As 2007 comes to a close, indieWIRE takes a look back at the year, offering a round-up of the ten best lists from the iW editors and our columnists. Participants were invited to include films released theatrically this year, but each person devised their own criteria. Tomorrow, we invite readers to check back for Top 10 Lists from a host of insiders and bloggers. indieWIRE readers are also invited to post their own top ten list for 2007 in the comments section below (and don’t forget to include your name).
In Cannes, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” received huge buzz before taking the Palme d’Or, with many saying, “that abortion movie is great.” After seeing it at the New York Film Festival, I had to agree. Sure, the subject matter isn’t exactly a journey through the Enchanted, but the directing, acting and writing are amazing. Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch deserve major kudos for “Into the Wild“; “Ratatouille” reminds me why I truly love France; “Juno” could have failed miserably yet worked amazingly; “Atonement” is beautiful, though the war scenes lost me a bit; and “Superbad” brings new meaning to LOL. “This is England” might have wound up in the top ten but a DVD I had broke half way through.
1. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” directed by Cristian Mungiu
2. “Into the Wild,” directed by Sean Penn
3. “Ratatouille,” directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava (co-director)
4. “Juno,” directed by Jason Reitman
5. “Atonement,” directed by Joe Wright
6. “The Lives of Others,” directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
7. “Lust, Caution,” directed by Ang Lee
8. “Superbad,” directed by Greg Mottola
9. “No End in Sight,” directed by Charles Ferguson
10. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” directed by Julian Schnabel
“2 Days in Paris“
“Kurt Cobain About A Son“
“This is England“
“A Mighty Heart“
“I’m Not There“
“Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street“
“La Vie en Rose“
“No Country for Old Men,” “There Will be Blood,” “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Away from Her,” “Zodiac,” “Teeth,” “My Kid Could Paint That,” “Waitress,” “The Orphanage,” “The Band’s Visit,” “The Host,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Billy the Kid“
How do you sum up a year in movies? For many film aficionados, we sit down to reflect on the past twelve months and then agonize over a top ten list. For me this year, the first five on my own list were easily chosen. There ended up being five exceptional new films — all American, all directed by filmmakers at the top of their game, and all about enigmatic (often quite unlikable) lead characters — that I simply haven’t been able to shake.
Atop my own list, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “There Will Be Blood” is, without question, the best film I’ve seen in quite some time. I watched it twice in the course of three nights recently in New York City, subsequently spending some time talking with Paul Thomas Anderson and then — for a recent indieWIRE profile — listening to he and Daniel Day Lewis talk about the movie at a Q & A. To gush for a moment, TWBB is masterfully written and directed, powerfully acted, strikingly photographed, inventively designed, and stirringly scored. It wonderfully exemplifies the art and craft of filmmaking, and delivers an incredible climactic finale. I can’t wait to see it a third time. “There Will Be Blood,” which recently topped the indieWIRE Critics Poll, opens in theaters today and begs to be viewed on the big screen, so see it and judge for yourself. I can’t wait to watch it a third time.
1. “There Will Be Blood” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. “I’m Not There” (Todd Haynes)
3. “Into The Wild” (Sean Penn)
4. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Julian Schnabel)
5. “No Country For Old Men” (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
PLUS FIVE MORE
6. “The Darjeeling Limited” (Wes Anderson)
7. “Lake of Fire” (Tony Kaye)
8. “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” (Christian Mungiu)
9. “Persepolis” (Marjane Satrapi, Vicent Parannaud)
10. “Quiet City” (Aaron Katz)
AND FIVE OTHERS WORTH MENTIONING:
“Kurt Cobain About A Son,” “Ratatouille, “Hairspray,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford“, “The Band’s Visit“
Ranking, summarizing and thematizing the films of 2007 is an unusually daunting task. Undeniably an exceptional year, particularly for American cinema, year-end articles seem to be highlighting the “I’m gonna keep my baby” trilogy of “Juno,” “Knocked Up” and “Waitress,” the now-unquestionable return of the Hollywood musical, and the plethora of Iraq films (and their overwhelming financial failure). The films I’ve centered out seem to provide an antithesis to these themes: Christian Mingui‘s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” the year’s best and most unlikely thriller, rawly portrays abortion in 1980s Romania and reminds women like Juno just how imperative her right to choose is; John Carney‘s truly magical “Once,” which cost just $150,000, managed to show up two of the best big Hollywood musicals in years by proving how innocent filmmaking still can be; And my top choice, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s masterful “There Will Be Blood,” could be coupled with the Coens‘ “No Country For Old Men” and Sidney Lumet‘s “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” as 2007’s cinematic triad of greed, each paying homage to Hollywood past to perhaps metaphorically represent today’s society better than any of their contemporary Iraq-themed counterparts, and also showing us three auteurs, each at vastly different stages of their careers, and each at the very top of their game.
1. “There Will Be Blood”
2. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”
4. “No Country for Old Men”
6. “I’m Not There”
8. “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead”
9. “The Savages”
10. “Lars and the Real Girl“
Also-rans that likely would have made another year’s list (in preferred order): “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Away From Her,” “Persepolis,” “Eastern Promises,” “No End in Sight,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “This is England,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Juno” and “Smiley Face.”
indieWIRE COLUMNISTS & FREQUENT CONTRIBUTORS
Frequent filmmaker interviewer
1. “Lady Chatterley“
3. “Lust, Caution“
5. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly“
7. “The Orphanage“
8. “This is England“
10. “Summer of ’04“
Short film columnist
As indieWIRE’s short film columnist, I have a predilection for features helmed by directors who also make shorts (most of which are viewable online).
In alphabetical order…
“2 Days in Paris” (Dir. Julie Delpy) – Delpy is just one of several actresses who proved this year that they are equally talented behind the camera. [Delpy’s short (also set in Paris): “J’ai peur, j’ai mal, je meurs”]
“Broken English” (Dir. Zoe Cassavetes) – Proof positive that filmmaking genes run true in the Cassavetes family. [Cassavetes’ short: “Men Make Women Crazy Theory”]
“Control” (Dir. Anton Corbijn). Corbijn was the perfect choice to direct this bio pic. [Corbijn has shot too many short music docs for me to even begin to list. His photos are pretty darn good, too!]
“The Darjeeling Limited” (Dir. Wes Anderson) The fact that the prequel short “Hotel Chevalier” was given away free on iTunes makes me forever a fan of Anderson’s latest feature.
“Gone Baby Gone” (Dir. Ben Affleck) Together, the Affleck brothers are unstoppable. [Affleck’s unofficially credited as the helmer of the short film with the longest title ever: “I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney”]
“I’m Not There” (Dir. Todd Haynes) Not only is this Dylan film great, it’s got one of the best soundtracks of the year. [Haynes’ notorious short: “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”]
“Juno” (Dir. Jason Reitman) Last year, “Thank You for Smoking” was on my top ten list. This year, Reitman’s sophomore feature makes the cut. [Reitman’s many shorts are easily found online]
“Once” (Dir. John Carney) Another great musical film with an amazing soundtrack. [Carney’s shorts: “Shining Star” and “Hotel”]
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (Dir. Tim Burton) Burton and Depp continue to bring out the weirdo best in each other. Adding Sondheim into the equation doesn’t hurt. [Burton’s short: “Frankenweenie”]
“Waitress” (Dir. Adrienne Shelly) A tasty treat of a movie overshadowed by the director’s tragic death. [Shelly’s short: “The Shadows of Bob and Zelda”]
My far-and-away favorite film of 2007, “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait,” didn’t receive wide enough distribution to be included on this list, but those close-up cleat shots, the recurring spit-on-turf motif, the Mogwai soundtrack, the climactic flash of red card, and the very few words, rationed for maximum impact, have been playing on in my mind all year long.
2. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly“
4. “Into the Wild”
5. “The Host“
7. “The Bourne Ultimatum”
8. “The Golden Compass“
9. “I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone“
10. “I’m Not There”
Plus: “Colma: The Musical,” “Czech Dream,” “Nanking,” “Romantico,” “Knocked Up,” “Syndromes and a Century,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Antonia,” and “Juno.”
1. “There Will Be Blood“/”No Country For Old Men” (I know I’m taking the easy way out, but I’ve been wracking my brain for over a month trying to figure out which one I like better and I can’t get either out of my head. I feel both films are flawless — regardless what you may feel about the endings; I dug both — and won’t be fully appreciated for at least 5-10 years. Two films like this released in the same year (!) was the biggest treat.)
2. “The Savages“
4. “Manda Bala” (Send a Bullet)
5. “I’m Not There“
7. “My Kid Could Paint That“
8. “Starting Out In The Evening“
9. “Lake of Fire“
10. “The Orphanage”
Films I still need to see: “Juno,” “Once,” “Atonement,” “The Diving Bell & The Butterfly,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”
Films that deserve distribution: Ronald Bronstein’s “Frownland,” John Fiege’s “Mississippi Chicken,” Ilya Chaiken’s “Liberty Kid“
Here’s some I enjoyed that open in early ’08:
“Be Kind Rewind” – Michel Gondry’s latest creation is one of the most fun viewing experiences I had this year. The film follows two friends (Mos Def and Jack Black) as they try to save the fledgling neighborhood video shop (yes, VHS rentals only) after a freak accident when a magnetized Black erases all the tapes in the store. Their solution: remaking all the films using a VHS recorder and a lot of imagination. (Screening in Premieres section at Sundance then opens in late January)
“Teeth” – A Sundance ’07 favorite, Mitchell Lichtenstein’s directorial debut is a dark satire about one naive teen’s realization that her “special place” is a little different than other girls. (Opens in limited release in mid-January)
“Paranoid Park” – Already having received glowing reviews at Cannes and New York Film Festival, Gus Van Sant continues his series of films on disgruntled youth by highlighting the skateboarding culture in Portland to tell this simple portrait of the guilt one boy deals with after being involved in a fatal accident. (Opens in March)
World Cinema Columnist
As always, ranking is more politically motivated than anything else. Honestly, I have no idea if I liked one better than the other; I saw many of them months or years ago…
1. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days“
2. “I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone“
3. “The Wayward Cloud“
4. “The Host“
5. “I’m Not There“
6. “Day Night Day Night“
7. “Syndromes and a Century“
8. “There Will Be Blood“
9. “Red Road“
Runners-up: “Summer ’04,” “Manufactured Landscapes,” “Ten Canoes,” “This is England,” “Half Moon,” “Persepolis,” “Atonement,” “Offside,” “Lady Chatterley,” “The Savages,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and the bath-house fight scene in “Eastern Promises”
New York City Columnist
As has been noted, this was an extraordinary year for films, and I found I couldn’t cut further than 12 films. As has also been noted, the best films this year were almost uniformly grim. Christian Mungiu‘s Romanian masterpiece “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” is like a Melville film, a procession from unbearably tense setpiece to unbearably tense setpiece; nothing on film this year quite matched the scene of lead actress Anamaria Marinka eating dinner with her boyfriend’s family. It is such a raw and immediate film that after the first time I had seen it, I imagined it had been full of the urgent, shaky hand-held camera work favored by many Cannes veterans; the second time I realized that every shot was studiously composed. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “There Will Be Blood” was very nearly the best film of the year; too bad it broke the hypnotic tension with such a disastrously overblown ending. “Sweeney Todd” is the most thrilling major studio film in ages and Tim Burton‘s best film; Johnny Depp‘s work has been much praised, but how about some love for Helena Bonham Carter, a marvel of a performer despite her thin voice? Critics have been mystifyingly harsh on Ang Lee’s gripping epic “Lust, Caution“, and “Death Proof” benefited from being viewed on its own, with the addition of Vanessa Ferlito‘s lapdance. The best doc of the year was Tony Kaye‘s “Lake of Fire”, a terrifying look at the abortion debate in this country that features graphic footage of several abortions and challenges every audience’s beliefs.
Please note that all rankings after the first 2 are meaningless.
1. “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”
2. “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street“
3. “Lake of Fire”
4. “No Country for Old Men”
5. “Lust, Caution“
6. “There Will Be Blood”
7. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
9. “No End in Sight“
11. “Deep Water“
12. “Death Proof“
Performances of the Year: Anamaria Marinca, “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”, Daniel Day Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”
Most irritating: “Into the Wild“
Movie I wanted to hate but in fact really liked: “Juno“
Movie I wanted to love but in fact despised: “Southland Tales“
Movie that was secretly amazing: “Bratz“.
Movie that was totally adequate, but seriously, why were the critics freaking out so much?: “Zodiac”
Box Office Columnist
Not long into my tenure as indieWIRE‘s box office columnist, a film exec criticized me for emphasizing a movie’s earnings over its artistic merits. It was bad enough that more and more people look to weekly top ten box office charts to determine which Hollywood blockbuster to see. By focusing on the box office performances of specialty releases, I was carrying over this awful trend of equating big box office and quality to the art house film world. Specialty film is a fast growing business – just look at the aggressive releases for “Juno” and “No Country for Old Men” – one that demands close observation. Still, even someone who spends a good deal of time looking at ticket revenue stats understands that the best works of film art and drama are often too challenging to attract sizable crowds.
1. “This Is England” (IFC) Filmmaker Shane Meadows’ coming-of-age tale set in the skinhead culture of 1980s England is a youth drama every bit as timeless as “The 400 Blows.”
2. “Stephanie Daley” (Regent Releasing) Director Hilary Brougher combines artfulness and political sensitivity in this tale of a teen girl’s unexpected pregnancy.
3. “Persepolis” (Sony Pictures Classics) Co-Director and author Marjane Satrapi and French animator Vincent Paronnaud bring her four comic novels about growing up in pre-revolutionary Tehran to dazzling life.
4. “Manda Bala” (Send a Bullet) (City Lights Pictures) First-time feature filmmaker Jason Kohn makes a bright, beautiful engrossing omnibus film about life in contemporary Brazil.
5. “Away From Her” (Lionsgate) Sarah Polley directs veteran actress Julie Christie in a powerful and heartfelt drama about aging, illness and the healing power for forgiveness.
6. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax) Veteran artist Julian Schnabel adapts Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir about coping with a paralyzing stroke into a great work of art.
7. “The Host” (Magnolia) South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s thriller is everything a monster movie should be: scary, fast-paced and exciting. The bonus is its political content.
8. “12:08 East of Bucharest” (Tartan) Corneliu Porumboiu’s comic drama about average folks reminiscing about their role in the fall of Romania’s Communist regime celebrates humanity in all its glory and glorious flaws.
9. “Control” (Weinstein) Fimmaker Anton Corbijn captures the heartache and the drama of Joy Division lead Ian Curtis.
10. “The Savages” (Fox Searchlight) Filmmaker Tamara Jenkins balances well-timed laughs and tearful drama in this tale of estranged sibs (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) forced to care for their ill father.
Runners-Up: “Live In Maid,” “Romance & Cigarettes,” “Flanders,” “Dans Paris,” “Vanaja,” “Crazy Love,” “Into the Wild” and “Great World of Sound“
Best Re-Issue: “The Red Balloon“/”White Mane” (Janus Films)
Here are my top 10 documentaries in an unranked list. I tend to like different films for different reasons so placing them on top of one another feels like false comparison.
“Billy the Kid” – This simple character-driven story captured my heart. All the controversy around it hopefully hasn’t dimmed the great work of new director Jennifer Vendetti.
“Manda Bala” (Send a Bullet) – One of the freshest and most beautiful documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. I’m sorry that it is being forgotten on the critics’ lists.
“Cat Dancers” – A tragic when-good-animals-go-bad story with the saddest, yet most hopeful of endings. Screened at SXSW, and then?
“Forever” – The kind of film that Americans have no time for, Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann reminds us that art and life are intertwined and that there are important human experiences that transcend daily existence.
“Nanking” – A not-so-typical historical doc that succeeds in relaying events of the Japanese invasion of China during WWII, unearthing never-before seen historical footage, while also creativly putting the story in the present using actors to recreate letters.
“Please Vote For Me” – Voting in China is a new experience for these school children, but the events show that human nature is the same no matter where “democracy” lives, so the question becomes, is democracy right for everyone? Part of the ground-breaking global television event Why Democracy?
“The Suicide Tourist” – A heart-breaking tale of people seeking assisted suicide in the only place in the world where it is possible to receive such help.
“Sicko” – Whatever we think of Michael Moore, I very much appreciate light shining in on American healthcare. I wish there was more action around the issue as a result, but I’m glad the film is out there and people are watching it.
“Lake of Fire” – This film made me see points of view that I hadn’t considered before. It educated me while being powerful and ambivalent. Every American should watch this film.
“Operation Homecoming” – There are a lot of films out about the current conflict and they are important, but this film shows us powerfully why: because the lives of people are ruined by war. We may move past the hurt but we will be forever scarred.
The complete results from the 2007 indieWIRE Critics Poll, which surveyed more than 100 film critics, are available now online, including comments and perspectives from the voters.