Pete Timmermann | Movies


Now that we’re at the end of the year, I’m thinking 2007 is going to go down 1999-style as a) being one of the best years for film in recent memory, and b) a year that is an anomaly in that major studio output was of a much higher quality than most years. I was thoroughly pleased with 2007 as a year for moviegoing — looking down on my list, though, it doesn’t seem like a Pete Top Ten list at all. No documentaries? No foreign films in the top five?

The top two films are both PG-13 and received at least wide-ish releases? Ultimately, odd as it might be, this is a good sign — hopefully it’s a signal that either regular people are beginning to like better stuff, or that studios aren’t underestimating the intelligence of regular people for once, or both. To be honest, more likely than not it’s a fluke. I mean, look how much money 300 made, as compared to other R-rated wide releases like Grindhouse or Zodiac. If you liked 300, you are everything that is wrong with America as a moviegoing country. Anyway, I was sorry to not have room for Zodiac on my list, or Smiley Face or The Bourne Ultimatum, for that matter, in addition to some ten others that I considered strong contenders. Aside from that, it’s worth noting that Children of Men, an official 2006 release (which makes it ineligible for this list) that both opened in St. Louis and was seen by me for the first time in 2007, would have been my favorite film of last year, if only I had seen it in time. Anyway, here are the films that were good enough to make the list, which means more than usual since it was a very strong year:

1. Juno

For weeks leading up to writing this list, I waffled back and forth between what order to put Juno and The Simpsons Movie in, and figured (and think still) that no matter which way I go, in the long run, I’ll wish I went the other way. I think it’s crappy to call two films on a list like this a tie, but when it comes down to it, I enjoyed both Juno and The Simpsons as close to equally as possible. The thing that eventually gave Juno the edge is its ability to teach you about your own life, which The Simpsons, while funnier and possessing what will likely be better replay value, doesn’t have. Third-best line of the year: "This is one doodle that can’t be undid." Too bad dumbass Rainn Wilson, who almost singlehandedly ruins the American version of The Office, gets it.

2. The Simpsons Movie

Best line of the year: "This is the worst day of your life so far." Second-best line of the year: "I’ll teach you to laugh…at something…that’s funny!" Best moment of the year, period: Bart’s doodle. I could go on and on. Having grown up with The Simpsons and loving it unconditionally for the majority of my life, it’s really amazing that the film version, mixing two of my favorite things in the world (The Simpsons and going to the movies), even remotely lived up to my expectations. I mean, I’ve been building this up in my head for 18 years.

3. Grindhouse

I’d spent years studying grindhouse movies prior to even the announcement of Tarantino and Rodriguez’ Grindhouse, but, having not been of age in New York in the ’70s, I missed out on the proper grindhouse experience, and had to live it vicariously through books like Sleazoid Express and The Ghastly One. While the only time I saw Grindhouse in the theater was in less-than-ideal circumstances (at the rather dry press screening at Ronnie’s, which is maybe the worst theatre in St. Louis, with a bunch of humorless old film critics) — why didn’t I have the foresight to see it at the Tivoli on opening night? – it was easily one of the best experiences I had in a movie theatre all year. The third best, to be exact.

4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I only really saw Jesse James because I felt like I had to — it had been getting good reviews, and Paul Schneider and Zooey Deschanel, the two leads of one of my favorite movies of the new millennium, All the Real Girls, are reunited in it — but I didn’t expect to like it. Of course, as you already know, I wound up loving it. Roger Deakins’ cinematography was both the best of his already amazing career and the best of the year as well, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score was the best of the year, Casey Affleck was the best supporting performance of the year (and that’s a really crowded category; more on that later). It’s long and slow and thoughtful and beautiful and not like anything else I’ve ever seen.

5. No Country for Old Men

The second best supporting performance of the year: Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, the terrifying killer at the heart of No Country for Old Men. Strange that I have two westerns in my top five — westerns as a genre I rarely like (I don’t like The Searchers, even!); until this year, I think John Ford’s Stagecoach and Unforgiven were the only ones.

6. The Host

Eat it, Godzilla — The Host is the best Asian monster movie of all time. That’s right. The monster’s scary, the performances are great, the social commentary is both hilarious and woefully accurate, the pacing is great, the playing on genre conventions (and allowing itself to be restricted by said conventions if necessary) always works. Song Kang-ho is quickly emerging as one of the great international actors (go back and see director Bong Joon-ho’s previous work with Kang-ho, Memories of Murder, if you haven’t already, and just wait until you see Chang-dong Lee’s Secret Sunshine), and this is the best work he’s done to date.

7. Tears of the Black Tiger

I don’t remember the first time I saw this movie. 2002? 2001? All I know is that I’d been watching my import DVD of it while all you suckers waited for Miramax to stop sitting on the damn rights and release it to American theaters (or sell the rights to Magnolia so that they could release it to theaters, as the case may be…). Granted, this is a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen, but you can’t always count on the powers in American film distribution to not be idiots and release a movie in a reasonable amount of time. This film was produced in Thailand in 2000 and didn’t come out in America until 2007! There’s never been a better argument for importing DVDs. Well, this and the fact that Tiger director Wisit Sasanatieng’s follow-up, Citizen Dog, doesn’t have a U. S. distributor at all, and is as good or maybe even better.

8. Syndromes and a Century

Speaking of importing weird foreign DVDs, not being able to see this movie in a reasonable (by my standards) amount of time was killing me. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady, Blissfully Yours) is one of my five or so favorite modern filmmakers, and when Syndromes premiered at Toronto 2006 (which I didn’t attend) and critics whose opinions I respect were saying that it was his best film yet, it was killing me. I almost drove to both Nashville and Chicago at various times earlier this year to see it (only to be thwarted by obligations back home), so I was ecstatic when it showed a few times at the Webster Film Series in August. I was even more ecstatic when it lived up to the hype.

9. Knocked Up

As far as mainstream, at-least-pseudo-romantic comedies go, I figured I’d like Knocked Up going in, seeing as how it was written and directed by Judd Apatow and stars a lot of the cast of Freaks & Geeks, with whom I have long been obsessed. I’m pleased that both I was right about my liking it and that it seems to have caught on with regular audiences as well — the whole rising of Apatow in Hollywood gives me hope for America as a moviegoing country as discussed in my intro to this list more than anything else here.

10. There Will Be Blood

I almost gave this spot to David Fincher’s Zodiac instead, until I realized that There Will Be Blood is actually a better movie, and I was (temporarily) blinded by the fact that I didn’t think I would like Zodiac but wound up liking it a lot, while I thought I’d love Blood and wound up not liking it as much as I thought I would. The fact is, expectations aside, Blood is a better film, and has maybe three or four of the best scenes in any film this year (you’ll just have to see the film for yourself; you wouldn’t have wanted anyone to ruin the firecracker scene in Boogie Nights for you, now, would you have?). Third-best supporting performance of the year: Paul Dano. In any other year in recent memory, Dano would have far and away been my favorite supporting performance of the year, but this year, there’s just so much competition…

| Pete Timmermann

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply