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MAGNIFICENT MOVIES The Best of 2007 - A year to remember
MAGNIFICENT MOVIES The Best of 2007 - A year to remember
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

By all accounts, 2007 has been the best year we've seen at the movies since 1999. There have been more films certain to be fodder for conversation for decades to come released this year than any other I can recall during my time as a critic (and that includes High School and College), and as time passes I'm positive we're going to look back in awe as to just how lucky we were to be here right from the very beginning.

There was plenty of crap, of course, and other than one extremely notable exception what was billed as "The Summer of the Three-quel" proved to be nothing more than a highly annoying bust. (Know anyone who liked Spider-Man 3 or Shrek the Third or thought Pirates of the Caribbean had a satisfying resolution? Neither do I.) Also, every single film having anything to do with Iraq, Afghanistan or the Middle East proved to be a crashing failure at the box office, the ticket-buying public not in the mood to have Hollywood clue them in on current events.

All this aside, going to the movie theater in 2007 reminded us all the power movies can have and the magic they can release when filmmakers are given the freedom to bring their visions to the screen. There were tales for every taste, pictures both large and small capturing the imagination in ways surprising and new. For me, the following films were the best of the entire year; all of them practically perfect entertainments worthy of watching again and again.

THE BEST

1. Once - Unquestionably the year's best picture, this heartbreaking and wonderful Irish unrequited love story musical is as timeless as it is perfect. A simple movie telling a simple tale, writer and director John Carney, along with songwriters and stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, prove beyond a shadow of doubt you don't need complex narratives or expensive special effects to craft a masterpiece.

2. No Country for Old Men - "Call it." That is what Javier Bardem's character Anton Chigurh in this Joel and Ethan Coen stunner asks you to do, and the moment he does a chill goes so far up your spine you start to wonder if it will ever go away. The year's most startling and absorbing thriller, the only thing a reasonable person can do when it is over is to walk out of the theater and "call it" an instant classic.

3. Atonement - If you had told me writer and director Joe Wright would follow up his winning adaptation of Pride & Prejudice with a picture of such profound grace and majesty such as this I would have said you were dreaming. After watching the filmmaker's painfully elegant aria to truth, forgiveness and the power of the written word I would hesitate to ever second guess you again.

4. Zodiac - In a year of powerful returns to 1970's style police procedurals (Breach and A Mighty Heart fit that description), director David Fincher's saga of the search for the San Francisco Zodiac Killer was easily the best of the bunch. Featuring career best performances from Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards and Jake Gyllenhaal, this is a movie experience that sticks with you long after the curtain closes.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum - Pure adrenaline, nothing more and defiantly nothing else. Director Paul Greengrass (along with an able assist from trilogy screenwriter Tony Gilroy) reenergizes the action film and makes it something bracingly extraordinary. In a year of disappointing sequels, this was the one that, not only lived up to expectations, but pole-vaulted right out of the stadium over them.

6. There Will Be Blood - Paul Thomas Anderson's loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's story Oil! is as diseased and as horrific as anything I have ever seen. It chilled me to the very marrow, twisted my insides to cottage cheese and left both of my hands cold and clammy. But it will not let me go, and no matter how hard I try I cannot stop thinking about it. This, more than any other picture in 2007, might just turn out to be the one we're still discussing and attempting to decipher fifty years from now.

7. Into the Wild - Sean Penn's saga of an entire human life as seen through the lens of two short years, this examination of the true story of young adventurer Chris McCandless is a saga unlike anything else this year. A warts-and-all testament to the power of the human spirit and the folly of the human ego, this uplifting tragedy of endurance and stupidity is at times a life-changing affair, so much wonder to be found in its seductive layers no set of eyes would ever be able to see the same thing twice.

8. Ratatouille - Pure bliss, this engagingly brilliant story of a French rat dreaming of a life as a renowned chef is as good a family entertainment as there has ever been. Full of visual amazement and character-driven pleasures both gloriously profound and seductively silly, writer and director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) proves he is fast becoming this generation's answer to Walt Disney and Hayao Miyazaki.

9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street- Tim Burton's unqualified musical masterpiece is a brilliant a summation of the wildly imaginative filmmaker's career. This terrifyingly baroque horror musical (based on Stephen Sondheim's timeless opera) is a stirring spectacle full of blood and viscera. But it is the emotional core - fueled by a ferocious Johnny Depp performance - that keeps you watching, and by the time the last throat is slit the only question left is just how quickly you'll decide to sit down and watch it again.

10. -TIE- Juno, Lars and the Real Girl and Waitress - The comedic triple whammy of brilliance and hysterics all of which proved to have just as huge an emotional component as they did a funny bone. More, each talked about family and community in deep and everlasting ways, all of them held together by iconoclastic originals comical and endearing. Ellen Page, Ryan Gosling and Keri Russell deliver three of the best - and funniest - performances of the year.

Best 2006 Movies Released in 2007
The Lives of Others and Black Book - Two foreign classics, both of which would have been top five pictures had they only been official 2007 releases and not technically holdovers for the previous year.

The Best of the Rest
Adam's Apples, American Gangster, Away from Her, Breach, Charlie Wilson's War, Crazy Love, The Darjeeling Limited, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eastern Promises, Enchanted, For the Bible Tells Me So, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, In the Valley of Elah, Interview, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Knocked Up, La Vie en Rose, Lust, Caution, Michael Clayton, A Mighty Heart, The Namesake, No End in Sight, The Orphanage, Reign Over Me, Rescue Dawn, Rocket Science, Seraphim Falls, The Savages, SiCKO, Stardust, Things We Lost in the Fire, Vitus

Best Reason to Re-Release Old Movies
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
- The final restoration and reconfiguration of Ridley Scott's definitive sci-fi marvel proved to be just as awe-inspiring and controversial as ever during its 25th anniversary re-release.

THE WORST

1. Hostel: Part II - Eli Roth's venal and disgusting horror fright fest was so bad it single-handedly destroyed the torture porn genre for good.

2. Norbit - The film that cost Eddie Murphy the Academy Award for Dreamgirls. Or, at least, the so bad, so offensive, so monstrously ghastly film I like to think cost Eddie Murphy the Academy Award. A girl can dream.

3. Good Luck Chuck - The year's most demeaning film to women is also the one no person I know was able to sit all the way through. Like being slapped in the face for 90 minutes by a muscular baboon.

4. Ghost Rider - Director Mark Steven Johnson, the mind behind both this and Daredevil, has now made the two worst big budget comic book adaptations of all time. I guess on some level that's actually kind of impressive.

5. Hitman - The only video game adaptation I know of to make the entire Paul W.S. Anderson oeuvre (Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator) look like works of cinematic genius.

Dishonorable Mention
Rush Hour 3 - Of all the big summer three-quels this one was the worst, Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker and Brett Ratner picking up huge paydays to deliver the single most tiredly unfunny and unexciting film of the year.

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