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Monthly Archives: February 2008

So maybe I’m a little late, but I’d rather be safe than sorry in terms of seeing every possible contender for my best of the year list. Without disingenuous introduction, here are the finest achievements in cinema in 2007:

10. Once – Without question far removed from the other films on this list, it may actually be the most perfect entry of the year. Humbly but beautifully told, it’s a modern musical-romance that refuses to adopt the standard devices of the genre while featuring songs that are memorable largely because of the emotional charge behind them.

9. American Gangster – While most consider this a ‘solid’ gangster film (like many of the past 15 years), I find it not receiving the credit it deserves in terms of its relevance and humanity. No it doesn’t say as much as it could have, but it’s a film that knows the ground it covers but refuses to stay put there.

8. Eastern Promises – David Cronenberg is by no means a versatile director, but he certainly knows his own limitations and specialties. Though his hand in the work is evident, it is the nuanced performances of Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen and the moody score that make this a film to remember.

7. Sunshine – Danny Boyle has long been overlooked as a filmmaker, perhaps because his style is considered ‘simpler’ than some of today’s more daring storytellers, but this is a visual feast and a captivating entry into the new generation of sci-fi greats.

6. Rescue Dawn – German legend Werner Herzog directs Christian Bale to the year’s second best performance as prisoner of war Deiter Degler. Defying the existence of the “vs.” often placed between man and nature, Herzog crafts the most mesmerizing Vietnam tale, buddy story, and escape thriller in years.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum – Virtuoso Paul Greengrass knows how to direct action better than anyone working today (Michael Bay, take notes). In a completely satisfying conclusion to the best trilogy in decades, Damon never takes himself too seriously, and the film hosts some of the best sequences of the year (Waterloo & Tangier).

4. Juno – Speaking of the year’s best performances, Ellen Page is the best 2007 had to offer as she both comes alive and falls apart on screen. Screenwriter Diablo Cody’s wit and director Jason Reitman’s style provide radiating backlight to the complex, enormously moving journey of young Juno.

3. No Country for Old Men – Though the writing mostly belongs to Cormac McCarthy, the Coen Brothers’ finesse as directors and editors is indisputable. It’s a film that’s visual noise is augmented by prolonged periods of silence, and the chilling killer Anton Chigurh is the subtle mouthpiece for the story’s thematic artistry.

2. Zodiac – This film is a huge step up for director David Fincher after the forgettable thrillers that followed Se7en and Fight Club. His visual style is once again dazzling, the suspense unflinching, and the performances pitch-perfect (if not exactly revolutionary). It’s his first epic tackling, and he handles the unsolved murders with curious assuredness. And by golly if it’s not the most groundbreaking of the year, it certainly is my favorite, and the only film I’ve revisited multiple times (six, in fact).

1. There Will Be Blood – There is so little to say about this film that can aptly describe or praise it. This is the best achievement of the year not for Daniel Day Lewis’ performance (though he’s great), nor for Jonny Greenwood’s hypnotic score (though it’s great), but because Paul Thomas Anderson is on a whole different wavelength from any other filmmaker, and, like it or not, he’s facing infinite years of imitations. Whether or not he borrows from past auteurs is irrelevant at this point, since the entire work is covered with a layer of bold originality and contempt for the ‘average’. It’s a film whose power and influence can only be determined decades into the future, but, as of now, I feel completely comfortable saying it will follow a path much similar to Citizen Kane than to, say, 95% of Best Picture winners. No other film this year has had such a profound effect on the way I view the world, and, whether for better or worse, I’m still having nightmares about oil fires and bowling alleys.

I’m finished.