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Top Ten Movies of 2007

There's an old saying: once is heresy, twice is tradition, three times is sacred tradition. With that thought in mind, welcome to my list of the top ten movies of 2007!

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."

8. Stardust
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.

5. Enchanted
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.

3. Waitress
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.)

2. Ratatouille
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.

1. Juno
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.)

Comments

Of the movies I've seen, which is a lot less than ten, I agree on all except for Pirates. I would call it definitely a "fun romp." Of course, I saw that on DVD, and that changes my perceptions a lot. I also didn't like Surf's Up much when I saw it on the big screen, but now that it's been shown approximately five hundred times on DVD in our home, it's grown on me.

I think it would be fun to make a top ten list based on less than ten entries. I don't know how it would work, but it would be fun. Perhaps you could include in the ratings movies you didn't see.
Like a lemming or a sheep, I went to see Pirates 2 and 3 after having seen Pirates 1, but for me they both suffered from sequelitis. (What I mean by that is that the characters felt shoehorned into a new story just so audiences could get something that was the same, but different.) If I want to enjoy the fun romp aspect of a Pirates movie, I'd probably watch the first one again.

Tastes differ; that's why we can have so much fun dissecting these top ten lists!

As for making a list based on fewer than ten movies, well, that would be the height of absurdity, wouldn't it?
I saw very few of these films - and am likely to not see many of them, for that matter. My tastes in movies (and TV shows and books) seem to run entirely towards SF/fantasy now.

But I would put PotC and Spidey 3 ahead of HP5. I think that PotC was a very good conclusion to the series with a whiz-bang finale, and that Spidey 3 was actually more fun than Spidey 2 (really). And both felt more complete than a film where, as usual, I spent half an hour trying to learn everything that I missed in HP5 by not knowing the books.
And now looking back at your list, I see that most of them are SF/fantasy. My bad. I am more tired than I thought.
I find it fascinating that although my movie of choice would be a genre film, my favorite film of the year is usually something else. Two years ago it was Good Night, and Good Luck; last year it was The Prestige. Make of that what you will.
I think I gave up on Hollywood films a long time for audience pull. I went through a phase of watching asian movies, especially south korean ones. So infernal Affairs trilogy, Old Boy, Taegukgi, even moving onto other asian films such as Casshern, Ju-On and a few other horror movies that I just had to stop watching before I scared myself silly.

There have been some western films though that need watching even if only on dvd. Rise of the Footsoldier, This is England, Mr Brooks, Stranger Than Fiction, Fido, The Last King of Scotland, Starter For Ten, Popcorn, Alpha Dog. Even the latest film version of Pride and Prejudice has some warming features, playing out the more emotive side of the story over the technical.

Most films are dvd now for me, the cinema costs too much and hardly anything comes to the one I can reach.
Sweeney Todd is definitely on my top ten list....
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