The year’s best film , There Will Be Blood, closed in a orchestral flourish with this amazing piece from Brahms. It was a fantastic way to end a wonderfully strange year at the cinema.
2007 ended up being a great year for films, possibly the best since 1999. While 2006 was consistent in its passably entertaining mediocrity, filmmakers seemed to take more chances in 2007 leading to more highs (see below), more curiosities (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Beowulf, Sweeney Todd), and more lows (I Am Legend–not quite legendary). The year’s two greatest films explored Greed and the American Dream. There Will Be Blood took an epic approach to explore how greed driven and focused can build nations while slowly devouring the soul of the individual, while Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead took an intimate approach and explored how greed ill-planned and misdirected can destroy a family in the blink of an eye. While Hollywood seemed to cash in on more name brand sequels and three-quels than ever before (and the public ate them up ad-naseum only to quickly forget them a few weeks later) three trends stood out in my mind that I feel defined 2007:
1. It was a great year for the auteur. Some, who we thought had passed on, came roaring back firing on all cylinders. Sidney Lumet regained his 1970’s stature with the darkly complex ensemble piece Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Meanwhile, Joe Wright came into his own by delivering his first near masterpiece, Atonement, a movie with an already classic continuous tracking shot of the Dunkirk evacuation during WWII that nearly a month later still holds me breathless. Still another auteur who already seemed to have settled into his own unique style, Paul Thomas Anderson, performed a shocking evolution on a Kubrickian level with There Will Be Blood and delivered an American Epic on the scale of The Godfather.
2. Thanks to the success of last year’s Oscar and Davies winner for Best Picture, The Departed, 2007 became a renaissance year for the grim melodramatic crime thriller. Flicks like Zodiac, Eastern Promises, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and Gone Baby Gone point towards a film movement not unlike the film-noir of the 1940’s that mirrors America’s anxiety towards the chaotic outside world inward against the intimate settings of neighborhoods and families in stylish and unsettling ways. While these films were similar to their more overt counterparts that feebly attempted to deal directly with the greater world’s current ills (films like A Mighty Heart, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, and Lions for Lambs) in that they didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, I suspect the former rather than the later group with have a more artistic resonance in future years. I don’t think anyone will be watching In the Valley of Elah in twenty years, but I can imagine Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead being studied shot for shot in film classes.
3. On the flip side, it was also a watershed year for comedies. At the forefront, and rightfully so, is Juno, which has positioned itself as this generation’s Annie Hall. We also saw laugh-out-loud teen sex romps (Superbad), lightly satirical animated films (The Simpsons Movie), obscure absurdist sketch humor (The Ten), and destined to be cult classic spoofs (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story). We needed these laughs in the worst way, and they provided the perfect escape from the horrors of the real world and the neo-noir films playing right next door at the multiplex.
In the end, it was a wild year at the cinema. At times, it was extremely frustrating. There was one actor I just wish would retire. After 2005’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones essentially phoned in the same performance in 2007’s In the Valley of Elah and No Country for Old Men. Nobody else seemed to notice he played essentially the same character in all three films, but I say enough already, old man! The summer movie season also seemed endless and void of anything worthwhile. Still, in the final weeks of December, two films that couldn’t be more different emerged and have the potential to become cultural landmark films for this generation. With Juno touching our hearts and tickling our funny bones, “I swear to blog!” all the hip teens will be copying its quirky fashions and spouting off its one-liners well into the summer. Meanwhile, There Will Be Blood is just beginning to infect its select audience and is making an indelible impression on those who have experienced it. There are speeches in There Will Be Blood that will be memorized and studied in acting classes for years to come. There are also many quotable lines that may find their way into films like Juno twenty years from now. My early money was on “I drink your milkshake”, but upon a second viewing of There Will Be Blood, “why don’t I own THIS?”, “I see the worst in people”, “bastard from a basket”, “draaaaaaaaaaaainage!”, and “I’m finished!” all run the risk of joining the pop culture lexicon. Well, I’m not quite finished…
And now…move over Golden Globes. Say goodbye to the Oscars. Novelist D. H. Schleicher semi-proudly presents:
The 2nd Annual Davies: Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film (for the year 2007).
The Top Ten Films of 2007:
- There Will Be Blood
- Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
- Gone Baby Gone
- Rescue Dawn
- Eastern Promises
- Amazing Grace
*Special honorable mention goes to The Lives of Others and Black Book, two thrillingly thought provoking foreign films that were technically released in 2006 but didn’t reach stateside until early 2007. As such, they have unfairly ended up in limbo with no official place on lists from either 2006 or 2007.
Best Picture: There Will Be Blood
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood
Best Actress: Ellen Page for Juno
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Best Emaciated Actor: Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn
Best Emaciated Actress: Keira Knightley in Atonement
Best Reading of a Dramatic Line: Daniel Day Lewis’ satirical, hilarious, nerve-wracking, and scary “Here is my Straw, and here is your Milkshake” diatribe to Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood.
Best Dramatic Reading of a Comedic Line: Kristen Wiig’s “I believe you’re gonna fail” retort to John C. Reilly’s “I need you to believe in me” cry in Walk Hard.
Best Original Screenplay: Kelly Masterson for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Best Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton for Atonement
Most Overrated Film: The Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men
Most Underrated Film: Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn
Best Film I Didn’t Like (Most Misunderstood Film): The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Worst Film I Did Like (Best Guilty Pleasure): Live Free or Die Hard
Best Franchise Film: The Bourne Ultimatum
Worst Franchise Film: Transformers
Best Editing: Atonement
Worst Editing: Transformers
Best Music Score: Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Best Downer Film: Gone Baby Gone
Worst Downer Film: In the Valley of Elah
Most Uplifting Film: Amazing Grace
Best Comedy: Juno
Best Horror Movie: 30 Days of Night
Best Action Movie: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Ending: There Will Be Blood
Worst Ending: The Mist
Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed: The Neo-Noir Movement of Grim Melodramatic Crime Thrillers (Zodiac, Eastern Promises, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Gone Baby Gone)
Movie Trend I (Mostly) Ignored: Overtly Political MidEast-themed “Reality” Films (A Mighty Heart, Rendition, The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs, Charlie Wilson’s War, and the one film of this ilk I did suffer through, In the Valley of Elah)
Results from the 1st Annual Davies can be found by clicking below:
We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.
Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.
All of my reviews of this year’s winners, as well as many other insightful critiques, can be found archived on the Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com/user/ur1069062/comments
Written by David H. Schleicher