Thursday, 6 December 2007

Top Ten Films: 2007

And so we reach the point of the year at which I sum up 2007's cultural form in numbered lists. Hoorah! As I work slowly through my top 100 tracks of the year, and my top ten album lists, I'll tide you over with a less musically-themed one. This last year has been a sterling one for cinematic bewilderment on my end of things, and though some where let-downs (Saw IV, Spiderman 3) and others were simply appalling (Pirates Of The Caribbean 3), overall my trips have been a testament to my good judgement, and I've enjoyed most all of them. There are, as always, a few films I'm devastated to have missed in the cinema (Shoot Em' Up, and most saddeningly, Once), and some I am yet to see (The Darjeeling Limited, over the weekend, I'd imagine), I caught the ones most important to me, and occasionally by accident the ones I caught then became most important to me. So, I'll offer my annotated countdown, with a couple of soundtrack-based treats trailing at the bottom...

10. The Simpsons Movie
It was a close call for The Simpsons Movie, and I fear that once I've seen The Darjeeling Limited I will have to drop this out completely. But for now let us bask in it's better-than-expectedness. The jokes were, on average, better than those of late, and the 'cinematic animation', though only barely distinguishable, did give it a more 'this is a movie!' feel. The plot was, well, average in places, but well done in others. That the kids at the daycare I volunteered at were singing 'Spider Pig' before they'd even seen the film is a testament to the juvenile gags. But then I like juvenile gags. A firm 7 out of 10.

9. Blades of Glory
All credit to The Simpsons Movie, which was pushed back to ten by this comedic gem. After twenty years The Simpsons have, in all honesty, lost a lot of their freshness. Though they went some way to regaining it in the feature-length version, Blades of Glory was simply minty-fresh by comparison. I was wary with this film - Will Ferrell is a hit and miss man, and other leading man Jon Heder was the titular character in Napolean Dynamite, one of the most annoying films I've ever (half) endured. What saved it then? Both actors were, well, not annoying, true, but the key came in the stellar supporting cast that included Will Arnett (of Arrested Development fame) and The (US) Office's Jenna Fischer. Whilst not perfect, it gained a lovely 7 out of 10 from me.

8. Ratatouille
Though a low entry by Pixar's standards, that can only be because they have set their standards so ruddy high. It'll be hard for any film to beat the three-in-a-row delights of Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, and though Ratatouille is at least as strong, if not strong than Monsters Inc., after the disappointment of Cars it only represents the first in a new trio of quality films. Next year's Wall-E, fortuantely, looks to be their best yet, though. Still, what made Ratatouille was not just the fantastic voice acting (and it is here again that Will Arnett takes a bow), not simply the story, but the simply fantastic animation - the chase between rat and moped-riding human setting another high for the lot over at Dreamworks. Another sturdy 7 out of 10 for me.

7. August Rush
A late, but great, entry comes in the form of sentimentalist's dream 'August Rush'. Though panned by some (okay, many) critics for it's overly sacchrine feel and heavy resemblance to the story of Oliver Twist, August Rush does everything right for me that Oliver! couldn't. The cliches, as common as a rat in Paris (sorry, Remy), are used so sweetly you just don't care, and the August's mum is hot. The music is fun, kind of like a twelve year-old Roderigo e Gabriela, but with Charlie of the Chocolate Factory. And his mum is hot. That's not vital, but it really helped get August an 8 out of 10.

6. Die Hard 4.0
Is it a shame for me that the third sequel to my favourite film ever, and the fourth in my second favourite series, only reaches 6th place? Not really, because I know it was up against some fantastic competition, and that despite all the stupidity and over-the-topness Die Hard 4.0 remains a truly fantastic film that thoroughly deserves to join the first three films. It helps that the film doesn't take itself too seriously, cos hey, even the first film, that had at it's centre an intelligent action film, even the first film didn't do that. Is it a shame that Bonnie Bedelia, Brucie's wife in one and two, alluded to in three, is now long gone? No, cos they replaced her with a kick ass hot daughter. Which, as August Rush tells us, is a very good thing. Also - though muted, that yippee-ki-ay is the most badass moment of all three films. I almost screamed at the awesomeness. Got an 8 out of 10 from me.

5. Atonement
That Atonement only finds itself here is once again a sign of the pure quality of this year's releases. This film set a new benchmark for not only for British dramas, but for dramatic films fullstop. Beautifully captured visually, perfectly acted by the entire cast (I'm voting for both Knightley and McAvoy if the Academy put me on the awards board this year), Atonement was a rare treat that was superbly soundtracked by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. A classy 9 out of 10.

4. Knocked Up
Talking of classy, here's a film about a grubby stoner getting an unfeasibly attractive blonde pregnant! FANTASTIC! After 40 Year-Old Virgin, a film that on paper sounds unfunny, stupid, and generally offensive, but in practice was one of the great comedies of the last five years, comes Knocked Up, a film that on paper sounds unfunny, stupid and generally offensive, but in practice turns out to be one of the great comedies of the last ten years! It is, indeed, a fantastic film, and a hilarious film, and an honest film, and if Superbad hadn't been released just a month or so later, it would remain to this day my favourite American comedy film. Ever. A firm, and hilarious, 9 out of 10.

3. 28 Weeks Later
The only other sequel to make it into my top ten this year, 28 Weeks Later was a real treat to watch. The first film was one of the great British films, one I often cite as second only to Shaun of the Dead, and whilst once again the sequel is not as good as the year's Pegg and Wright film, it at least lives up to its predecessor. The tension is there, the Britishness is there, and the Amercanisation of the film is twisted fantastically and to the credit of all involved. It also has the most striking single track on it's score of any film, ever. Though admittedly from the first film, John Murphy's 'In A House-In A Heartbeat' is used to it's full potential here, and is a vital part of the film's 9 out of 10 score.

2. Hot Fuzz
The first time I saw Hot Fuzz, back in the cinema, I was underwhelmed. It was still remarkably funny, but it didn't even come near to Shaun of the Dead. Still, when it came out on DVD (and had fallen to a beyond reasonable £6.99) I bought it, and watched it again a couple of times. Let me tell you now, this one is a grower. There is so much to appreciate here that you just don't pick up first time round. Many of my friends now refer to Hot Fuzz as superior to Shaun, abd though I'm still inclined to disagree, I can certainly appreciate where they are coming from. Class jokes, and fantastic over-the-topness make this not only the best homage to action films ever, but also a respectable action film in its own right. It's now my 6th favourite action film, and an explosive 9 out of 10!

1. Superbad
Never, and I mean never, has America given us any film as consistently funny, as consistently quotable and as consistently and genuinely sweet as Superbad. As 'Spider Pig' had me wary of The Simpsons Movie before I even saw it, 'I am McLovin' had me wary of this film. I correctly predicted it as a t-shirt slogan over a month before I saw one. I also love that if I type 'Superbad' into IMDB, the second choice is a porn film called 'Superbad XXX Triple Bill'. Hahaha! Awesome. Once again an Arrested Development alumni helps to make the film, this time in the form of Michael Cera, who is a perfect best friend to Knocked Up's Jonah Hill. The tale of one drink-quest gone bad is a simple one, but one perfectly formed, and flawless in it's humour. A very high 9/10 for me, and the film of the year.

mp3: 'Trapped Like Carrots' by Hans Zimmer (from 'The Simpsons Movie')
mp3: 'Fortunate Son' by Creedence Clearwater Revival (from 'Die Hard 4.0')
mp3: 'Briony' by Jean-Yves Thibaudet (from 'Atonement')
mp3: 'Caught By The Fuzz' by Supergrass (from 'Hot Fuzz')

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