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On the Aisle- The Best Films of 2007

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By Tony Macklin

I can’t remember ever being as stymied in selecting
a top-10 list of movies as I have been in 2007.

It’s not that it was a bad year; it was a good year
— a very good year. The difficulty for me is picking
from a contenders’ list that reaches more than 20.

I’m confident in the top four, and I know that
another — Ratatouille — belongs somewhere in the top
ten, but that leaves five spots for a plethora of
others. It’s a grab bag, and it’s constantly changing.

But here’s today’s top ten:

1. No Country for Old Men

This is my strong choice as Best Picture of the
Year. It is the kind of movie that excites one’s
senses about what film can do.
Written, directed, and edited (under pseudonyms) by
the Coen Brothers, No Country for Old Men shows Joel
and Ethan Coen at the top of their game.
In this venture, the Coens manipulate their
audience as well as anyone since Alfred Hitchcock.
People looking for complete resolution may find
this film problematic. 2007 was the year in which
several of the best movies did not reach an ending that tied up everything. Zodiac was another movie that left its bow untied at its conclusion.
The Coens leave us unsettled at the end, but their
film should reverberate in the mind long after one has
seen it.
The Coens render events — especially violence and
death — in ways we don’t expect; they leave us
suspended.
Adapted from the potent novel by Cormac McCarthy,
No Country for Old Men is about a hunter who finds
money from a drug deal gone bad, and this sets in
motion a relentless villain (Javier Bardem), intrigue,
and conflict.
The photography by Roger Deakins makes the Texas
setting an evocative character.
Violent and thought-provoking, No Country for Old
Men casts a powerful, lasting spell.

2. Into the Wild

This is a movie that occasions debate. People love
it or hate it. Based on an actual experience, Into the
Wild is the poetic tale of Chris McCandless (Emile
Hirsch), who left Atlanta and civilization and headed
for Alaska.
If No Country for Old Men owes much to Hitch, Into
the Wild is like Frank Capra with a negative ending.
It spoke to the vestigial wanderlust left in me.
Emile Hirsch does yeoman work as Chris McCandless.
Director Sean Penn gets memorable performances from an
outstanding cast. Catherine Keener excels. Vince
Vaughan finally has a role that gets him out of the
frat house. Hal Holbrook is wonderful as a crusty old
veteran.
Into the Wild validly can be accused of being
sentimental, but it also has true sentiment.

3. The Bourne Ultimatum

The best action movie of the year. Despite frenetic
action — directed by Paul Greengrass — it allows for
important character development. Joan Allen and Julia
Stiles are back, and David Strathairn is a new
villain. Jason Bourne rocks, and so does Matt Damon. The
film is full of dazzling effects.

4. Zodiac

Director David Fincher is a meticulous master. He
focuses on the infamous serial killer in San Francisco
in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr.,
et al, portray characters who are obsessed with the
elusive murderer.
Fincher is dedicated to the details and
psychological effects of the baffling murders. There’s
no conventional payoff, but the movie has resounding
verisimilitude.
Unfortunately, since it was released at the
beginning of the year, Zodiac may be swamped by the
recent deluge of holiday openings contending for
awards.

5. Ratatouille

Brad Bird’s delightful animated movie about a rat
who partners with a young would-be chef to become the
rage of Paris. This savory treat might whet one’s appetite and
send him or her to pull out old favorite recipes. It’s
that inspiring.

6. Juno

This is another movie that has caused a definite
split among viewers, but it may well be the feel-good
movie of the year.
One is leery of it, since it begins coyly, but it
surprisingly develops into an engaging human drama.
The screenplay by Diablo Cody is sprighty, despite
its cutesy moments. Ellen Page is a dynamo as the
spirited  teenager who gets pregnant and decides to
give up her baby for adoption when it is born.
If your mom can deal with the topic of teen
pregnancy, I recommend you take her to see it. She
should enjoy it. Dad might even be entertained.
Juno is a fresh, smart movie.

7. 3:10 to Yuma

A remake of the 1957 movie, this remake by director
James Mangold reenergizes the western genre. Russell
Crowe, as always, is interesting, as the captured
outlaw, and Christian Bale holds his own as the
captor.

8. Eastern Promises

Just out on DVD, this David Cronenberg movie has a
provocative fight in a bathhouse that takes one’s
breath away. In a year of new takes on violence, this
is an unforgettable one. Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts are effective in
this tale of crime, dishonor, and intrigue.

9. The Lookout

Joseph Gordon-Levitt may be the best young actor
around. In this movie written and directed (his directorial
debut) by Scott Frank, Gordon-Levitt plays Chris
Pratt, who is mentally damaged in a car accident. He
is a janitor at a bank and becomes involved in a
robbery. Jeff Daniels gave one of the best supporting
performances of the year as a blind, witty mentor.

10. I’ll abstain from my tenth pick. Take your
pick from among the following: The Assassination of
Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, La Vie en Rose,
I’m Not There, Gone Baby Gone, In the Valley of Elah,
and The Hoax.

See, it was a very good year.

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