Monday, December 31, 2007

top 32 movies of 2007!

Click on the image! You know you want to.

32. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
One of my pet peeves involving talking about movies is when people say, "It makes me so mad because that's two hours that I'll never get back!" You can say that about any movie, not just the ones you hate. In fact, you can say that about any activity. Maybe you look at your cel phone and then two hours later you check the time again. Do you actually say out loud, "I'll never get those two hours back!" Fact is, the clock is ticking, and we're gonna die of heart disease 50 years from now whether or not the two hours was spent in a good or bad movie. They're both wastes of time to a certain degree. Just because we sat through a bad movie doesn't mean we would've administered to the wounds of orphans had we not gone to the theater that day. The last two hours will always be two hours you don't get back. When I grade movies for my end year list I use a letter grade scale. Usually, every movie is passable in the sense that I didn't feel punished by watching it, so "D" tends to be my lowest grade. Anyway, I've never come closer to uttering the phrase that peeves me than while watching this movie. Pirates did not receive a D. Perhaps I was in a bad mood, because most of my friends weren't nearly as enraged as I was; but I was actually angry that I was in the theater during most of this boring series of moving images. I could leave it at that, but let me just ask quickly: what was the deal with that supposed "pump-up" speech delivered by Keira Knightly to the other pirates? They weren't even able to join the fight. Why was the speech delivered? Meh.

31. Transformers
I must be getting old because the worst movies on the list this year were two of the biggest blockbusters. I do remember enjoying this a lot when I saw it, but it bugged me and wore down on me more and more as I thought about it later. That last battle scene was pretty cool, I admit, but it did have some flaws. Probably the biggest reason I'm betraying the transforming robot concept that really was my life from 1984-1987 is because the robots themselves had no heart or personality. Did anyone come out of the theater and say, "Wow, which transformer was your favorite? Mine was totally Barricade!" Maybe people did, but I'd be surprised. They were really more like props than characters.

30. Smokin' Aces
Didn't this come out last year? It must've been the first movie I saw all year. I saw it with my pop culture team in California. We picked it because the other two guys had already seen Children of Men. I still haven't seen that one. Anyway, this shoot 'em up tries to follow a certain style that doesn't work and has too many characters with dead ends. Plus, sheesh, is Jeremy Piven the most annoying person ever or what?

29. The Dance
You probably don't know, but this was an LDS picture that came out early in the year. It's about three different couples of different age groups on the night of the "big dance." For being such a huge event, I was really amazed at how lame the event turned out to be. Maria had a good point in being annoyed at the unnatural line deliveries of the oldest couple.

28. Spiderman 3
Strangely, I've never been a very big fan of this franchise. I definitely prefer the old cartoon with Iceman and Firestar. Obviously this one was bloated with not enough room to really draw us into all the characters, which is sad because I've been looking forward to the Venom storyline. Fortunately that part was probably my favorite; not because of Venom, but because of Topher Grace. He's actually got some watchable charisma. Makes me wish he was originally Spiderman instead of Tobey. I never understood Tobey Mcguire's raves for his version of Spiderman.

27. Blades of Glory
Didn't hate it. It had one really funny part, but for the most part it was just a pretty good time I'll never get back.

26. In the Land of Women
I stayed for Adam Brody. I fled from Meg Ryan. Actually, I sort of involved myself in the watching of this, but looking back all I remember is some estrogenal confusion.

25. Ocean's 13
Everyone else on earth felt betrayed by Ocean's 12, but this was the one that offended me. In my mind, Soderbergh tried something new with 12, and then sold out with 13 by just making the masses happy by feeding them the same elements of the first movie. It wasn't really as original or cool as the first two. Canning Julia Roberts may have helped though.

24. Lars and the Real Girl
I sort of feel guilty for not liking this as much as most people I know who saw it. Obviously this movie spoke to a lot of people in a way that must have evaded me. There are two or three things that I really can't overcome. This was my first Ryan Gosling movie. Presently he's the critics' total darling snook-'ems. I have no doubt that his performance in Half Nelson was far more gripping than his performance here. He seemed to be channeling David Arquette. Also, the lack of perceivable human conflict made most of the action redundant. This guy with delusions brings his problem into a series of different town situations and the townspeople all act... exactly the same. It sure is inspiring that these people are so accepting, but the episodic nature doesn't do much to scroll forward the gears of the development. My biggest problem with the movie though is its use of humor. I personally feel that when the unusual delusion of Lars is introduced it's meant to be played for laughs. The filmmakers don't make an obvious mood change to designate when we're no longer supposed to find the delusion humorous and many people in our theater found themselves laughing when they were supposed to find the situation touching. Perhaps they had less "film intelligence" than many others we were watching it with, but I personally think that the filmmakers purposely wanted the humorous/touching line to be vague. As a result, audience members wind up with "hindsight guilt" for their initial impulses toward humor -- even though that's exactly how it was meant to be presented. Some filmgoers, no doubt, would say it's an effective storytelling tool. I sort of think it's deceptive and insulting. Actually, I'm sure most would probably say they noticed no such thing. I guess sometimes I'm known for noticing things that don't exist.

23. Sydney White
It seems like there was a pretty funny part in this. Can't remember. I tend to sort of like old stories that are vaguely re-told in present-day.

22. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
They proved a pretty good point by making the longest Harry Potter book into the shortest movie. Changing up the directors also really helps. It keeps the "V Rule" that says that the fifth of any movie series is the worst one (see Star Wars, Rocky, Friday the 13th) at bay. Of course my favorite part from the book (Snape's flashback of being tormented by Harry's dad) was handled in like 4 seconds here. Unfortunately, this was one of my least favorite Harry books, so how good could the movie have possibly been?

21. 300
I really don't a huge level of digital effects and I really think most moviegoers don't. Of course this movie does a good point in making something interesting out of making an entire movie using digital image processes rather than just the special effects.

20. Enchanted
I just remembered this one. I'll have to just stick it in here.

19. Crazy Love
I just saw this one last night. It's a documentary about a weird girl and a crazy guy and their treatment of each other over the course of four decades. I won't even say anything more than that because the actual story hinges on two or three AMAZING events that I already knew before I saw it. Fallout from these events is shown in the movie discussed on major television talk shows, which kind of makes me wonder what the need of making this movie was when the material has obviously been covered elsewhere. I'm sure, however, that if I didn't know what was coming, this relationship would have had me absorbed to no end.

18. Disturbia
This built a steady tension well. I really appreciate that enough restraint was used in the first half to enable that.

17. Live Free or Die Hard
I think the lack of a good villain didn't quite put this one in the same league as the other ones. Also, I wish they'd stick more to what's worked in the past. The vast expanse isn't nearly as thrilling as the patented Die Hard closed spaces.

16. The Bourne Ultimatum
This was pretty good as a thoughtful action movie, but I'm really surprised it's made so many critical top ten lists. I get sick of saying this, but even though the hand-held shaky-cam is a trademark of the series, leaving it out would have put it in my top ten. Kudos for actually managing a high-speed chase in Manhattan, though.

15. Breach
On the other hand, even more kudos to Breach for somehow managing to put excitement into a traffic jam rather than a high-speed chase. This was an excellent case study about the most notorious traitor spy in the history of the United States and the appeal of Catherine Zeta-Jones (who strangely doesn't appear in the film).

14. Ratatouille
Pixar served up par for them, which is merely near perfection. Maria and I laughed the hardest we laughed all year during the "Lifted" short that played at the front.

13. Sicko
Most people I know are Michael Moore haters and I know better than to simply believe all the facts presented, but at least they were presented in an entertaining way. He'd certainly be a lot more effective in getting his side across if he did a better job of telling the other side. If anything, the movie got me to think about healthcare. Maybe I'll come up with a better solution someday.

12/11. Grindhouse
Since Planet Terror and Death Proof were released separately on dvd, I'll go ahead and treat them like two different movies. Death Proof was very well made, and that end car sequence was pretty amazing, but it takes a really long time to get there (especially after watching another movie entirely before the droning exposition even begins). Most critics I read or listened to felt that the car-chase Death Proof was far superior to the zombie-infection Planet Terror. I relinquish all my critical cred by stating that I think Terror has the edge. It had a lot of funny and a lot fun on the way to the cheesy last shot showing the remnants of society as a post-apocolyptic desert caravan.

10. The Menagerie
Maybe this Star Trek episode isn't technically a movie, but this year was probably the first time it was shown in a movie theater. They really cleaned up the image and added some amazingly subtle effects that made this feel every bit as enticing as any film that came out this year. This particular episode is probably closer to an episode of The Twilight Zone than Star Trek and the word "cerebral" is often thrown around in describing it. Classy intellectualism aside, the real appeal is the high drama not only elicited by the great William Shatner, but also by the old Enterprise captain, Jeffrey Hunter. I think I talked about it more here.

9. The Simpsons
We just watched this in New York again. It would have been nice if they cut some of the dopey characters and instead focused on more of my favorites like Mr. Burns, Lenny & Carl, Gil, etc. It's still pretty stacked with laughs. I've never heard Peter Nash laugh so hard. My new favorite part is when Homer dumps the animal waste into the lake, sees what he's done and jumps into the back seat of the car, telling the pig to "Drive! Drive! Drive!" I wonder what my favorite part will be next time I see it.

8. I Am Legend
I'm a huge fan of Omega Man, so I was very surprised that I Am Legend was closer to it than it was to Transformers. The cgi on the "night seekers" was a mess, but the film was saved in a pretty good execution. I really liked how we're slowly given revelations about what had happened in the past, and although the figures of the enemies was a visual problem, the scene where Will Smith sneaks into their little hive is plenty scary.

7. Juno
As delightful as Juno was I was sorely let down because of the incredible critical and festival response. Perhaps I thought it would be more "life changing." No matter though. Plenty funny with awesome delivery. Trust me, I'll be using the term "food baby" several times in the next year.

6. Hot Rod
I'm not ashamed. I thought it was brilliant. Raising money to save a guy's life to punch him in the face? Brilliant. Homage to the warehouse scene in Footloose? Brilliant. Falling down a hill more than the obvious amount of times? Brilliant. Having the 80s band Asia do the soundtrack? Brilliant.

5. Control
I didn't have the best time watching this movie, but I can't deny its excellence. I thought I'd appreciate it because it dealt with a band I like and it was directed by my favorite music video director. Actually it was far far less than a music video than I would have thought. In fact there wasn't even that sequence where they lay down the tracks and everything comes together and we get to share in the musical experience (I really wish it did have that too). No, what I really remember is seeing Ian Curtis slip into a tortuous whirlpool of anxiety, insecurity and depression. The guy was no hero, but I sure felt rough for the guy and his wife. I wrote about it more here.

4. No Country For Old Men
I don't know, maybe I'm ranking it too well. Like Juno, I was sort of let down by all the critical acclaim I heard before seeing it. It was pretty effective though. Javier Bardem was really really scary. He had a really really scary haircut too. I'd probably feel more justified putting it in this really excellent position if I could just come to terms with the last third. Lots of people are complaining about the ending and I didn't have a problem so much with the very ending. I did, however, feel that the rug was pulled out from under us quite a bit too soon. The decline at the end was less fun when the tension still wasn't on the brink.

3. Waitress
Ugh. I've been typing for hours now and I could sure go for a pie. I never watched Felicity, but I just might because Keri Russel is wonderful in this. I have watched Firefly so Nathan Fillion is already like my favorite man. Even Andy Griffith reminds me of my stepdad. This movie is just sugary sweet -- like a good piece of pie -- and I don't even eat pie usually.

2. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
I was really close to putting this in as number one. It's far more my kind of movie: a documentary about oldschool arcade game championships. If you don't know, the movie is about two very different men. Steve is a very nice, down-on-his luck novice gamer. Billy is the arrogant champion as aloof as Michael Scott and a haircut even more humorous than Javier Bardem's in No Country For Old Men. Billy should be named "villain of the year." When Maria and I went, I was sort of worried that the documentary would reveal the loserness of videogaming, but thankfully and gloriously the serious focus on the competion was played completely straight. Coming out of the theater all she could talk about was how much she hated Billy Mitchell. Despite not being a Christopher Guest-type mockumentary, the movie is packed to the brim with genuine and welcome humor. My only complaint is that the filmmakers could have let Billy's villainy stand on its own. They didn't need to paint him villainous as obvious as they did.

1. Once
Somehow, this year, the sensitive musician movie came out on top over the one about the video games. We just watched this one again and it's totally not perfect. At times it feels a little bit draggy, but it totally had some kind of magic that absolutely no other movie had this year. Watching it the second time, I noticed that I sort of liked it for one of the big reasons I disliked Lars and the Real Girl, which was a sort of lack of antagonists. Obviously, I might have some problems with my opinionating. On the other hand, it is a different story and worked in a different way. In this one, the power of this guy's music brings everyone together. Everything doesn't work out perfectly. There are conflicts to overcome, but by the end, all characters are more fulfilled by what the main characters have created together rather than what's been dealt with. Right now, I don't know very many people who have seen this, so I'd encourage you to see it and hate it if you can. It is very different. Different enough that I'm sure it doesn't fit everyone's taste, but definitely worth seeing.

Some movies I didn't get around to seeing that I'm surprised about were:

Zodiac, The Hoax, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, Hot Fuzz, 1408, Sunshine, Rescue Dawn, Into the Wild, Southland Tales...

Were any any good?

I wanna send out a special thank you to the Broadway and Regency theaters here in Salt Lake. This year I broke some records in the amount of independent films I saw.


Blogger laura said...

I liked Lars and the Real Girl for the same reasons you disliked it. I was expecting a character to laugh at him because the audience was, so I thought it refreshing that people didn't make fun of him. I guess the audience played that "antagonist" character for me, so I didn't need one on screen.

I thought Rescue Dawn was a great movie.

January 01, 2008 7:10 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Nice list Jon. Thanks for being my movie buddy this year.

Honey, I guess we are too empathetic to find humor in Lars. Oh well.

January 02, 2008 10:47 AM  
Blogger Hilda said...

I was pleasantly surprised to see some chick flicks that made your list, such as "Sydney White" and "Enchanted".

January 03, 2008 10:38 AM  
Blogger Rhett said...

You entry was 6 pages, without pictures, single spaced. Did you ever write a paper that long in college>>>

January 03, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger joN. said...

hmmm. i did write a couple of ten pagers, but they must've been double-spaced.

January 03, 2008 6:14 PM  
Blogger Rhett said...

The other thing... you start off telling us you grade each movie but then you don't include the grades. I'm really? Couldn't you have done sections? Like first 10 were D's and the next 5 were C's etc.

January 03, 2008 6:20 PM  
Blogger joN. said...

yeah, i probably shouldn't have mentioned grades. i do it that way every year, but have never mentioned it before. here's the breakdown:

32: f (or e, depending on what college you went to)
28-31: d
21-27: c
19-20: c+
15-18: b-
14-17: b
7-8: b+
3-6: a-
1-2: a

January 03, 2008 6:42 PM  
Blogger Saule Cogneur said...

I finally got the Once soundtrack, and I'm officially a fan of Hansard. Spiderman 3 was the biggest disappointment of the year. Rescue Dawn is a good Saturday movie (i.e. slow but interesting). I saw Hot Rod last night, and though it was a little too Napoleon Dynamite/Nacho Librish to win lots of originality points, I liked it too. Shoot 'Em Up was another good guy movie for 2007. I'd put it in my top 15.

January 06, 2008 6:21 PM  

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