It was a damn fine year for movies, 2007. It's hard enough picking 10 top flicks from the crop after a just-decent year, so the task was especially tricky this time around. (At least at Moviefone we're able to pick the 50 best.) That's why I'm thankful for the unwritten critics' rule that Top 10 lists can start with a tie, so long as there's common thematic bond between them. Here are my
10. Tie: Dan in Real Life / Grace is Gone (Widower Special)
What can I say, I'm a sucker for widowers. Some critics found the loving family in Steve Carell's poignant dramedy Dan unrealistic. I feel sorry for some critics. Plot contrivances aside, it succeeds both in capturing the dynamics of a large clan and telling a helluva love story. In a career-best performance in Grace, John Cusack is a flag-waving father of two whose wife is killed in Iraq. This tear-jerking drama might be misconstrued as a political statement, but finally it's a heartrending tale of human loss.
9. Hot Fuzz
Yes, this hilarious send-up of (tribute to?) Bruckheimer schlock tops Shaun of the Dead, the brilliant debut from Brits Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. Whereas Shaun's first hour is pure bliss, it loses some steam in the third act. Fuzz gets better as it speeds along, offering up surprises and side-splitters in equal measure. Really, who would've thought anyone would ever pay homage to Bad Boys II?
8. No End in Sight
As you can surmise from the title, this ain't exactly a sunshiney look at the Iraq War. But it's the most thorough, eye-opening detailing of the mega-blunders made the Bush Administration in planning and executing the war to date (so THAT'S where the insurgency came from!), with nary a Michael Moore stunt in sight. Prepared to be educated, maddened.
Like I've been saying it for a while now: The machines at Pixar appear to be challenging themselves more and more with each release: "What DON'T audiences think they'll fall in love with? How about a rat who cooks? Better yet, a French rat!" And of course, after 111 minutes of Pixar magic, most of us left with a newfound respect for rodents. (Reminds me of '91 when I saw Beauty and the Beast; haven't been afraid of beasts since.)
Forget Knocked Up. Forget Walk Hard. This deliciously raunchy buddy comedy/love story will stand the test of time and prevail as the most influential Apatow movie of '07, defining a generation like Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High did before it. Here's hoping Christopher Mintz-Passe (a.k.a. McLovin) will ever be able to convincingly play another character, though I wouldn't mind more McLovin.
5. The King of Kong
The most fascinating, entertaining documentary of the year centers around ... videogame geeks? I dare you not to become enthralled by (and at times, enraged with) the men vying for Donkey Kong's world record in a story inhabited by characters so absurd you'll swear it's a MOCKumentary. Was that not Ben Stiller playing villainous (and mulleted!) gamer Billy Mitchell?.
4. Michael Clayton
George Clooney is my hero, I can't lie. The guy makes brilliant, socially conscious movies, and in between 'em attempts to save the world. His best performance to date comes in this taut and captivating paranoia thriller that succeeds in evoking '70s classics like All The President's Men. It's the best film of its kind since The Insider.
It took about 20 minutes for Ellen Page's character to grow on me in this "teen pregnancy comedy" (best hook of the year?), at which point I was fully won over and able to fully enjoy the boldness of her spirited performance. The story is lovely, with a sneaky tender side to it, but it's the rich characters and charming performances (from the whole ensemble, but especially Michael Cera) that make this one unforgettable.
2. No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers returned with a bang and a whole lotta blood, crafting this fiercely tense masterpiece that rivals Fargo and Miller's Crossing as their best work yet. The film's deeper meanings and enigmatic ending will have moviegoers talking for years to come, not unlike a certain HBO series. Same goes for the cattle gun-wielding Javier Bardem, who's haunted my dreams ever since.
It's not only the greatest Irish musical I've seen since The Commitments (OK fine, it's the only Irish musical I've seen since The Commitments), this indie sleeper slightly reminiscent of Before Sunrise is the most romantic movie of the year, a certified cinematic aphrodisiac. Consider its insightful looks into the songwriting process as well, and this one spells "classic."
Atonement, Eastern Promises, Rescue Dawn, The Lives of Others, The Orphanage, Charlie Wilson's War, The Lookout, Sicko, The Bourne Ultimatum, After the Wedding