Ten Years Later: 2007 Movies
Ah yes, it's the first annual (maybe last annual) Ten Year Hindsight Awards! What held up? What was surprisingly good? What was surprisingly tedious? What I did learn is that 2007 was an especially good year for movies and a transitional year for a number of genres. It was also a year of ridiculously long titles for movies. I have an incomplete list of nominees and a complete ranking of all 2007 movies that I have watched last year. Here are the actual Academy Award nominees and winners from the 2008 Oscars for reference. Instead of deciding between lead and supporting actors and actresses I have awarded two outstanding actors and two outstanding actresses as well as a best ensemble casting.
1. No Country For Old Men
After just over ten years after its release this movie still feels fresh and unique. In the last few years there have been more and more westerns that tell big stories in a beautiful settings. This was the Oscar winner and it certainly holds up. It subverts narrative structure, the concept of movie heroes, and hides a greater world that the movie lives in much like the extra floor that Woody Harrelson is told not to worry about.
Hindsights: Best Picture, Best Directors The Coen Brothers.
2. The Darjeeling Limited
This Wes Anderson movie was very far under the radar when it was released because after the film was completed but before a press tour started, Owen Wilson attempted suicide and backed out of promoting the film and an upcoming role in Tropic Thunder. His character in The Darjeeling Limited was very personal for that time in his life as a character who is trying to bring his family back together and create a situation of distraction through travel after his own suicide attempt. The character plays as goofy and controlling to create life experiences yet he has a darker inner life that doesn't spill out until later in the film. Great soundtrack includes The Rolling Stones, two songs from The Kinks and a lot of Indian score music.
Hindsights: Best Actor Owen Wilson, Best Music.
I was working in a video store when this came out and I would direct people to the movie theater if they asked about Sci-Fi movies. We didn't have anything in store and this was years ahead of its time. The whole cast is incredible, Chris Evans breaks out, Rose Byrne makes it clear she will only be in favorite movies, Benedict Wong is heartbreaking... I could go through the whole cast. I had to give Visual Effects and Stunts a tie because of how awe inspiring both movies are. There are very few moments in film like seeing Mercury cross in front of the Sun.
Hindsights: Best Actor Cillian Murphy, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Visual Effects and Stunts (tie).
4. Hot Fuzz
The Cornetto guys strike again, and this time they take on all of action films in one small town. For a shoot out movie, Hot Fuzz has visual gags like the death of the newspaper reporter to a falling piece of the the church that shock unlike any other movie. A lot of that shock comes from the comedic elements of the movie and juxtapose great visual gags of such a harsh realism.
Hindsights: Best Visual Effects and Stunts (tie).
5. Knocked Up
This was a turning point for well shot, grown up comedy movies that don't shy away from notes of raunchy humor. I expected this to just be a romantic comedy or a frat comedy before I went in to see it in the theater and was quickly turned around to enjoying comedic films again by the end of the first scene thanks to a great soundtrack (ODB in the first scene) and surprisingly beautiful cinematography.
Hindsights: Best Writing Judd Apatow.
6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
I had trouble getting through this when I first saw this about ten years ago. It is the cinematography of this movie that makes that slowness worth it. Roger Deakins processed the film in a special way to bring out the black coloring in the film, the edges of some frames are blurred and time lapses are used to show the slowness of time. The only things that look like this movie are photographs from the time period depicted. The viewer is transported into the melancholy west of unsmiling photographs of the 1800's.
Hindsights: Best Cinematographer Roger Deakins
7. Death Proof
Tarantino played with his friend Robert Rodriguez to make a double feature of Grind House films to hit mainstream cinemas. This is generally poo pooed by viewers for the annoying characters of the first half of the movie, the slow build before any action sequences, and the self congratulatory dialogue. It is all paid off in a horror movie sense when all of the carefree and catty women of the first half are killed by the villain. There are very few movies that practically spend a third of the movie in a breathtaking car chase. It is the group of women that are fun and relatable that get revenge on the horror movie predator.
It's impressive that this coming of age film announces the coming of age of Jonah Hill as an actor in a way that gives hints of his Oscar Nominated future and the writing team of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. There are gay jokes that have not aged especially well, but the majority of the movie is still incredibly funny.
9. Ocean's Thirteen
The Ocean's trilogy pays off in its biggest heist yet it brings in bolder twists and turns than the previous two films. Soderberg lives in this world of brass and lights that is one of the most rewatchable films of the 2000's.
This was a captivating movie when it came out and it will age better and better through the years as the storytelling of serial killers from history have matured into 2017 and 2018. This past year has brought echos of Zodiac to the TV format in great biographies of the Unibomber, BTK Killer (eventually, I'm sure in Mindhunter) and Waco.
This was the first time I noticed Matthew Vaughn as a director. Star Dust is a great mixture of fantasy and urban fantasy in a funny, tense, colorful love story.
12. Michael Clayton
This is one of my favorite movies about lawyers (even if it never enters a court room) and masterfully mixes mental illness into non-chronological storytelling. It drags a bit at times creating a feeling of insomnia that Tilda Swinton breaks through with an anxious energy.
Hindsights: Best Actress Tilda Swinton.
13. Elizabeth: Golden Age
It might be recency or that like Zodiac and serial killer TV biographies, Golden Age feels as though it has aged well into a future of great TV shows about English Queens (The Queen and Victoria). Elizabeth is a very different, bolder queen than the queens of centuries in the future in a way that perhaps only Cate Blanchett has the grace and gravity to convey. While the movie drags through a love triangle, the characters in love and the viewers are reprieved by a delightfully visual naval battle.
Hindsights: Best Actress Cate Blanchett
14. There Will Be Blood
This is often considered to be the best movie of the century. I understand that, it is great, the direction is great, the acting is great, but damn is it slow and resolves in such a villainous way. 2007 was a year of amazing directors creating some of their best movies. I'm not sure I count this as P.T. Anderson's best movie but a lot of that is because Magnolia and Boogie Nights are two of my most favorite movies ever.
Sure, it's my Best Animated Film by default, but it is a fun viewing and is a look into world class kitchens that feels as though it is years ahead of its time.
Hindsights: Best Animated Film.
Stephen King has a pretty good filmography under his belt (mixed with a few embarrassments) and this is one of the most unexpected and most terrifying. There are definitely other stories of his that have created great movies, but this is one that was not a known to the mainstream property.
It's still a charming movie and like Superbad, it is the breakout of the star Ellen Page and writer Diablo Cody. I'm not sure it lands as well as Superbad as a movie, but it is the jumping off point for Page who has had some great performances in Super and Inception and Cody whose Young Adult is an under appreciated masterpiece of screenwriting. Sadly, Juno is treated like a one-hit wonder and Page and Cody aren't in as many celebrated projects as their male counterparts. It's amazing how Michael Cera was in the middle of both of these movies.
18. Shotgun Stories
Again, 2007 was a great year for directors. Jeff Nichols' debut movie came out, however it was made two years prior, to play in the world of modern westerns like No Country For Old Men. It's beautifully directed, well acted, however a little confusing when it came to the relationships of the characters. It is a great first project from Nichols yet is easily the least of his burgeoning filmography.
19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This is the first of the David Yates vision of the Potterverse which created a uniform aesthetic of dramatic overcast grayness that conveys the looming threat of Voldemort and the inner turmoil of Harry and friends. It is not the best Potter movie however it is the most influential on the rest of the world of wizards.
20. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
While 2007 was a great year for the early careers of great filmmakers and a year many already great filmmakers came into their own, "Devil" is the final movie from Sidney Lumet. It's a heist populated by great actors in a story reminiscent of younger directors but imagery of a man facing looming death. It's not an exciting drama like Reservoir Dogs, but burdoned by the weight of depression of all characters. Only a legendary director could have brought this accomplished cast together to turn this small story into something that jumps through time almost like Run Lola, Run.
Honorable Mention: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
It's my highest rated doc of 2007 and just out of my top 20, but this story of Donkey Kong obsessives lingers after all these years.
Hindsights: Best Documentary.