January 29, 2008

The Rest of the Best (and Worst) of 2007

I have as much fun as everybody else in listing the best movies and etc. of the year, but I really enjoy using my own categories. Here goes:

Wait, first of all - here are the Best Documentaries of 2007:

1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - Let's just say I didn't think there would be any point in spending time watching this, but somehow I ended up catching it with Matt right before it disappeared. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be the best documentary of the year. I only wish more people could have seen it, as I can't think of anybody I know who wouldn't find Steve Wiebe's story absolutely hilarious and truly touching. See it now.

2. My Kid Could Paint That - Caught an advance screening of this with director Amir Bar-Lev present for Q & A afterwards. Like in the film, he basically refused to come down on either side of the fascinating debate about the legitimacy of Marla's painting. Great hands-off documentation of a pretty interesting story.

3. Manufactured Landscapes - Where do barges go to die? Edward Burtynsky's photographs of industrial influence on the landscapes of China are shocking and a bit hard to fully comprehend. This is not about global warming or environmentalism; it's simply a record of how humans change the physical makeup of the world. Cellphone mountains, concrete valleys, millions of Chinese factory workers. It takes some patience to sit and watch pictures for an hour and a half, but you're not likely to forget what you see.

4. In The Shadow of the Moon - It's been almost 40 years since "one small step" was taken for mankind - this is the fascinating story of the astronauts' experience. If you're Earth-minded you might be bored, but if you're space-curious like me, you'll love it. The only thing missing is the reclusive Neil Armstrong, but the film is good enough without him, and I think it will live on as an extremely important piece of American history.

5. War Dance - I'd like to think otherwise, but I think there are generally two kinds of people in the world. Those who care about the future of Africa, and those who simply don't. If you're in the first group, see this and be inspired. If you're in the second group, get your mind right.

Honorable Mention:
No End in Sight - Excellent, but doesn't necessarily set itself apart from other Iraq docs. Will win Oscar.
Manda Bala - A unique, stylish look at crime and corruption in Brazil. A little scattered, but worthwhile.
God Grew Tired of Us - Another in the list of Lost Boys of Sudan documentaries, but a touching one. Nice supplement to "What is the What," one of the best books I read last year.
The Devil Came on Horseback - Disturbing in its own right, this documentary about Brian Steidle's experience in Darfur is all the more sickening because the genocide is still happening. Without really trying, I've been to a Q & A with director Annie Sundberg, attended a few screenings and discussions, and met Brian and his sister Gretchen. Somehow, though, this slipped through the cracks and was pretty much ignored after it played at Sundance last year. Has anybody seen it? Sigh.

OK, here are some other lists:

Most Overlooked Performances of 2007:
+ Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Just can't say enough.
+ Adam Goldberg, 2 Days in Paris - What a hilarious performance.
+ Glen Hansard, Once - Look, the guy's not even an actor, but he owned those awkward flirting scenes.
+ Benicio Del Toro, Things We Lost in the Fire - Only a handful of actors can pull off playing a heroin addict: learn how to here.
+ Halle Berry, Things We Lost in the Fire - Halle Berry is usually emotionally unstable, but always good.
+ Reece Daniel Thompson, Rocket Science - Quirky, stuttering, and on his way to bigger and better roles.
+ Mathieu Almaric, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - I don't understand why this performance wasn't more celebrated. Sure it was Oscar bait, but it was still amazing.
+ Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - I don't even remember the last movie she was in, but this is as good a way as any to restart your career. The nudity was pretty gratuitous, but I suppose she didn't want people to forget her role.
+ Christian Bale and Steve Zahn, Rescue Dawn - Stunning performances (especially Zahn) in a totally ignored film. Why?
+ Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men - Lots of attention to Bardem and Jones, but Brolin carried this from beginning to (almost) end.
+ Anamaria Marinca, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - An amazing, heartbreaking performance.
+ Eva Mendes, We Own the Night -
With limited screen time, basically out-acted Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall.
+ Don Cheadle, Talk to Me - I thought for sure we would have been hearing about this movie by year's end - it's almost like it never even happened.
+ Ryan Gosling and Emily Mortimer, Lars and the Real Girl - If it wasn't for them, there would be no way to take the movie seriously.
+ Charlotte Gainsbourg, I'm Not There - Apparently you only got recognized in this movie if you played Bob Dylan. Too bad for her excellent performance opposite the late, great Heath Ledger.
+ Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Lookout - An old favorite and a rising star got lost in the shuffle this year. Daniels is simply brilliant, especially in the kitchen confrontation scene.
+ Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma - Utterly intolerable = excellent acting.
+ Paul Schneider, Jesse James AND Lars and the Real Girl - No love for this guy in two hugely important supporting roles?
+ John Carroll Lynch, Zodiac - Probably second to Bardem in No Country as the creepiest character of the year.
+ Khalid Abdalla, The Kite Runner - It's to be expected that the criticism of the movie would overshadow all of its elements, but Abdalla was perfect in this.
+ Jennifer Garner, Juno - Jennifer Garner's performance was the best thing about Juno, which either means she was superb (but she was only really good), or Juno wasn't that good.
+ Forest Whitaker, The Great Debaters - He can do no wrong.
+ Kal Penn, The Namesake - Unfortunately he'll continue to be known as Harold or Kumar (I'm unfamiliar) until he starts taking real roles, which he proved more than capable of doing here.

Best Action/Stunts of 2007:
Matt Damon, chase and fight scene in Morocco in The Bourne Ultimatum
Bruce Willis, pretty much anything in Live Free or Die Hard
Will Smith, falling from wire trap into puddle in I Am Legend

Funniest Scenes of 2007:
Adam Goldberg on subway in 2 Days in Paris
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, all car scenes in Hot Fuzz - "Do you want anything from the shop?"
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney outside "Greenhill Manor" in The Savages
All interviews in The King of Kong - "No matter what I say, it draws controversy. It's sort of like the abortion issue."
Will Ferrell's introduction in Blades of Glory
Tim Meadows' first bathroom/drug scene in Walk Hard - "No, Dewey, you don't want this. Get outta here!"
Jerry Seinfeld's subtle monologues in Bee Movie
Josh Kay and Reece Thompson in the bedroom spying scene in Rocket Science
Justin Long and Bruce Willis break into a BMW in Live Free or Die Hard - "How'd you do yours?"
Seth Rogen throwing dice in Knocked Up - "Dude, I think he's doing the dice thing too much."

Worst Movie Titles of 2007:
I Am Legend
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
There Will Be Blood

We Own the Night

Lars and the Real Girl
Music and Lyrics
Dan in Real Life
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Film for Theaters
P.S. I Love You
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married

In the Valley of Elah

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

The Brave One
Balls of Fury

Most Annoying Characters of 2007:
Juno MacGuff, Juno
Margot, Margot at the Wedding
Larry, The Savages
Entire cast, Southland Tales
Robert Ford, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Joanne Herring, Charlie Wilson's War
Mitch Wilkinson, National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Grendel, Beowulf
Stephen Malley, Lions for Lambs
Helen McCready, Gone Baby Gone
Charlie Prince, 3:10 to Yuma
Judge Turpin, Sweeney Todd
Eugene "Gene" McBroom, Rescue Dawn
Billy Mitchell, The King of Kong

It's True, I Missed:
Away from Her

Paris, je t'aime

La Vie en Rose

Grindhouse/Death Proof

And finally, The Worst Movies of 2007 (I was burned on these - I only go if I think it might be good):

Southland Tales
The Kingdom
Love in the Time of Cholera
Youth Without Youth
Margot at the Wedding
Spider-Man 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

And the unchallenged WORST Movie of 2007: The Invasion

Alright then, it's officially time for 2008 - after the Academy Awards...


  1. Daniel-- FABULOUS blog. I absolutely love it (though I'm not always in agreement--Juno kicked ass. Found you on LAMB, and can I say? I am thrilled to find another Minnesota movie blogger!

  2. This was an awesome post. The only problem? Too much to comment on. It would take me awhile.

    Here's a few, quick things that stood out:

    Glad you enjoyed 2 Days in Paris (especially Goldberg). I've been telling everyone about that, but almost no one has seen it.

    Shame on you for missing Paris, Je t'aime. Great, great movie.

    That's what Benicio gets for co-starring with Halle Berry. Skipped it pretty much for that reason alone...

    Bale and Zahn were great, but Rescue Dawn wasn't. It was good, but they were better than the film.

    There Will Be Blood is an awesome title. The most egregious ones to me are the uber-generic ones (ie Music & Lyrics). Blah.

    Gotta find your Southland Tales review. As far as I've seen, you're the only other person besides me that saw it! (Though we obviously feel differently about it...)

  3. Thanks, Nayana. I enjoy The Center Seat as well. Oh well on Juno, the most divisive movie of the year. See you in Uptown some time...:-)

    Fletch, I know I need to see Paris! I'll I've heard is positivity. If you catch Things We Lost on TV some time it's worth a look to see Del Toro in a solid role. Rescue Dawn I think we're agreed, but about Southland Tales, hehe. I'll reply to your comment there...

  4. Great lists Daniel. I especially liked your shout outs for Casey Affleck and Paul Schneider. Completely deserved.

  5. Thanks, Craig. At least Affleck has his own cheerleading section. Paul Schneider has to be scratching his head. I'm sure we'll see more of him, though.

  6. DEFINITELY concur regarding GLEN HANSARD (Once), STEVE ZAHN (Rescue Dawn), JEFF DANIELS and JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT (The Lookout), BEN FOSTER (3:10 To Yuma) and JOHN CARROLL LYNCH (Zodiac).

    Wonderful, award worthy work by all of these gentlemen. Though Mr. Hansard won a stunningly deserving Oscar for his music (yay!!!) - other than that, not a single Academy Award nomination or critics' citation for ANY of them.

    What a bloody travesty...

  7. Cool - you've pointed out probably my favorites from those lists! The performances in The Lookout and Zodiac were especially important. I think they were just too early in the year.

  8. just randomly found this blog (while actually attempting to see if mine would show up when i googled it ... vain, i know...).

    just one comment: you say that forest whitaker can "do no wrong"... did you ever see/hear of Battlefield Earth? ouch. worst big-budget movie of the last 20 years (and possibly of all time).

  9. Thanks for the visit, Baddog. I can't say I'm above doing that myself from time to time. Was that you searching for "story when a teenage boy had to wear a teenage girl high school dress outfit when he was except to stay for four year in a teenage girl high school to learn a new career how to a new career as a teenage girl and then she used tease me being dress as a teenage girl instead a boy"? I wish I wasn't serious - somebody actually found me by Googling that exact phrase yesterday.

    Anyway, hope you come back and visit again.

    Forest Whitaker...yeah...not the strongest statement I've made on here. Maybe I should say, "he can do wrong in the 18 months between July 2006 and December 2007." He's had some great indie roles in his 20+ year career, but he's really been involved with some duds (Vantage Point, Street Kings) already in 2008.


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