Miraculously, here at WHAP all three writers on staff have managed to see all five Oscar films before the big awards show. It’s a first for us, which might explain why we’re so engrossed in this year’s ceremony. Yesterday Bryan gave us his rankings. Below, Brett posts his. And tomorrow Jon will reveal his list. In parentheses you’ll find our ranking within our own top five films of 2007, and because not all of the best picture nominees made our personal lists, at the bottom of the page you’ll find the films we feel should have been more recognized.
1. Juno (1)
Bryan wrote a great review for why this movie is so good here. I agree with him whole heartedly, but upon further reflection, I’ve realized I love this movie for different reasons. This is the only movie that I saw this year that made me leave the theater feeling lightheaded and dizzy–I stumbled into the parking lot like I was leaving a bar and I had been overserved, oblivious to the world around me and deep in thought. There were so many beautiful moments on the screen, so many honest confessions and outstanding performances. I’ll always remember Ellen Page telling Michael Cera that he was the coolest, and he didn’t even have to try. And I’ll always remember Cera responding, shyly and avoiding eye-contact, “I try really hard.” I’ll always remember the scene in the mall and the look on Jennifer Gardners face when the baby kicked for her the first time. And I’ll always remember that beautiful last shot, Bleaker on the left, Juno on the right, both of them playing guitar outside in a Minnesota summer, and the camera pulling away, leaving both of them to slowly fall out of focus. Diablo Cody wrote a movie where I felt for and related to every character that stepped onto the screen. And because of that, I’ll always remember Juno as the best movie of 2007, a year chalk full great films.
2. No Country for Old Men (2)
Unlike Bryan, I am happy this movie is the favorite to win best picture. It is fully deserving of so. The Coen Brothers and Cormac McCarthy are a match made in a very twisted heaven. With this movie, Anton Chiguhr became one of the greatest cinamatic villians of all time. And although the movie’s end has drawn a good amount of critiscm (for my interpretation click here), it stayed true to McCarthy’s novel. But what impresses me most about this film–which boasts beautiful cinematography, music in the southern twang of the dialogue, and a fantastic plot–is the absence of a score. The fact that this movie was able to create all of that suspense and drama without any background music is something only the Coen brothers could pull off.
3. There Will Be Blood (3)
I’ve always been a big P.T. Anderson fan, and after waiting five years for him to make a new movie, he did not disappoint. I think in any other year this would have been my favorite film, but this year’s competition was too steep. However, this movie gave us the performance of the year in Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview. I was also very impressed by Paul Dano’s performance. And the end of the movie was perfect. P.T. Anderson is a master at setting (remember the scene from Boogie Nights where the drug deal goes horribly wrong, where the Asian guy is walking around throwing fireworks). Setting the final scene in Daniel Plainview’s in-home bowling alley was a brilliant touch. Sure, this movie is a character study and is about greed, but it is also so much more. It is about the relationships between fathers and sons, it is about people not being who they say they are, and there is even a motiff about liquids (oil bleeding from the earth, alcohol abuse, holy water, believing to be family–of the same blood). I see this this movie as a turning point in P.T. Anderson’s career. It reveals that he is a student of film, and one to honor the classics. After P.T. Anderson wrote Magnolia, he said he would never write a better script, and while that may be true, There Will Be Blood convinces me that his best overall work is still to come.
4. Michael Clayton (NR)
It might be a thriller, but it is a pretty damn entertaining one at that. I don’t think this movie should be up for as many Oscars as it is, but George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson are both very deserving of being nominated for theirs. This movie is a very tightly knit story, a movie that is very clean and polished. It kept me on the edge of my seat and kept me trying to figure out what is going to happen next. But at the end of the day, I am left to agree with Bryan. I cannot see any grand point this movie is trying to make, I see no deeper meaning. To me, this is a better movie than Atonement because it is more effective in accomplishing its goal, but it’s goal was much smaller in scope. It was merely to entertain.
5. Atonement (NR)
I loved the first half of this movie. It was well told, well directed, well done. But the second half of this movie is a great disappointment. And because of this movie’s cheap end, it falls to the bottom of the list for me. Ebert wrote that the tracking shot near the end of the movie was, “one of the most elaborate ever staged.” To me, this shot was nothing more than showing off, it served no greater purpose than an elaborate way to show the setting while saying, “Look what I can do!” If this movie would have maintained the momentum it started off with in its first half, it would have been somewhere in the top half of this list.
Brett’s #4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Although this movie is rather slow and does not showcase the best script, its brilliant cinematography and wonderful ending canapolt it to number four on my list. This movie has the best cinematography of the year, even of the past couple years. To watch this movie is to feel as though you are looking through the lens of an old time view camera, images are shifted and tilted, the point of focus is one that falls off dramatically. I tend to think that narrators often cheapen stories, but the narration to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is simple and elegant. And the movies last lines are poetry. To quote, ” The shotgun would ignite, and Ella May would scream, but Robert Ford would only lay on the floor and look at the ceiling, the light going out of his eyes before he could find the right words.” Also, Casey Affleck gives a performance I never would have dreamed he was capable of delievering in this well put together film.
Brett’s #5. El Orfanato
I walked into “The Orphanage” not having seen a single preview for the movie. I walked out totally blown away. “The Orphanage” is a complete story, every creak, every scream, everything in the movie serves the plot. It is a movie that rewards detectives with a keen sense for detail; if you pay close enough attention, you might be able to figure things out. This is the best horror movie I have seen since The Shining. It is not gory, like most modern scary movies are, but it is realistic and creepy. But it is much more than just a scary movie. It portrays the heartbreak parents go through upon having a child disappear and the sacrafice a mother will make to see her son again. In a year of great movies this one is easily overlooked, but if you’ve haven’t seen it I highly recommend seeing it, and then you will know why I sing its praises.