in East Germany and died not long after this movie came out.

    And I'm dying to see Once — I've read nothing but raves. Thank goodness for netflix.

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  2. I liked Sicko the best (I am, as clear elsewhere in Mary's annals, a Michael Moore fan, who is of course not perfect but still great and needs no apologists IMHO).
    Of course this film has its critics, though 93% of 181 reviewers liked it on rottentomatoes.com. But people got lost I think in quibbling about his bias (though he is clear that he does editorials not 'objective' pieces) or whether every detail was perfectly correct, and often overlooked the sheer brilliance and audacity of some of the story choices. In particular, he didn't just look for people abused or forgotten by the U.S. health care system, but thought to seek out perhaps the most unlikely and outraging example -- neglected fire and rescue workers from 9/11 -- and then actually loaded these people in boats in Miami and crossed the Gulf to Guantanimo (where they were of course ignored/rebuffed) and then on to Cuba itself where they finally got full health care; all in the same movie as just one of many story lines. Of course my favorite films in general tend to be those that combine comedy and social commentary (e.g., Life of Brian, Dr. Strangelove, Slaughterhouse Five [film as well as book]...).

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