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The Films of 2007

[ 119 ] October 17, 2012 |

I just finished watching California Dreamin’, which is an absolutely outstanding movie you all should see.

Now, I am a list oriented person, for whatever reason. So I keep a list of my favorite movies of any given year, up to 15. Here is my list for 2007, as it currently stands:

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Silent Light
4. No Country for Old Men
5. Juno
6. Katyn
7. The Edge of Heaven
8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
9. California Dreamin’
10. Persepolis
11. The Savages
12. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
13. Eastern Promises
14. Knocked Up
15. In the Valley of Elah

That’s a list that so far bounds beyond anything else in the 2000s, or really probably anything since the 1970s, that it’s kind of crazy. I know some people didn’t like Knocked Up, but I liked it a great deal despite the sexism at its core, and it’s only #14 on my list. In the Valley of Elah is a really good movie and it is #15. And everything in the top 13 is basically a really outstanding film.

It’s my belief that 30 or so years down the road, 2007 is going to be a year that film critics are going to look to as a time when the stars aligned.


Comments (119)

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  1. Lev says:

    2007 was indeed a great year for film, probably the best of my adult lifetime. Though 2009 had a seriously thick quantity of great sci-fi and genre fare as well.

  2. jeer9 says:

    No Zodiac? For shame!

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Meh. A decent film. Clearly far below any of these 15.

      • John says:

        Clearly far below Juno and Knocked Up? Clearly far below them? Really?

        (I’d also put Michael Clayton ahead of those two movies.)

        • Anonymous says:

          Look if Loomis thinks Juno and Knocked Up are real artistic achievements, he might need to show his work. I mean I mildly enjoyed both in the theaters, despite their utterly unrealistic portrayal of men, women, and unplanned pregnancy (or any pregnancy for that matter), and since I didn’t think of them as anything other than brief diversions, I forgave them their formless structure, their stock comic relief sidekicks, and their utterly unbelievable pat and unambiguous Hollywood endings. Did I miss something? Seriously, Erik, what did I miss in these movies that makes them even worthy of a second viewing? Or are you just trolling your own blog?

          • Anonymous says:

            In fairness it’s worth noting that Loomis is only defining these as his “favorite” not the “best”. I am still interested in his defense of Juno on the grounds of personal taste, though.

          • John says:

            Loomis has the right to like whatever movies he wants to, and both of those movies were, at least, reasonably enjoyable (although I found Juno kind of intolerable, and there were deep flaws in Knocked Up.) It’s when he claims that those movies are just obviously way superior to Zodiac that I start to get annoyed.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Michael Clayton got knocked off when I watched California Dreamin’.

      • YankeeFrank says:

        Juno sucked. The lead was totally and utterly unbelievable as a teen. She was way too self-possessed and confident. It was an adult’s fantasy of a teen.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Films are not made to be realistic depictions of real life. An adult’s fantasy of a teen is an entirely fine premise for a film is well-executed.

          • John says:

            And obviously, in all respects, way superior to Fincher’s best movie?

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s a weak dodge: the movie is supposed to be about a teenager facing adult decisions. If she’s depicted as essentially a wry, savvy adult in a teen body, it kinda kills the whole movie’s premise. Obviously movies don’t have to be any thing other than fantasies, and that’s all Juno is: a superficial fantasy about phony and not very sympathetic caricatures.

            • Aaron B. says:

              I’m not sure that’s true. I think it’s clear from her reactions leading up to the climax that she very clearly is NOT capable of dealing with what she’s gotten herself into – not just the van-by-the-side-of-the-road scene, but in her interactions with Jason Bateman’s character, and her lashing out against Michael Cera. Which makes me suspect – very strongly – that her confidence and snark is just bluster, and she has a core of deep emotional vulnerability and inexperience.

              All I’m saying is, I think there’s a reason why this movie resonated with a lot of people when it came out, and why it won a bunch of Oscars. I’m not leaning on that, but it is worth pointing out.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Gotta agree with jeer9 on this. Zodiac was terrific.

  3. Aaron B. says:

    You know those things you like? Well I don’t like some of them! Rarrrrr!

  4. My favorite movie that year was Ratatouille.

  5. I used to care about the legal protection of unions, but ever since I learned Erik Loomis puts Juno on his “best of 2007” list I think the NLRB is unconstitutional.

    Seriously though even ignoring all of its aesthetic crimes, there’s still Jason Bateman’s character. How does his turn to villainy at the end, outside of all sense and recognizable human behavior, not sink the whole thing? Or at least knock it down a few pegs? Even a hamburger phone can’t make up for that.

    • John says:

      Note that he also said that Juno was obviously far better than Zodiac. Lesson: Loomis’s taste in movies is questionable.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      First, Juno is an incredibly witty and sweet film that tells an old story in ways that really no one had done before.

      Second, a lot of people who talk bad about Juno suffer from knee-jerk anti-hipsterism. This is silly.

      Third, I don’t think Bateman’s character was a villain. He was a selfish man who felt trapped in a marriage and bailed. That’s hardly shocking.

      • 1. Honest to blog I don’t find it witty but hey pretty subjective

        2. If you don’t accuse things with no anti-hipster bias in them of anti-hipster bias I won’t accuse you of saying all criticism of the movie stems from anti-hipster bias

        3. Ellen Page comes over to Jason Bateman’s house. Bateman invites her to dance. He gazes into her eyes and rubs her belly and pulls her as tightly to him as he possibly can and whispers “I’m leaving Jennifer Garner . . .” and Page is all huh? and Bateman is whispering sexily “I’ve got it all planned out, this is something I’ve wanted for awhile” and Page backs away and is all no! and Bateman is all surprised and like oh, no? and says “But I thought . . . .” and Page is all Marriage is about Love C’mon Try Harder.

        This is all shot with tight framing with Bateman in a dominant position and with a smokey look in his eyes.

        Then the script reads Bateman “suddenly sees Juno for what she is — a teenage girl” and he says “I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe what an idiot I am.” And the spell is broken and the shot’s wider and he turns and kicks something.

        That’s subtext that’s trying really really hard to be text. Bateman wants to bang Page in his new bachelor pad and thought she’d be down with that.

        If that weren’t there, that scene’d be more like what you describe. But it’s there. And it doesn’t seem like any amount of pleading about heightened narrative or an adult projecting herself into a child’s situation can save a man in his thirties getting caught up in plans about banging a sixteen-year-old whose child he was going to adopt. It’s crazy, it’s not in character, it’s not that kind of movie.

        Cody’s newest movie Young Adult apparently does a similar thing and goes really dark at the end of a shopworn plot (the Popular Girl returns home). I haven’t seen it but it’s supposed to work. At least more than “Jason Bateman gets caught up in planning statutory rape” does.

        • Anonymous says:

          Young Adult was fearless in its bleak depiction of the self-absorbed, heartless main character. And Theron was in Monster mode, though without all the weight gain. Not a great film, but bracing in its own way.

        • witless chum says:

          I guess I disagree it violates Bateman’s character. He seems to still view himself like he’s 24 or so, which would be weird for him to bang a 16 year old, but significantly less weird than for a 35-year-old or so. That’s what he’s waking up to, that he’s an adult. As much as he’s waking up to the fact that she’s not.

          It’s a fun switcheroo, between him and Garner’s characters, where we first see him as much more reasonable and her as crazy.

          And I also think Juno’s whole plan to keep the baby and give it up for adoption to a yuppie couple she found in the Penny Saver is pure teenager-type thinking.

          • Agree with the penny saver, agree with the Garner inversion (although her craziness is nowhere near Bateman’s in the end), agree Bateman thinks/wishes he’s at an earlier stage of his life and realizes a bunch of stuff about himself/Page in that scene.

            But holy moly. “I’m married to a shrew who doesn’t respect me and I wish I was younger” is a pretty common resentment. How does that result in “so I guess shacking up with this sixteen year old seems like a good idea, we seem to have the same taste in music”? It’s just bizarre.

            Plus that’s the only way Bateman acts out? He acts normal until he springs his sex plans on a sixteen year old in the third trimester? If that’s not just completely outlandish and incongruous, what would be? If he ran away to join the circus? If he said his home planet needed him and he had to go and we were informed he died on the way back?

            A different movie, maybe with more of an exploration of Bateman’s anguish and about a tenth of the twee, could have made that work. Juno is not that movie.

            • Aaron B. says:

              Missing in all this seems to be the fact that Bateman does not, in fact, shack up with the sixteen-year-old, although obviously, it’s in the subtext. I think there’s a world of difference between a character who seduces a 16-year-old (Humbert Humbert), and a character who fantasizes about seducing a 16-year-old but, when confronted with the realization of his fantasies, suddenly becomes aware that he’s made a terrible mistake.

              Only one of those characters is a villain.

            • witless chum says:

              He doesn’t act normal all along, though. He forms a somewhat odd seeming relationship with Juno leading up to the scene in question. They have the previous scenes where they hang out and talk about music when Garner’s not there and there’s just something ever so slightly off about it.

  6. Warren Terra says:

    I think I’ve actually seen none of those films. This is either sad, or it means I might eventually have a treat in store.

  7. Leeds man says:

    I nominate Gone Baby Gone as the film which has most made me want to inflict serious damage on the lead character, possibly ever.

    Bridge to Terabithia was good, and I loved The Golden Compass.

    • Pinko Punko says:

      I love the seen in the dive bar where Casey Affleck pulls the gun. It felt authentic in the way mooks yell at each other.

      Who do you consider the main character?

    • JL says:

      The Golden Compass was an excellent book. The movie didn’t quite suck, but it was mediocre at best.

      I know that book fans whining about the movie adaptation is a trope as old as movies, but normally I’m eager for movie adaptations and I was excited to see the movie when it came out.

      Unless what you actually loved The Golden Compass for was it making you want to hurt the lead character, in which case my comment is entirely irrelevant.

      • Leeds man says:

        Unless what you actually loved The Golden Compass for was it making you want to hurt the lead character

        Lord no! Luckily those films are few and far between. I think what I liked about TGC was the look, if that makes sense. I didn’t expect it to approach the excellence of the books, which always helps.

  8. Pts says:

    No Hot Fuzz? No 3:10 to Yuma?

  9. GeoX says:

    I doubt I’ve seen fifteen movies made in 2007 (I’ve seen three of the ones on this list, and I wasn’t wild about any of them). And that is the entirety of my insightful comment.

  10. Martin says:

    Not really disagreeing with anything you said, but I have long had a pet idea that 1999 was a nearly unbeatable year for movies. This is a bit more focused on U.S. production, but you’ve got Being John Malkovich, Election, Fight Club, The Matrix, American Beauty, Sleepy Hollow, Talented Mr. Ripley, Galaxy Quest, Go, Three Kings, Cider House Rules, Dogma, The Insider, Girl, Interrupted, Iron Giant, Magnolia, Summer of Sam, Bringing Out the Dead, Boys Don’t Cry, Cookie’s Fortune, Office Space, All About My Mother, Run Lola Run, Dick, Topsy Turvy, The Straight Story, The Limey, American Movie, After Life, Mr. Death, Toy Story 2 — plus highly interesting or noteworthy movies such as Phantom Menace, The Sixth Sense, Eyes Wide Shut, Blair Witch, American Pie. You can also count Rushmore as a 1999 release because they did a late December release to get Bill Murray nominated but its true run in theaters was in early 1999.

    You can quibble about foreign releases actually being made earlier, and a lot of people positively despise e.g. Fight Club or American Beauty and a couple others. I am *not* saying that all of those movies are great or even necessarily good. But collectively, it’s a powerful bunch of vigorous American (mostly) movies.

    • Walt says:

      This is right. I remember thinking at the time that everyone would remember 1999 as one of the great years for movies, but it seems to be forgotten.

    • CaptBackslap says:

      Man, that is a lot of good movies. 1999 was also an outstanding year for music, but that’s another thread.

    • witless chum says:

      Also 1999 has Ride With the Devil, the most underrated movie of the 90s. Skeet Ulrich was apparently born to play a southern aristocrat for Ang Lee. Tobey Maguire was good, Jewel was acceptable, Jeffery Wright was excellent. Jonathan Rhy-Myers, Zach Grenier, Simon Baker and Jesus Caviezel were all great in small roles. Dude named John Ales turns in a very memorable scene as William Clark Quantrill.

      Has a nuanced portrait of Confederate guerillas in Missouri that’s sympathetic in the best sense without entertaining any kind of actual romanticism about the Confederacy. Mainly it accomplishes that by having Maguire play a German wannabe southernor who’s accepted more so than Jeffery Wright’s freed slave who bushwhacks our of personal loyalty to his friend who freed him, but still not one of them.

  11. Jonathan says:

    What the shit is Knocked Up doing on your list?

  12. brandon says:

    Of the ones mentioned that I’ve seen, I’d rate them No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Persepolis, Hot Fuzz, Ratatouille – these are all very close – then Juno (Juno’s gotten a lot of shit for lolhipsterish reasons but is a quite good movie overall) and Knocked Up (which is pretty decent).

    I’ve seen the 1999-great-year-for-movies thing elsewhere – maybe there was an AV Club article about it?

  13. 2007 was indeed a great year, Erik, though I think you’re mixing a couple of junkers with a bunch of otherwise terrific films on the list you’ve given us (fortunately, the commenters are correcting you, with Hot Fuzz and Gone Baby Gone). And I agree with Martin about 1999 as well. But I actually wonder if the landmark year, in (my) recent memory anyway, still doesn’t have to be 1993. The Piano, Searching for Bobby Fisher, The Age of Innocence, Carlito’s Way, Schindler’s List, Farewell my Concubine, In The Name of the Father, True Romance, Falling Down, In the Line of Fire, Naked, Philadelphia, what’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Remains of the Day, The War Room. Oh, and Jurassic Park, if you’re so inclined. Pretty tough to beat all that.

  14. Eric says:

    I really think you’re going to have to write a post in defense of your opinion of Knocked Up, Erik. It’s mediocre at best, even setting aside the sexism.

  15. MacGyver says:

    Glad to see Eastern Promises get some love. Great flick.

  16. strategichamlet says:

    Erik you’re crazy. 2006 absolutely blows the doors off of 2007:

    The Fountain
    The Proposition
    Lake of Fire
    Children of Men
    Inside Man
    Pan’s Labrynth
    The Prestige
    Casino Royale
    The Departed

    • djw says:

      Yeah, that’s crazy talk. There’s three, maybe four movies from 2006 that would crack the top 20 the next year.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Yeah, there’s no way. The Departed is massively overrated first of all. Not even one of Scorsese’s 10 best films. Maybe not one of his 15 best films.

      Even the best films on that 06 list (Pan’s Labryinth for instance) would at best be 10th or so on the 2007 list.

      • Ed says:

        I don’t know that The Departed was “massively overrated.” It was well received but the reviews were not absurdly over the top (hello, There Will Be Blood) and there were a fair number of naysayers.

        It did win the Oscar for Scorsese and Best Picture but it’s not unusual for people to be honored at the Oscars later rather than sooner and for work that isn’t their best and as I remember that was generally acknowledged at the time that The Departed was no masterpiece. Saw it again recently and it looks better than some of those on your list, not to mention some other Best Picture winners.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Yeah, the thing is that while The Departed is a subpar Socrsese film it’s very superpar for an Oscar winner.

          I also can’t agree that it’s not one of Scorsese’s 15 best films; the backlash has become excessive. Raging Bull, GoodFellas, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, Mean Streets, The Last Waltz, The Age of Innocence — I’d slot the Departed in around there, ranked at the bottom of his top 10 with the more interesting but less well-executed Gangs of New York. And I’m thankful that he won for The Departed rather than The Aviator.

          • Erik Loomis says:

            I would also include The Last Temptation of Christ and maybe Kundun above The Departed.

          • Anonymous says:

            Shouldn’t that be ABOVE par for an Oscar winner? Some fairly recent Oscar winners include Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Gladiator, The King’s Speech, and Chicago. I’ll take The Departed over any of those.

            • Anonymous says:

              Oh wait you said SUPER par: this is the hazard of reading on my phone. I am glad we agree! Just looking at how very few great movies of the last decade were even in the running is yetanother indictment of the Oscars as just a weakass prize for The Best Moderate to High Grossing Middlebrow Dreck That Most Appeals To Nostalgia and/or Token Liberal Beliefs.

    • Slither? Dude, my wife is in love with Nathan Fillion just like every other middle-class nerd’s wife is too, but come one. A standard sci-fi gross-out with a couple of good jokes. A B- movie, at best.

      Happy that you put Brick and Inside Man up there, though. Both absolute first-rate cinematic story-telling, and the latter was Spike Lee’s first really good movie in well over a decade.

  17. Jberardi says:

    Once again, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford does not get the recognition it deserves.

    • bob mcmanus says:

      Agreed. And going through another list where’s

      The Lives of Others ???

      And my personal taste is for smaller indies, so I wouldn’t argue hard for Once, The Lookout, or Waitress but I liked them better than Knocked Up. Away From Her? I wasn’t knocked out

      There are lots more, although little stands out from Japan and Asia that I have seen. Mourning Forest. Everybody loved Rebirth more than I did. Retribution isn’t top Kurosawa. Koreeda missed 2007.

      But I can always find one good watch a week from any given year, and one good watch every day from a century of film.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      That film is bullshit. I hated that movie.

    • Aaron B. says:

      Perhaps this says nothing about the quality of the film, but I was SO BORED throughout the entire thing. I’d rather watch The King’s Speech any day.

  18. Leeds man says:

    Since Favourite Years in Film is popping up, I’ll put in a word for 1954;

    Seven Samurai
    Executive Suite
    The Belles of St Trinian’s
    The Caine Mutiny
    On The Waterfront
    the film in which Tony Curtis did not say “Yonda lies da castle of my fodda”.

  19. bob mcmanus says:

    Anyway, thanks for numbers 1 and 7, and I have got to get around to the Reygadas

    Secret Sunshine

    I haven’t seen Lust, Caution

  20. JREinATL says:

    Also forgotten – Grindhouse (at least the Death Proof section, which actually was released stand alone outside the US), I’m Not There, Joshua, and My Kid Could Paint That.

    And Zodiac definitely needs re-consideration by the host.

  21. Bloix says:

    Another 2007 film that could be on your list is Beaufort.

  22. njorl says:

    I don’t think there has been a year in which there were 15 movies made which I would want to watch.

  23. Walter says:

    I definitely agree 2007 was a great year for movies(after which it has been kinda downhill), while offering a variation on its best movies:

    1. Once
    2. Offside
    3. There Will Be Blood
    4. A Mighty Heart
    5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    6. Persepolis
    7. Into the Wild
    8. Gone Baby Gone
    9. After the Wedding
    10. The Wind that Shakes the Barley

    • witless chum says:

      Into the Wild was one of those movies that was received a lot differently than I saw it. I felt like it was neutral on the main character, but a lot of people seemed to think they were being asked to hero-worship Chris McCandless.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        I felt that way about what the film was trying to do to McCandless. I strongly disliked that message on both aesthetic and professional grounds, as I deal with students who think that kind of selfish anti-social behavior is something to emulate. The book was also bad in this way. On the other hand, the performances of Hal Holbrook and Catherine Keener in supporting roles were outstanding.

    • djw says:

      Totally forgot Offside was that year; would comfortably make the top 10 for me. That was where Panahi surpassed Kiarostami for me. I think I tend to forget about it because thinking it might be the last film he’s able to make makes me too angry and sad.

  24. CaptBackslap says:

    No love for Superbad? That was fucking hilarious.

  25. bend says:

    No Atonement?
    For shame

  26. They Live By Night says:

    I’m happy to see Silent Light ranked so high. To me it’s more of a 2008 film since it didn’t have any kind of commercial release in the US until then. More to the point, I saw it in 2008 and consider it the best film of that year. No matter.

    Two other films I would like to mention. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford which was my favorite new film of 2007; and Killer of Sheep, the incredible first feature by Charles Burnett which had never seen any kind of wide (and I’m using “wide” liberally) distribution until 2007. I consider it one the 10 greatest American films of all time.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I agree that Killer of Sheep is great, but I don’t think we can really call it a 2007 film. For 1977 or whenever it was originally released, it is right at the top for sure.

      • They Live By Night says:

        It was the best film I saw in a theater in 2007 but no, it’s not a 2007 film.

        However, that it finally got a commercial release in 2007 is another reason to celebrate that year in film.

  27. CaptBackslap says:

    Come to think of it, 1998 was also swell:

    Saving Private Ryan
    The Big Lebowski
    Dumb & Dumber (better on repeat viewings)
    Out of Sight
    A Simple Plan
    Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
    The Truman Show

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Saving Private Ryan means instant disqualification of the rest of the list.

      • CaptBackslap says:

        It wasn’t an all-time classic (that list wasn’t in any particular order), but it had a lot of terrific sequences, even if none of the rest could quite match the opener.

        But I basically have the crude opinions of unpracticed men with regard to movies (you would probably not agree with my requirement that movies with subtitles also include sword fights and/or kicking, for instance).

        • brandon says:

          Agreed – SPR gets a lot of reflexive shit for its cheesy overarching plot – and, yeah – but it still has at least three of the best sequences in war movies (being, the Omaha Beach landing of course, the death of Giovanni Ribisi’s medic, and the knife fight in the tower)

    • Sherm says:

      You know, CaptBackslap, just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and say something like this, and totally redeem yourself!

      Dumb and Dumber was 1994.

  28. partisan says:

    Let’s see, I haven’t seen 5, 6, 9, 11, 14 and 15, and would have preferred Away from Her, Zodiac, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille, My Winnipeg, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Paranoid Park to 3, 4, 5 and 8. I’ll also say I have a real problem with Coen Brothers movies. The only one that really works for me is “Miller’s Crossing.” People like “The Big Lebowski” but I think it’s “Cutter’s Way” reshot by the murderer in that film.

    2004 is arguably underestimated:

    1. A Very Long Engagement
    2. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    3. The Incredibles
    4. The Weeping Meadow
    5. Kings and Queen
    6. Tropical Malady
    7. Vera Drake
    8. 2046
    9. I (Heart) Huckabees
    10. Innocence
    11. Kung Fu Hustle
    12. Nobody Knows
    13. Moolaade
    14. The Intruder
    15. The World
    16. Keane

    And arguably so is 2008:

    1. Ponyo
    2. Wall-E
    3. A Christmas Tale
    4. Hunger
    5. Synecdoche, New York
    6. Of Time and the City
    7. Happy Go Lucky
    8. Waltz with Bashir
    9. Gomorrah
    10. Red Cliff, Part One
    11. The Beaches of Agnes
    12. Summer Hours
    13. Ballast
    14. Wendy and Lucy
    15. Rachel Getting Married
    16. 35 Shots of Rum

    • CaptBackslap says:

      I enjoyed Kung-Fu Hustle, but I was also vaguely disappointed in it for some reason. I think my expectations were just ridiculously high. But it’s definitely worthy of inclusion.

      I would put Downfall, Sideways, and House of Flying Daggers (yes, I love wuxia) on the list before I Heart Huckabees, though. It was interesting, but didn’t quite connect for me. Also, I saw it in a theater on Election Day 2004, so maybe I just associate it with bitter disappointment in humanity.

  29. andrew long says:

    Yes, and the stars aligned around Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and J.K. Simmons (if you include Spider-Man 3!).

    Truly A Year For the Ages.

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