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Top 10 Movies of 2007

For a moment we can forget the year end awards race to focus on something equally as frivolous/important: The Top 10 Movies of 2007. Any list reflects personal tastes and trying among the hundreds of last year's movies to find just 10 is probably silly. Why not a Top 20 or 25?? Because it's a convention I guess. That's why there's an Honorable Mention list.

How to pick the best of what was ultimately a good vintage for movies - I ask myself, What would I want to sit through again? And if I did, would I find anything new? With so many movies yet to see it always seems a bit decadent to watch something twice, much less the way some of my colleagues manage, four or six times.

In this interview, I was joined by online film critic Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior of for a discussion of how different Top 10 lists can be:

1. Atonement - Joe Wright is my hero. He has taken Ian McEwan's "unfilmable" novel and transformed it into a cinematic wonder, starting with that clack-clack-clack of13-year-old Briony Tallis' typewriter. In three sections that begin in 1935, skip to the first days of WWII in 1940 and conclude today, Wright's made a gorgeously evocative salute to old Hollywood glamour, modern filmmaking as we consider how very bad things can happen to good people. Cheers too to the cast headed by Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and, as the three Brionys, Saiorse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave.

2. The Savages - I still don't believe how Tamara Jenkins managed to write and direct a comical look at the truly depressing subject of adult children becoming caretakers of their aged, demented father. She did this so easily, so buoyantly, The Savages is simply the best surprise of the holiday season. With a remarkable, award-worthy startling turn by the great Laura Linney.

3. Gone Baby Gone - Matt Damon kept saying Ben Affleck's directorial debut was going to knock everyone's socks off and he wasn't just being a good friend and saying the right things. Solid and true are Affleck's story structure adapting Dennis Lehane's tricky puzzler, his pacing and particularly his casting with the marvelous Amy Ryan in a career breakthrough performance, supported by, among others, Amy Madigan, Casey Affleck, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman.

4. No Country for Old Men - Ever since its world premiere last May at the Cannes Film Festival, this Coen brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel has been an American favorite (it went home empty-handed from the festival). Disturbingly violent, often bleakly funny, it's majestic and, again, just breathtakingly acted by the ensemble: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson, Tess Harper.

5. Michael Clayton - Another sleeper surprise. Intentionally murky at the start Tony Gilroy's puzzler soon settles into a clearly defined murder mystery/character study as George Clooney's mighty fixer for a corporation sees the light. Clooney's best work ever is guided by the first-time director's way with his co-stars: Tom Wilkinson's mad, reformed legal eagle, Sidney Pollack's breezy boss and Tilda Swinton's wonderfully neurotic murderess.
6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Another unlikely subject for film treatment, Jean-Dominique Bauby's memoir of living entirely in his mind following a debilitating stroke at 43, is given flight in writer-director Julian Schnabel's handsome, engaging and, yes, uplifting account, filmed in French, in Paris and the actual Breck Maritime Hospital where it all happened.

7. The Bourne Ultimatum - Paul Greengrass, a Best Director Oscar nominee for United 93, took the potentially boring third chapter of amnesiac Jason Bourne's discovery of his identity and emerged with the most kinetically pleasing action movie of the year. The set pieces filmed as if with hidden cameras in London's Waterloo Station and the streets and apartments of Tangiers remind us what a great director can do with hackneyed material. And Matt Damon is simply perfection.

8. La Vie en Rose (La Mome) - I grew up knowing the story of Edith Piaf's life and loves and losses, hearing her songs. Still I wasn't prepared for either Olivier Dahan's extraordinary assembly of her tumultuous life or Marion Cotillard's riveting embodiment of the Little Sparrow as a teenaged street singer in the '20s to a cabaret sensation in the '30 to the music hall legend of the '40s and '50s until her death in 1963.

9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - With exquisitely shot shadows, Andrew Dominik's examination of the legendary 1880s outlaw and his celebrity fan-turned-stalker has particular relevance for our celebrity-obsessed era. A brooding Brad Pitt captures James' vicious killer cruelty and heartlessness, while Casey Affleck's star-making work as Ford neatly charts the change from fan to assassin.

10. Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd - Tim Burton's interpretation of Stephen Sondheim's darkly comic grand guignol story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is great Gothic fun, mostly. Johnny Depp brings a gravity to Sweeney that makes the final conflagration almost harrowing.

Honorable mention: The Kite Runner, I'm Not There, Juno, Hairspray, Across the Universe, There Will Be Blood, Resurrecting the Champ, The Great Debaters, Sicko, Lust, Caution, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Angels in the Dust and Grindhouse.


Beyond the Subtitles


Film critic and The Boston Herald entertainment writer Stephen Schaefer hosts candid conversations with actors, filmmakers, producers and movie people near and far.