Buckle up your seat belts, gentle readers, for we are about to take a journey together. An epic journey, for this will be an epic post. At least in terms of length.
So, last night, after watching the speeches of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama (in my old home town of Houston), I switched my television feed from the satellite to my computer (yes, I use my HDTV as my monitor, what did you expect?) and began to watch Michael Clayton rented from Amazon Unbox via digital download. Before all of you Apple supporters out there get upset, I tried iTunes first, but you couldn't get Michael Clayton from there yet, so over I went to Amazon Unbox. For those of you who don't know, digital download is one of the various ways studios and distributors are looking at for "How People Will Watch Movies In The Near Future", the other big one being on high def discs, primarily BluRay as HD DVD, sadly, appears to have lost the format war. (Did any of you even know there was a format war?) The way that both Unbox and iTunes do it in the rental market is they download the movie onto your computer. You have 30 days to watch the film. If you start to watch the movie, you have 24 hours to finish it. Here's where digital download and I disagree. The positives of digital delivery, of course, is that you don't have to leave your computer desk to get the hottest new releases. But with Netflix (and Blockbuster, I guess) you have as long as you want to keep the movie and you can watch it as many times as you want, plus you're paying just one monthly fee for the discs that you get as opposed to paying $3.99 each time. In many ways, digital download seems like a step backwards to the days of paying a premium for each film you rent and being on the clock for when it has to go back. These are the reasons people like Netflix so much. If not for my failure to think about the effect of holidays on the postal service, I probably wouldn't have used this at all, but the convenience won me over this time. I can't see myself becoming a proponent of this system in the future though. Which is bad for them, since someone who uses their HDTV as their monitor is exactly who they're marketing to.
Oh well, the point of all of that is to say that I have now seen all of the best picture nominees and feel confident that I can give my definitive Top Ten of 2007 list. Before we get there, however, there are a few honorable mentions, so let's start there.
HONORABLE MENTIONS FOR 2007
As this list will prove, I think that 2007 was a resurgent year for the Horror genre. In recent years, the horror film has been corrupted by the graphic blood and guts type films, the Saws and the Hostels among many others. While films of that nature continued to grace our movie screens, they didn't do as well as they have in years past, hopefully the public is getting tired of them. In 2007, we also saw some horror films that were more true to what the genre was in the past when practiced by the masters like John Carpenter and Alfred Hitchcock before him. One of them was directed by William Friedkin, who knows a little bit about classic horror films, having directed The Exorcist. His 2007 film, and Josh's Choice Honorable Mention is...
This movie was based on a play, and the film didn't deviate from it's inspiration too much, the majority of the action taking place in a small apartment. Friedkin does a good job with his limited space, though, using the camera to his advantage, doing things that can only be done in film, while the play like aspect helps to put the audience in the shoes of the two main characters. A truly disturbing film, far more in a psychological sense then in a physical sense, this movie was a proud return to the horror genre I grew up with as opposed to the crappy films they're packaging as horror most times these days.
This was also a big year for animated movies, and yet strangely the good ones weren't nominated for Oscars. Two animated films that are far better then any of the three with Oscar nods will have to be satisfied with just receiving Josh's Choice Honorable Mentions....
MEET THE ROBINSONS
This digitally animated Disney film showed what we can expect now that the Pixar team is in charge of all of Disney animation. It was clever, funny, and captivating. Everything that most Pixar films usually are and far too few Disney films have been of late. Add in the eye catching "Disney Digital 3D" and this film was masterful. The only negative that I see about Disney being run by the Pixar crowd is that Pixar films suffer because of it, as this film was far better in every way then this summer's Pixar release, Ratatouille.
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
Expectations were high for this film, and despite all the odds stacked up against them, they delivered with this film. Some critiques noted that it was just an hour and a half long episode. Is that supposed to be a bad thing? What exactly is wrong with that? I wish every episode was an hour and a half long. I wish every episode was this good. And how in the world is Spiderpig not nominated for best song? Criminal.
By the way, TMNT
Other then being a good year for Horror and Animated films, this was also the best year ever for movies that show us the funny in regards to unplanned pregnancy.
This was a hilarious movie that has the added bonus of introducing the world to the genius of Seth Rogen. He already had a bit of a cult following due to his work in Judd Apatow's (director of this film as well as The 40 Year Old Virgin) television series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Seth Rogen steals the show as surprised father to be Ben Stone and proves that he can not only carry a film, but is actually pretty damn good at it. It might have been a Just Missed the Top Ten film for making unplanned pregnancy funny if there hadn't of been a film that did it even better.
JUST MISSING THE TOP TEN
Diablo Cody, former stripper and famed writer of blogs, gives us a heartwarming story about not only unplanned pregnancy, but, gasp, unplanned teenage pregnancy! The characters are extremely real, the dialogue is spectacular (honest to blog), and this film has the added bonus of making us remember the greatness of Arrested Development by featuring both Jason Bateman and Michael Cena, it's only too bad that they didn't share a scene together. Ellen Page is incredible as the title character, the seemingly unflappable teenage mom-to-be. The movie, while certainly a comedy, treats the subject of teenage pregnancy realistically and unflinchingly, including a great scene focused on the touchy and controversial subject of abortion. No question, if I had made a Top Eleven list, this film would have made it.
Which brings us to Josh's Choice for....
THE TOP TEN FILMS OF 2007
We're obviously going to count them down, because it's oh so much more fun that way.
10. The Last Legion
Action films are usually predictable, poorly acted, cheesy, and without strong female characters. This movie, on the other hand, is original, features superb performances, exciting, and has an outstanding female lead. It is a new take on the Arthurian legend, and far better done then the Clive Owen stinker a few years back. It's cast is outstanding, with Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, and the greatness that is Kevin McKidd (most recently the hero of NBC's Journeyman, and prior to that Lucius Vorenus on HBO's Rome). He plays the bad guy in this film, which gives you an idea of how Rome might have looked if he'd have played Titus Pullo instead of Vorenus. Aishwarya Rai plays a woman warrior from the Eastern Orthodox Empire who helps to protect the young last Caesar of Rome. Not only is she smart, but she kicks some serious butt too. No need for a man to save this young lady, although there are plenty of instances where the men need her to save them. That alone would give it high marks, but it's actually a good film too.
9. The Mist
Frank Darabont gives us his third Stephen King adaptation (having previously written and directed The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile). At first I thought this was an odd choice for him, considering the obvious theme that the first two films shared, prison, but after seeing this film, I realized that this story was a perfect choice for him as the same themes run through this movie as well. Another film that returns the Horror genre to its roots, this movie does a great job of making an interesting film that at times also scares the crap out of you. This film also has the greatest ending of any film in a long time.
8. The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson's latest proves that he is a master of storytelling. Combining eccentric characters with dead on dialogue and crazy hi-jinks is always entertaining, and again succeeds in this picture, a story of three brothers struggling to find themselves and repair their relationship in the wake of their father's death. Both funny and touching, this film is pure Wes Anderson.
This is a must see movie. Especially as we get ready to elect the next President of the United States, it is important to have an understanding of one of the most important issues, Health Care. Michael Moore, as much as many people dislike him, does a good job in this film of avoiding the anti-conservative rhetoric that turn so many people off and sticking to the facts to give a bipartisan take on such an important issue. It will astound you how backwards we really are on this issue, considering we are supposedly the one remaining "Super Power" nation left in the world.
What a great film this is, a fantasy in the vein of The Princess Bride, and I think that it will gain a similar cult status. Just like that movie, this one features many great cameos by great comedic actors as well as what very well may be the greatest performance that Robert DeNiro has ever given. I won't spoil what that performance is exactly here, because it is much better if you see it first hand. Funny fantasy films about the power of love come to rarely not to cherish them when they are done just right like this film was.
The best Sci-Fi/Horror film since Aliens, this movie from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) blew me away when I saw it. It is beautifully shot with stunning visual effects and perfectly combines two genres to make a great film that will please fans of either one. Plus it is nice to know that Chris Evans, so over the top as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four pics, can give a good dramatic performance.
4. There Will Be Blood
A challenging film where no one is portrayed in a good light, this movie, the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia and Boogie Nights) is a beautiful looking film that looks at the ugliness of power and greed. It's a movie about oil, but organized religion doesn't escape unscathed either. Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the greatest performances of all time as he takes a completely unlikable character that should be completely unwatchable and keeps the audience riveted. The score from Jonny Greenwood from band Radiohead is probably the best score I have ever heard. The music keeps you from realizing that the beginning of the film is without dialogue. Unfortunately, many of the pieces heard in the film had previously been played by Greenwood in concerts keeping the score from meeting Oscar's original requirement, meaning the best score I've ever heard isn't eligible for a Best Score Oscar.
3. No Country for Old Men
Yet again, the highest an Oscar Best Picture Nominated film can get on my Top Ten is third (which should tell those of you keeping score at home that neither Atonement or Michael Clayton made the list). This is a great film, no doubt, and a return to the genre that made the Coen Brothers in the first place. This, like number 4 on the list, is a challenging film, that doesn't end, so much as finishes. The performances are all top notch and Roger Deakins is proven, yet again, to be the best Cinematographer ever (more on that in a moment). Javier Bardeem embodies psychotic killer Chigurh so completely, I'm going to be scared if I ever meet him (and will probably piss myself if he asks me to call the flip of a coin.) No question in my mind, his character is the scariest villain in the history of film (move over Hannibal Lector and Nosferatu, you have company.) It is exciting that a challenging movie like this (as well as There Will Be Blood) is getting the attention that it is, hopefully more smart and challenging films will be made in the future.
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
This movie was very nearly number one, and if I hadn't made myself choose this year (as opposed to the tie from last year) it easily could have been. This movie is even more amazing by the fact that it is only the second film ever from director Andrew Dominik (don't worry, I hadn't heard of him either). The screenplay is brilliant, the acting is top notch, and the film is simply beautiful. First of all, let us all thank the movie gods that despite the acting talent skipping Ben it lodged itself firmly in Casey. He actually is the lead in this movie, but is nominated in as a Supporting Role. Unfortunately for him, it doesn't matter. If he were nominated in the lead he would have been up against Daniel Day-Lewis, and in the supporting he's going up against the scariest villain in the history of film as brought to us by Javier Bardeem. If he gets a juicy role in 2008, however, he could be in line for a makeup Oscar similarly to Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman, as opposed to almost anything else he ever did), Russell Crowe (Gladiator instead of Inside Man), or Denzel Washington (Training Day as opposed to Malcolm X or Hurricane). Brad Pitt was, as always, brilliant as well. And the movie looks amazing due in no small part to Cinematography by none other then Roger Deakins. The tone of the film is reminiscent of a Terrance Malik picture as the beautiful nature puts us in a place for the film to truly speak to us.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for..............
The Number One Movie of 2007 is...............
Can I get a drumroll please?
Okay, okay, enough dramatics.
Does anyone even remember that this movie came out this year? Oscar seemed to have forgotten. This was a powerful film, not about a serial killer, but about what obsession can do to us. The need to solve this unsolvable case tears at the lives of everyone involved, ruining many of them as if they themselves were victims of the Zodiac killer. David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Game) takes on a challenging subject obsessively himself and rewards us with a powerful film. He is definitely in the discussion of this generation's best director and this film is no exception to his deserving that status. Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in the role of Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist who becomes obsessed with finding out who the killer is, nearly losing everything in his quest to answer the question. Robert Downey Jr. continues his streak of playing to type as a man who could have it all if he didn't succumb to the siren call of drugs and alcohol mirroring his own life. Hopefully he stays clean in real life so he continues to reward us with performances such as this.
Until Next Time, thanks for sticking through this massive post. Probably tomorrow I will give you the Oscar Prediction Post so you can amaze your friends with your foreknowledge of who will win the golden statue.