Looking back on 2007, it’s been quite a year for me both personally and professionally. First came a new apartment, followed by a new job and, most signficantly, a new baby. And even with all these changes, I still found the time to see 186 films over the past 12 months, down slightly from last year, but still a respectable number. And of those 186 features, I’m happy to say that I’d classify about 60-70% of those as good, great, or excellent. As a lot of people have already pointed out, 2007 was arguably the best year for movies since the glory days of 1999. This fall in particular was overflowing with Top Ten contenders, some of which connected with audiences while others, which were equally deserving, fell by the wayside. When it came time to assemble my Top Ten list, I found myself having to choose from almost 50 candidates and had at least another dozen competing for a place in another category. But enough of my jabbering–let’s get to the lists!

The Top 10 Films of 2007
1) There Will Be Blood
Great movies aren’t necessarily perfect movies. In fact, sometimes a film’s flaws are precisely what make it so fascinating. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson specializes in these kinds of pictures, movies whose ambitions often exceed their coherence. Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love are all imperfect to varying degrees, but Anderson’s technical mastery and eagerness to defy an audience’s expectations make them unlike anything else coming out of Hollywood right now. What other American filmmaker working today could end a movie with a literal rain of frogs and have it almost make complete sense? (The one exception is his first film Sydney a.k.a. Hard Eight, which is the closest he’s come to making a straightforward chamber drama.) Even by the standards of his previous work, Anderson’s latest feature There Will Be Blood is a wild, untamed creature that demands a lot from the audience. This isn’t a movie you can watch passively–it will challenge you, frustrate you, enthrall you and eat away at you, until you emerge from the theater exhausted and excited (or, possibly, infuriated) by what you have just seen. I can guarantee you that the first viewing is the hardest, mainly because you start out thinking it’s going to be one film until Anderson completely upends that expectation about halfway through. During my first viewing of Blood, I found myself uncertain with the movie it became and missing the movie that might have been. But on subsequent viewings (I’ve seen the film three times now) I’ve come to understand and appreciate how deftly Anderson and his leading man Daniel Day-Lewis lay the groundwork for that transition. Almost a month after I saw the film for the third and final time, I’m still replaying select scenes in my head (the fire on the oil rig, Day-Lewis allowing himself to be baptized in a farcical ceremony and, most of all, the already infamous finale in the bowling alley) and wrestling with what the whole thing means. No other film this year has so completely burrowed into my brain and remained there. There Will Be Blood is a film I imagine I’ll be talking about, arguing over and watching again and again for many years to come. And if that’s not the definition of a great movie, I don’t know what is.

2) The Lives of Others
In contrast to Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant, but unwieldy contraption, I’d like to offer up a textbook example of classic cinematic craftsmanship. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s directorial debut, which deservedly took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film earlier this year, is a tightly-plotted political thriller with no wasted moments or extraneous scenes. Ulrich Muhe’s performance as the Stasi agent and committed Socialist whose beliefs are called into question by his latest assignment is likewise a model of restraint. He says more with a quiet glance than even a single line of dialogue. As the so-called War on Terror enters its seventh year in this country, our right to privacy is increasingly under attack from a government that seems all too eager to monitor the activities of its citizens in the name of safety. I wonder if those folks who blithely say they don’t mind the increased surveillance because “they have nothing to hide” really have a conception of what life would be like in a society where government agents were allowed to freely bug their homes and telephones. As von Donnersmarck’s film makes clear, when your privacy is taken from you, you surrender a crucial part of your humanity. Even though The Lives of Others is set in another time and another place, it bears an uncomfortably close resemblance to our own country’s possible future.

3) Hot Fuzz

Although I’m a fan of Judd Apatow’s shaggy-dog school of comedy, I tend to be more impressed by filmmakers who take the genre seriously. That’s probably why I love British humor so much; the English bring the same intellectual rigor to their sitcoms and big-screen comedies that they do electing a leader or buying groceries. A film like Monty Python and the Holy Grail is overflowing with absurdity, but if you examine it more closely, you’ll see how carefully crafted that absurdity is. The same holds true for the films of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, who previously collaborated on the terrific zombie flick, Shaun of the Dead. This year the duo returned with Hot Fuzz, which sold itself primarily as a spoof of big-budget Bruckheimer blockbusters, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s also a great buddy comedy, a note-perfect satire of small-town England, a balls-to-the-wall action flick and a good mystery. Repeat viewings of the film reveal how cleverly Wright and Pegg have structured the story so they can jump between genres without losing track of basic continuity. You’ll also notice the way certain gags are set up early on in the picture that aren’t paid off until the final reel. (My favorite of these time-delayed jokes is a line about how only farmer’s and farmer’s moms have guns in this village, a piece of information that is called back right before the big shootout when Pegg kicks a gun-toting farmer’s mama in the face.) In this way, not only is Hot Fuzz the funniest action film to come along in years–it’s also the smartest.

4) Lust, Caution
Perhaps it’s due to Brokeback Mountain fatigue, but Ang Lee’s World War II-era erotic drama/spy story barely made a ripple at the box office or amongst critics when it arrived in theaters in September. That’s a shame because Lust, Caution may just be Lee’s best movie to date. Driven by a phenomenal performance by newcomer Tang Wei (who deserves, but sadly won’t receive, this year’s Oscar statue for Best Actress) the film is about many things, but above all, it’s a story about the art of performance and how the masks we wear in public can follow us into the most intimate parts of our lives. Wei plays a young acting student in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, who is wooed into joining a group of student revolutionaries. Her new friends have hatched a plan to kill a local politician (played by Tony Leung) who is known to be working with the hated Japanese troops. So Wei takes on the role of the wife of a prominent businesswoman and infiltrates Leung’s household, eventually making herself the object of his desires. Lust, Caution’s chances for commercial success were no doubt hurt in part by its graphic sex scenes, which earned the film an NC-17 rating, thus limiting the theaters it could play in and the outlets that would run advertisements for the film. These scenes are crucial to the picture’s point; at first Wei enters the bedroom in character, but as their relationship continues, the line between her real and fictional lives begins to blur. Her story doesn’t end happily of course–how could it?–but Lee is to be commended for seeing the narrative through to its bleak, bitter conclusion.

5) No End in Sight
One could argue that Charles Ferguson’s gripping account of what went wrong in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein doesn’t offer any facts that haven’t already been reported in the newspapers or on television. But I would counter that we’ve never seen all those pieces of information assembled in such a complete and clear-eyed fashion. A onetime political consultant-turned-filmmaker, Ferguson interviews a number of the people involved in the planning of post-war Iraq whose suggestions were either ignored or discarded by their superiors. But No End in Sight isn’t just a 102-minute soapbox for disgruntled liberals and government employees–many of the people the director speaks with were firmly behind the decision to invade Iraq, but were appalled by how unprepared the Bush administration was for what came after. Ferguson walks us through every decision that was made from the day U.S. troops took control of Baghdad and how those choices wound up costing us the peace we swore we were going to bring to the region. I would love to have one of those talking heads that still blindly support the war watch No End in Sight and attempt to offer a point-by-point refutation of the film’s arguments. They won’t, of course, because it’s easier to just dismiss the film as another Bush-bashing documentary and therefore not worthy of serious discussion. Don’t let them fool you–this is a movie that demands to be seen and talked about as it makes the best case yet for why our continued presence in Iraq is hurting rather than helping that country. It’s possible that No End in Sight won’t stand the test of time, but right now it’s arguably 2007’s most vital movie.

6) After the Wedding
Melodrama has fallen out of favor as a viable film genre, but that’s largely because nobody really knows how to do it right. Enter Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, who co-wrote and directed this Oscar-nominated feature about a wealthy family whose comfortable lives are shaken up by the disclosure of several long-hidden secrets. What’s remarkable about the film is that there are no villains in this story, just decent people who have had their world turned suddenly upside down and are trying to make sense of it. I also love the way Bier shoots the picture, completely eschewing any establishing shots and just throwing you into each scene. Although her recent Hollywood debut, Things We Lost in the Fire, was something of a disappointment, I look forward whatever film Bier intends to make next and plan on catching up on her back catalogue as soon as possible. Of all the directors I discovered in 2007, she’s the one I’m most impressed by.

7) I’m Not There
As a Bob Dylan fan, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I fell big time for Todd Haynes’ engrossing meditation on the man’s life and music. By refusing to go the conventional biopic route, Haynes torpedoed any chance of his film breaking out of the art-house circuit, but he stayed true to his subject, who built his career on never doing what was expected of him. I’ll be the first to admit that there are things about the film that don’t hang together–Ben Whishaw’s version of Dylan, for example, feels tacked on and I think I like the idea of Richard Gere’s Billy the Kid-style outlaw more in theory than in execution. But Cate Blanchett’s performance as the Don’t Look Book-era Dylan never hits a false note and I also enjoyed Marcus Carl Franklin who plays the young version of Bob as a railroad-riding troubadour that calls himself Woody Guthrie. This is the film Across the Universe should have been, a movie that attempts to further our understanding of the musical artist in question, instead of just recycling their greatest hits for a nostalgia-tinged narrative. As I said in my initial review, this isn’t The Bob Dylan Story it’s Bob Dylan’s 116th Dream. And that’s the only way to really do justice to Dylan’s life story.

8) Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Sidney Lumet is one of those directors that requires a great script to make a great film. That sounds like an obvious statement, but there are a number of filmmakers out there who are able to make up for a screenplay’s lapses (I’m thinking of folks like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh, who, like Lumet, tend not to write their own scripts) through sheer technical brio, a way with actors or their own storytelling acumen. Not Lumet; if you look at his best films–Network, Dog Day Afternoon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night–their strengths lie first and foremost in the script. That explains why he’s not able to rescue such ill-conceived projects as The Wiz and A Stranger Among Us. Fortunately, his latest film is made from a terrific script, penned by first-time screenwriter Kelly Masterson. A modern-day version of a ’40s era film noir, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is about ordinary people who do awful things to each other in pursuit of cold hard cash. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives what may just be his best performance as a thoroughly detestable white-collar worker who enlists his loser brother (a surprisingly effective Ethan Hawke) to rob a jewelry store. In classic noir tradition, the robbery goes badly and the rest of the movie reveals the fallout of that botched crime. I don’t want to say anything more about the plot because one of the pleasures of the movie lies in watching the narrative unfold with no expectations as to where its going next. And watch out, because Before the Devil takes you to some pretty dark places. But I loved every second of it.

9) Into the Wild
I’m still shocked that Sean Penn’s mesmerizing road movie didn’t find a wide audience. Even if older viewers bypassed it, I was convinced that younger moviegoers would fall in love with its romantic depiction of life on the road. Perhaps that’ll happen as the film finds it way to DVD. I still consider this to be the On The Road for the 21st century, a film that glories in the freedom of the wide open spaces even as it warns against marching into them unprepared. Into the Wild remains the most beautiful film I saw all year, with Penn and his D.P. Eric Gautier composing postcard-perfect shots of America’s roaring rivers, lush forests and grand canyons. And I can’t overlook star Emile Hirsch’s contribution either; he’s faced with the difficult challenge of playing an idealistic free spirit we alternately admire and want to smack upside the head. The fact that we’re able to understand Chris McCandless even if he infuriates us is a testament to Hirsch’s committed performance. And even though I feel that Penn’s portrait of the real McCandless isn’t as objective as it perhaps should be, it does present the guy as he no doubt saw himself. Even if you already know how Chris’ story ends, it’s a journey with joining him on.

10) Beowulf
Much of the press for Robert Zemeckis’ adventure flick understandably dwelt on the motion-capture technology used to transform Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover and Anthony Hopkins into the larger-than-life characters who populate this rousing adaptation of the classic epic poem. But my favorite part of this criminally underrated film is Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary’s script, which takes an unabashed hero’s tale and calls into question the very nature of the title character’s heroism. As anyone who has ever read The Sandman or Stardust knows this approach is classic Gaiman; his M.O. as a writer is to seek out different forms of storytelling (fairy tales, dreams etc. etc.) and flip them on their head so that they function as part of that tradition while commenting on it at the same time. With Beowulf, he (along with Avary) does this by making the titular warrior responsible for the monster that later plagues his lands. If you’re able to look past the CGI-wizardry and the cool-as-hell 3D action, you’ll find an incredibly rich story about a would-be hero who, at a key moment in his life, gives into temptation and pays for it for the rest of his life. Of course, if you’re just in the mood for an action movie, Beowulf delivers on that front as well. There’s a fantastic sea battle, a terrific fight between Beowulf and Grendel and, best of all, the final dragon attack, which actually did make my jaw drop. If all motion-capture features can be this viscerally exciting and smartly written, I say welcome to the future of blockbuster cinema.

The Next Ten
Scene for scene, gag for gag this rambling, raunchy teen comedy made me laugh harder than the more celebrated Knocked Up, which was written and directed by Superbad’s producer, one Mr. Judd Apatow. Stars Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are the next great comedy team, while newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse instantly achieves teen-movie immortality as the brilliantly named McLovin. But what really sold me on Superbad was its closing moments, which expertly moves its overgrown adolescents towards adulthood with just a few brief lines of dialogue and a knowing look. In a year filled with great endings, this one remains a standout.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tim Burton’s rendition of the popular Stephen Sondheim show leaves out much of the stage version’s dark humor, but works on its own terms as a pitch-black revenge story set to music. It helps that the music is so damn good; even stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter’s shaky voices can’t tarnish Sondheim’s beautiful melodies and witty lyrics. But really this is Burton’s show; it’s the first movie he’s made since Ed Wood that feels like a genuine Tim Burton picture.

The Darjeeling Limited

Speaking of comebacks, hipster darling Wes Anderson returned to multiplexes this year but his fanbase apparently decided to stay home. The Darjeeling Limited was the director’s second lowest-grossing film after his directorial debut Bottle Rocket, which went on to become a cult hit on DVD. Hopefully the same thing will happen here, because Darjeeling is Anderson’s best film since Rushmore. The subject (eccentric families), style (ironic whimsy) and songs (mainly indie rock) remain the same, but the setting (India) is new and the three leads–Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman–do some of their best work as squabbling siblings on an ill-advised spiritual quest. And did I mention that it’s incredibly funny?

The Orphanage

A terrific ghost story from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona that also packs one hell of an emotional wallop in its closing moments. Like my favorite recent horror movies–The Others, The Descent and MarebitoThe Orphanage prizes tension and atmosphere over bloodletting. For me, the final sequence ranks up there with The Shining for sheer creepiness. But it’s Belan Rueda’s powerful, committed performance that sticks with you long after the scares have faded. If there were any justice in the awards race, her name would be amongst the leading contenders for a Best Actress nomination. Unfortunately, horror remains a genre that the Academy seems content to routinely overlook.

In a year that saw big-budget movie versions of Sweeney Todd and Hairspray, this little musical from Ireland may be the one that was most beloved by audiences and critics. It’s certainly a charmer–professional musicians and first-time actors Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova play a street musician and a cleaning woman respectively who, over the course of a week, meet, make music together and then go their separate ways. A simple story sure, but the movie’s pleasures lie less with its narrative and more with the songs these two artists craft. Like a great album, Once can be listened to over and over again without losing any of its magic.

I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With
I think I was only one of about 12 people that caught actor Jeff Garlin’s directorial debut during its lightning-quick theatrical release last September, but like those other 12 guys (most of whom were also critics) I liked what I saw quite a bit. Playing a variation on his screen persona, Garlin stars as a schlubby actor looking for work and love on the streets of Chicago. Backing up the actor/director is a remarkable ensemble of experienced comedians and character actors, including Bonnie Hunt, Sarah Silverman, Roger Bart and Dan Castellaneta. Like Once, this is an enjoyably low-key feature that lets the characters drive the story instead of the other way around. It’s also one of the few Chicago-set movies that shoots the city like a place where people actually live instead of a glorified tourist video.

While I’m not normally a fan of police procedurals, David Fincher’s exhaustive recreation of the hunt for the Zodiac killer won me over with its dense plotting and extraordinary attention to detail. As much as I love Fight Club, this may be Fincher’s best work as a director–his control over the tone and pacing of every scene in this lengthy film is masterful. And while I wish he had cast someone other than Jake Gyllenhaal in the role of the obsessive cartoonist who just can’t let go of cracking the case, at least he surrounds him with great actors like Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. to pick up the slack. Having seen Zodiac, it kills me that Fincher wasn’t hired to bring Alan Moore’s epic Jack the Ripper saga From Hell to the big screen. Maybe he can do the remake in another ten years.

No Country for Old Men

It’s too well-made and well-acted a film not to include in my Top 20, but I’m much more tempered in my enthusiasm for the Coen Brothers’ latest than most of my critical brethren. The good: the absence of a score, the performances by Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, the stunning cinematography, the expertly paced action sequences and Tommy Lee Jones’ haunting final speech. The not-so-good: a few too many vague story points, the smug depictions of some of the characters (I’m thinking specifically of Jones’ deputy, who could have been nicknamed Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel) and the computer-generated antelope in the opening scene (a minor quibble I know, but bad CGI always bugs me). But hey, at least No Country is a better picture than Intolerable Cruelty!

The Kite Runner
Okay, so I might have jumped the gun a bit when I proclaimed that Marc Forster’s adaptation of the best-selling novel was a lock for a Best Picture nomination. What can I say? I saw the film at an Academy screening and the mood in the room can only be described as electric. And I still think The Kite Runner tells one of the most satisfying stories I’ve seen this year. Director Marc Forster hews closely to the book’s compelling narrative without adding distracting devices like voice-over narration or sepia-tinged flashbacks and he’s picked some excellent actors to bring the characters on the page to life. It may not be as artistically daring as some of the other films on this list, but overall this is an above-average book-to-film translation.

What were the odds that all three of 2007’s musicals would end up in my Top 20? I resisted seeing Hairspray in theaters, but caught up with it on DVD and was dazzled by its energy and sense of fun. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky gives one of my favorite performances of the year as the unsinkable Tracy Turnblad and Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah and Amanda Bynes all do great work in supporting roles. The only actor that doesn’t quite fit is John Travolta, but even his presence can’t stop the movie’s infectious beat. Even though this will be regarded as heresy, I have to admit that I prefer this version to John Waters’ original 1987 film.

Honorable Mentions
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
A great blast of surreal stoner humor. Definitely not a film for everyone, but I laughed my ass off for most of its 70-minute running time.

Black Book
Paul Verhoeven’s best film in ages is a hugely entertaining Perils of Pauline-style serial about a Jewish woman who infiltrates a Nazi garrison at the height of World War II. Carice Van Houten dazzles in the lead role–here’s hoping Hollywood takes notice.

The Bourne Ultimatum

Just for the dazzling cat-and-mouse chase sequence in Waterloo station alone. The second Bourne film remains my favorite of the trilogy, but hats off to Paul Greengrass for continuing to raise the bar for contemporary action movies.

Eastern Promises

Any other year and David Cronenberg’s deft thriller probably would have ranked higher. Superb pacing, rich performances and one bravura set-piece (Viggo Mortensen’s bathhouse battle royale) make this one of the director’s most entertaining and accessible films.

Margot at the Wedding

Unfairly dismissed because its characters apparently weren’t “likeable” enough, Noah Baumbach’s fourth feature features some of his sharpest writing and direction. The cast is terrific as well, with Nicole Kidman and Jack Black actually acting for a change instead of falling back on their usual shtick.

Michael Clayton
Veteran screenwriter Tony Gilroy delivers a confident, sure-handed directorial debut that gives George Clooney one of his best roles to date. While the film meanders at times, the last five minutes make you want to stand up and cheer.

The Namesake
Not the knockout I was hoping for, but overall Mira Nair does a good job bringing Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel to the screen. The film is at its best in its first half as we watch two recently married Indian immigrants (wonderfully played by Irfan Khan and Tabu) build a life in America. Once the focus shifts to their son (a better-than-you-might-expect Kal Penn), it loses some of its power.


The first 90 minutes of Danny Boyle’s latest feature convinced me I had stumbled upon the best space-based sci-fi picture since Aliens. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that there were 20 horrible minutes left to go. Still, as wrongheaded as the film’s third act is, it doesn’t completely diminish the brilliant stuff that comes before. Just remember to shut the film off at the hour-and-a-half mark and write your own conclusion.

Ocean’s Thirteen
The most enjoyable of all the blockbuster three-quels released this summer, Ocean’s Thirteen sent con-man extraordinaire Danny Ocean (George Clooney again) and his crew out in style while scoring plenty of laughs along the way. If the Oprah gag at the end didn’t crack you up, you have no sense of humor.


Marjane Satrapi’s adaptation of her own autobiographical graphic novels is a visual delight and offers further proof that hand-drawn animation remains a vital medium in this computer-dominated age.

Last Minute Discoveries
I saw the following movies in the waning days of 2007, right after I had locked my various lists. Had I seen them earlier and had more time to think about them, they probably would have wound up in one of the preceding categories. Instead, I’ve decided to give them their own grouping and, alongside each title, offer an alternative placement for where they might have ended up.

The Golden Door
(Honorable Mentions)
This Martin Scorsese-produced Italian film from 2006 offers one of the best cinematic evocations I’ve seen of the immigrant experience in the early 20th century. The Golden Door follows an Italian family who make the pilgrimage from their desolate village to the examination rooms at Ellis Island. I’m not a huge fan of the dream sequences that the director sprinkles throughout the movie, but he makes up for them by effectively capturing the reality of the family’s voyage over as well as what awaits them on Ellis Island.

Great World of Sound
(Top Ten)
Craig Zobel’s debut feature heralds the arrival of a major new filmmaking talent. Set in North Carolina, Great World of Sound revolves around two salesman who are hired by a record company to recruit new musical talent. The catch is that the talent has to put up the majority of the dough if they want to actually record any tracks. The bait-and-switch nature of the gig quickly sours one of the men, while his partner tries to turn a blind eye to the harm he’s doing and just focuses on getting paid. Although the movie is small in scope, it’s rich in ideas. These two guys aren’t even interested in becoming wealthy record producers–they just want to make enough to get by, but even doing that requires a moral compromise. In its quiet way, Great World of Sound is as potent a meditation on the art of the sale as Death of a Salesman or Glengarry Glen Ross.

Red Road (Honorable Mentions)
Released in the U.K. last year, this Scottish feature would be an interesting companion piece with The Lives of Others. As in that film, the story focuses on a professional voyeur (played by Kate Dickey in a ferocious performance) who becomes involved in the loves of the people she’s observing. I don’t want to reveal too much more about the plot, but let’s just say it’s like 21 Grams done right.

Smiley Face
(The Next Ten)
After helming a wrenching drama like Mysterious Skin, it’s understandable that Greg Araki would be interested in directing something a tad lighter. Enter this very funny comedy about a perpetually stoned actress (Anna Faris, proving once again that she’s her generation’s leading comedienne) who experiences the biggest high of her life when she downs a plate of her roommate’s pot-laced brownies. Rather than sit at home waiting for her brain to kick back into gear, she wanders out into the L.A. streets and gets involved in a series of increasingly bizarre (and hilarious) encounters. Watch out Harold and Kumar–there’s a new contender for best stoner comedy of the 21st century.

Best Double Bill
Away From Her/The Savages
Both of these deservedly acclaimed features deal with the indignities of growing older and how disease and death can weigh on the lovers and children of the elderly. What’s interesting is that each film approaches the subject in a completely different style. Sarah Polley’s debut feature Away From Her is a restrained, almost chilly portrait of a marriage in its twilight years. Tamara Jenkins’ second film, on the other hand, is as emotionally raw and, at times, messy as her characters’ lives. I can’t think of a pair of features from this past year that compliment each other so perfectly. The limitations of Away From Her are the strengths of The Savages and vice versa. I also think that, taken together, these films say more about the state of the health care industry in Canada and the U.S. than all of Michael Moore’s grandstanding in Sicko. Watching them back-to-back is a tough proposition because each film is an emotional minefield, but if you can, schedule them on successive nights. They deserve to be viewed as close together as possible.

Day Watch
A Mighty Heart
Seraphim Falls
The T.V. Set


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert For
Knocked Up

Nicest Surprises
The Host
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Surf’s Up
The Simpsons Movie
This is England

Biggest Disappointments
Across the Universe
Paris Je T’aime
Rescue Dawn
Shoot ‘Em Up
Spider-Man 3

Near Misses
Charlie Wilson’s War
The Hoax
I Am Legend
The Kingdom
Lucky You

Movies I’m Sorry I Missed
My Kid Could Paint That
Starting Out in the Evening

Movies I’m Not Sorry I Missed

Are We Done Yet?
Delta Farce
The Invasion
Southland Tales
Wild Hogs

Bottom of the Barrel
Black Snake Moan
Cassandra’s Dream
Catch and Release
Epic Movie
Goya’s Ghosts
The Hottest State
I Know Who Killed Me
In the Land of Women
In the Valley of Elah
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
The Number 23
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Reign Over Me
Shrek the Third

Best Performances

Tang Wei: Lust, Caution
Ulrich Muhe: The Lives of Others

Other Standout Turns
Nikki Blonsky: Hairspray
Philip Bosco: The Savages
Benicio Del Toro: Things We Lost in the Fire
Anna Faris: Smiley Face
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Charlie Wilson’s War and The Savages
Irfan Khan: The Namesake and A Mighty Heart
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: Superbad
Belan Rueda: The Orphanage
Armin Mueller-Stahl: Eastern Promises
Carice Van Houten: Black Book
Owen Wilson: The Darjeeling Limited

Fantastic Duos

Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin: No Country for Old Men
Michael Cera and Jonah Hill: Superbad
Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano: There Will Be Blood
Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman: Juno
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney: The Nanny Diaries

And in a Category All Its Own:
Mad Men
Those of you who follow this site regularly know that I’m reluctant to invoke the word “masterpiece”–in fact, I wouldn’t even apply that term to any of the films on my Top Ten list this year. But there was one thing I saw in 2007 that I would feel comfortable labeling a masterpiece and that’s Matthew Weiner’s extraordinary television series Mad Men, which aired on AMC from July to September. For 13 weeks I was riveted by this utterly unique program, which transports the viewer back to the ad agencies of New York circa 1960. It’s the only series I can think of in recent memory where I found myself watching individual episodes twice and even three times simply to spend more time in that world with those beautifully written and acted characters. Although I’m completely on the side of the writers during the current WGA strike, I’ll be ticked off if the current work stoppage pushes the debut of season two back to 2009. The DVD of the first year can’t arrive soon enough.