Top 10 films of the year

I have not been to the theater to see Cloverfield, Fool’s Gold or Jumper but I have seen No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, and Charlie Wilson’s War in the last few weeks. There’s a key difference between the two films: One set was released in 2008, and one set was released right at the end of 2007, thereby making them eligible for the awards season (Golden Globes, Oscars, etc.). A film blogger who runs the site said something along the lines are every film buff knows that the New Year doesn’t start January 1st but rather the day after the Oscars, and that’s more or less how I feel. I try to use the first couple months of the year to catch up on all the good films that were released in the last 2 weeks of December because it’s really impossible unless you’re job is a professional film reviewer or you have a lot of free time on your hands to see all the films worth seeing by the time December ends and trust me, I would bet money that most of you would find No Country for Old Men a far better action flick than Jumper and Juno to be a far more thoughtfully made romantic comedy than Fool’s Gold.

So here’s a rather delayed Top 10 films of 2007 for me:
1. 3:10 to Yuma, James Mangold- In this Western remake, Christian Bale plays a rancher who, in order to pay his debts and support his family, agrees to assist in the transport of a prisoner (Russell Crowe) to a train station where he will be taken to prison. “3:10 to Yuma” doesn’t just remake a classic film but it brings the glory of the Western genre back to life, with an elaborately staged shootout scene that trumps the CGI-laden special effects. More than that, 3:10 to Yuma is a riveting and suspenseful morality play with dialogue that sounds outright poetic and excellent performances all around.
2. There Will be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson-This dark tale of capitalism gone awry and lavish period piece has a unique texture and feel to it all on its own. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance and the haunting musical score will stay with you for days.
3. Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Sidney Lumet-Those that group directors like Francis Ford Coppolla, Stephen Spielberg, Roman Polanski, and Martin Scorsese as the aging veterans of the screen forget that they’re the younger generation when compared to 83-year old Sidney Lumet who brought us such iconic classics as Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and 12 Angry Men (a film which just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary). Lumet adds to his long list of classics with “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” a smart dark comedy about two brothers who in a bind for cash, rob their parents’ bank. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney, Marrisa Thomei, and Ethan Hawke form a great ensemble.
4. Michael Clayton, Tony Gileroy-In this legal thriller that transcends its genre, George Clooney might provide the star power but it’s Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swenton who make the movie. The two play attorneys whose morals go in opposite directions as the stakes are raised in a multimillion dollar class action lawsuit.
5. Charlie Wilson’s War, Mike Nicholls-Unfairly grouped with the mostly unsuccessful batch of films centering on the Iraq war, this film wasn’t as much a scathing indictment of current events as it was a modern period piece and a foray into the craziness of politics with a fascinating character at the center of the story. In the 1980’s, Congressman Charlie Wilson funneled his free time on the job into launching a covert war that changed the course of the Cold War. Wilson is played with the right combination of charm, good intentions, and sleaziness by Tom Hanks and has great odd couple chemistry with Philip Seymour Hoffman as a CIA agent.
6. Great Debaters, Denzel Washington- At it’s surface, the film is just an old-fashioned tear jerker about a team of underdogs beating the odds. At the next level, however, the film is a wonderful portrait of small-town life in a racially charged Texas town at the dawn of the civil rights movement. Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker give two of their better performances and Director of Photography Philippe Rouselot makes the swamplands and dirtroads of Wiley, Texas come to life.
7. Sicko, Michael Moore-Political controversies aside, no documentarian has the power to weave facts and figures into the kind of escapist entertainment that is usually reserved for fiction like Michael Moore. His new documentary seeks to bring awareness for the state of the health system and whether you agree with his side of the story or not, it’s an eye-opening expose.
8. Juno, Jason Reitman-While it seems fairly obvious that Diablo Cody was trying to mimic the style of dialogue in her favorite Independent films, I’m inclined to forgive the script’s lack of originality because the dialogue is better than most of the films it’s copying, it throws in some genuinely surprising tricks, and in the hands of an unlikely cast, it carries genuine emotional resonance.
9. Darjeerling Limited, Wes Anderson-Wes Anderson’s fifth film doesn’t deviate from his usual style so it’s not likely to win over new fans, but for those who can appreciate the rich texture of sights and sounds that make up Wes Anderson’s films, there’s much to love about this tale of brotherly bonding set on a train ride through the Indian countryside. The film is shot on location.
10. Lions for Lambs, Robert Redford-Tom Cruise’s noble effort to relaunch United Artists’ Studios is cinematically sparse but manages to say things that haven’t been said before about the current state of apathy and the relationship between media and politics. The film cross-cuts between three scenes: a story of two soldiers in Afghanistan who commit a foolish act of bravery; an interview between a warhawk senator (Tom Cruise) trying to convince a reporter (Meryl Streep) to sell the war for him; and a conversation occurring at the same time between a professor (Robert Redford) and a disillusioned student.


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