Best of 2007; or, Yay More Lists!

Well, it’s that time of year. And while most critics seem to be bemoaning to one degree or another the expectation that they compile year-end top ten lists, I still relish list-making, even though any list I might make is going to woefully incomplete. This year I saw 182 movies, which is roughly double my normal average. Not having a job is a big help. ;) And enough of them were released this year for me to be comfortable making a Top Ten of 2007 list. It’s still incomplete, but hey. It’s a fair working list, I think. After the released-in-2007 list are a bunch of more subjective I-watched-in-2007 lists of both films and books.

Top Ten 2007

(A few of the top 2007 films I actually saw early in January before I posted this. I thought it prudent to include them here, but they don’t appear in my favorites-that-I-watched-in-2007 list because, well, I didn’t watch them in 2007).

Links lead to my original review or reaction post; I tried to get anchors to work in the reaction posts so that the link would take you straight to the relevant part of the post, but I was unsuccessful. Sorry.

No Country for Old Men – The Coen brothers are back, and as good as ever, blending creepy atmosphere and dark humor perfectly.
Once – I almost put this on top, simply because I love it so much, but NCFOM deserves to be number one.
Juno – Clever, snarky, human, and Ellen Page being brilliant.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – A film of great beauty and sensitivity that I never wanted to end.
Eastern Promises – Not as edgy as Cronenberg often is, but an extremely solid crime film nonetheless.
Hot Fuzz – Probably the most enjoyable film of the year; part action, part comedy, all pop-culture-referential, and pretty much all perfect.
Away from Her – Simple and perfectly acted and directed drama; Julie Christie is quietly sensational as a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
3:10 to Yuma – One of the first westerns I’ve seen recently to successfully use and update the genre conventions.
Ratatouille – Not Pixar’s best, but that’s hardly an insult; the added bonus of a Parisian setting had me at go.
Waitress – The sweetest film of the year has enough sarcastic bite in the script to keep it from going completely off the rails into sentimentality. My major faux pas of the year, apparently, was forgetting to include Waitress in my monthly recaps.

Honorable Mentions

Atonement – Extremely faithful adaptation; well-done, but also more literary than cinematic except for a few virtuosic steadicam shots.
Paris, je t’aime – Not all the short films in this compendium are good, but many of them are excellent, and how could I not love 18 films about Paris?
Enchanted – Amy Adams (and James Marsden) elevate this from what could have been pure cheese to a delightful fantasy/comedy.
Zodiac – Hits a sweet spot between serial killer thriller and ambiguous character study.
The Darjeeling Limited – Doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of The Royal Tenenbaums, but still an evocative, entertaining Wes Anderson-esque road film.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – A bit on the gory side, but beautifully shot, acted, and yes, even sung. Macabre is the word.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – The Harry Potter series keeps getting better; great supporting work gives this one an extra edge.
The Lookout – This little crime film must have gone under a lot of radars, because it deserved more attention than it got.
The Bourne Ultimatum – Another solid entry in the already solid Bourne series, proving that action franchises can be both exciting and smart.
Paprika – Dreams and reality start to mix with potentially world-ending results in this visually inventive anime film. I *heart* reality-blurring stories.
Avenue Montaigne – Unassuming and enjoyable little French film of interlocking relationships in the vicinity of the Parisian concert hall.
Across the Universe – The melding of Beatles music with a 1960s love story/political scene doesn’t completely work, but much of it is lovely.

Haven’t Seen

Films which have been on lots of critics lists or are otherwise notable, and thus might be on my lists somewhere, but I haven’t seen yet.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Persepolis, I’m Not There, There Will Be Blood, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, This is England, Rescue Dawn, Lars and the Real Girl, Margot at the Wedding, Sunshine

edit 5/5/08The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has moved up to second place, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is in 4th, but constantly threatens to move up to second or third, The Assassination of Jesse James is now 6th, and Lars and the Real Girl and Sunshine are in the low twenties. I hated There Will Be Blood, so it’s down at #32. Sorry.

After the jump, my favorite films I watched all year, regardless of release date, as well as favorite books I read.

My Film-Watching Year in Review

These lists are NOT ranking of the “best” films I saw, merely of the ones I liked the best. Hence, there are some in the Loved category that are not as objectively good as some in the Liked category, and so on. So don’t whine at me because I put a Bergman film down in the Recommended category, while stuff like District B-13 is in Liked…I enjoyed District B-13 more than Winter Light, even though it obviously isn’t as great a film. The top films in lower lists are likely “better” than the bottom films in higher lists. Such is the nature of subjectivity. That also means that these lists aren’t going to necessarily bear a lot of relation to the ratings I gave the films in my initial reaction posts, because I try to be more objective in those. I didn’t even try for objectivity in these lists. You’ll also notice that my attempts to limit the number of films in each section failed miserably. With as many good films as I saw this year, trying to say that only ten or fifteen or twenty could be in a list seemed even more arbitrary than the separations between Loved, Really Liked, and Recommend.

Films I LOVED

Heh, the first thing I notice about this list is that the top eight are foreign. Apparently I’m still in that elitist phase.

Pan’s Labyrinth
Band of Outsiders
The Double Life of Veronique
Red
All About My Mother
Vivre sa vie
Once
L’Avventura
INLAND EMPIRE
No Country for Old Men
Pierrot le fou
The New World
Taxi Driver
The Squid and the Whale
Marie Antoinette
Hot Fuzz
A Woman is a Woman
The Lives of Others
Hannah and Her Sisters
Waitress (somehow I managed to miss this one in my recaps!)
Written on the Wind
Eastern Promises
Paris, je t’aime
The Fountain
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Two for the Road
Rushmore
The Great Escape
Enchanted
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Films I Really Liked

Children of Men
Unforgiven
Celine and Julie Go Boating
The Naked Kiss
The Darjeeling Limited
Dogville
Ratatouille
Away from Her
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Interiors
Ride the High Country
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Mildred Pierce
A Mighty Wind
They Were Expendable
The Cranes are Flying
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Rain Man
The Great Dictator
Blue
Zodiac
Notes on a Scandal
Through a Glass Darkly
The Lookout
Detective Story
The Killers (1946)
Alphaville
The Shining
Across the Universe
Zoolander
Safety Last
The Bourne Ultimatum
Breakfast on Pluto
Slacker
Avenue Montaigne
The Devil Wears Prada
The Illusionist
One, Two, Three
The Prestige
Cars
Troll 2
Broken English
Little Children
This Film is Not Yet Rated
Dreamgirls
Renaissance
Ocean’s Thirteen
Three Kings
District B-13

Films I Recommend

Winter Light
Umberto D
The Fallen Idol
Bob le flambeur
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
While the City Sleeps
The Bourne Supremacy
Black Book
A Fistful of Dollars
Russian Ark
Flags of Our Fathers
The Freshman (1925)
Dancer in the Dark
Day of Wrath
Red Road
Gone Baby Gone
Kiss Me Deadly
Joyeux Noel
My Life as a Dog
The Good Shepherd
Look Both Ways
Half Nelson
Oldboy
Three Times
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
To Sir With Love
Green for Danger
They Drive By Night
The Desperate Hours
Starter for 10
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Ladies They Talk About

My Book-Reading Year in Review

Books I LOVED

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Can’t Quit You Baby by Ellen Douglas
Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale Hurston

Books I Really Liked

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Complete Poems by Langston Hughes
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Cane by Jean Toomer
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Books I Recommend

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Big Sea by Langston Hughes
Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton (I didn’t write about this, as I usually don’t about lit-crit books, but this is a really good introduction to the field of literary theory, if you’re interested in that sort of thing)
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines