Sheesh, I’ve only spent half of this year married to Chad, but I still feel like I have comprehensively seen every major player for the 2008 Oscar’s. When I looked over my list of movies watched in 2007, I was shocked to see that I had seen nearly one hundred (in theaters and on DVD). Chad’s list is probably double that.
So here is a list of my favorites, which does not mean “best.” Although I saw my share of blood and action on the screen this year, graphic violence and violence against women and children frequently (but not always) knocks movies off my list – the movies below are the ones that I enjoyed the most.
1. Once (8.1/10.0 IMDb)- you haven’t seen it? Go see it! It’s set on the streets of Dublin and completely cast with authentic musicians. Not only is it an offbeat love story, but it does something fantastic about being between a movie and a music video. All the music in the film is written and performed by the musicians featured on the movie poster. I’m looking forward to watching it again at home with subtitles. I wrote about it earlier here where I predicted it would be my favorite movie of the year, because how often do you grin all the way through a movie? FYI, Dooce loved it too.
2. Ratatouille (8.3/10.0 IMDb) – Another hilarious classic by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, etc…). Skip all the others (Meet the Robinson’s et al) and settle in to watch Ratatouille with kids of your choice. It’s set in Paris, all about food, and is appropriate for the whole family. See it and laugh out loud. It has joined my all-time favorite kids’ movies list. I posted about it when I saw it in NYC last summer here. It even met my thirteen-year old’s approval.
3. 3:10 to Yuma (8.1/10.0 IMDb) – I think I’ve liked every movie I’ve ever seen Christian Bale in with the exception of I’m Not There (snore). For some reason this gritty western with Bale and Russell Crowe didn’t get much attention, but I always love a smart, artistic bad boy (played by Crowe) and the underlying story of a father (Bale) struggling to be a role model for his son wrenched my gut.
4. Juno (8.4/10.0 IMDb) – Despite the over-the-top dialogue of the first ten minutes (Silencio, old man!), this film was touchingly real. I cried off and on for the entire movie because honestly, what mother-to-be has not felt completely alone and freaked about the future of her unborn child at one point or another? Young Ellen Page (Juno) is up for an oscar nomination, and while I doubt she’ll get it (not her turn), she surely deserves the recognition. Did I mention that the script was written by stripper-cum-blogger-cum-book author Diablo Cody? She blogged about her experiences and it was well-received and she ended up writing a book. Her agent suggested she try her hand at script writing and voila, she churned out Juno. Don’t hold it against the movie that it also happens to be Bella’s favorite at the moment too.
5. No Country for Old Men (8.7/10.0 IMDb) – With a combination like the Coen brothers and Cormac McCarthy how could you lose? A tad too “male” for my taste – very little dialogue and some extreme violence – but I could not deny my horrified fascination throughout. The Coen brothers, like Hitchcock, love to storyboard the heck out of their films, and you can tell. Each scene starts at a perfect pitch. It was my husband’s #1 movie of the year and, I wager, a likely winner at this year’s Academy Awards. It is currently #26 on IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All Time list. (That’s right, click on through – it’s good list.)
6. Death Proof (7.4 /10.0 IMDb) – When we finished watching this movie at home on DVD, I turned to Chad, and said, “What the? I loved that movie – why didn’t we see it in the theaters?!” He explained, that in the U.S., Death Proof had been released as a double feature called Grindhouse, and that the first movie (directed by Robert Rodriguez) was called Planet Terror. I was not likely to sit through a movie featuring a one-legged woman with a machine gun for a second leg, so my husband made the right choice in waiting to watch just the Tarantino portion with me. Quentin Taratino really loves what he loves: women, B-movies, sharp dialogue, speed and dare-devilry and he mushes all that together in a sly contemporary flick that absorbs self-referentiality with ease. There are several (two?) scenes of intense violence, but they were stylized and worth it for the sheer ingeniousness of Tarantino’s boyish imagination. If I were a guy, I might want to be Tarantino, or my husband.
7. Control (8.1/10.0 IMDb) – This is a movie about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, going from his androgynous teenage days when he knew exactly what he wanted to his later days of not being able to handle getting what he had wanted. Based on his wife’s biography, Touching from a Distance, you never quite figure out why he had to go and hang himself at 23, but the film is beautifully rendered and wonderfully acted. It is shot entirely on location in the outskirts of Manchester – and each scene starts and ends like a well-composed black and white photograph. This is the major strength of first-time director, Anton Corbijn, and so it comes as no surprise that he is, in fact, a still photographer. The acting is excellent as well; I was completely in awe of Samantha Morton’s ability to make me believe that she was Ian Curtis’ teenage wife. She’ll probably get another Oscar nomination for it. And the best part? The soundtrack is composed of all your favorite Joy Division – and some of their influences and peers: David Bowie, the Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop…
8. American Gangster (8.2/10.0 IMDb) – An oscar preview disc of this film got leaked on the web two weeks before its U.S. release, so I saw it once at home and then at the theater. I liked and appreciated it even more the second time around. Directed by Ridley Scott, this film is pretty well seamless and damn well acted. Based loosely on the accounts of real heroin drug lord in the 1970′s named Frank Lucas, who is alive today, this story is the dark shadow version of the American Dream. It is currently #160 on IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All Time list.
9. Charlie Wilson’s War (7.8/10.0 IMDb)- directed by Mike Nichols of The Graduate fame; more recently he’s directed Closer, which also has Julia Roberts. I’ve had a grudge against that woman since Pretty Woman, but even I have to admit that she only gets better and better – in looks, acting, and career choices. This movie is based on true events and gives a little room for hope that politicians, even the carousing ones, can actually accomplish minor miracles if they put their minds to it. Exceedingly well-directed.
10. La vie en rose (7.6/10.0 IMDb) – this may not be the easiest film to watch, but it’s worth stomaching the miseries of Edith Piaf’s life to watch Marion Cotillard’s spectacular performance of one of France’s musical darlings. Born to a drunkard, raised by prostitutes and circus freaks, abandoned by each in turn, it’s no wonder that La Mome could never find happiness. From street singer to beloved national star, you really fall into a trance watching Cotillard embody the incredible amount of pain Piaf endured during her 44 years.
Atonement, There Will Be Blood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
And for those of you who appreciate Chad’s taste more than mine, here’s his list for 2007 (Note: he says that if he had seen There Will be Blood in 2007 that it would have been his #2)(Second note: I saw all the movies Chad lists here except for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.)
1. No Country For Old Men
2. The Bourne Ultimatum
4. 3:10 To Yuma
5. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
7. American Gangster
8. Gone Baby Gone
9. The Simpsons Movie
10. Into The Wild