* Note: I haven’t seen Into the Wild, There Will Be Blood, Eastern Promises, Michael Clooney or Charlie Wilson’s Vag and I’m expecting a few of these movies to join the list when all is said and done. I’ll redo this list once I’ve seen everything; I know you’ll be waiting with baited breath.
1. No Country For Old Men
Holy fucking shit this movie is fucking good (let’s see Roger Ebert start a top ten list that way). Great performances, great script, great tone and pacing and great action, honestly everything you want in a movie. Josh Brolin is perfectly cast, Javier Bardem is out of this world, and the supporting players all keep this baby humming, but I’ve got to single out Tommy Lee Jones, who gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. He nails every note, every nuance of the character. Even when he’s sitting silently on screen his eyes, his tired face, the slump in his shoulders – fuck, it’s an acting class. The Coens absolutely killed this movie, menacing, dark, philosophical, best movie of the year by a landslide.
2. Sweeney Todd
I don’t like modern musicals; I never have and probably never will. As I’ve said before, the problem with musicals is that the songs always feel forced and unnecessary; they’re big showy numbers that don’t advance the plot, they exist merely to exist almost like a special effect. Enter Sweeney Todd. The music doesn’t just drive the movie, it is the movie. I would guess that 90% of the words in Sweeney Todd are sung, not because the characters choose to, because they have to. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are absolutely fantastic, evoking empathy and hope for two raving psychopaths. That’s a great acid test for acting actually; do you connect and care for the characters even as they’re committing horrible acts on screen, otherwise known as the Tony Soprano corollary? Besides the acting, Tim Burton is at the top of his game here, creating a mood and environment that match perfectly with the subject matter. It’s extremely, ridiculously gory, btw, warn your girl beforehand.
Wait, two musicals in my top three, what the fuck is wrong with me? Once is what’s wrong with me, what a perfect little movie. Honest, bare, moving, with great acting and incredible music. I bought this movie on DVD the day it was released, that pretty much says it all, right?
4. Gone Baby Gone
Oh, hello, Ben Affleck. Who knew he had this in him? Shooting in your hometown is a good start and having Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris onboard for your first feature always helps, but Ben announced himself in a major, major way with this film. Perfectly paced with great camera work and one of the most haunting closing shots in recent memory, this is one of those movies that stays with you for months after you see it. Well done, Ben.
A great balance of light and heavy, of comedy and drama, Juno is a major coming out party for Jason Reitman. He jumped onto everybody’s radar last year when he made his debut with Thank You For Smoking, and rather than going bigger for his second film, he actually went smaller. Great performances throughout, a lot has been said about Ellen Page at this point, but how about J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney as her parents? Loved this movie.
If modern musicals are my least favorite genre, sweeping, romantic, British epics are not far behind. However, Atonement is much, much different thanks to Joe Wright and a killer script by Christopher Hampton. The best directed movie of the year, Atonement hums along, creating a sense of danger just below the surface that gives this movie an edge that most epics don’t even sniff (eat that, A.O. Scott!). I’m not a huge Kiera fan, but she does that rich, tortured British chick better than anyone and James McAvoy is lights out. I went to see this only b/c I knew it’d be nominated for best pic and was totally blown away.
7. Bourne Ultimatum
Frantic, frenetic and fucking awesome (put that on a poster!). One of the best action movies ever.
8. Knocked Up
Have seen this movie three times and it gets better with each viewing. By far the funniest movie of the year with great performances and perfect comic timing (maybe I need to see Superbad again, I thought that movie was 40 minutes too long and dragged at times). How invaluable is Paul Rudd? He steals every scene he’s in.
9. Kite Runner
This movie was really, really good but not great. The story is horrifying and poignant, and the acting, particularly the kids and the dad, is amazing. Something about this movie just missed a little. I didn’t like the main character and the main villain wasn’t developed enough, so the final showdown seems a bit forced. However, it’s still a beautifully shot movie, with great direction (Marc Forster, my favorite so I’m biased) and solid acting, definitely worth seeing.
10. American Gangster
I remember watching Gladiator a few years ago, liking it but not loving it, saying again and again, “it’s no Braveheart.” Flash forward a few years and Gladiator is one of my favorites, I own the DVD and have probably seen it 15 times. The same thing may be happening with American Gangster, because I keep thinking, “man, this is no Departed.” So maybe I need to give this time. The acting is solid, especially Denzel, the script is tight and the direction is inspired, but I thought it was a little droll. Time will tell.
So to recap:
Best Movie: No Country For Old Men
Best Male Performance: Tommy Lee Jones, No Country For Old Men
Best Female Performance: Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd
Best Director: Joe Wright, Atonement
Best Adapted Script: No Country For Old Men
Best Original Script: Knocked Up
Best Shot: (tie) the last shot in Gone Baby Gone, the beach scene in Atonement
Best Villain: (tie) Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd, Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
And for fun, the worst movie of the year:
The Number 23. Why, why, why? It’s one thing when movies like Norbit are terrible, those are supposed to be terrible. But this movie had Jim Carrey, Joel Schumacher and an awesome, awesome premise, how did it go so wrong?