As you can remind yourself by clicking on the above links, Nomi and I don't usually manage to see a lot of new movies in the theatre in any given calendar year. In 2005, we saw only thirteen films, and in 2006, we only caught ten. And yet, I revel in the absurdity of making a top ten list based on such a small sample. So the magic number for 2007 was again thirteen, and out of those thirteen, here are what I consider the top ten films of the year.
[Warning: There might be minor spoilers in the discussion. If you want to be safe, just read the titles, which are in boldface.]
10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Back in 2005, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire didn't make the cut. This year's Harry Potter film just managed to squeeze into the top ten due to some wonderful performances by Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge and Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. Many critics said that with these two actresses, it was if the characters had walked right off the pages of the book and onto the screen, and I tend to agree. But, despite their performances, the real Harry Potter event of the year was the release of the final book.
9. The Simpsons Movie
Like many others, Nomi and I have been on-again and off-again fans of The Simpsons ever since the show was first broadcast in the 1980s. I wasn't obsessed with seeing the movie, but at the same time, we did try to make sure to see it on the big screen. In the end, I feel that some of the animation made it worthy of the big-screen treatment, but the plot could have used a little work. It was just a rehash of one of their classic episodes, "Trash of the Titans."
The movie was cute, and fun, but there was just not much there there. Some critics compared it with The Princess Bride, but that film had much more heart to it. Still, Claire Danes gave a fine performance.
7. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Another fun romp! Once again, the four principals captured the characters of the four superheroes perfectly. And the choice to re-imagine Galactus as a mysterious cloud instead of a giant humanoid with a W on his head was an inspired one. After all, what works in a comic book, or even in animation, won't always work in live action.
6. National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Purple Monkey Dishwasher! The movie may have been purple monkey dishwasher, but it was great purple monkey dishwasher. And the most realistic portrayal of archeologists at work released by Hollywood this year.
I've been working on a short post about why I loved this movie so much, but I haven't had time to complete it. So, the short version – this movie wasn't just a loving jab at the standard Disney princess film, but it was also very much a paean to New York City as well.
4. Charlie Wilson's War
The reason Hollywood hires "stars" to be in movies is because they want someone with a big enough name so that the movie will "open," meaning that it will do excellent business its first weekend. That's why actors like Will Smith or Brad Pitt can command such high salaries, because the studios believe that they have a built-in audience that will go see a movie just because they're in it. In the case of this film, for me that name was the writer, Aaron Sorkin. It's unlikely that Nomi and I would have made a point of seeing this film had he not been the screenwriter. And while the film itself doesn't feel like perfect Sorkin, it was still very well written and worth seeing.
If you don't know about the murder of the Adrienne Shelly, the writer and director of this film, go visit The Adrienne Shelly Foundation and then poke around to find out her tragic story. This film was sweet, and charming, and it's a shame that Shelly isn't around to create new offerings. Plus, the film had pie in it. (You can learn more about the movie here.)
Brad Bird is a genius when it comes to blending storytelling and animation. He knows that the animation is there to serve the story, and not the other way around. The idea that audiences would find a movie about a rat working as a chef in a kitchen may seem bizarre, but Pixar made it work.
Without a doubt, the best movie of the year. The basic plot of the film (teenage girl gets pregnant and decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption) doesn't satisfactorily explain why this film is so great. What makes this film so special is that the characters are real; in fact, Juno herself reminded both Nomi and me of the same former student of mine. There's a lot of excellent acting throughout, with many subtle hints about the characters that get played out in more detail as the film progresses. This may be a cliché, but if you only see one film this year, make it Juno.
And the three that didn't make the list? Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Hm. The three movies that didn't make the list are all the second sequels to a previous film. Hollywood, I bet there's a lesson in there for you.
(ETA: I completely forgot that I went to see Transformers this year, sans Nomi. I frequently joked that it was the greatest movie ever made, but if I even forgot to mention it when I first posted this... well, I guess that tells us something about the impact that movie made.)